Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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Everything Old Is New to Me

Good movies didn't just come out in 2018! It's time to catch up on some ~*older movies*~.

Atonement: Saoirse Ronan is a thirteen-year-old playwright who doesn't quite understand the world yet, so when she sees her older sister (Keira Knightley) cavorting with the housekeeper's son (James McAvoy), she doesn't see the truth. Which results in her doing something awful, and then she's got to do some...atonement. Christopher Hampton's script (adapted from Ian McEwan's novel) revels in its non-linear structure, constantly moving back and forth in time to offer differing POVs and orient the three central characters in different parts of their lives. Joe Wright juggles all this time-shifting well, and he also delivers an amazing goddamn tracking shot that's breathtaking in its depth and scope, which ends up, in a way, being true of the movie itself on an emotional level. Because this film, though it has a fairly simple plot, is dealing with some complex themes, and it has the patience to build to specific moments. For instance, the inciting incident doesn't occur for what feels like half an hour, but the film is putting all the pieces into play so that it can effectively pull the rug out from under you. It jumps forward and back in time, allowing you to get a sense of where the characters are now, before delivering another key scene. And then finally it comes to a conclusion, the moment the entire film has been building up to, and that final monologue caused me to suddenly take in everything at once, all the burbling turmoil and conflict came crashing down, and there were tears. Also Dario Marianelli's typewriter-enhanced score is fucking great. B+/A-

Happy Death Day: I rewatched Happy Death Day in preparation for the sequel and also because I felt like I was perhaps too enthusiastic about it relative to its actual merits. I enjoy slasher films and love Groundhog Day, so this was naturally my shit, right? Well, yeah, but also this movie is better than it has any right to be, and on a rewatch I really appreciated how cleverly constructed it is, the way it builds from time loop to time loop so you can track Tree's character arc. Jessica Rothe delivers a fantastic fucking performance that runs the gamut of emotions, making me smile and cry in equal measures, and she elevates this film for sure. But Christopher Landon does stage some nicely tense scenes with at least one genuinely surprising scare, and Scott Lobdell's script, in addition to juggling a time loop plot, is sharp in both the comedic and dramatic dialogue. Every now and then, a movie comes out that's just utterly delightful in its creativity, and this is one of those movies. And did I mention Jessica Rothe? She should be a fucking STAR. B+/A-

Hale County This Morning, This Evening: RaMell Ross filmed black people and nature in Hale County, Alabama, and then he put it together into a documentary...that is very much not my jam, since I guess I don't like PURE CINEMATIC POETRY. I could discern no rhyme or reason to the ebb and flow of the scenes, and the occasional cryptic koan-like statements clarified nothing for me. The cinematography felt uneven, with some scenes that came off amateurishly shot but several others with truly striking compositions, including some impressive long takes like a shot that follows a boy shooting hoops, sinking basket after basket. There are also occasional interesting juxtapositions of visuals and audio, like a shot of driving past trees where you hear the sounds of a basketball game that goes on for like a solid minute. It's in these small moments that I sometimes appreciated the PURE CINEMATIC POETRY, but they were few and far between, even for a feature that's barely over an hour. As a nice, loving look at black life and black bodies, I think it's an important part of the filmic discussion of 2018, which saw many narrative features exploring black people in America but almost always focusing on the negatives, apart from If Beale Street Could Talk, which matches this film's warmth. Yet as a documentary, unfortunately, it still leaves me cold. B

