Maybe movies, maybe films


May is always a good month. It's the month AP English Literature and Composition turns into AP Writing about Film (if CollegeBoard doesn't like this, then they can tell my school to end classes after AP testing). So I'm guaranteed a few good things packed into whatever's getting watched anyway. You can probably guess which are which.

Plus, we went to theaters to watch to underperformers that were actually really great and which each make strong argument for a stunt-team Oscar. Rumor has it that's finally happening. If this is the year, expect them both to get nominated.

And now: On with the show.


Prime Video
Hunting the Northern Godard (2013)

Small town ennui, Quebec style. The film tries to play with visual lanugage in an interesting way but it mostly comes off as revealing the lowness of the budget. The lead is beautiful and the mom is an incredible actor. Otherwise, meh.

Wildly, I recognized the pub band. I thougth I was wrong because in the movie they were Les Tragédiens, but I was right. It was Les Breastfeeders.

Please deliver my hipster cred directly to the door.

Internet Archive
The Arizona Express (1924)

I found this via Bluesky recommendation and boy oh boy was she right. This movie's incredible! It made me laugh and gasp and I could never guess where it was headed next. It's one of the most edge-of-my-seat thrillfests I've seen recently. Plus it amnages to be classic typical 1920s boilerplate at parts and really cool shots and amazing action sequences later. The murder scene was very cool and [SPOILER REDACTED] and [SPOILER REDACTED] and [SPOILER REDACTED] were topnotch film- and stuntwork.

My main complaint from a hundred years later is that all the women look the same. They have 1920s brunette bobs with dramatic eye makeup and teenytiny cupidbow lips. It wasn't until the good girl dressed like the bad girl (turning her into Some Like It Hot Tony Curtis) that I was able to pick up on the differences of class and morality that the clothing was supposed to be projecting.

I was riveted, people. Riveted.

Rialto Elmwood
Hundreds of Beavers (2022)

I just heard of this movie. Its slow crawl through theaterspace happens to have it in town these past two weekends. Some of the kids really wanted to see it but "not tonight" which is fine because it was only convenient at the Elmwood which is an old theater diced into four tiny theaters with too-thin walls. Also, it's more expensive. We don't go there very often. But it seems like once a year they're the only place with the movie y'wanna see.

Anyway, the movie is wild and fun and surprising. It doesn't draw on silent comedy alone, but also video games (from Frogger to Lemmings) (and beyond), Orson Welles, you name it. It gets existential. It gets horror. It goes all over the place. It's been called "a hilarious slapstick comedy in the vein [of] Looney Tunes and Adult Swim cartoon[s]," and that seems about right.

Don't know how you'd manage it, but if you can get a full theater to see it in (ours had six people), I think you'll laugh your head off. We merely laughed a lot.

Hilltop Cinemark
The Fall Guy (2024)

Look: I'm not here to argue this movie is great or important or whatever. But it was pure fun, a great ride, a joy factory. And that counts for a lot. We need escapism that's quality and this movie delivers. I loved it.

And it may actually prove important for one reason. It makes the argument, and well, that stunt teams deserve Oscars. Everyone seems to feel that Oscar may finally be about to happen. I don't see how The Fall Guy can do anything but accelerate that.

(Also, Metalstorm looks terrible.)

(Also, I want that neon suit.)

library dvd
The Nice Guys (2016)

It keeps getting brought up and since we watched Ryan Gosling doing action and being funny in The Fall Guys it seemed time to finally finally watch it.

And it was fun stuff. With lots of sex, violence, and alcohol, to boot. If you're into those sorts of things.

The dramatic irony of the villain's motivation fell a bit flat for me, but otherwise the film felt very true to me. And the party was straight out of the era. (One of the scarier badguys may have even been modeled after the fellow from that older movie.)

our dvd
Pride & Prejudice (2005)

I love this movie. And it holds up so well.

How do I know?

Because teenagers love this movie as well.

QED, baby.

our dvd
Frankenstein (1931)

I love it.

It has precious little to do with the book.

This viewing, however, I had some breakthroughs in my own long-gestating adaptation (not that the world needs another). I'm already about halfway through a treatment.

Prime Video
Love & Friendship (2016)

Not sure I loved it as much as before but perhaps that's simply because high-school students tend not to laugh when they think something's funny.


Prime Video
Paterson (2016)

Split this into two days. After day one I wasn't so sure about it. By the film's conclusion however I'd come around. The scene with the Japanese tourist was wonderful.

I think the best poem was the girl's. I'm not sure if that was intentional.

