roughly in order
- The Brood (1979)
dynamite Cronenberg movie with great 70s interiors. Sort of about how trauma bounces down through generations. Is Cronenberg obsessed with the lymphatic system? If so, he wears it well and it certainly works to his advantage.
- Tremors 3 (2001)
straight-to-video threequel of the 1990 worm monster classic. Original Tremors has a weird energy, solid but also light. Maybe the energy is just "destined to be a straight-to-video franchise". A huge part of these movies is the premise that you're only safe if you're standing on a big rock. I love it. I love it when someone yells "the floor is lava" and everyone has to jump up on a chair or couch, and this is a whole movie about that. Tremors is also probably the best giant worm movie, although the best movie with a giant worm is probably Beetlejuice, with a special accommodation to Dune, which people seem to like, and in all fairness the worm parts in that are great. Kevin's brother from Wonder Years reprises his role as "shitty kid" but now he's leveled up in life to "real estate developer". I checked the wiki to make sure it was him and found out that at the same time he was making this movie he was building his business as a real-life real estate developer! Nonetheless the movie ends with him about to be eaten by the worm, as the hero character says "the people of this town decided they'd rather have a monster than a developer". Damn.
- The Thing (1982)
a truly great gross horror movie with a lot of dynamite shockers. Set in Antarctica, this is a great one to watch in a snow storm. Here's a shocking bit from the wiki:
It was described as "instant junk", "a wretched excess", and proposed as the most-hated film of all time by film magazine Cinefantastique. Reviews both praised the special effects achievements and criticized their visual repulsiveness, while others focused on poor characterization. The film earned $19.6 million during its theatrical run. Many reasons have been cited for its failure to impress audiences: competition from films such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which offered an optimistic take on alien visitation; a summer that had been filled with successful science fiction and fantasy films; and an audience, living through a recession, diametrically opposed to The Thing's nihilistic tone.
I love reading early negative reviews of classics, it's helpful to remember that sometimes it takes awhile for the world to catch up. Copernicus is the big example of this but it happens in small ways basically all the time.
- Linda Linda Linda (2005)
rewatched this again just two months after the last time I watched it, this time with my band. You have to share foundational documents like this. One of the best movies about being in a band, I think.
- Jubilee (1978)
man this movie isn't good. Lots of mean people yelling, and people being mean because they're confused. That's my least favorite part of punk. The part that stuck with me was Adam Ant saying "I don't care about money, I just don't want to get ripped off". Also there was one guy who had this incredible laugh that the whole movie really steered into, and rightly so.
- Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)Like Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017), this movie was extremely fun. The premise is dynamite: characters in the movie get sucked into a magical video game, where they inhabit avatars played by Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, all of whom do an extraordinary job of acting like awkward teens. The second movie adds Dannys Devito and Glover, less as actors than as characters played by other actors. Danny Glover is onscreen for maybe 2 minutes but is still "in" the movie the whole time, via other actors, and exerts a strong enough presence the whole time that I can honestly say "Danny Glover was great in this". Saw this at the mall, 10pm showing, we had the whole theatre to ourselves. They show too many commercials before the movie! Also they only showed 1 preview, I was offended.
- Juliette of the Spirits (1965)extraordinary Fellini movie with the magnificent and incomparable Giulietta Masina in a showcase role. A movie that really makes you re-examine your wardrobe.
sci-fi movie marathonthis was one sitting, the annual 24 hour sci-fi movie marathon at the Somerville Theatre. I was in the front row with my crew, the Dick Miller Fan Club. Movies are listed with times.
- 12:00pm Miracle Mile (1989)
a great 80s nuclear paranoia movie starring Anthony Edwards, the cutest nerd from Revenge of the Nerds, sort of an apocalyptic version of After Hours. Denise "Tasha Yar" Crosby co-stars along with a long list of character actors. Soundtrack by Tangerine Dream
- 1:50pm Fiend Without A Face (1958)
fun 50s movie about an invisible killer that ramps up to a suprisingly gory conclusion, when the killer becomes visible in the form of hundreds of pale floating brains with whip-like tentacles. I imagine a 1958 audience of mostly children screamed and screamed in absloute delight when each of these brains gushes strawberry jam and cottage cheese when hit by an ax. In 2020 I also screamed and screamed with delight.
- 3:25pm Spaceballs (1987)
"Mel Brooks Star Wars riff" should tell you all you need to know, for good or ill. Mel Brooks breaks the fourth wall exactly the perfect amount, that's maybe his greatest finesse.
- 5:10pm Mysterious Island (1961)
great Ray Harryhausen movie. set for almost no reason during the time of the American Civil War. I think setting a special effects movie in a different time period really eases you into believing a fantastic scenario. Anyway I loved it. Magnificent Herbert Lom plays Captain Nemo. Score by Bernard Herrman.
- 7:15pm Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde (1920)
silent version, with John Barrymore. Lot of magnificent leering. For the past couple years of the Thon there's been a silent movie with live accompaniment, and the guy that does the accompaniment, Jeff Rapsis, is incredible. It took me a little bit to figure out how he does it but I think he programs a keyboard to play different sounds depending on how hard he hits the keys- if he just barely touches it the sound is a soft violin, if he slams it there's a tympani, and inbetween there's a celeste, an orch hit, and I don't know what else. An elegant set up and the dude slays. Standing ovation.