Being There: After Robert D. Krzykowski of The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot fame named Hal Ashby as one of his favorite directors, I thought it was high time to watch this Hal Ashby classic...which I knew nothing about. It takes a leisurely fucking time unveiling its premise, introducing Peter Sellers as a gardener who has somehow never interacted with the outside world before not forced to go out into the outside world. So I thought I was gonna get a fish-out-of-water comedy after an amazing funk Also Sprach Zarathustra sent Sellers off on his way...but then a series of events leads to the actual premise of the film, which is that he inadvertently becomes seen as a genius political advisor, and from there the satire really takes off. I could see this movie being made by other directors in a more uproarious fashion with big laughs and snappy dialogue, but Hal Ashby of course takes a more understated approach, and Peter Sellers (who is a national treasure) seems to be channeling Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka with his very deliberate, otherworldly delivery. This is a dry, offbeat film where Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine make out to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and also there's a masturbation scene that's...again, it mines a lot humor by treating the outrageous with a light touch. The sense of absurdism climaxes in its perplexing final scene, where the movie just sort of...ends, but it's pretty enjoyable throughout. Plus forty years ago a black woman in a movie declared, "All you gotta be is a white man in America to get whatever you want," and, well, look at us now. B+

Of Fathers and Sons: Talal Derki infiltrated a jihadist family in Syria and holy shit. First of all, how is he not dead for lying to them for years about his pretenses for being there, and second of all, how is he not dead NOW that they must know he was not there to portray them sympathetically. Look, within the first ten minutes of this documentary, a man talks about how great 9/11 was and how he loves Osama bin Laden SO MUCH he named his son after him, and then one of his sons boasts to his father that they cut off a bird's head just like he'd cut off a man's head. This goddamn thing is horrifying and unsettling to watch, as these children continually shout, "Allah Akbar!" which in and of itself is not bad, but since the only version of Islam shown here is radical Islam, it's a constant reminder of how they've been indoctrinated with this twisted form of the religion. Derki shows the family life, he shows the terrorist life, he shows the terrorist training camp life. He sits there and questions a man while he's sniping. It's fucking unreal. And there are scenes here that could be in a Hollywood movie with dramatic music overlaid upon them, and they'd get criticized for Islamophobic stereotyping because wow, gosh, they wouldn't really say or do those things, would they. The narrative, such as it is, is loose, and it's mostly thematic, and I liked the various resonances of the title. In addition to the literal father and sons shown onscreen, Derki was inspired by the words of his own father to confront the nightmare of his homeland, and these jihadists themselves are the sons of their warped vision of the Holy Father. B+

Before I Fall: I liked Lauren Oliver's novel about a Mean Girl who gets stuck in a time loop where she relives the day she dies over and over, so of course I was curious to watch the movie, which...is not as good as the book but manages to be a decent adaptation. Maria Maggenti tries too hard to faithfully adapt a 480-page novel into a 99-minute movie, often inserting lines and moments from the book that don't have the same resonance or impact at all in the movie because they're missing all the setup that leads to them (and yet for some reason never bothering to indicate that the girl the Mean Girls bully by calling "Psycho" is called that because her name is Juliet SYKES). Whereas the book allows for gradual character growth, the movie protagonist kind of grows in abrupt jumps, and unlike the book (or, say, Groundhog Day or Happy Death Day or Russian Doll), it's afraid to make Sam too unlikable in the beginning, relying instead on the awfulness of her best friend to reflect on her. Despite all that, however, director Ry Russo-Young brings a welcome sense of gravitas and artistry to what could have been another forgettable YA film, and Zoey Deutch shows a lot of range as her character changes throughout the film. There's a lot of great scenes of teen girl friendship here, and even if the script can't capture the emotion of the novel, the basic outline of the story retains its message. It's always satisfying to watch a character undergo self-improvement through the power of time loops. B/B+

The Sisters Brothers: This movie features four great male actors—John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed—and...no major female characters. It's a Western! But at least it has a South Asian character and a trans woman in a small role, neither of which I've seen in a Western before. The comically named Sisters Brothers kill folks for the mysterious Commodore, and I think their banter is supposed to make this movie a "comedy" but even though Joaquin Phoenix's frequent exasperation is fairly amusing—and I found it interesting that he was more a source of humor than Reilly—I cannot believe anyone would classify this movie as a comedy, dark or otherwise. I like stories about brothers, and there is some decent conflict between them, but I was more interested in Gyllenhaal and Ahmed, the latter a gold rush chemist with a utopian dream. It takes a while for the two stories to properly collide, and I found occasional moments to like here and there, but the shape of the narrative never fully gelled for me. The Sisters Brother try to do a job, and there are mishaps, and I guess they learn to love each other? I did like the way Jacques Audiard shot gunfights with lots of sparks and muzzle flashes. That was cool. B