But the slow rotation of daily life. And the important question of how art fits in. And how art's importance is realized. These things are addressed with a measured lovely calm.

library dvd
Simon of the Desert (1965)

First, I didn't expect Luis Buñuel to be so coherent. While I won't deny the term surreal, it moved from point to point from beginning to end. I was startled by how it ended—or perhaps by when it ended—bit otherwise it made sense.

And for a guy who made atheism such a key part of his identity, for all its satrical tinge it seems to be saying things worth saying and from a place of, even if bemused, understanding.

library dvd
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

It's possible to know all the reasons why a movie changed the game and still not quite understand it. I take it this violence was worse than what had gone before and I guess I can see the counterculture vibes and undercurrent of optimistic nihilism and certainly the look is cool. But it's hard to believe it was as huge and important as it was, even if I see echos in movies near and far.

So I went back and read Roger Ebert's review. He was a young guy then and he was one of the few contemporary critics who predicted Bonnie and Clyde's position in movie history. And reading his analysis, I'm convinced.

It is a good movie. Maybe a great movie.

And it's saying something we still need to hear.

Days of Heaven (1978)

I came in with so many misconceptions. I thought this was the Wild West. And I also thought it was Badlands. And that Richard Gere wasn't in it. None of that is true.

Although it continued on past where I thought it would end (twice, overall this has a pretty straightforward plot. But it pauses to take in the beauty of the landscape both at large and in microcosm. And the images are so powerful that it feels like it's a fully s*y*m*b*o*l*i*c as a less plotty film like The Tree of Life.

I really wanted people to be a tad more clever. A tad better at lying. Or at being honest. Or at thinking ahead. Or recognizing what moment they're in.

But I suppose real life isn't like that.

And then the locusts come.

Anyway. I loved it. So when I say it felt as long as Tree of Life, I mean that in the best way possible.

Tropic Thunder (2008)

I remember reading a review in one of the altweekly's that were still nice and thick when this movie came out. It was the first of years and years of praise. It's generally considered one of the best comedies of the new century. Smart and hilarious.

Now, Ben Stiller can be a skilled director but this movie really suffered from me having watched Every Frame's Edgar Wright video earlier today. Now, Tropic Thunder isn't as bad as the examples cited in that vid but it doesn't really use the medium for comedy that much. And the second half largely turns into an '80s action film. Oh. Which reminds me of another Every Frame. Why can't a movie be both funny and action-packed? I bet Ben would do a better job today.

Anyway, I lauched a few times in the first ten minutes and once in the last ten minutes. But . . . it's not that funny a movie. I guess it scratched an itch or something in 2008 but I don't think generations that missed it in theaters will be that impressed.

A lot of ink has been spilled about Robert Downey, Jr. in blackface and Ben Still in "full retard" (mostly favorable) but I think favorable because the film comments on both of these and uses them to make fun of actors. But I've only ever heard positive takes on Tom Cruise's comic turn. But he is in full animalistic Semite costume and that's just who is character is in this movie. How have I never heard about this? I thought he was just bald but it's much, much more than this. Elizabethan nose and red-wig updated for the 2000s.

But the main thing is I didn't think it was funny. Sixteen years people have been talking up this movie. Cannot meet the hype.

our dvd
Spirited Away (2001)

Did you know the Disney dvd has two separate English-language subtitle tracks?

our dvd
The Iron Giant (1999)

Tear report: fewer this year. None actually left my eyes.

Freaks (1932)

Honestly, I don't think it's that great a movie. But I do appreciate the humanity it gives the freaks themselves, even if, perhaps, that's not the "right" answer. The siamese twins and the armless woman are simply presented as beautiful women, albeit with a twist. Frieda is the very picture of dignity throughout.

It's possible that audiences have matured enough that now we can identify with people once intended only to be looked at, but I have to believe that's what Browning had in mind all along. He was a circus guy. Not every normie hates the freaks. I think he knew what he was doing. It doesn't reflect well on the contemporary audience that the film was so upsetting it was pulled from theaters.

our dvd
It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

Don's touring the movie now, doing Q&As. I'm bummed the SF show was sold out by the time I heard about. I wish I could have gone.

Grendel Grendel Grendel (1981)

John Gardner's beloved novel turned into this strange thing. (The Wikipedia article includes the phrase "Because of its limited appeal.") The character design reminds me a bit of Sixties animation like Yellow Submarine. The colorblocking reminds me of the first draft of a digital animation or perhaps the back of the cel. It has needless songs like an 80s featurelength toy commercial (aka Care Bears or My Little Pony). It has 70s philosophizing characters. It has occasional bloody violence and a bit of full-frontal nudity (thank you, only human female) but otherwise feels like it's aimed at children.