- 9:15pm Altered States (1980)
I never liked William Hurt because of the way his dull character treats Geena Davis' manic pixie character in Accidental Tourist, and this movie presents a much sharper edge to that narcissism, or maybe an active narcissism vs a passive one, the sharp part of the knife vs the flat part. That said, the movie is bonkers and I really enjoyed it. Ken Russell directs. Loosely based on the life of psychonaut John Lilly, who told OMNI Magazine that this movie "did a good job". At one point the main character wakes up nude in a zoo, that's a great bit. American Werewolf In London, Cat People, are there other movies that do this? ISO zoo nudes
- 11:10pm The Fly (1986)
Great movie with lots of extremely gross parts, including a sequence where the titular fly pukes acid on a yuppie scumbag's clenched fist, dissoving it into wax. Geena Davis co-stars, with cameo by Cronenberg as the doctor in a dream sequence. Extremely good (if you like body horror) and like all good movies (Sakiko's theory) it has a feeling of lightness throughout.
- 12:55am Midnight Special (2016)
messianic kid / family on the run storyline that goes totally nowhere. The big reveal is that there's a race of angel beings living in a reality layer superimposed on Earth, and that they did what we could not-- realize utopic 1960s architecture where walkways and greenspace connect multipurpose buildings that respond intelligently to weather conditions. Nothing else about these angels is revealed or inferred and no one in the movie has any sort of character whatsoever.
- 3:00am Seconds (1966)
OK, I fell asleep a little bit for this one but it's about being a fucking baby and instead of trying to change your life in a way in keeping with your interests and desires you pay a God-like service to fake your death, surgically transform you into Rock Hudson, and set you up with a new life as a swinging bachelor, a life which sucks because you've been given a fish, rather than taught to fish. I should hope that anyone watching this would come away with the twin revelations of don't fake your death and don't be a baby. The camera swings around all the time and zooms in a little too much, sort of a drunken master feeling. I liked it.
- 5:00am Die Monster Die! (1965)
Boris Karloff adaptation of Lovecraft's "Colour Out Of Space" that I dipped in and out of consciousness for.
- 6:30am Tarantula (1955)
John Agar movie which I wilfully slept through because something had to give. Namechecked in the Rocky Horror theme song, so I feel like I have to see it at some point.
- 8:00am Fast Color (2018)
in a movie where someone has a special power, there's an unexamined moment where you have to decide "how serious is this in this world". Like how in Superman world he can fly but life goes on, but in our world we go bananas when someone can improve a record by like .00000001%. Anyway this movie was great because the main characters have what they describe as "a parlour trick" that later they realize is actually mega huge. Like a lot of independent sci fi movies, this takes place largely on a bleak road or midwestern ranch-style home, somewhere you can film for free without seeing other signs or structures that would mess up your shot. I thought it was good.
- 10:15am Soylent Green (1973)
Charleton Heston sci fi movie, which, like Planet of the Apes (1968) hangs a satisfying weight on a Twilight Zone style late reveal, and which unfortunately is yelled by Charleton Heston in a way that's fun to imitate, preventing anyone from ever seeing this movie without knowing the end. That said, I had never seen this before, there were some cool parts, some parts that were a huge bummer. I'm sure not everyone had this takeaway but it was one of those dystopian movies that made me really want to go out and enjoy the natural world and also treat people with respect and dignity. I left the theatre recommitted to investing in a future that doesn't grind people up and coerce others to literally ingest them. This movie is set in 2022, and this makes me feel crazy to admit but the thing about the storyline that came true the least is that in the movie, the US adopted the metric system.
- Anger Management (2003)another bad Adam Sandler movie, which I watched as part of "Deathwatchers", an Adam Sandler movie-watching club I joined as a friendship activity with people I otherwise love. This one co-stars Jack Nicholson for reasons no one in my viewing party could discern-- maybe he owed someone a favor or had a large gambling debt? It's like a much shittier version of Fight Club (1999), in that a psycho mercilessly taunts a nebbish, with some sort of be-a-man therapy as the excuse. The high point was a cameo by Rudy Giuliani (doing a Rob Schnieder impersonation???), who we all booed. Actually there were a ton of cameos, which was disturbing. Why did everyone rush to get involved in this? Like all Adam Sandler movies, this one oscillates between annoying and dull.
- Playtime (1967)this was cool to look at but all the jokes were too small and too few! The main joke behind all these jokes is just "modern life is crazy", which is quite frankly not enough?? It's like Chaplin for pompous dullards. I kept thinking about how people probably write term papers about this, and how easy it would be to do so. Is that why I even know about this movie? There's an air of pizazz but no pizazz... all bait and no tackle. We stopped it after only a few minutes to watch Tampopo.
- Tampopo (1985)an extremely good film that's fun, funny, warm, lively, smart, AND well-made! There's one shocking part where a live turtle gets butchered on screen, but the whole movie is about food so calling one small part "animal cruelty" just because we see the animal die, that's a weird line to draw. Maybe this was a nod to Cannibal Holocaust??? I couldn't find any film blogs about this. Anyway, a really really really great movie. I think because it's about food the film makers felt more comfortable making detours into unrelated plotlines. Do you know what I mean? Like a small side salad isn't related to a big plate of spaghetti but it's nice to go from one to the other. There's a cohesion that isn't narrative cohesion.
- Tora-san Goes to Vienna (Tora-san #41) (1989)One of only 2 Tora-san movies that take place (at least partly) outside Japan, this shows Tora completely out of his element and an absolute stick in the mud. It's kind of a drag that he can't figure out how to have fun in another land, but it points out how his delight is in expertise, whether real or percieved, and when he doesn't have that, he's totally adrift. Wonderful Akira Emoto guest stars as the depressed salaryman who comes alive in the land of Mozart.