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: A lauded senator returns to his hometown to pay his respects to some guy named Tom Doniphon, and the newspaper editor is adamant that he explain himself. So the senator tells them a story. Oh boy, if there's one thing I like, it's FRAME STORIES. Jimmy Stewart is a proud, idealistic lawyer who comes into town after being held up by Lee Marvin, the titular Liberty Valance, and befriends asshole gunslinger John Wayne. Would Stewart or Wayne be the titular Man? James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck adapted a short story by Dorothy M. Johnson, and it shows, as this is a film with a strong narrative backbone that's fleshed out with subplots and character depth. At first, I wondered why the movie started focusing on issues of statehood and government, but then I realized that this was Stewart's origin story as a politician. The frame story drops little hints and foreshadowing that you're waiting to understand the meaning of in the flashback. I enjoyed some of the comic relief side characters, like Andy Devine's Marshal and Edmond O'Brien's newspaper editor Peabody. Also Vera Miles is awful pretty when she's angry but she does not take John Wayne's shit. And even though this was 1962, John Ford chose to shoot in black-and-white, and it not only looks great but feels right for a story that's being told to a newspaperman, the truth printed in black-and-white. It all leads up to a great ending that packs a punch as you realize what Stewart has been carrying around for all these years. Gosh, if there's one thing I like, it's FRAME STORIES ABOUT STORIES. B+/A-

The Searchers: I always wondered what The Searchers were searching for and it turns out they're searching for...the Comanche savages who murdered a family and took two helpless little girls oh goddammit. This is the kind of Western I don't really care about! And initially I was ready to be simultaneously bored and uncomfortable watching these macho dudes on their revenge quest, but about halfway through, it becomes more interesting and compelling once The Searchers are reduced to enigmatic asshole racist John Wayne and decent 1/8 Cherokee guy Jeffrey Martin, who's in love with Vera Miles, as well he should be, let's all be in love with Vera Miles. It's here the narrative starts to get fun and it's more of a rip-roaring adventure with some humorous moments. Plus occasionally Wayne will make some remark about offscreen Comanche horrificness; it's bad representation but good storytelling. As far as classic Westerns go, this one hits a lot of the tropes well, including those gorgeous landscapes; you've just got to ignore the problematic core at the center of the story so you can get to the fantastic visual storytelling of that final shot. B/B+

Set It Up: Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell are the assistants to Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs, respectively, and they realize that if they can get their bosses to date, they can actually have free time! But wouldn't you know it, it's truly these matchmakers who will fall in lov—uh, sorry, spoilers if you've literally never seen a romantic comedy before. This movie follows the traditional rom-com mold unapologetically, and it took me like half an hour to figure out what vibe it was going for because on the one hand, the bosses are comically awful and there are larger-than-life one-off characters like Titus Burgess's Creepy Tim, who practically steals the entire movie, but on the other hand, Deutch and Powell are relatively grounded by comparison, clearly playing Types but turned down a few notches below all the other characters. Deutch is great at being pathetic, and Powell is great at being a proto-asshole, but for the first half hour or so, the jokes were hit-or-miss for me. It was wobbly at points, but even when it was leaning into clichés, it was always throwing in some unexpected specificity that made it entertaining. So at a certain point, I began to fall for this thing more and more, and I was laughing out loud, the rhythm was just right, and there's such an expert use of callbacks in the third act that it stole my damn heart. B+

