Ed: Do you understand half the shit he says?
Elaine: No, but I know what he means.
- The Limey
(This is the next section from my notes on all of the media I consumed this year. Read Part 1 here.)
Train to Busan -- I love train movies and I love zombies, so you do the math, motherfucker...
Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- See previous post for my thoughts on horror. The characters in this movie are so stupid and annoying that I was glad to see them dispatched by Leatherface. But I imagine that was the whole point.
Pulse -- This movie makes no sense and I did not like it, but it's built around an intriguing idea (being murdered by the internet). Although I’ve never seen the Kristen Bell remake, I’m convinced that the American film uses actual footage from the Japanese original. Take a look at the trailers to see for yourself.
The Limey -- I told you yesterday that Steven Soderbergh would be popping up frequently here. Terrence Stamp is straight up amazing in this. The screenplay, by Lem Dobbs, is definitely worth a read.
Midnight Run, The Fugitive, The Game -- Speaking of locomotion, I also quite enjoy good “on the run” movie like these three.
Out of Sight -- What if Jennifer Lopez stopped making shitty music and just stuck to making awesome movies like this?
Traffic -- Soderbergh is known as an experimental director, and I agree with that designation, but one of his greatest strengths is his ability to make complicated plots and characters work in simple and elegant ways. One great example of this is how he employs different lenses/color coding techniques for each of the different plots/characters in the film. Every time a scene changes the viewer instinctively understands who or what they are following.
Memories of Murder -- I had to buy a used international DVD to watch this film by director Joon-ho Bong (of Okja and Snowpiercer fame). Not everything I want to see is on iTunes, which is why physical media is still viable, and at time necessary. I loved Snowpiercer and will eventually get around to Okja, but truth be told I had never even heard of Memories of Murder until I watched this great Every Frame a Painting episode.
Nocturnal Animals -- I enjoyed this movie but it’s hard to articulate why, so instead I’ll repeat a few lines from Angie Han’s review: “Ford’s visuals are lovely and precise. Susan’s life looks like an extended perfume ad, which makes the grit and grime of Tony’s story feel all the more jarring. Some of the most arresting visuals have nothing to do with anything at all: the film opens with a series of naked older, overweight women in majorette hats dancing in slow-motion.”
Sex, Lies, and Videotape -- A director's first movie is like a proof of concept. They often have very little money and their distinct style (if they are in possession of one) hasn't fully formed yet. This sounds glib but directors usually have to make movies to get better at making them. Sex, Lies, and Videotape reminds me a lot of Bottle Rocket in this respect. I don’t love either film, but they’re both harbingers of what’s to come from two of the best filmmakers working today, which means they have value outside of my own enjoyment.
Moonlight -- A beautiful film with some great performances, but I’m not sure I get the hype. I am however excited for whatever director Barry Jenkins does next.
Edge of Seventeen -- I wonder why no one talks about this movie and yet everyone seems to think that Lady Bird is the movie event of the year. They’re both great, but also very similar. I would like to watch Hailee Steinfeld in more films. She deserves a long and visible career.
La La Land -- This film, along with Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the original, you bastards), breaks my Anti-Musical stance. It also reminded me to listen to Dead Man’s Bones.
20th Century Women -- A rich, complex interconnected mega-biography. Annette Benning's house is in a constant state of fixing-up, and as the camera zooms in and out around her we get the sense that it may never be complete, and in the same way we can also feel intimately, frustratingly that she may never fully know her son or teach him all the things she wish she herself had been taught. Her character wants to appear in control but often recuses herself from getting her hands dirty. Oftentimes pretentious, always beautiful, heartwarming without verging into the territory of cloying sentimentality, this film is, in a word, real.
Before Sunrise -- I can only imagine how hard it is to make a giant blockbuster movie. Executives and writers and artists and financiers must come together to make a two and a half hour CGI fuckfest specifically designed to make you forget that you are alive. But all Linklater has here is 90 minutes of straight dialogue. Every single word spoken in this movie he and co-writer Kim Krizan had to imagine in some way. And there are so many words. And every single frame of this movie contains Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The whole endeavor rests on the shoulders of two actors locked in the frame. That to me is so much harder.