- Live And Let Die (1973)this movie's got it all- snakes, alligators, AND sharks! Yaphet Kotto is dynamite, the Louisianna cop is a perfect piece of shit, and Roger Moore's James Bond (his first go at the role) is a sleazy perfecto. Love it when a franchise has long enough legs that it starts walking through other genres-- this one is the blaxploitation one.
- Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)there's one great scene where the hacker lady is waiting for the reporter to find a file on his computer and he's saying "oops" and making the "ch ch chhhh" sound of "let's see here" and she's rolling her eyes. It's really rare in a movie to see what using a computer actually looks like. The rest was, uh, "a stylish thriller".
- Now You See Me (2013)someone recommended this to me because I was watching a lot of heist movies. Really weird movie, you don't know anything about what's going on but you're going on faith that all will be explained anon. So much of it feels like "an epic part" which grows immediately tiresome. Is there a good movie about stage magic?
- Project A (1985)Jackie Chan movie that I rewatched because I wanted to see something truly spectacular.
- Meet Me In St Louis (1944)Tsarlag recommended this to me and it was sitting on my hard drive forever. Set in the fucked-up ice cream 1900s, a time period that I can only think of as deeply perverse, why is that? Is that a "just me" thing? Anyway it's a family movie set in a huge and beautiful house. The house is a type I only know as a haunted house, but here's it's brand spankin new, fresh paint, lawn trimmed, striped awnings, and living children everywhere. Unrelated to the house, there's a great Halloween sequence, and the youngest child of the family is delightfully morbid. If you have to watch all the movies about Halloween then you have to watch this one, I hope you dig it. I did.
- Hobbs & Shaw (2019)me and Mori saw this in the theatre when it came out, I remember feeling "uh oh" when it was revealed that the virus is called "snowflake", due to the use of that word to mean like, "entitled liberal". But then I couldn't figure out what the metaphor was. The last act is set in Samoa and many of the characters use little Samoan words and phrases but it's clear through context what they're talking about. This happens sometimes in movies with Spanish but then I figure a good chunk of an American audience speaks Spanish so whatever. It was nice to see this trust, in such a stupid movie, that the audience is not going to have a problem.
- Casino Royale (2006)I wanted to watch a spy movie because it's reassuring to see extreme competance. Something I didn't realize about this one is that it's a full reboot of the character, which (I think) never really happened before-- the other installments are more like a comic strip, where there's basically a hard reset after each movie and the main character is always in mid- or mid-late career, or with very slight continuity of key villains. This one they don't really let you know that it's a new one, so when Bond falls in love, a major plot point for the next couple movies, it just feels uncharacteristic.
- Quantum of Solace (2008)What is a quantum of solace? They never say. These movies are well-made but only within the setup of "Bond movie". If this same story were told outside of the franchise you'd be saying "who's that" or "what does that mean" the whole time. Instead, you know for a fact that when something happens that you don't understand, it's not because you missed something, it's because that's just how these movies work. It's a known unknown. It's not entirely satisfying.
- Skyfall (2012)more of the same, some nice MacGuyver parts
- Spectre (2015)this one's about surveilance, which was and still is a huge problem, in the UK and everywhere. At one point they mention Orwell, who wrote the book (1984) on the subject, though it didn't make a lick of difference. I mean "changing people's minds" isn't really the issue.
- Fantômas (1964)pretty good, not as psycho as the books, with a slapstick element that undermines the pure electricity of crime. The cop is an ignoble buffoon, which I appreciate.
- Fantastic Fungi (2019)great documentary about mushrooms / fungi, focusing on mushroom hero Paul Stamets, who wrote the book on the subject. The corny quasi-religious epic narration is pretty strong but not really a problem. It's great, and Paul is really warm and good. I didn't catch that the mushroom guy in the new Star Trek is named after him! We "rented" this on Vimeo for $4.99, which is maybe the first time i've ever paid for access to a digital file? Even though we "rented" it rather than bought it, I was able to download it using youtube-dl.
- Aliens (1986)Bill Paxton is perfect, Sigourney irreplacable, Paul Reiser is a great yuppie scumbag villain. Remember when every movie and TV show had a greedy despicable yuppie villain? That was a great riff, too bad the actual despicable yuppie villains at the studio put the kibosh on that. Anyway, dynamite casting through and through. I love this one, but it was a little too much of a hellride for the moment, so we had to follow it with Great British Bake-Off s03e01.
- Catch Me If You Can (2002)great Spielberg heist movie where the heist is ongoing, neverending. High competance, basically victimless crimes. I mean he only stole from banks and airlines so like, who cares. Based on a real guy. There's a great laundry-turns-pink scene and a great part where Tom Hanks says "knock knock" [who's there] "fuck you". Tom Hanks' Boston accent is out of control but if I was an actor with a certain number of films under my belt, I would absolutely steer towards "my guy should have a crazy accent" at every opportunity. Tom Hanks and Leonardo diCaprio are both the kind of actor where you picture all of their characters as being the same guy on different timelines, it was nice to see them both in a movie together. I logged on to imdb.com and added "laundry-turns-pink" to the list of keywords, if you can think of another movie where this happens please log on, right now all I got is this one and Paddington 2.
