Hup two three film


A couple films here I anticipate remembering for a long, long time. A couple others I've already forgotten. Welcome to what I watched in March.


library dvd
An American Pickle (2020)

I saw a trailer for this some time back then . . . never heard anything again. Until I was reading about the Batgirl burial and it was mentioned in passing that the same thing had happened to this film. And so I mourned it and complained to a few people and tried to move on. Then, I happened to notice that my library has a button you can push to see the new dvds they've purchased and . . . THERE IT WAS!!! And so I put it on hold immediately.

And I am certainly glad I did. This is my favorite version of Seth Rogan. No pot or dicks (well, almost none—this is junior-high appropriate, but the second of the two words does make a headline), just honesty, and heartfelt moments and characters, and a deep look into what it means to be a Jew. (I'm up to watch a Mormon American Pickle—just point me to it.

The concept is this pogram-escaping Jewish couple comes to America where the husband falls into a vat of pickles where he emerges unaged a hundred years later. I loved loved the way they explained away this absurd conceipt and moved on.

Seth Rogan plays both the preseved immigrant and his great-grandson. Things go much worse between them than I anticipated. The movie is very funny but it's not the laff riot I was expecting. It has much sadness and some darkness and its bend toward redemption takes the runtime. It doesn't turn into a masterpiece, but it is a fine piece of filmmaking and I am superglad it's not just dying in some vault somewhere. And you don't even have to go to the library to see it.

(Also, I think filmic references include Captain America and A Serious Man. Let me know if you agree.)

library dvd
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile (2022)

I don't know why we should worry about AI taking over writing. If this is the best humans can do, it'll be a lateral move. Clumsily assemble a pile of popular cliches and voila: Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.

Relationships change when the timestamp says they should. Not because they have evolved. The climax is resolved with a deus ex . . . curia, I guess. Anyway, it's just as dumb as God coming from the machine. Someone's read a lot of screenwriting books and followed every suggestion that didn't require a soul.

Rotten Tomatoes says, "Parents may not be beguiled, but Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is bound to make most children smile." I was not beguiled and the 6yrold watched about half of it. So I'm not so sure.

It's also upsetting to watch a Paddington ripoff fail to understand why Paddington worked. And the CG! I don't blame the artists. I'm sure that my first time saying that bread is SO fake was not their fault. They clearly spent their entire CG budget on the (much more complicated) animals. And while I don't necessarily agree with the choices the director and team made, they did a good job there. But honestly. What are you going for? Is this a musical or not?

Anyway. It turned a profit. So who cares if they just filmed a checklist? Bring on the AI!

library dvd
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

Had the first American adaptation not disappointed us so much, we might never have picked this one up. But it did and so we did. And overall, this is a much better adaptation. It also adds some things and deletes some things, but I think it caught the vibe of the book better overall. So good job, David Mamet. That said, there's still room for an adaptation that captures all that makes the book great. Nick's friendship with Frank AND the blackmail scheme AND the importance of the swimming scene AND the violent sexual relationship AND the insurance agents AND her plan to redeem them both, et cetera.

The first was a fine movie, this was a good movie—but there's still a great movie waiting to be made.

(At least in America. Maybe some other nation's already pulled it off.)

library dvd
Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time (2021)

This survey of Vonnegut's life and career (and the forty years it took to make this documentary) and moving and surprising, at time upsetting and at others inspiring. I had to pause the film for firty-five minutes when it suggested a path forward on Curses & Llew.

It can be easy to forget how much a writer can mean. I say that as someone who reads a hundred books a year and teaches literature. But it can be even easier to forget a person. Or to realize you never knew someone. And that should inspire us to reach out and hold closely those we can hold closely. Life is short and painful but, and this is important, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

It's a little long to work in a classroom setting, but if you love Vonnegut, treat this film as a must-see.

link+ dvd
Pom Poko (1994)

This is the THIRD time we've watched this movie??


This half documentary / half mythology barrel of nonsense is so, so weird in an intensely Japanese way and is definitely a movie I recommend to those looking for an experience but . . . three times might be too many.

Perhaps if they'd kept it to ninety minutes....

If I rewatch another prestige bit of Japanese weirdness, I really want to rewatch Paprika. Anyone want to join me?

link+ dvd
Shin Godzilla (2016)

This is superior to the contemporaneous American reboot in almost every way. I mean—the American movie's effects were "better," I guess, but when this movie buckled down it was just as freaking cool. And it didn't try to give us kids in peril and romantic relationships to care about or any crap like that. It gave us some dumb science but not nearly as much, just enough to get by. And the sharp editing made even bureaucracy fun to watch. It's occasionally funny but it's always on point, satirewise.

Some of the international-community choices were fun. The oppressiveness of America was as plain as in, say, The Host. But my favorite choice was using a Japanese actress to play the sansei American diplomat. I'm pretty sure she's speaking Japanese with an American accent—pretty flat Californian, really—but her English is . . . not native. She's trying hard and when she only has one word to say, she can get away with but . . . she's not fulling an American audience.

My favorite character was probably the less glamourous female almost-lead (not a lot of women here, which felt like an intentional commentary all its own).

But we can't forget Godzilla himself. I love that the Japanese version embraces the original man-in-a-rubber-suit look. Even while giving into godzillaflation.

