June film flybys


library dvd
42 Up (1998)

I find this series gets more and more moving as we get closer and closer to my age. I'm curious to see how I feel in the next film, as they shoot past me.

For simplicity's sake, let me talk about just two of the characters. First, Bruce, whom is the person I have come to most admire over the course of the film. His integrity and values seem worth aspring to.

And Neil, who started off as perhaps the most charming of the children only to turn into dark Michael Cera as a teen, then, through his twenties and thirties, troubled and homeless. He's still broken at 42 but he's successfully run for his local council and his life has purpose and direction.

It's a starting discovery to learn that Bruce and Neil have connected. And years ago! After 28 Up, in fact, and that Bruce has been Neil's friend in London all this while. It would be difficult not to draw the conclusion that Bruce's goodness and stability have not been a significant element of Neil's gradual . . . redemption might not be the right word, but at least his return to something akin to stability.

library dvd
Princess Mononoke (1997)

I've written about my history with this movie before, but tonight I think is the first time I've genuinely loved it. It's absolutely stunning and thought-provoking and perplexing and moving and unsettling and wonderful.

This is a movie that absolutely refuses to give us what we want. And we are all the better for it. Like a good parent.

Anyway, it's sitting with me. It's a movie, the experience of which, lasts much longer than the viewing of it. We need those.

library dvd
49 Up (2005)

So . . . now that they're older than me, they seem really old. Even though they aren't that much older than me. They look old, most of them seem settled into the sins of boomerdom, et cetera.I believe this is the first time the three East End girls didn't get interviewed together.

Something I appreciated about this film was that they asked just about everyone what they thought about the films and being in them. And they almost universally agree that it's rough going through their past every seven years.

I regret that I'm rushing through a few of them this month as it gets to feel more repetitive and even a tad boring compared to more generous spacing. Keep that in mind for yourself.

Monster on the Campus (1958)

One of the classic posters! In fact, I've had one for over a decade on my classroom wall and now? I've finally seen it.

It is as deliciously terrible as you'd expect. And, like a lot of films of this sort, the climax is the only boring part of the movie.

The science is stupid—a coelecanth was preserved with gamma rays and sent to an American university where the peculiar qualities of this hulked-out prehistoric pisces's plasma turns the evolutionary clock backwards on anyone who gets it in their system.

Anyways, it's terrible by any reasonable measurement. And I had an excellent time watching it.

Killer of Sheep (1978)

A good example of an interesting film made on minimal budget. Sure, there's not much plot but the sense of time and space and community washes over you. The camera is used to great effect and the sound design is also pretty great (though the mix is often terrible).

Although I'm hesitant to say the movie is about anything, the title character works at a slaughterhouse and battles a terrible malaise that precludes him from sleeping, smiling, and his wife's seductions.

One thing that makes the movie work is the sheep slaughterhouse. It's heavily symbolic in the best way, in that it never tells you just what these images mean. And so their meaning evolves and doubles back and multiplies as the movie progresses. It's openended in the best way.

But between the slaughterhouse and the lack of plot—it really does feel like a movie for museums and not cinemas—I can't imagine successfully showing it to students outside an actual film course.

The Green Man (1956)

A delightfully madcap mindcentury murder-comedy. Not as good (at least in my memory) as, say, The Ladykillers, but it was fun and had some excellent moments.

The sexual aspects are curious. That the leading lady will leaver her boorish fiance for the much more suitable vacuum-cleaner salesman is hardlt a surprise, but the bounty of actual adultery (or, at least, adultery-in-planning) surprised me and the innocent, chopped toad-loveing girl delaying the inevitable with her aristocratic December was interesting to watch and wonder how it played to a contemporary audience.

library dvd
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

It's a bummer when you're hoping for another Kong movie and instead you get another Godzilla movie.

Yup. This is an extremely stupid movie. It's a bunch of plotholes strung together, some great actors trying to sell some terrible lines, labored efforts to make excuses to put children in danger, and constant absurdity.

It is also completely awesome. Just amazing. Kinda wish we'd stuck with our plan to make this our first trip back to theaters. It would have been overwhelming.

library dvd
Soylent Green (1973)

So I'm just going to assume you already know the twist. Because surely you know the twist. Right? Okay.