- Never-Ending Man (2018)nice documentary on Hayao Miyazaki, he wears an apron the entire time, puttering between his house, office, and studio, which seem like they're on the same block because he never takes the apron off, and how far are you going to go outside your zone with an apron on? Incredibly his car, which you only see briefly, is like a perfect Ghibli car- a Citroen 2CV.
- The Wind Rises (2013)the most recent Ghibli movie, I didn't like it. The main guy dreams of designing airplanes, and then he grows up to design a very cool airplane, but like, he works for the army during WW2-- he's making death machines. Along the way he falls in love, and his partner has tuberculosis and pretty much dies alone while he's at work. But he's like a Ghibli floppy whimsical dad-type and the whole thing is presented like "well, that's just how it is". The whole time I was like, damn, I'd never do that. If my dream coincided with building a war machine... I'd just get another dream! Dreams are free baby.
- Ponyo (2008)Had to rewatch an unequivocably good one after Wind Rises. This time I was thinking about the parent styles on display-- both Sosuke and Ponyo are raised by single parents that are apart but still love each other. Sosuke's dad is always at sea, his mom is cool and tough, she mostly stays calm but drives like a demon and drinks beer when she's sad. Ponyo's mom is an elemental spirit (?) who Ponyo deeply loves. Ponyo lives with her dad who comes off as mean but is just super protective. Hats off to the movie Ponyo. When I saw this in theatres the animation bugged me, like I thought the frame rate was too slow? Now it looks totally fine to me, I can't see what I thought was a problem. The lesson here is you really do learn to see, it doesn't just happen.
- Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)periodic rewatch of this killer shit.
- Knives Out (2019)a fun whodunnit with a twist. All whodunnits have a twist I guess but pretty much any whodunnit after Agatha Christie has a twist that's like, structural. Like in Columbo where you see who has dunnit in the first 20 seconds. This was fun, I enjoyed the twist, Daniel Craig has a preposterous Kentucky (?) accent that really signified "we're having fun making this movie". I guess I should watch more "crazy accent" movies?? There were a lot of current events in the movie-- they argue about Trump, one of the characters is based on Gwenyth Paltrow qua new age skin care snake oil. I can't tell if that's weird or just seems weird because I mostly watch old movies.
- Sprited Away (2001)Energizing rewatch of this Ghibli epic. Me and Nick saw this in the theatre when it came out and I remember on the drive home talking to him about really committing to a full presentation of your craft. I forget what our exact words were but he was concerned that I wasn't going big enough with my art, I was keeping things too small and withdrawn, which was a really thoughtful comment I thought. "Gotta get more Spirited Away" I think to myself sometimes when I'm being petty or insufficiently grandiose with my ideas.
- Interstellar (2014)OK but confusing and fake-deep sci fi epic. I think fiction can be really useful in bringing up ideas that are hard to grapple with, this one did a good time with fatalistic time-- both bringing it up and staying upbeat with it. The robots looked really cool in this one, in that they looked totally weird and kind of stupid, but no one questions it, it's no problem. Ok, the coolest thing about this is how weird the robots look, that's a ballsy move. This was Matthew McConnahy's second spiritual astronaut movie (after 1997's Contact) and Matt Damon's first of two "stranded astronaut" movies (followed by 2015's The Martian).
- Rampage (2018)I think I saw this in the theatre when it came out? This was an Earth Day rewatch of this absolutely fun smasheroo based on the NES game I loved in which you're basically King Kong and you destroy a city. Surprisingly no one mentions King Kong at all and the Godzilla analogue was reworked to look less like Godzilla, so no one mentions Godzilla either. There's lots of great destruction as the three main monsters do a classic Chaos Walk through Chicago. There's a great shot of (spoiler) the evil boss lady getting eaten in one gulp by the gorilla, which must've been such a thrill to all the "tiny evil boss lady swallowed by enormous gorilla" fetishists out there. CGI still can't do a convincing emotive human face, so while they work out the kinks we get a good couple very convincing emotive gorilla movies. Keep em coming, I say. I looked for but did not find allusions to that other great "Chaos Walk through Chicago" movie, the Blues Brothers (1980). I guess I'm going to look for an extended version now.
- Tora-San's Love Call (1971)Another great Tora-San movie. I thought we watched all the ones with the original dad actor but I found one more. The other actors in this role are OK but the first guy is great, a real ball of nerves playing it big for the people in the back row. This was a really good one and the different threads of the narrative wove together beautifully. Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura guest stars, causing everyone to really step up their game.
- Wicker Man (1973)I had seen this a few time already, it felt right to rewatch this on May Day. But this time around I downloaded a longer version than the one I had previously seen, and I don't know if this part was even changed but it felt like the end really dragged on with everyone laughing horribly. Maybe I'm overly sympathetic to someone getting surrounded and laughed at but I thought "ok, enough". I like the settings and costumes and aspects of the weird pagan stuff in this, and I like that no one is intimidated by the cop, that's my takeaway. This time around I recognized Bowie mentor Lindsay Kemp as the innkeeper.
- Planet Of The Apes (1968)the end of this one seems like it was supposed to be some big reveal, but is that even possible? Isn't it totally obvious from the very first few seconds of this movie? Anyway I still enjoyed this. Charleton Heston sucks but it's cool to see a non-homesick astronaut, and his "Earth? Fooey" attitude is really the only way you're gonna keep a main character sane through all this. Secondary to the big twisteroo there's an oft-overlooked secondary note where Heston was driven to be an astronaut because he was so sure there was something out there better than idiotic humanity, only to learn "that's life baby". Reading on wikipedia I learn that the ape civilization was supposed to be more advanced but they dialed it back to make it cheaper to film. I don't have anything really clever to say about this, I just like how these two axes, time and money, line up. "Let's set our story in an age of cheaper rent".