Brooklyn: In 1951, Saoirse Ronan travels from Ireland to America to make it on her own, leaving her family and small-town life behind. At first, she's terribly homesick, but then...she meets hottie Emory Cohen, a nice Italian boy! I found it interesting to watch a classic immigrant story that touched on racism but it was all about white people who spoke English. It really captures the hardship of trying to make a new life in a foreign country, and I appreciated that while the focus appears to be romance, it's clear that romance is only one of many factors Ronan considers when she considers where her home is. She gives a multifaceted performance, her face often making her dialogue redundant. I love how well this movie captures that sense of dueling homesickness that occurs when you first go out on your own and try to be independent. It's a film that's light on story, per se, but strong in portraying a character journey, one of those films where it's sort of astounding to compare the protagonist at the end of the film compared to her at the beginning. Gradually, you've watched her grow up. B+

Candyman: When I was a kid, Candyman gave me nightmares, but I'm a big boy now, I can handle a rewatch now that Nia DaCosta is doing a remake/sequel with Jordan Peele. And damn, now I can truly appreciate this film as the horror classic that it is, and a truly miraculous one at that given that this racially tinged, inner-city-Chicago-set movie was made by a white Englishman. It's got a refreshingly original story structure, it taps into the terror of the unreal and uncanny (undoubtedly helped by its Clive Barker origins), it's got a creepy Philip Glass score that's simply piano and organ and voice (and yet many of the scariest, tensest moments have no music at all), it creates an iconic horror villain with the sheer power of Tony Todd's presence and voice. It's not nearly as gory as you think it is; a lot of the violence is offscreen, and the gore is mostly in flashes of the aftermath. I love the way the film tackles urban legends, how Candyman is a monster made flesh by the power of belief, and how it addresses race, as Candyman is a monster made by the power of belief, and that belief is racism. It's as if he lives on as a reminder of that dark time in American history. As I said, it doesn't follow the traditional trajectory of these stories, and it really comes alive, of course, once Candyman himself appears and begins interacting with Virginia Madsen. There's a lot to chew on with this one, and also TONY TODD LITERALLY PUT BEES IN HIS MOUTH FOR THIS MOVIE. A-

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh: I always assumed the Candyman sequels—like most horror sequels—were bad, but some people said they were worth a look, so I figured, what the hell. This movie transports the action from Chicago to New Orleans and focuses on Kirsten Cohen from The O.C. trying to clear the name of her brother, Dead Meat from Hot Shots! Because Candyman is killing folks during Mardi Gras, baby. Bill Condon favors cheap jump scares and excessive gore over tapping into the terror of the unreal and uncanny, and the story is kind of sluggish for an hour, with what feels like forever between Candyman appearances and overacting policefolk in between those appearances. But in the last half hour, the film finally adds some interesting—if unnecessary—elements to the Candyman mythos and taps into the race commentary that made the original so great. It's certainly not essential, but it ends up being a halfway decent sequel. B/B+

Candyman: Day of the Dead: Wowsers, this threequel makes the sequel look like a fucking masterpiece by comparison, and I suddenly appreciate it a lot more. This movie transports the action from New Orleans to Los Angeles, substituting Día de los Muertos for Mardi Gras and bringing along a whole host of Latinx stereotypes PLUS a racist cop to make sure you know racism is bad, which is the extent of the race commentary this movie brings to the franchise. The Philip Glass score is gone, and it becomes abundantly clear how much it added to the feel of the films. The things Candyman does here make increasingly little sense, to the point where I began to question whether I liked Candyman movies at all. Or horror movies. Or...movies. It simply regurgitates the first two movies and adds nothing new to the mythos—except, gasp, the reason you have to say "Candyman" FIVE times. In conclusion, this film includes the following line: "Somehow this chick gets out of the cuffs and rips a guy twice her size to shreds. Gives a whole new meaning to PMS." C+