I do wish it were possible to see this movie without knowing, but I'm not sure just how shocking it could be. The reveal is postponed but then we discover as the main character finds the evidence. And he doesn't yell it running down the street, either. I always assumed it was futile, but definitely nothing is happening here.

I do like that it's a detective movie. Cross-genre is always fun. And I liked that they didn't try too hard to be futuristic. It's just 70s New York turned to 11. Besides the cordless police boxes and whatever he was taking notes on, the paraphernalia was mostly contemporary. Once we got used to it, that worked great.

My fears for the future no longer include overpopulation, but scary near-future scifi is still an important part of any healthy diet.

56 Up (2012)

Something about the introduction and editing and vibe of 56 Up made it feel the most modern by a sudden leap. I'm not sure why. People with more film education, please tell me.

I still suspect Michael Apted has particular fondness for Tony, but this time he moved him to the end. And he didn't share anything from his acting sideline which is surprising because Sue, who appears near the beginning of the film, mentions she is now acting after talking to Tony! So while I'm certain you can start at 56 and feel right at home, there are details only us longtime watchers can catch.

Among other interesting additions:

Our two rural kids, one from a farming background and one more wealthy, sat on the couch together.

The meta elements are becoming more pronounced as more of the participants reflect on the good and the bad of their participation.

John is finally comfortable enough with himself to explain his I'm-not-so-priveleged comments of the past films. His father died when he was young and his mother scrapped to put his education together. So for all his aristocratic background, he did know something about hard knocks.

In short, I'm convinced they are correct when I say we do not really know them. But each round, we get to know them a little better.

But it's true that we the audience can be a bit entitled. I'm a little bitter Andrew skipped out so long and I did not get to see his wife age. I'm a little embarrassed by this admition, but it's true. And I can be petty about other things too. How did plain Lynn and her weird-looking husband have two beautiful daughters, for instance. These are the questions we have as we skate over the countours of their lives.

It is kind of a rough deal, but I appreciate them taking this journey, even if it does end up being just for my amusement.

The General (1926)

Only two kids home. One suggests we watch Charlie Chaplin or Bill Keaton. (Bill? Is that right?) The other suggested The Matrix or The General. And so a compromise was reached, and quite easily.

This is, of course, an excellent movie. But it's Lost Cause leanings do feel strange today.

The story is true (roughly) and, allegedly, Keaton did not think audiences would accept the Union as the good guys so he made up a Confederate to be the hero. I don't know a good source for this, but I have my own assumption. I suspect it's basic comedy thinking. Keaton (and Chaplin and other silent clowns and many other fine comedians through history) tended to play people downtrodden. He's not just short, he's on the losing side. The Confederates will lose this war and so it makes comedic sense to make them the heros. The Union plays sort of a Keystone Cops role. They have the power, ergo they must be the buffoons It's also notable that the unenlisted (and unenlistable) Keaton character largely locks horns with Union officers. In other words, this is basic comedic imbalance of power with the hero on the bottom.

It's also worth mentioning that the only Union soldier we see killed a) is the primary antagonist who b) has just sniped three Confederates, and c) is killed by accident. We see more dead in gray than in blue.

And Keaton's character is entirely apolitical. (And this is a racially homogenous South. Which is . . . interesting.)

I'm not making excuses, but the trends of 1926 and the laws of comedy make it difficult to imagine the movie made any other way. Which is a shame, but I get it. In a hundred years, maybe, it might not matter.

Or Keaton may have judged wrongly. The movie didn't do great when it came out and it entered the public domain in 1954 because no one could see a reason to renew the copyright. It was also enormously expensive to make. In a way, The General may be the reason Keaton didn't get Chaplin's elongated career. Which is mindboggling today, but maybe we should choose to blame it on the Lost Cause not being as popular as Hollywood wisdom had it. Birth of a Nation was more than a decade earlier. How nice to image people were over. (It could also just be that people weren't ready for a Civil War comedy yet with a few veterans still at dinner tables. Or maybe the nearness of World War I made war comedy a bit bleh. Who can say)

Anyway, I love this movie. But to show it in school today would requite talking more about the failures of American politics and history than the film itself. Good thing Keaton made other wonderful movies.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

This remains one of the greatest pieces of popular entertainment, one of the greatest adventure narratives of my lifetime. I was thinking what to compare it to and Star Wars popped into my mind. And then I began to realize they are the same movie.

Keira Knightley plays Princess Leia.