- Hereditary (2018)I have a hard time with modern horror-- I like monsters but I don't like feeling anxious. With this one I watched it while doing a task, and over the course of a few sittings. The first time I tapped out was when a kid was about to have an allergic reaction to walnuts, in a situation that also had teen flirting. It was too much real anxiety for me at that moment. When I came back later I ended up getting into it-- once actual spooky stuff started happening I felt better. I liked it. The kid from Jumanji is in this, and they're not the same thing but they're both sort of "weird avatar" situations.
- The Grandmaster (2013)every part of this movie felt like the end of a movie, it's insane. It's a biopic on Wing Chun master (and Bruce Lee's teacher) Ip Man, about whom there were already 3 biopics by the time this came out. Another 3 (plus a TV series) came shortly thereafter. Anyway you can't make a movie that's solid epic vibes, it doesn't make sense. The fight scenes didn't even look good because the camera's swirling around the whole time. Give it a break! Wong Kar Wai writes and directs, Tony Leung stars, and Zhang Ziyi steals the show.
- Princess Mononoke (1997)this movie rules, nothing more to say really. No big revelation: it slaps. We watched the subtitled version, and I regretted having watched the dubbed version before because even with the Japanese audio I kept projecting Billy Bob Thornton, Claire Danes, and Gillian Anderson onto the relevant characters.
- Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)damn I forgot how good this is. Michelle Yeoh is so good and Chow Yun Fat is a neccessary calm (a dud) that she can really swirl around. We watched another 21st century wuxia movie later and it brought into focus something great about CTHD, that's it's not epic. The story is pretty small-- no emperors, kings, or world-ending magic. Every movie is its own little universe, there's no need to go large.
- Hero (2002)definitely lots of cool parts in this, and I love when a story goes back for a "let's look at that again", as this does. Jet Li is great but emotionally outclassed by everyone else, especially Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. I felt like this was a liiiiiiittle too epic tho.
- Tora-san's Dream-Come-True (1972)kind of a weird one that slightly modifies the Tora in love theme to "Tora loves love" and instead of being the unrequited, he's the unrequitee. There are a few movies in this series where Tora comes close to love and walks away, they're maddening but rich moments, and this is one of them. The erstwhile Madonna in this is Kaoru Yachigusa, who played dancer Fujichiyo in the Human Vapor (1960), from whom I got the name "Fujichia" (misheard on the dubbed VHS). Her name in this is "Chiyo", maybe that's short for Fujichiyo??? Her character is someone that was a classmate of Tora's in grade school.
- Thirteenth (2020)great netflix doc about how the 13th amendment (making slavery illegal) left the door open to using convicted criminals as slave labor, which allowed slavery to sort of just keep going under a new design. They also got into for-profit prisons and the lobbyists that support it.
- Malcolm X (1992)really really good biopic from Spike Lee. Everyone is extremely good, it's extraordinary.
- Swordsman II (1992)fun but super confusing wuxia movie starring Jet Li. The last movie of his that I watched (Hero) was pretty pompous, so it was lovely to see him as a charismatic drunkard, leaping off a cliff to save a gourd full of delicious wine. Lots of great sequences here but the translation was terrible and the plot is pretty complex, so my enjoyment depended on a relaxed but aware mind, allowing some details to flow over me, while tuning into emotions and larger shapes. Great camera work that gives everything a Sam Raimi feel. Based on the 1967 wuxia novel "The Smiling, Proud Wanderer"
- The Falcon's Brother (1942)the Xth in the series of "the Falcon" movies, starring George Sanders, who I recognized as the voice of Shere Khan in the Jungle Book. I watched this because mystery novelist Craig Rice (who Lilah loves) wrote the screenplay. It was fun, not great. George Sanders great voice. Midway throught the movie the hero (the Falcon) is incapacitated in bed, and his brother (played by the actor's IRL brother) swoops in and finishes the case. In the end the OG Falcon dies and passes the torch, real heraldry in action.
- North Shore (1987)I've said before that this movie is as tight as a drum and it's true, there's a wonderful efficiency but it's not rushed or sparse. The main guy's attitude is a sort of naivete matched with a willingness to break a problem down into steps. At one point he's confronting the toadie who took his stuff (naivete), and it looks like the toadies's gang is going to beat him up and he says to the leader "this is between me and him, let us fight". You know that if he just asked the leader to give him back his stuff they would've just beat the shit out of him, but "let me fight this guy mano a mano", that's reasonable to all parties and gets him closer to his goal. The only time in the movie that he's kind of floundering is when he's given too much too early without fighting for it. I guess if you want to ride the wave, there needs to be a wave. Lotta people don't know that.
- Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)damn it's so good (for the planet) that not all Kiki's problems get solved at the end. It's great to have a main character that's lively but also has depression. And the depression isn't like a "sadness because", it's just a sadness that swells up (and never really goes away but becomes manageable).
- Howl's Moving Castle (2004)lots of great shots and sequences in this, and the main voice is the lady who plays Sakura in Tora-san! Buuuut there were just too many times I wondered "why is this happening". Other Ghibli movies present fantastic scenarios with little explanation, but they inspire you to imagine the details, or to gloss over them because of the strong folktale vibe. Howl's feels like you're watching the condensed version of a series with the motivations stripped out. I saw this when it came out and while I was watching it the other day I was like "it's incredible that I can't remember any of this". Already I can tell it's just slipping away, nothing to really hold on to.
