September Cinema


Amazon Prime
Fat City (1972)

I followed a link from Bright Wall/Dark Room to watch the opening scene of this film and immediately noticed a kinship with Sylvio---a film I've seen, oh, six times? (By the way, I was totally right. But, although the lyrics are different, it's weird Kris Kristofferson didn't get a credit. Also, all of Fat City's songs were early-70s awesome.)

Stacy Keach is a mostly washed-up boxer pushing thirty but looking ancient whose big victory comes against a man who can barely walk and pisses blood. Jeff Bridges is young and sober and going places---or, rather, is boxing will take him somewhere, he's going somewhere; otherwise, forget it. Good kid though he be. If you doubt it, just consider that doubly ironic Graduate-esque ending again.

I don't normally watch boxing movies. Boxing is awful no matter the circumstances. But the Sylvio connection and the near-local locale won me over.

As it ends, up, not a bad choice for Labor Day weekend. Nor a bad choice to watch after some at-work anti-racism training. In other words, the more things change....

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015)

Although this is a postapocalyptic story about demon possession, you might be forgiven, since the character design is cut animal anime with some Oyster Boy for flavor, to imagining it's not that dark.

Ha ha ha!

It's that dark.

Think of the darker moments of Miyazaki or Rankin/Bass or Don Bluth and then imagine a movie almost unrelentingly those moments. Maybe...imagine a nonanthology, cute Heavy Metal? That's warm anyway.

But it has everthing. Drug addiction, abuse, street violence, brutal cops, schoolyard bullying---it all feels like an allegory, but it doesn't reveal itself that easily.

Maybe the secret is in the original Spanish title, which seems to reference this and, by virtue of following word one with a comma rather than a colon seems to suggest that all the characters are psychonauts and not just Birdboy. But I dunno.
Anyway, glad I didn't watch it the first time with the three-year-old. If anything is nightmare fuel, this movie is nightmare fuel.

Amazon Prime
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

If I had heard of this film as a kid, I certainly would have wanted to see it. But I did not and so when I did hear of it, I chose to be skeptical. Then, as I was reading about Barry Levinson, I was persuaded it might be worth my time.

Directed by Barry Levinson: a plus.

Produced by Spielberg/Kennedy/Marshall: a plus.

Written by Chris Columbus: oh dear.

Although it was a fine ride, I can't recommend it. It's mediocre at best with bad use of voice over, expired orientalism, so-so pacing, predictable turns, and a stumbly conclusion. Although! It did have a post-credits sequence setting up a sequel! So that's pretty cutting edge. And it did have the first wholly digital character (created by Pixar). As a thing of it's time, it's pretty cool. As a movie you're choosing to spend a hundred minutes of life watching, you could do better.

library dvd
Clueless (1995)

I saw this movie in theaters shortly before my mission on the enthusiastic recommendation of Siskel & Ebert Me and Myke went together and...totally did not get it. I didn't find it funny or even particularly interesting. All I remembered about it was the cold-feet moment. But after reading Emma I thought I should give it another shot.

Then we went on lockdown and it took a while to get the dvd from the library. But now I've finally reseen it (with Lady Steed who has seen it "many" times.

And I can get in line with ol' Gene and Roger. This is a solid film.

And it's also a solid Emma adaptation.

But it was also solid in two respects I did not anticipate: the soundtrack and understanding the transition from early high school to late high school.

La Cigarette (1919)

I was reading a lot about Germaine Dulac earlier this year (can't rememeber how I got started) and her important career in film. This is the first of her features that still exists and already she is confident with the camera and the editing. her characters are natural in what is, frankly, a melodrama. It's rather sweet even though the twin spectres of suicide and deception haunt the film from the very beginning.

I know her later work is more experimental and I'm intrigued to check it out, but this right here was a solid introduction to her ouevre.

Amazon Prime
Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)

The kids were completely satisfied. I liked it, but I don't feel ready to pass judgment. The first movie and two thirds are truly excellent. And this one was really fun---well cast and funny in several different ways. What I really want to know is how lived in the family relationships will feel after I've seen the movie three times. (They want to rewatch the entire trilogy this weekend; if that happens, I may have a more fleshed out opinion for you just a few inches down.)

