2018 February Feature Filmery


The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

I was enthralled with the trailer when it came out---largely because of the Woody Harrelson's character (who was my single favorite part of the film; I would watch his movie twice)---then forgot all about it. This is, the words of a seventeen-year-old student of mind, too real. It's too much real about being seventeen. It's a lot of real. And while it's not my real, I felt more connected to it than, say Boyhood or Dazed and Confused. So I guess I like Kelly Fremon Craig more than Linkletter? Maybe. At least when it comes to kids. Or I just empathize more with this hero's failures. Who knows.

Help! (1965)

My kids had this one when I got home. I didn't intend to watch it with them but ... it's really good. The more I see it, the more convinced I am its satirical critique of late-stage British colonialism is ... just great. Some of the race stuff is embraced but enough of it is undercut--- I'm about ready to write a paper about how ahead of its time it is in terms of such things. I think it's using the tools of, for instance, what we now call whitewashing to mock it. Not the words they would have used at the time, of course, but I have evidence. In other news, the movie is filled with great shots (especially in the musical sequences), and, I just noticed for the first time that much of the score is orchestrations of older Beatles song. Too bad that stuff's not on a cd somewhere. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

The Incredibles (2004)

Unquestionably one of the greatest s-uperhero movies. Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man moveis came first (both of which are good and one of which is excellent) and the okay X-Men movies had started, but Batman Begins was a year away and Iron Man was four years off still. This, imho, is still the standard. There have been excellent entries to the genre since 2004, but nothing inarguably superior. Long live the Incredibles.

Love & Friendship (2016) x2

This movie is brilliant. It shines with bright humor and charm and even the wicked characters are delightful. I don't know what percentage of the sentences were lifted from Lady Susan, but they are all exquisitely Austenian. If you need a laugh, watch this. If you want a bigger laugh, watch it twice.

Wonderstruck (2017)

Todd Haynes, methinks, should not direct children. Also, there are a goodly number of dumb flaws (doors left unlocked, contact left unmade) that could have been explained without clunk. If it had just been me and my wife watching this, I would have called it a waste of time. But we watched it with our 14yrold and I think it was a great push toward artistic film for him. He thought it was pretty great. And I don't mean to knock the film, but it really felt like Haynes spent the entire process congratulating himself for making a masterpiece. It was good and it was ambitious, but it would have done well to loosen up a bit, take itself a bit less seriously. And it was slooowwww until the leads finally met. Cut twenty-plus minutes and breathe a bit more and you've got quite the movie on your hands.

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)

I missed the middle of the film when I was out picking up a kid from baseball practice, but I saw enough to stand by my decade-and-a-half-old assessment: it's funny. We were going through old dvds and wondered why we even bought this one doubting it could be all that great, but the kids saw it and wanted to watch it and we finally let them. Lady Steed, I assumed, skipped a couple bits in the middle, but this is a pretty funny movie. Dumb? Yes. Ridiculous? Yes. Absurd? Yep. Stupid? Sure, but funny. Not a movie any right-minded critic could promote, but it's funny with bits of hilarity. And even when it's merely stupid, it's an inspired stupidity. I'm not ashamed.

Lady Bird (2017)

Saoirse Ronan is amazing in this film. She's so great. She's 100% American and absolutely a high-school student. Next, Greta Gerwig. I've been a fan for a while, but watching a show that is entirely hers? Well, I can't wait for the next one. Anyway, this is one of the finest lifeslices I've seen in a while. The kids, the parents, the connections. And hey---2002 was pretty much still the '90s, wasn't it? Without 9/11 would we even be able to tell the difference? Sorry, I let the screener start over and so I'm watching instead of analyzing or anything intelligent like that. Also, I don't feel like risking getting too personal. Now and then I realize I have some ghosts from high school still haunting me. But it's nice to see them turned into art.

Sylvio (2017)

Twenty minutes into Lady Bird, we switched over to watching the last half of Sylvio, begun the night before. And:

Post-irony. If you're looking for it, here it is. A guy in a gorilla suit. That's the whole movie. But it finds an honest and beautiful sincerity. By the end of the movie, all the irony is washed away.

I thought the mask was just a plastic mold, but I'm wondering if it wasn't actually clay. Sylvio's stoic demeanor seemed to take on real pathos at the end, but maybe that was just lighting ... or making me believe.

I know it didn't start with Napoleon Dynamite (exhibit a), but I think Napoleon's success made it possible to see a home for these outsider, offbeat characters living in a world slightly out-of-sync with our own, behind chronologically and yet entirely now, to be the protagonists of great movies. You know. Although it looks more like something in the Oscar-bait tradition, I think Lady Bird just might qualify as one of these characters as well. She's much closer to reality-reality, but that's a bit misleading. Sylvio may seem farther from our world, but his fictionality is the roadway through our defenses. The same is true of Lady Bird. Her angle of attack is just a little less absurd. Anyway. Coupla good movies here....

Iron Man (2008)

Haven't seen it since theaters ten years ago. It holds up pretty well. All the Marvel DNA is there. Some things (post-credits bits) have been finetuned, and it's surprising how much the effects have already aged---at moments I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie---but it's still a good ride. Amazing how much this film has spawned in just ten years....

Toy Story (1995)

The younger boys claimed not to remember this film. And they didn't. So instead of some other classic film, tonight we watched this one. It's a great film. Buddy movie, yes, but at times horror, heist---it does it all. I'm still sad I missed it in theaters. (It came out when I was in the MTC.) Even though the animation has aged, this is a film for the ages.

Chan Is Missing (1982)

This is cinema verite to the max. These sets are clearly not sets---they're real homes and offices. And that reality makes it possible to forget, for long stretches, that this is fiction. It feels so real. This is Chinatown, circa 1980. I don't think I've seen a Wayne Wang film before, and I don't know if this is typical of his work, but the best comparison I can make is to Robert Altman. Natural, flowing dialogue, folks talking over each other, etc etc. I also like the noir effects---voiceover, chiaroscuro, paranoia. And I like the pure mystery. Like City of Glass or Mr. White's Confession or The Colorado Kid, mystery in Chan Is Missing isn't something to be defeated. Mystery is its own reason. And, done well, I find that very satisfying.

Black Panther (2018)

I can't say much about this movie that hasn't been said, and I don't know that anything I can say is that important. So just a few things I haven't heard said just this way. 1) It's nice to see someone paying attention to details. Even the subtitle font was intentional. (And not Papyrus!) 2) I really wanted to see this opening weekend with an appreciative African-American audience. I wish I had. 3) I know this is fantasy and wish-fulfillment, but I felt the desire for this world pouring from the screen. I can't imagine what it's like to either take that dream back into the sunlight---or to watch it dissipate there. 4) Kinda cool to see scenes in both Oakland and Pusan.

Pom Poko (1994)

Watching a Ghibli film for the first time is always exciting. Although I knew the gist of this one's plot, I didn't expect the documentary feel or the voiceover or runtime (about two hours). What I did expect was to be shown something unexpected. The elements of the unexpected that fit more into my expected unexpecteds include the plurality of protagonists, the whimsy, the generous imagery, the surreality, and weird Japanese stuff you would never see in an American movie like shape-shifting scrota. Fitting into simply expected, put the strong environmental message, though, frankly, it's rather a downer. For all the dancing and fun the film ends on, it's not exactly a Hurrah, humans! sort of conclusion.

The film automatically started with the dub, so that's what we watched. It was fine, but I suspect that much of the film's humor and nuance was lost. I'm not saying the subtitles would be that much better, but a film this grounded in its own culture will always lose something. That so much remains just goes to show how rich the film is.

Previous films watched

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