- My Neighbor Totoro (1988)one millionth rewatch of this immensely enjoyable and inspirational movie. Legendary writer Shigesato Itoi ("Mother" video game series) is the voice of the dad?????? Boioioioioioioing
- Ip Man (2008)kind of wild to watch this after watching the Grandmaster (2013), which is also about Ip Man. There's this whole "dueling with a Japanese general" plotline that is totally made up, which led me to the wikipedia entry on Ip Man (the person), to learn that most of the Grandmaster was made up too, even though it seemed a little more sensible? Anyway Ip Man the movie (2008) was fun, no problem, fights are cool and Donnie Yen's portrayal of Ip Man is calm cool and collected. Probably going to go ahead and watch the sequels.
- Ip Man 2 (2010)As predicted, I watched the sequel. It was ok, some great sequences. I didn't know Sammo Hung was going to be in it, so I was delighted when he showed up, and his big scene is great. My big problem is that the finale is a fight against an English boxer, and the boxer is wearing boxing gloves, and Ip Man really struggles to beat him. Come on, we just saw this guy take on like 20 guys with machetes, he can't beat this one dude, who only punches, and is wearing pillows on his fists? It's totally unreasonable.
- Nights Of Cabiria (1957)beautiful movie starring the magnificent Giulietta Masina. This was just what the doctor ordered. Is the ending shot a tribute to Chaplin's Modern Times? I loved it. Loved every single character, even the people that only shown in passing, or as a brief reaction. I guess Fellini is my favorite filmmaker? I think this every time I watch a Fellini picture.
- The Way Of The Dragon (1972)Bruce Lee movie with Nora Miao and Chuck Norris. There were a few jokes in here that I didn't get, all based on the assumption that the audience reads Bruce as like a country bumpkin. I didn't get the inferences so I was scratching my head a little bit. But it doesn't matter because we're not watching for the jokes. Bruce is great, everyone's great. After the anti-Japanese stuff of the previous movie "Fists of Fury", it seemed like he went out of his way to say that it's ok for Chinese people to learn karate, and even has a little "whatever works" teaching moment with another character. The boss's evil fey henchman is great, and the scar guy from Enter The Dragon (Robert Wall) is a little younger and a little cuter. Fake scar is a great look.
- Tora San Wish You Were Here (2019)with appropriate dignity, they stopped making Tora San movies after Kiyoshi Atsumi passed away in 1996. Then in 2019 they pulled together one last one, the 50th in the series, for the 50th anniversary of the first movie. I'm extremely reticent about any "reunion tour" stuff in any domain, but I gotta say they did an extremely good job and I hovered close to crying from the opening song to the end credits. There's a good amount of flashback material but it's integrated well. They didn't shemp anyone in but there are some tasteful parts where Tora appears as a ghost in the background. But they don't make him say anything, he just fades in and out, to let you know that everyone feels his presence. Perfect.
- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)there is 1 instance of homophobia, a persistant male gaze, and an obvious eurocentric outlook (befitting an American high school history class) but otherwise this is pretty perfect. Bill and Ted are sweet dummies who love each other and care about all people. The love they have for each other helps them find the love they have for themselves, and from this foundation their love radiates outward to all of creation. There's a very minor secondary plot about Billy the Kid and Socrates... I would love it if we could zoom in on them. Ditto Joan of Arc, played by Jane Wiedlin from the Go Gos. If we could get a movie where the 3 of them fuck around in the San Dimas mall for 90 minutes, running from the stupid ass mall cops, personally I would love that.
- John Cardiel "Epicly Later'd" (2008)a fun and inspiring documentary about pro skater John Cardiel, made after his accident, also kind of about the Antihero skateboard company. Cardiel is one of ML's favorite skaters, and after watching this Sakiko said "I see what you mean now about how ML has some friends that are bad". Cardiel is great, this is a fun watch.
- Tora-San's Forget Me Not (1973)first appearance of cabaret singer Lily. She's great, very much Tora's equal. There's a great scene where everyone's sitting around the table listing the women that Tora has fallen in love with, and laughing. I love it when they all laugh together.
- Tora-San Loves An Artist (1973)this is the twelfth one in the series and you feel like they really decided to shake things up for this one-- there's no major character changes, but instead of Tora going to a different prefecture, the rest of the family goes (to Kyushu) and Tora stays at the Toriya. There's a few other funny inversions like this, each one casts a compelling light on the characters.
- Dracula's Daughter (1936)fun but not great sequel to Dracula (1931), with Gloria Holden as the titular daughter. She didn't want the part, as she didn't like horror and saw what happened to Lugosi after Dracula-- that he was stuck being Dracula for all time. Wikipedia quotes critic Mark Clark- "Her disdain for the part translates into a kind of self-loathing that perfectly suits her troubled character."
- Venom (2018)saw this when it came out in the theatre with Mickey and we both loved it, so I thought I'd watch it again while doing a task. The main guy is great, the sinewy goo looks dynamite, the bad guy is Elon Musk (or some other dot com billionaire with a space program). I read a thing that Tom Hardy based his character partly on Redman, which is incredible, but it's too bad there's no Redman in the movie (or Venom (band) for that matter). The worst parts are all in the last minute or after the last minute: Stan Lee cameo, Eminem song, Woody Harrelson. I don't have a whole riff about this, but this is a "bicameral mind" movie.