Mississippi Grind: Before Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made Marvel's first female superhero movie, they made...a low-key gambling road trip drama starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn? Yes, yes, obviously I can see how they were right for the job. Mendelsohn is a gambling addict deep in debt, and Reynolds is his lucky charm. They fi...nd common ground as they set off for a high stakes poker game in New Orleans. Now this movie has surprisingly little gambling action; it's much more of a character-driven story as we learn about what makes these guys tick. It's fun to watch their relationship grow, and it's sad to watch Reynolds slowly realize how self-destructive his new friend actually is. I loved how, as they traveled down the Mississippi and stopped in various cities, Boden and Fleck employed the oft-used quick montage of locations to establish setting, but rather than show the typical landmarks, they opt for local joints. I just liked hanging out with these fellas, and I was never quite sure where things would go, but gosh, I hoped for the best, even when they were making bad decisions. For a story about two gamblers who can't really help themselves, it's just the right amount of unsatisfying. Also this movie adds to my theory that any film can be improved by the addition of Analeigh Tipton. B+

Goodnight Mommy: This Austrian horror film begins with a clip from The Sound of Music because Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala want you to know this movie is fucked up. Twin brothers Elias and Lukas return home to find their mother returned from some sort of facial surgery, her face covered in bandages. She is not in good spirits at all, refusing to acknowledge Lukas. Something their real mother would never do. And so the games begin, as the two boys become increasingly more and more paranoid about this strange woman in their house. This movie is unnerving and uncomfortable, and it really messes with your head, and also there are too many cockroaches. I loved Olga Neuwirth's simple, haunting score, which set the tone well. As I mentioned, this movie gets FUCKED UP, like watch-through-your-fingers shit, and I give it extreme credit because even though I had figured out something that seemed off, the moment it was confirmed still had power because of context. Gosh, what a terrible Mother's Day movie. B+

Gilda: From the opening shot of loaded dice introducing us to gambler Glenn Ford, I was in love with this movie, and it pretty much kept me utterly engrossed and riveted for the next two hours, and I can barely even explain why. I love film noir, and this movie has got shady-ass characters, characters in shadow, a femme fatale, a voiceover, illegal dealings, illegal INTERNATIONAL dealings, and most of all, A DUDE WITH A FUCKIN' SWORD CANE. That dude takes in Glenn Ford, and I was instantly invested in this slick guy getting in good with this mysterious swordcaneman. But also I was waiting for Rita Hayworth to show up, and show up she does with her iconic hair toss, and that's when things REALLY get good. Rita Hayworth wears fabulous outfits and dances away with everyone's heart; she's just on fire every moment here. The Ford-Hayworth dynamic is also very noir, terrible sexual politics and all, but, you know, if she'd been a ranch, they would have named her the Bar Nothing. This movie is FULL of fabulous lines, a great many of them coming from philosophical washroom attendant Uncle Pio, who is The Absolute Best and is possibly God in disguise. I love how much this film just MOVES, integrating all the intriguing subplots that drive the action while focusing more on the character arcs of Ford and Hayworth. It falters a bit in the last half hour or so, and it loses that feeling of being a perfectly oiled machine, but it makes up for it with a great ending. When people say, "They don't make 'em like they used to," they're talking about movies like Gilda. A-

The Commuter: Liam Neeson has a very particular set of skills: he can take the same train to work for ten years and befriend the regulars. Which makes him perfect to find someone who doesn't belong! Jaume Collet-Serra, working off a script that somehow took three people to write, skillfully builds up this fun high-concept premise (which Wikipedia describes as being "unwittingly recruited into a murder conspiracy"), and at first, the tension is high! But then watching Neeson go from passenger to passenger looking for his target becomes repetitive, which makes the second act sag a bit. Thankfully, the third act kicks off with a wonderfully ludicrous set piece that ratchets up the tension for an effective climax. I love how much this movie commits to commuting and commuters, and its greatest strength is its overqualified cast (featuring Letitia Wright in a tiny role and Florence Pugh doing an American accent) that create an endearing passenger manifesto. Overall, while it doesn't fully deliver, it's a fun enough ride with enough visual flair to keep things interesting. B/B+

