Feature Film: April2019


Us (2019)

I've written this in my head several times already and so this may end up a bit slight as it feels like rehash even though, of course, it's the first you're seeing it. If there were more of you, well, I might try harder. (Sorry.)

First, the movie is terrific. Jordan Peele has cemented his status. I suppose he could still have a Shyamalan-like falling off, but at present, he's established. I would give him my money. And I will, I suppose.

Anyway, the film does not have anything like as clear a stance as Get Out, but it has not shame in projecting. The amount of doubling and twinning and mirroring is intense; and details such as the VHS tapes at the beginning (The Man with Two Brains, Goonies, C.H.U.D.) aren't exactly subtle. (Period question: those movies happen just before the film. Release dates and prices were very differnt back them. Films often weren't released for a year after the theatrical debut and tapes could cost around a hundred dollars as only rental stores were buying them. So the question: is those three tapes on a little girl's shelf period?)

My other thing that might be a complaint is the scene of exposition near the end. Shot in a very cool way but pretty long. It felt too long. But then---the final twist---would it have worked as well without the exposition? That's the kind of thing that can only be discovered on rewatching. (And who knows if I will.)

Those quasicomplaints aside, the film is brilliant and wondrous

Cheatin’ (2013)

I don't think I've seen a Plympton feature since the summer after high school. It seems one with his shorts (which I've better kept up with). He's given up dialogue altogether, but his sense of music and timing and sound tend to make such a thing unnecessary.

He's still utterly willing to push animation into a morphic visuality no studio would ever use for more than a dreamed moment. Plympton really is willing to push into the surreal and symbolic to tell his story.

There's one particularly great moment where the parade of floozies flashes by while the protagonist's eyes remain constant. (I hope you can see this. If not, check with your local library---you may be able to sign up for some free films via Kanopy. They have a lovely selection.)

It's not easy to explain what's happening here in just a couple words, but regardless, even without context, it's a cool effect, no?

In the end, I only like the film okay, but I hope every student studies Plympton's work. I can't think of a better way to explode our visual vocabulary.

Captain Marvel (2019)

First, Captain Marvel was great. I enjoyed it very much and I'm more excited to see Endgame than I've been to see a film in sometime. So it did everything Disney wanted it to do.

You probably have your own opinions, so let me instead just spit details.

First, the films that are readable onscreen during the Blockbuster scene seem telling. It's great, for instance, that she blew the head of Schwarzenegger in a True Lies cutout. Appropriate. The line of VHS tapes she walks past? The only two I remember are Jumpin' Jack Flash and The Hudsucker Proxy. The former I've never seen, but the latter has obvious relevance with its themes of climbing up and falling down. And Babe? That's an interesting one to think about.

Speaking of which, how is it possible Chumbawumba was never used in this film?

But what year is this exactly? I can't decide. I'm guessing '96? It's a little fluid, but that's fine. The Nineties Nostalgia Parade didn't feel at all over-the-top to me, but it did certainly work on me. The music, man.

(Incidentally, the meta-cameo for Stan Lee was brilliant. I laughed loud and rather long. All by myself. Hm. Also, the Stan Lee-themed Marvel logo was a nice touch. He wasn't a perfect man, but it's no less than fitting.)

But the music! Sometimes it plays like it's stuff Carol should remember---but it's not. She disappeared in 1989, so---

Oh. Gone six years. 1989+6=1995. So that's settled. Except no way that Babe poster's up in Blockbuster, then. #WORSTMOVIEEVER

I will say it was distressing---viscerally and much more than I would have guessed---to have aliens shoot twenty or thirty missiles right at my hometown. Because they did. And I didn't like it.

The youngified Nick Fury was better than the youngified Phil Coulson who sometimes looked like he was in Harold Lloyd makeup, but both were impressive. I never doubted the Fury.

I look forward to seeing it again.

George of the Jungle (1997)

This came out just before I came home from my mission, but somehow, being an Adult, I still managed to watch in a good many times between arrival and setting off again. I don't think I've seen it anywhere (before today) asides my parents' home, yet I know it very, very well. My younger siblings must have really loved it.

This was a showing-it-to-the-kids event and they liked it. What's not to like? It's a mix of stupidity and absurdity yet well written! The jokes are clever, the film waxes meta without self-indulgence---everyone is respected young and old even though there are at least five to-the-crotch shots. How does that happen?

I already liked Brendan Fraser at this point, but it's how I met Leslie Mann. It's probably how John Cleese solidified his identity as anything other than one of the Monty Python guys for me.

I was afraid this would not hold up, but it does. Even the CG's not bad. Few live-action cartoons have embraced their cartoon heritage so thoroughly and successfully.

It's also interesting---somehow I don't think I'd ever thought this before, but clearly those old Jay Ward cartoons hold a powerful influence. The narrator in Powerpuff Girls, for instance, is a clear descendent of Jay Ward narrators.