- Tora-san's Lovesick (1974)this one fakes you out with a very short intro romance that fits the entire common arc into like 5 minutes. But it's just a set-up for the return of Utako, the madonna from 1972's "Tora-san's Dear Old Home". I didn't realize in the earlier movie that her dad is the cool expert from Seven Samurai! He's great in this, everyone's great.
- Birds Of Prey (2019)I watched this while doing a task, I guess it was fun and/or had some fun parts but also I hope no one ever makes a movie like this ever again.
- Alone In The Wilderness (2004)this is the ultimo for the "building a cabin in the woods all by myself" genre. it's the earliest one (or the earliest movie one anyway) and the only one that's like, "a movie", whereas all the other movies are long youtube videos. It's nice, and relaxing. After a while I got caught up on a few things though... I started thinking about how the sound was dubbed in later, and specifically there's a water droplet "poiuyt" sound that's too perfect. And I kept thinking about him setting up the camera and tripod constantly just to film himself walking away from it-- then he's gotta walk back just to get the camera? Maybe he saves those shots for the end of a reel so he doesn't waste film, just walks away till the film runs out. And there are some tracking shots, or shots of him with the camera, and it's like, well how the hell did you shoot that if you're alone in the wilderness? Also this production is from 2004, using footage from the late 60s, no problem, but every now and then maybe the original shot didn't come out so they splice in some video and it's really disconcerting. These are small points though, I loved it. About halfway through I had an astounding moment when there was a shot that I only knew as a "website under construction" image. It felt absolutely eerie, like hearing the song that the Amen break comes from, a sudden awareness that you know exactly what's about to happen for 1.7 seconds:
- Terminator (1984)This is Sakiko's favorite movie, and it took me a little while to figure out exactly why-- it's not because it's violent or has robots, it's because it's solid, good without feeling pompous or overworked, fun without feeling stupid or goofy. This time around I was paying a lot of attention to the sound-- the music is a split between iterations of the main theme and herky jerky "guy running around" synth patterns. I was watching it thinking "how would this get made now" and realized that all the action sequences now would be cut to music, whereas in the original these passages have little to no music, and it's a lot of just sound effects. Bill Paxton plays a punk in the first couple minutes of the movie and him and his buddies look so stupid, it rules. One of the other punks is Brian Thompson, the bodybuilder in Miracle Mile. The special effects look great thanks to good editing-- another thing that would never happen now. When the terminator is reduced to just a skeleton they way they show you it's him is to give it a limp, and just before the crash you see Arnold limping-- really elegant solution. Nowadays they'd just keep the face on the skeleton somehow and it'd look like shit.
- Morgiana (1972)really nice atmospheric Czech horror movie, great dresses and wigs on nearly every single character. There's nothing supernatural, just sinister human jealousy. It doesn't have a spectacular plot, it's just fun to be these characters for a little while. If you're ever like "damn I want to watch a wig movie" I'd reach for either Barry Lydon or this one.
- Late Autumn (1960)extremely good Ozu movie starring "the Japanese Audrey Hepburn" Yoko Tsukasa. In nearly all the dialogue, the actors address the camera, and it's intoxicating-- you're constantly pulled into the movie, into sympathy with everyone. There are a lot of establishing shots of low angles in still moments, as though you're sitting on the floor quietly enjoying the scenery. I loved it. Small role for a young(er) Chishū Ryū, the delightful priest from Tora-san.
- The Gate (1987)fun "young people's horror" movie with cool looking ghoulies and a Satanic metal aspect. Fun but not great, and like too many movies from this era, wrecked by 2 easily cuttable instances of homophobic language.
- Halloween (1978)a tense and well-done movie that ultimately just isn't my thing-- halfway through I thought "I'd rather not be watching this" and whereas sometimes I feel this way and then there's a payoff, this time I just came away like "they did a good job making this movie" and that's about it. This whole movie became a genre, that's incredible, just people remaking this movie with the specifics tweaked. I mean that happens sometimes, and I can see the appeal. I too have seen a band and thought "wow, I want to have a band that's exactly like this". All the teens in this were annoying and it reminded me that as a teen I was probably really annoying too. I liked that the scary guy is just wearing a regular Halloween mask, that feels like a cool cheat. Also I'm really into the way the story doesn't make sense-- it doesn't dovetail in on itself or anything, it's just a bunch of stuff that happens. The bad guy's motivation is just "he's really crazy". I know this changes a little in the sequel but considering that this was supposed to be a one-off and not a series, I think it's best to treat the first one as an island. OK my favorite part was that Jamie Lee's bedroom had a large framed James Ensor painting in it, and it wasn't one with skulls and masks, it was a fairly straightforward self-portrait. Do an image search for James Ensor to see how discerning you have to be to not pick one with a skull in it! I logged onto imdb.com and added "james-ensor" as a keyword for this movie.