All About Eve: I have been curious about All About Eve ever since Joey Potter quoted it on Dawson's Creek, and...hot damn, I sure love when classic films live up to their reputations. Joseph L. Mankiewicz hooked me from the start with Addison's voiceover and the revelation that this movie had a FRAME STORY, and while I would have enjoyed a more consistent use of voiceover from Karen and Margo, I liked that we were getting these three points of view on Eve Harrington. I didn't know anything about Eve, let alone ALL, so I didn't know what trajectory her character was going on, but oh boy, warning bells sure went off from the start, though I did continue to hope her ingénue act was genuine. Why would I want to think ill of Anne Baxter?? Bette Davis takes a bite out of everyone and everything and it's delightful and also sad, reminding me a bit of Gloria Swanson in her aging star role. While the main conflict is between the two actors, Celeste Holm's role as the playwright's wife with conflicted loyalties is far from thankless, and I found myself compelled by all three of the central female characters. (The male characters are fine too, but the best is obviously Addison the theater critic.) Also I had no idea Marilyn Monroe was in this!! And she gets lower billing than a woman who only appears in the last scene. The film is dense with thematic material, its statements about how aging actresses are treated still relevant today, and its characters are rich and multilayered. Plus the plot really moves, and it leads up to a dynamite final shot. Why did they even bother making movies after this. A-

Pet Sematary: Stephen King's novel about an Indian burial ground that brings the dead back to life is a powerful meditation on mortality, drenched in dread and portent that stems from the uncanny. Stephen King's adaptation of his novel is...a CliffsNotes version of the novel that feels obligated to include as many scenes and elements from the book as possible despite the fact that without the proper build-up, they don't have the same impact at all in the film. It generally hits all the beats, but there's hardly any time between them to explore themes or build character. To make matters worse, Dale Midkiff is a weak-ass lead who is outacted by everyone onscreen including the children—one of whom is Lenni from Ghostwriter holy shit. As is so often the case, most of the best parts are new, like the increased role for Victor Pascow, cheekily helpful ghost, and the added creepy-kid horror, which is pretty effective. Mary Lambert's ill-advised choice of "having a grown man playing the role of a teenage girl deformed by spinal meningitis [to make] the character more frightening" made me uncomfortable, but otherwise she does deliver some good scares here and there. It's a decent horror flick, but I'm curious to see how the new, clearly much looser adaptation turns out. B/B+

Disorder: I suddenly became obsessed with French DJ Gesaffelstein, so when I saw that he had scored a thriller, I thought I'd check it out! Matthias Schoenaerts plays a soldier with PTSD who dabbles in security in between missions, and after working a wealthy businessman's party, he's hired to watch his wife (Diane Kruger) and son. This is one of those movies where Nothing Happens, and I struggled to find the something in the Nothing. Our Hero was clearly struggling with his PTSD, and I guess that's something (Schoenaerts is very good at tortured pain). He and Kruger clearly had chemistry, and I guess that's something. But most of this movie is just...waiting for Something to happen, and while this could put the audience in the main character's paranoid position and fill everything with dread, it did not do that for me, sorry, Alice Winocour. The musical score is used pretty sparsely but effectively to provide atmosphere and tension. Overall, I think there is a story buried in here, but it's too understated for my tastes. B

Half Nelson: Before Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made Marvel's first female superhero movie, they made...a low-key drama about the unlikely friendship between a white crack-addicted history teacher and his black potential drug dealer student? Yes, yes, obviously I can see how they were right for the job. Ryan Gosling is pretty fantastic here; it was interesting to see an early performance of his before he became a Movie Star and leaned into a Type. Here you might not even recognize him. Shareeka Epps is also very good, and I grew to care about both these characters, which sustained me because the film doesn't have a strong narrative drive, although it's propelled by some pretty masterful editing by Anna Boden that gives the film energy in connecting their stories. This is a movie that's working on multiple levels, and it never explicitly addresses all the things it's doing, which often left me confuddled as to what I was supposed to be getting from certain scenes. There's definitely an element of White Savior at play, but Gosling is such a fuck-up that he's really bad at being a White Savior. And the repeated scenes of children describing moments of great social change seem to be complementing these two stories of personal change. The subtlety of its storytelling meant I wasn't always fully engrossed, but I do like a movie where I feel like it's found the perfect, satisfying ending shot, and the movie agrees, and I smile inside. B/B+