Anyway, it's a very fun film, but it doesn't deserve me saying more about it than I've said about, say, All the President's Men.

Shazam! (2019)

Okay. This Captain Marvel movie is not as good as the other Captain Marvel movie, but it's pretty good and certainly fun. I think the sins were a bit undersold and a couple characters were conveniently inconsistent, but not bad.

I'm a fan of David Sandberg's shorts (still my favorite), but this is the first feature I've seen. It looks good. The funny and family stuff works well. And his wife still gets to die!

Honestly, even knowing Sandberg was the director and hearing that the film used his horror expertise, the ugly moments were uglier than I expected. Which is why the sins disappointed. The film has a physics which lets people survive things they could not survive and monsters happy to kill who do not kill---which doesn't match the least cartoony, awful moments. That's the film's real issue.

But it was fun! Superheros! Yay!

Mulholland Dr. (2001)

So Lynchian.

All I knew about the film coming in (besides it was David Lynch) was: L.A. noir, lesbian sex scene that might be part of a dream, a notable jump scare. The first of these, sure. The second, mightn't the whole movie be a dream? The third, I'm not sure what this was. And I'm a jumper.

I think this film represens, from what I've seen of the ouevre, peak Lynch. It's Twin Peaks out of the woods and into L.A. That it began life as a pilot strikes me as appropriate, though I think I'm glad it became a film instead. Even if it is very long.

I wish Lady Steed were here. I need to talk about it with someone.

Mulholland Dr. (2001)

It seemed much more sensible on second viewing. It was Lady Steed's first time of course, and so she's where I was a couple nights ago.

Naomi Watts's transformations are incredible---it's not always easy to recognize her. Sometimes I'm not convinced she isn't a different person---methhead Meg Ryan or something.

Anyway. It's still strange stuff, regardless of making more sense next time 'round. It's good. Though I find the sex distracting, tbh.

Three Identical Strangers (2018)

This is every bit the trip the trailer promised---though I am glad I forgot almost everything about the trailer outside the initial premise and the basic tone of conspiracy.

It's strange, watching this, as I'm teaching my students how not to fall for conspiracies. Because conspiracies do exist. The important thing isn't to disbelieve in conspiracy as a concept, but to be wise and informed so you can tell facts from madness. Which can be difficult when sometimes they smell quite the same.

It is startling how the happy premise keeps finding new ways to darken---but it's also encouraging how it finds layers to that question of nature versus nurture.

An Honest Liar (2014) x2

Suddenly, I realized that this film I had enjoyed and which was now free on Prime was a perfect supplement to the weekslong discussion I've been having with my sophomores on logic and reason and conspiracy theories and storytelling and such.

And it was. It was also a hit. We haven't had a chance to talk much about it yet, but the story troubled some and enrapt all. Highly recommended.

King Lear (2018)

I'm not sure I've seen a filmed Lear before. I think I like this one. I mean---I like this one---I'm just still considering some of the choices it made and its value as a pedagogical tool. And I got to see Emma Thompson play against type, which was exciting.

Is modern setting now the default for Shakespeare films---is it more bold to play otherwise?

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The anticlimactic ending drove me into a rage the first time I saw it and I went almost twenty years before a second viewing.

This is my third.

I don't mind the ending anymore (it is, after all, very Pythonesque), but the film as a whole I am quite fond of. I still like Flying Circus best, but that's largely for nostalgic reasons rather than careful reasoning.

I still haven't seen their other features though. Time to get there, I suppose.

Hancock (2008)

I'm not sure this movie deserves its bad reputation. Which isn't to say it's without flaws, but it's pretty good.

The main problem is that the third-act twist is a huge mistake. Could have been a good movie on its own, but it doesn't let the first two acts reach their proper conclusion. (And the denouement is ... bad.)

Keep in mind I just watched the extended version. I don't know how it's different from the original.

In short, the redemption story was the best thing this movie had going for it and, rather than The Twist, having him continue to check in with his prison groups would have made for a better movie.

That said, the mythology presented post-twist is pretty good, and the ambivalence of the "villain" is pretty great too. Maybe the sequel could have gone there. But smashing them together prevented either from becoming its best self.

Which is a little ironic, given what this movie was trying to be about.

One last note: the acting is terrific, especially from the leads.

Captain Marvel (2019)

Just as good on a second viewing. Which not something you used to be able to say about Marvel movies.

I did pick up on a couple eastereggs I missed the first goround and possibly an (intentional) error or two, but over all it was much the same experience.

I do like Brie Larson. From Envy Adams to Room, she delivers.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

This is a surprisingly good movie.

Considering how many moving parts there are and how much stuff I the viewer am bound to forget, it holds together.

And then: it keeps offering last-minute saves only to take them away. It must be the roughest franchise blockbuster of all time. Not even Empire killed over half its leads!


Previous films watched

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