- Nosferatu (1979)OK it's incredible that I haven't seen this up to now. Nosferatu is a weird fork of the Dracula concept, maybe the best way to say it is that the Lugosi Dracula is the American idea of the aristocrat, suave and genteel, permanent tuxedo, and Nosferatu is the European idea, a misshapen cowering abomination, delicate but infinitely cruel. Herzog's Nosferatu adds an explicit plague aspect to the character, although it's seemingly disconnected at the same time, just "also I brought all these rats". Some of the shots look right out of Bruegel, a view from a hill of a psychotic crepuscular jamboree. Bring back isometric layouts! Lots of great spreads in this too-- Harker wakes up in the castle and the count has a breakfast laid out that's like, a whole watermelon, a stuffed rooster, pastries. Harker's like "wow, just a couple grapes for me thanks". Oh yeah, and author/artist Roland Topor plays Renfield and hits it out of the park, an all-time giggling freak. Kinsky's good but Dracula is almost too easy a role. Renfield was dynamite. Renfield's always good-- Dwight Frye, Tom Waits, Kinski (in Franco's "Count Dracula", 1970)...
- Dark Shadows (2012)well I gotta say I had fun. not great, some cool parts, and they kind of threw too much into the ending, buuuuuut...? I had fun. I had this grouped with the Burton / Depp "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" which seems abominable from the 1 minute of it that I saw, but this was mostly fun. Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Lee, Alice Cooper, no problem. Actually there's a secondary character in this who looks like Alice Cooper, and I thought it was him, but then later the real Alice Cooper shows up and I was like, "who the hell is that first guy then?". Then I was sure they were doing a "Parent Trap" dual role kind of thing, Alice Cooper pulling double duty on the set. But I looked it up later, boom, totally different guy. Anyway this movie was a fun watch but if you liked the TV show (or hate people who look like Alice Cooper) then probably stay away.
- Halloween 2 (1981)as I understand it, the Halloween franchise was supposed to be an anthology series, like every year on Halloween there'd be a spooky movie called "Halloween" with no recurring characters. But the first one was so good they were like, OK we'll do another one to wrap it up but that's IT! It's funny how they failed on that-- they got locked in. Something extraordinary about this is the depth of field-- so many of the shots have a main character on one side of the screen then a long view of the background, where sometimes there's a bit of critical activity. Very fun way to do a movie and also this must've looked like shit in the original home video VHS release, it's uncroppable.
- Star Trek: First Contact (1996)there was way more action than I'm used to with this crew, but I had a great time and there were a few things that you could tell they always wanted to do in the show but weren't allowed to, like say "bullshit", get drunk, and walk around in space suits on the outside the ship. The craziest part of the movie was when a guy said "are you guys on some kind of star trek?", which is frankly unreasonable. Watched this on Thanksgiving.
- Bill and Ted Face The Music (2020)I was really anticipating this and I had a lot of fun. Very early in the movie they tell you explicitly that this won't really make sense until the end, and it's never like "explained" what's going on, but it does kind of "make sense". The whole movie is about trying to be creative on a strict deadline, which I appreciate, and although the premise is outlandish, it is kind of a good distillation of how it feels to play a great show, that sort of reality-melting flow feeling. Kid Cudi is in it, which makes the movie feel like it's from 2010, and Weezer plays the theme song, that's a bad move. Buuuuuut like I said, I had fun.--- end main ------------------------------------------------>
- E.T. (1982)damn this movie is great! In want of a sense of a belonging, a classic middle child conjures up an alien that's both stronger and smarter than him and weaker and dumber; they exist together in a dual form and when one drinks the other gets drunk. They both get sick and approach death but only the alien goes over. Luckily he's fine, and the boy, his brother, and his brother's weird friends haul ass on bmx bikes through the subdivision to evade cops and bring the alien back to his ship. As with John Williams' rousing score, everything seems magical when it's happening and obvious when you think about it, and at the same time doesn't really "make sense" outside of a child's outrageous feeling of wonder, which is everywhere.
- Muppet Movie (1979)zillionth rewatch of this beautiful movie. My mom said she saw this in the movie theatre the day I was born and went into labor right at the end. I think maybe the Muppet franchise is why I seek to be appreciated without belonging? the Muppets are a crew but some of them don't even like each other, which is utopic.
- Bee Gees - How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (2020)really nice documentary about Best Group with a few "wow" moments- like how the drums on "Staying Alive" are a tape loop, that's insane. Flan was put off by the presence of one of the Oasis brothers but I think he did 2 huge things: pointing out that family singing together is an insane sound you can't just get; and being known grouch that embraces this group that history remembers as cheesy.
- Star Trek Insurrection (1998)Fun Next Generation movie that was as good as watching three good episodes. The movies have the budget for crazier-looking alien species, this one had F Murray Abraham with a face stretching routine straight out of Brazil (1985).
- Isle of Dogs (2018)Animated Wes Anderson movie set in near-future Japan. The dogs speak English, almost everyone else speaks Japanese, which is effective in getting me in sympathy with the dogs-- when the humans talk I'm just going on tone, mood, and gesture, as a dog would. But that cool effect only works because my Japanese is very limited. I kept wondering, is there a Japanse dub of this where the people speak English? This one also features F Murray Abraham, plus Mari Natsuki, who was Lily in the Tora-san series.
- Kong: Skull Island (2017)I think this is my favorite King Kong movie? Kong looks great, and instead of just "a scared animal" he's like a straight up good guy in this. John Goodman and Samuel L Jackson co-star, and all the monsters look dynamite, with the exception of the main baddies, which look confusing, which is a cool move in like a Lovecraft way, as if to say "we tried to recreate this monster from a nightmare and our minds would simply not allow us". We watched this on Christmas, and at one point someone says "Santa Claus" out loud, which has me thinking that maybe I'll just watch this every Christmas?--------- end new writing --------------------------------------------->
- Anger Management (2003)