Tower: Hours after reading a reference to the UT tower shooting in a book and wondering whether anyone had made a movie, I read a review of Hotel Mumbai that compared it unfavorably to Tower, an animated documentary that sounded fascinating. I took it as a sign I needed to watch it that very day, and...holy shit. I have never seen anything like Tower. It combines archival footage, interviews, and rotoscope-animated reenactments of both the interviews and the incident itself. The animation, though a practical implementation, works artistically as a way to provide some distance from these horrific events, only occasionally cutting to footage to remind us that this is real. When people are shot, it's stylized, not gruesome, and it's almost more brutal to experience it like that. Keith Maitland effectively elicits the terror of that day not to give the audience a THRILL but to highlight the level of heroism on display by the ordinary citizens and policemen he focuses on. That being said, there is incredible filmmaking on display here in how Maitland never shows the sniper, only the tower, which becomes more and more an ominous figure, the gunshots ringing out with regularity, and in his use of music, which is largely used to evoke a sense of beauty—the final assault is set to "Claire de Lune." We follow an assortment of characters and get different POVs of the event, but an injured pregnant woman lying out in the open on the hot concrete emerges as the central figure that seems to tie all the narratives together. Who will help her? Will anyone risk dying for her? These are incredible stories, and Maitland takes it a step further in the third act as he spends some time with them as they process the trauma and reflect on the other survivors. The wall he's put up between past and present breaks down, and there are even more emotional moments ahead. We don't spend a lot of time dissecting the psychology of the shooter or examining society and the recent rise in mass shootings, though all of this is briefly touched on. There's nothing there that hasn't been said already. But what the people who were there have to say deserves to be heard. This is a harrowing, beautiful, gorgeous, resonant work of art. A-

Picnic at Hanging Rock: On Valentine's Day, 1900, a group of schoolgirls go and have a picnic at Hanging Rock. THEY DO NOT ALL COME BACK. Ooh, mysterious! What happened? Ha ha, who cares what happened, that's not the point of this movie, you must be a plebe if you're interested in such petty concerns as "the answer to the central mystery of the film." I went in knowing I'd be frustrated by that aspect of the film, so I looked for what I could appreciate outside of that. The early scenes of the girls are beautifully shot, and I fucking love the pan flute score and the other pieces of music used; it's all quite haunting and at times sensual. I also found the soon-to-be-missing girls fascinatingly creepy in the way they observed the world; the statements they make speak to a kind of cold adolescent epiphany. After they disappear and we follow the reactions, I started to lose track of what the film might be saying about femininity, and it remained fairly impenetrable for the most part. The headmistress is fucking awful, I got that part, at least. And what the fuck, the ending. I can tell this movie is dealing with Themes and whatnot, and there is definitely something in the vein of horror that comes from that sense of Not Knowing, but it's not enough for me to really appreciate this movie. B

Enter the Dragon: In this classic martial arts film, Bruce Lee takes on dozens of guards all by himself, uses a snake as a weapon, hurls nunchucks around himself so fast it looks like the film is sped up, and fights a clawed villain in a hall of mirrors, and it's FUCKING AWESOME. Unfortunately all of that is in the last half hour, and to get to it, you have to sit through a fairly dull Bond movie that is occasionally punctuated by Bruce Lee throwing a punch at lightning speed, Jim Kelly beating up cops, and John Saxon being a white man because goddammit, you've got to have a white man in here somewhere even though he has absolutely no relationship with Bruce Lee's character. Director Robert Clouse makes the most out of Michael Allin's pretty awkward script, which introduces these three characters and kind of gives them all a reason to be on this martial arts tournament island but then basically pretends they're in three separate movies. This script is...not great, Bob. But you're not here for the script, you're here for the martial arts! Which...as I said, is primarily in the last half hour. Bruce Lee is a joy to watch throughout, though. B/B+