Before Sunset -- From the first moment Jesse (Hawke) sees Celine (Delpy) I was waiting for him to scream “I love you” right in her face. The film is a roller coaster clinking it’s way to the top. And just as it’s about to let go and drop you down the hill, the screen fades to black and the credits roll. And that’s it. I can’t imagine what audiences felt in 2004. And what relief they must’ve experienced sitting down to the final part of the trilogy in 2014.
Before Midnight -- But it’s not relief waiting for you here, now is it? This film marks the first time we ever see Jesse and Celine fighting in a meaningful way. As a matter of fact, much of the movie’s run time is devoted to one long argument. It’s a real subversion of the romance genre to not only refrain from showing the fateful union of two characters (a la Before Sunset), but to also show us that life can get in the way of two beautiful people after the credits roll. Just think about what Harry and Sally might be going through right now...
Tombstone -- This movie has one of the greatest casts I’ve ever seen. It also stars Kurt Russel’s unbelievable head of hair. His hair should have won a fucking award in 1993.
The Magnificent Seven -- While this movie turned out to be solidly entertaining, I have to wonder why anyone thought we needed a straight up remake of a...remake. The original Magnificent Seven was based on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Turning a samurai film into a western is a cool idea. But turning a classic western based on a classic samurai film into a mostly forgettable western is a questionable creative decision at best. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to give us Seven Vikings or Seven Astronauts or Seven Lizard Men? Now, that’s what I would call appointment viewing!
Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz -- Leading up to the release of Baby Driver I did my due diligence and watched some of Edgar Wright’s earlier works. While I enjoyed both Shaun of the Dead Hot Fuzz and found them to be very well made, I don’t feel the same kind of giddy joy I experience when I watch Scott Pilgrim vs. the World or imagine, in the moments before sleep, how fucking rad Wright’s Ant-Man movie would have been.
Barry Lyndon -- A rags to riches and back to rags story by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. I know that no good can come from comparing this movie to a modern blockbuster like The Last Jedi, but Barry Lyndon should be required viewing for any and all filmmakers who plan to make a movie about the rise and fall of [insert character here]. Every creative decision feels like the right one somehow, every step forward or backward a natural progression for the character. And it is easily one of the most simplistically beautiful films I have ever seen. There’s so much to learn from this film. I wish more people would.
Marie Antoinette -- I’m ambivalent about Sophia Coppola’s filmography. Lost In Translation is one of my favorite movies of all time, but I just can’t seem to fall in love with some of her other work the same way. From a technical standpoint the movie works. It’s shot beautifully, with many of the sequences occurring in the exquisite Palace of Versailles, and that really lends a sense of authenticity to the the production. But the movie takes an oddly sympathetic view of a rather unsympathetic woman (not just histoically, but as played by Kirsten Dunst) and I don’t really understand why.
All the President's Men -- Powered solely by exemplary performances from its actors. The plot, while intriguing and incredibly relevant, is stuffed with so many developments that it’s nearly impossible to tell just what exactly Bernstein and Bob Woodward are doing from scene to scene. There are also a dozen named characters that we never see onscreen--this only adds to the confusion. But Hoffman and Redford are dynamite. And even the most mundane shots in this movie are staged and shot dynamically. This movie was yet another education for me.
The Thirteenth Warrior -- An interesting misfire. What a shame it is that the film lacks a real main character, because the image of a young Antonio Banderas skulking around a cave, torch in one hand, scimitar in the other, dressed in black chain mail, skulls covering the floor, is a sight to behold.
Swiss Army Man -- Much to my surprise Danielle Radcliffe can act. You wouldn’t know it by watching those Hagrid movies he’s in.
Super -- Rainn Wilson is a great actor. Instead of playing Harry Mudd on Star Trek: Discovery, he should have played an alien. Or a robot alien. Yeah, that’s it, a robot alien. This has nothing to do with Super, which I liked.
Doctor Strange -- Not really weird enough for a Doctor Strange movie (unless you factor in how weird Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent is) but MAJOR POINTS awarded for being quite possibly the only modern superhero film to end with the hero defeating the big bad without throwing a punch. KUDOS. Seriously, I can’t describe how much I enjoyed seeing something like that. Superman is busy snapping the lovable Michael Shannon’s neck while Sherlock Holmes is straight up superheroing left and right! What a surprise in our time!
The Mermaid -- Why release a live-action Little Mermaid reboot when this bizarre Chinese film exists?
Read yesterday's notes here. And tune in tomorrow for Parts 2 & 3 (Television and Literature & Comics).