October and a disturbing paucity of scary movies


Century 16 Hilltop
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

I really wanted to go see The Green Knight as my first movie back in theaters. Having missed that, maybe wait for The French Dispatch or Dune? But definitely not a Marvel movie. Yet here we are. A student will be spoiling it in her Monday presenation during the class both the Big O and I are in, so emergency theater-go.

Shang-Chi has a sister who has a haircut like Evangeline Lilly and is given a fancy suit the same color as Evangeline Lilly's. This can't be accidental, right? So all I can figure is that the lesson Marvel has learned—and which they are signaling here—is that they've learned that it's important to choose which female character will get her name in the title next time, like, for sure, everybody.

The villain was good. Stellar actor, for one thing. But I've noticed that the best villains in Marvel movies have a family connection that matters to good guys in the plot. The Vulture, Killmonger—even Thanos, who became a good villain before his end.

Simu Liu was very good at points but he also had some of the worst line readings I've seen in a Marvel film. Which I'm especially surprised by because this is an excellent director we're talking about here.

All actions movies are morally wobbly but this one is particularly so because it attempts to address morality directly which just puts into contrast how immoral the rest of the movie actually is. No further comments since the film's still new.

Realized as I saw the swaying bamboo that my kids have not seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Which is a terrible realization to have just before Michelle Yeoh shows up. They haven't seen Speed either but, then, neither have I. Guess we should.

Anyway, it's 12.44am. I hope you weren't hoping for coherence.

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Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

This summer I saw a new piece that, perhaps, will finally begin the reassessment of Gentleman Broncos. Shortly thereafter I had a conversation with Richard Brody, whose paragraph on the movie at the time was the only positive notice I saw. (He has also written this and this.)

I'm rewatching it now because I am finally beginning my much delayed begin for an essay due on the ninth. (It is currently the fourth.) I don't know if I'll succeed, but it's not too late to be impossible. Wish me luck!

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The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

With the right class, this deliriously weird movie can prompt endless conversations. One must wonder if James Whale isn't a genius for that reason alone.

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Hero (2002)

It's been . . . over fifteen years since I've seen this movie?

The first time I saw it was one of a handful of movie-watching experiences that changed how I watched movies. hero taught me that movies can be poetry. I discovered a new way to see and to consume film. The colors, the magical movement, the layered stories—none of it was realism or simple fiction. It was poetry.

Without Hero, maybe Tree of Life doesn't top last decade's list?

This watch was different. It couldn't blow me away in the same manner; I'd seen it before and my breadth of movie-watching is much greater. It's still good, but it felt like a piece of propoganda to me. The director/producer/cowriter claims he had no political intentions, but I feel like some shine through all the same. Although it probbably makes Xi Jinping uncomfortable, I imagine he's glad it's out there.

I remembered the movie being much longer than its 100-minute runtime. And it did feel longer than that. But it's not. It's 100 minutes.

Does make me eager to show the kids Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and maybe catch up with some from that wuxia-in-America era that I missed, like House of the Flying Daggers. Or maybe just some 80s Jackie Chan? That'ld be good too.

Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021)

So. Hooray for corporate synergy. This feels engineered to inspire people to comb it for every reference to the Muppets and the Haunted Mansion. It overrelies on clumsy metahumor. It reminds me of the errors Muppets in Space made. It's a bit confused whether the Muppets are themselves or playing parts (ala Muppet Christmas Carol). Plus, the way it's shot, you have to wonder if it's not a 3D ride waiting to happen.

That said, I did enjoy moments a great deal and it was wonderful to listen to Dave Goelz play Gonzo. I was wondering who was do Gonzo so well then the closing credits revealed he was the last of the originals still standing. I am very glad to have him.

Anyway. It doesn't make me think a Muppet rennaissance is on the way. But if they keep making stuff, the right people will get a chance eventually. Right? Right?

Scotland, Pa. (2001) × 2

After my screening, I tried it out on my sophomores. And although they argued whether it's a good Macbeth, they liked it for itself either way.

I agree. I've seen it three times now. And it's pretty good.

And, for my money, it's a good Macbeth.

(Fun fact: Macbeth is not like, say, MacDuff or MacDonald. No one was ever Son of Beth. I should point out real quick that Wikipedia disagrees on this point, but I'm convinced by my reading in the sources that the spelling just changed over time to look like other Scottish names. I might even, in fact, be related to everyone's favorite Apocrypha characters. I told you my facts were fun.)

Anyway, if you show it to students, know there is language and that I blocked part of the projected image at two points. Also there's a lot of fine 70s music. (If you like Bad Company. Also: a song written by a Shakespeare.)

I was interested to read that the movie is, in part, an intentional rebellion against other filmed Shakespeare of its era. Knowing that, it makes sense. But whatever their motivations in putting it all together, it works.

Mr. Boogedy (1986)

For a few years, my sister, who hated scary movies, insisted we watch this and its sequel every year for Halloween.

Having just rewatched it . . . I can't really explain it.

Sure, it's a Disney-safe horror movie—ghosts and such—but it's . . . pretty so-so in every way. Nice to see Mr Addams ham it up, and the gags and stuff can appeal to kids, but it's aged into pretty dry fare. I laughed mostly out of nostalgia. I don't think the kids will be clamoring for the twice-as-long sequel. (Though that does sport Eugene Levy, so I'm kinda interested, to be honest.)

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

It was never my favorite Monty Python product and, honestly, now I'm kind of over it. I still laugh, sure, but I can't help feeling I could be doing (watching) something else.

Like: Flying Circus. I would really love to watch Flying Circus straight through. Wouldn't that be something?

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Macbeth (2015) × 2

Sometimes a movie is wonderful and terrible at the same time. This is one of these. It's a visual marvel. I would be hard pressed to tell you of a movie that uses the manic and the still to equal effect. The use of motion slowed and sped—a chiaroscuro of motion—is intensely wonderful. And the style of its frame and the intelligence of its edit? Just amazing. Nonpareil.

But it slices and dices the text in ways that are sometimes brilliant and, as I have now seen the movie several times, equal parts insightful and nonsensical. Why were the lines describing the death of young Siward applied to Macbeth? It makes no sense.

But it's hard to begrudge a film that does so many things well, even if you have to know Macbeth already to follow this thing. The acting and editing are "good" but you're not understanding this stuff if it's your first exposure.

As an aside, this movie was funded, in part, by Amazon Studios. Yet you can't watch it on Prime anymore. Not even for additional money. Streaming exclusively on HBO Max.

The Bat (1959)

Well, this is a terrible movie. Consdering it's an adaptation of a play which had already been adapted for the screen twice (itself based on a novel with a second genetic line of adaptations), you might think the kinks had been worked out. In fact, I suspect several were introduced here.

As I understand the broadway Bat, it was much more constrained, Mousetrap-style—one night, one house. Even though this film starts earlier and takes us to other locations, the dialogue and staging are straight-from-the-stage hokey. And the film cheats so, so much. The final reveal of the murderer's identity is a hefty cheat, for instance.

Some good performances (Vincent Price in particular) don't redeem it.

The best part, however, is the design of the Bat character. That was cool. I imagine it is more or less what the character had been previous to 1959, but shall we check? 1926? (yikes) 1930? (I'm not sure whethr one or two is more right? either way, it's halfway there)

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