In the Mood for Love: In Hong Kong 1962, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung move in next to each other on the same day! Aw, it's a meet-cute. But they're married! It's okay, we never see their spouses. Hell, THEY barely see their spouses. They see each other more. So. Well. Wow. This is the sexiest movie I have ever seen without any actual sex scenes. This is me the whole movie: "When are they gonna fuck? Are they already fucking? Did they just fuck?" Except this movie is not called In the Mood for Sex. Wong Kar-wai creates a gorgeous, aching portrait of loneliness and longing, a cinematic manifestation of the undeniable gravitational pull between two people that might be the answer to both. Look, this film is so good at drawing me into these two characters that I completely missed the actual reason that brings them together but I was still completely invested; the camera told me everything I needed to know even when certain bits of dialogue didn't make sense. They're often shot through bars, as if their marriages are a prison, or in mirrors, as if reflecting their lives and actions back at them. It's an incredibly subtle film—clearly a bit TOO subtle for me—that revels in sensation and feeling, and it drips with beauty and pain. The cinematography! The music! Good fucking God, this movie is the apotheosis of JUST KISS. B+/A-

Raw: Justine is a vegetarian who goes off to vet school, where she gets one taste of raw meat and immediately begins to spiral into a depraved life of cannibalism. As you do. I love how many different levels this metaphor works on. It's a hyperbolic look at the experimentation kids do when they go off to college, finally able to make their own choices. It's a terrifying manifestation of the specific travails of growing up as a woman, and how that information is passed down. It's an exploration of female sexuality. It's a horror movie about a monster where the monster is you. It's all of these things at once, and Julia Ducournau's smart script never needs to spell it all out. Garance Marillier sells both Justine's initial naivety as well as her eventual bloodthirst. This is a fantastic debut with excellent cinematography, score, and songs (one of the best scenes is just Justine putting on lipstick while listening to a terrifically obscene rap song), and it's surprisingly not as gory and gross as you'd expect it to be. This shit is the real deal, folks. B+/A-

A Hard Day's Night: This movie begins with the Beatles running from their hordes of rabid fans and hiding in phone booths, and it does not get any less silly from there. What an utterly delightful collection of gags scattered about a "plot" that is "The Beatles go to perform on television and also try to keep an eye on Paul McCartney's grandfather." It's so much fun watching musical geniuses The Beatles be incorrigible, troublemaking goofballs, especially in such a self-effacing manner. Although I really want this to be essentially a documentary of what their lives are actually like. For 87 minutes Ringo is my favorite Beatle?? I can't deal with Ringo in this movie, he's amazing and I suddenly love "Octopus's Garden" ten times more. This movie made me laugh out loud a lot; it's so offbeat in its humor and there is at least one gag that's like straight out of the Marx Brothers. And this is a Beatles movie made when the Beatles were huge, it didn't have to be so artfully shot, but Richard Lester makes sure it's always visually interesting, like the "Can't Buy Me Love" sequence that's basically a music video before music videos even existed what the fuck. It's hard to watch this in context since I don't know how much is truly revolutionary because a lot of it is "well, of course that's how you shoot this kind of scene" and this may have been the very first time it was done that way! This movie is so weird and full of anarchic energy that it doesn't fulfill my inherent desire for cohesive narrative, but gosh, I really enjoyed it and I love the Beatles even more now. B+

Next up, who knows! I go where the wind takes me, and by the wind I mean the people I talk about movies with.
Tags: making the grade, movies

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