In short, thank you Japan for making a Godzilla film that sticks to the point. Well done.

library dvd
Lost City (2022)

What a delicious confectionary! Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum are great. Brad Pitt is brilliant. Daniel Radcliffe was perfect. The supporting cast came to play. The script made a choice near the top that I've never seen outside a horror movie and completely worked on me here. That a midcredits sequence undid it was weird and not funny enough to justify. It was bizarre where cg kept popping up. What, we can have real trucks and waves anymore? One bizarre bit of achronology in the final scenes unsettled me. And it was astonishing how many nods the script made to Romancing the Stone. I mean—you can't make this movie with nodding but . . . this is a lot of nods.

In the end, I appreciated the arc of the story and the craft of the film. This is the sort of movie Hollywood should make more of and I regret my failure to get my butt in a theater seat a year ago. I really wanted to. Just didn't happen.

If you have the same regret, well, at least you can watch it now. Then go catch Cocaine Bear in theaters, I guess.

Ikiru (1952)

What a great movie. Wow. A film that will reward rewatching. I mean—this viewing largely just told me what to watch in viewing number two. But what I want to talk about now is how Kirosawa seems to be in direct conversation with Welles's Citizen Kane. I haven't read anything about Ikiru (yet), but the last third of the movie, the Kane connection came into focus in a big way. Some direct nods (children's play equipment and snow, the protagonist's face on a wall) and forms (the interlocking flashbacks) and tools (deep focus and certain compositions), but the ultimate theme of this film is specifically opposed to Citizen Kane's. This is a film about redemption. This is a man who comes closer to life as he crashes into its finale.

I'd like to say more but it's 11:21 and I need to go to bed. But I think this movie is wondeful. It's so hopeful and yet so complex. Nothing is easy and everything is kind.

Seems pretty honest to me.

(As an aside, if you want a hint as to the plot, imagine a cross between Ron Swanson and Jerry Gergich who are turned into Leslie Knope by a terminal disease.)

library dvd
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)

This movie met all my expectations from the trailer. Wish I could've seen it with an appreciative theatrical audience, but it was also great to watch at home with Lady Steed and several interruptions. Also, I love that it functions as a sideways sequel to Adaptation. Excellent.

Pedro Pascal is excellent as well. They pair well together.

The trailer gave away "the big twist" but I'm happy to say there will be more.

One sequence that was cut from the movie (and rightly so, though it is amazing) is a Caligari-esque trip through Nic Cage's filmography, which, I am happy to say, is also on YouTube.

link+ dvd
Titus (1999)

A lot of the post-Baz "modern" Shakespeare adaptations just didn't understand a) Shakespeare or b) what made Romeo+ Juliet so good. And it's understandable what made this difficult. Movies are an inherently unreal medium and so much of what we do, when we make movies, is bring them close to reality so we can believe in their stories. This results in stupid conversations like whether She-Hulk is realistic that, when we pause and think, are ludicrous on the face.

Shakespeare, and, frankly, the stage generally, may be in orbit around the great star Reality but it never gets sucked in and burned away.

Look: maybe it's because I just read Titus Andronicus, but I loved this movie. The play is utterly insane. I mean—our hero kills his son in the very first scene!—and the movie needs to match. Julie Taymor's script and direction that trying to make Titus "realistic" is impossible. Look: all of Shakespeare has something bonkers in its runtime and Titus has more than most. And it's not just the violence. The play is laden with nutty anachronisms, for instance, and that's something this film embraces. It's not a particular time. It's not a particular place. It's not real. The final scene reverts us to the rules of the stage and it totally works. Expect the fourth-wall to be deliciously broken. Expect Alan Cumming to play evil Pee-wee. This movie has bullettime the same year as The Matrix. It opens in a modern kitchen.

That said, 215 minutes is A LOT OF MINUTES. And while there might be a couple spots you could trim, overall, no. But it's too long to every become a beloved favorite of many people. But if you're recently read the play, you must see this movie.

Personally, I liked it better than Taymor's Tempest but your mileage may vary.

link+ dvd
The Making of Titus (2000)

This (and the accompanying interview with Taymor at Columbia) rank among two of the most insightful commentaries on Shakespeare I've seen in recent years.

our dvd
Mary Poppins (1964)

The 6yrold's first time watching this movie was a rousing success. But how could it not be? A practically perfect movie for practically everyone.

One thing I found myself wondering, watching Dick Van Dyke's brilliant physical comedy, was about Buster Keaton. I'm reading a new book about Keaton right now and it seems like the footage of Keaton and Van Dyke at Stan Laurel's funeral pops up in my Twitter feed fortnightly, and I seem to remember reading recently that Dick Van Dyke made it a point to visit the old masters. So I was wondering if Keaton saw Mary Poppins and if Buster and Dick ever chatted about it.

I had a lot of other thoughts too, mostly about the craft of the film and how it genuinely is practically perfect all the way through. A true masterpiece. Every element is just right. Disney at the top of his/its game. Well done, team.

So good it makes me very much want to rewatch Saving Mr Banks, which apparently is not an opinion past me anticipated.

our dvd
Rocky (1976)

Son #3 is headed to DC and Philly tomorrow and standing on the Rocky stairs is apparently someone thinks American middle-school students in the year of our Lord Two Thousand Twenty-three want to do. So . . . decided it was finally time to watch Rocky.

And guess what? This Oscar-winning American classic is a good movie. I wasn't surprised, but I have no drive to watch boxing so I figured there was a chance I wouldn't get into it. And while it's not a new favorite or anything, I did like it. I'm even tempted to watch more of them.

(But the decline in IMDb stars is . . . precipitous.)

Previous films watched


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