The movie's been largely forgotten (consider the length of the Wikipedia article or that zero screenshots are available on the IMDb page or that there is no critic score on Rotten Tomatoes) so I'm not certain how I came to put it on my to-watch list. (I had it narrowed down to this, Birds of Prey or Rashamon; I suspect I chose wrongly...)

I don't regret watching it. It's an interesting experiment. But I'm not surprised that it proved a dead end in the evolution of animation.

library dvd
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

I suppose a movie can only blow you away by exploding your expectations but once, but even in our living room this is an amazing experience. And then we stayed up over another hour, well past midnight, watching half the special features, because the boys wanted to know more about how.

I love that. Movies are amazing.

Give stunt folk their own Oscar!

our dvd
Pride and Prejudice (2003)

The 7yrold picked this out and . . . did not like it. The 14yrold also watched and found it . . . varied in quality.

I last watched the first half when I showed it to a class, gosh, over eight years ago? They didn't want to finish it the second day.

It's entirely possible it's been 18+ years since we last watched it. And if I can see it's not quite the gem I once thought it was, I still enjoy it. And the amount of nostalgia it inspired in me and Lady Steed would get it a pass even if it were terrible, which it is not. It has a number of perfect moments (use of color, character, quotable lines). Not for no reason did I once imagine Andrew Black making a Byuck movie.

It's also exquisitely 2003 in music and fashion and Provo. I mean. I was there. You can see my apartment in one shot. I would know.

Cinemark Century
Hilltop 16
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

So I loved it. But I'm not sure it quite works without having seen Fury Road. And I thinkn George Miller knows that since the credits are intercut with major plot points from Fury Road, which is the true end of Furiosa's journey.

That said, the worldbuilding is good. The villain is good. The two actors playing Furiosa are good. The new relationships are good. The action is good.

In fact, I could praise all those elements to high heavens. My only real complaints are surprising ones (why did they use cg on someone climbing a wall or getting on a horse?). In short, I liked the movie a lot. But if I hadn't just watched Fury Road, I think it would have been much less satisfying.

But really: two excellent Furiosas. Excellent stakes. Excellent dilemmas. Great movie.

Just no Fury Road.

Moonstruck (1987)

I like how this movie is about mature people and mature relationships. That said, the suddenness and impulsiveness of the main relationship is confusing. And thus I'm not quite sure why I find this movie so deeply satisfying. But I do.

Also, parts of it are wonderfully funny.

L'Age D'Or (1930)

Like a lot of famous-for-being-shocking works of art, is it?

I mean, there are some startling images and some silly stuff, but that's all par for Surrealism. Maybe we're too far away? But Un Chien Andalou came out first and was wildly popular. And then this one was banned for decades. Why?

I know the historical answers. But it's still mysterious.

Showing it to a room of high-school seniors was instructive. Some hated it. Some were bored. Some were startled. Some were confused.

But I don't think any of them were quote-offended-unquote.

UPDATE: I just read all their write-ups and yes. Plenty were offended. 100% hate rate. A couple called for it to be banned again. So maybe I'm just jaded from too much time in the Surrealist swimming pool.

The Kid (1921)

In my opinion? It's the least of Chaplin's features (keeping in mind I haven't seen The Circus or Limelight), but it is still charming and wonderful and, important when considering which to show a kid, only an hour and costars a brilliant child (of whom Chaplin said he was his favorite costar).

That said, perhaps a bit too sentimental to be the first you show teenagers.

Lady Bird (2017)

It's a beautiful movie.

And not the same movie to each watcher.

Your age does make for very different experiences.

I'm not surprised teenagers love it entirely and hate it deeply. But I'm glad the ratio seems to be about 5:1.

Disney Channel's Theme: A History Mystery (2022)

I've been looking forward to the new Jim Henson documentary that drops today, so when I saw a Slate headline saying that the ultimate Henson doc was already extant and made for YouTube, I wanted to watch it. Weirdly, Slate didn't link to it. So I went to the YouTuber's channel and, for some reason I can't explain, I watched this one instead. I don't even know that four-note mnemonic! I'm too old to have watched Disney Channel in the Oughts!

But I did love watching Kevin Perjurer (unfortunate surname for a documentarian) track down lead after lead. It's a solid example of what "doing research" is like.

I've seen a couple shorter Defunctland videos before. Maybe I'll make space for more feature-length ones too. Certainly, there are topics that interest me more than this one.

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