Orlando Bloom plays Luke Skywalker.

Geoffrey Rush plays the half-man / half-monster Darth Vader.

Johnny Depp, in a bit of stunt casting, plays both Obi-Wan and Han Solo.

In an interesting choice, R2-D2 and C-3PO are reproduced in both good guy and bad guy forms, though the pirate version is more like The Hidden Fortress characters than the robots were.

Anyway, it's a terrific movie and I love it (though I did notice some cheating on the pirates-can't-feel bit—uncomfortable splinters and a warm dress, for instance). The only complaint I have is that they kept making them. I suppose the second one was a fine movie, but it ends with one of the greatest betrayals to filmgoers in movie history.

Captain Barbossa's death is one of the most satisfying villain deaths ever shown on screen and bringing him back rendered that moment meaningless. Which I why I never watched movies 3 or 4 or 5. Screw them.

This is precendeted of course. Although I've watched four of the five Jurassic Park movies, none of then lived up to the masterpiece that is the first. (And based on their Tomato scores, I'm guessing 5 and 6 are not redemptive.

That said, the youngest son is thinking about watching them all. I may try to join him. There were bits I liked from #2. Maybe knowing the terrible ending ahead of time will make it more bearable.

Or maybe I'll just go in my room and watch something better.

our dvd
The Matrix (1999)

Speaking of the great popular entertainments of my lifetime!

Still holds up. And I don't remember ever being as moved by Trinity's emotional climax before.

Lots of little details in this movie really make it feel whole even though, sure, aspects of it are pretty silly. But Carrie-Anne Moss holding up her hand in two phonebooths to bookend the film? Marvelous.

library dvd
The Green Knight (2021)

Having just read this, I was distracted by the wild differences. I'd go so far as to call it disneyfied, not that it was cleaned up but that all kinds of new characters were introduces and everything was shuffled and changed. Which is fine! Just . . . should've watched the movie first, maybe.

Anyway, it's a beatiful film! As Lady Steed said, this guy is really good at making movies with minimal dialogue. Well done, sir!

And smart move keeping this at a $15 million budget. That way it could make money (barely, but there was a pandemic). Unlike a similar movie with a similar pedigree I might mention.

Amazon Prime
Jallikattu (2019)

This is an amazing movie. It takes place in an Indian/Christian/Communist village and, depending on the moment, it reminded of me of everything from Jaws to mother! to Lord of the Flies toTree of Life to The Northman to World War Z to, I don't know, Jackass?. Wow. Just . . . wow.

The film is embarrassingly rich with characters and I'm sure if I watched it again, I would be able to follow even more of their arcs. But all you really need to know is that this film is a ride you have not taken before. You have not taken this ride before. It is something new.

Get on the bull.

Among the heavy questions this purely fun film asks is when does community effort become a mob? And do we need outside forces to destroy us when we have each other?

If nothing else, I encourage you to look it up and watch the first five minutes or so just to see its brilliant and simple way to introduce its world through visuals and sound.

Amazon Prime
All the President's Men (1976)

After Lady Steed and I watched this she said that she wished she'd seen it as a teenager, that she finally understood Watergate. This time we watched it with the 15yrold and his background knowledge was even weaker so we had to help him understand some of the background that would have been inescapable for a contemporary audience. Which would swiftly make me wonder whether this movie has a future a generation from now EXCEPT he also found the movie completely compelling, riveting, entertaining, and, hey, educational.

Maybe it's the type of movie everyone should watch and then immediately watch again.

library dvd
The Post (2017)

This seemed like an appropriate followup to All the President's Men (see above) as I remmebered it being about Katherine Graham's reactions to the whole Woodward/Bernstein affair, but I was wrong. This is about the Pentagon Papers and really should have preceded the older film.

But they are a great pair! Spielberg's team captured the era excellently. Even though it's before the newer and brighter newsroom, it felt like the same place. And the little coda about the Watergate break-in feels like outtakes from the older movie.

It was wonderful watching Kay Graham find her footing and (of course) Meryl Steep makes those moments live. But it's an excellent cast all around, lots of favorite faces in roles bit, medium, and small.

(Incidentally, the complaints Times reporters made about how the Times was portrayed in the film seem to reflect a poor capacity to read movies rather than worthy complaints re accuracy. But I get that they would rather have the movie been about them.)

Previous films watched


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