The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923)

The is the only other of Germaine Dulac's films on Kanopy, so I went here next. The plot is simple, as many movie plots are, but rather than expanding it outward it instead drives inward, stretching the frame and reality to match the characters inner lives.

To stick with the silent era for my examples, I'm used to comedy breaking reality (for instance as by Buster Keaton) or horror breaking reality (for instance as in Dr. Caligari) but not drama. The rules seems to be that the more Serious the drama, the more realistic the drama. They are equal.

This film shows that need not be.
I liked it. I'm glad it slipped in under an hour but it was good and it does suggest other directions film can take.

Maybe it's for the best that most experimentation takes place in shorter movies, but I'm certainly into seeing more regardless.

library dvd
All Is True (2018)

I learned from the special features that the writer, Ben Elton, an old friend of Branaugh's, had been doing a sitcom about Shakespeare and Branaugh, impressed by all he had learned, told him to write a dramatic script. He did and from suggestion to festival appearance clocked under a year. Which is remarkable. Even for a bad movie.

This isn't a bad movie. All the visible elements are excellent---from the acting to the setting to the etc. It's a heavy film with much silence. Enough of it is true, it could be very easy to forget how little of it may be true.

But it's not a great movie. Just good.

I think you'll enjoy it more, the more you know of the era. Maybe I would enjoy it more on a second viewing, not having to guess that was Ben Jonson, for instance.

As a period family drama, I actually did like it a lot, even if I'm not proposing any "greatness."

But it does have great elements. Here's one example:

Branaugh and McKellan take turns reciting Sonnet 29 and make it sing different songs. Tell me that is not cool.

library dvd
The Terminator (1984)

I've never seen this before. Lady Steed thought she had, but she was wrong.
It's a classic, of course. Line on the AFI's top quotes, the terminator is one of the AFI's top villains.

I wasn't expecting the synthesized score, and the light effects and the creature effect didn't age as well as I'd anticipated.

So it's good, but, not having grown up with it, I wasn't all that impressed. Will it still be watched in thirty years? I'm skeptical. I'm skeptical.

family dvd
Chicken Run (2000)

Twenty years. Can you believe it? It certainly holds up, but I was surprised just how many of the jokes rely on outside the film knowledge---and not just of movies like The Great Escape or Stalag 17 but also films as diverse as Braveheart and Brewster McCloud and first-run Star Trek. And that's not counting jokes based on knowing who Mel Gibson is or Tintern Abbey. This joke assumes serious cultural literacy and the kids did not laugh as much as I initially expected because, frankly, they just don't know this stuff. I mean---even I haven't seen those movies (exception: a friend made me watch the first three and a half Star Trek movies one Saturday in junior high) (I would like to see three of the others, though).

Although Chicken Run was enormously beloved in its time, personally, I never thought it was as good as Wallace and Gromit and I now think the passage of time has firmly established it as midtier Aardman. But I would still rather be midtier Aardman than any tier of half the other animation studios. So yes, I am looking forward to the rumored sequel.

Amazon Prime
A.C.O.D. (2013)

Lady Steed was just flipping through Prime looking for a movie and happened to see this, starring Adam Scott (Parks and Rec, The Good Place, Walter Mitty), Amy Poehler (SNL, Parks and Rec, Mean Girls),and Catherine O'Hara (Best of Show, Home Alone, Schitt's Creek). That was enough to start it. Then immediately, who do we see? Jane Lynch (A Mighty Wind, Mrs Maisel, Best of Show)! Richard Jenkins (Intolerable Cruelty, Burn after Reading, The Cabin in the Woods)! Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim, 10 Cloverfield Lane, BrainDead)! Even Sarah Vowell (This American Life, The Incredibles, Assassination Vacation) gets a couple lines! So even if the movie were terrible, it would not have been painful. And it was not terrible. I can see why it got mixed reviews, but I actually found it very satisfying. Disposable but enjoyable. With a cast like this, how could it not be?

(Well, we both know it might not have been but it was, and that's what matters.)

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