|DVRfest 2016 (11.11.16 - 11.13.16, 18 movies)|
|11.11.16||Weiner||Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg||12 Years ago, I was about 8 month in Austin and had just gone to my first QTFest, followed by the first Fantastic Fest, followed by my first Austin Film Fest. November hit and I was having festival withdrawal. I turned to my DVR, full of stuff I'd recorded off TCM and IFC, and realized that this site had been around a full year. Thus began DVRfest: a weekend of personal cinematic abandon meant to memorialize this journal and sitting in a dark room watching movies alone (which, as bad as it sounds to admit, is probably how I saw the bulk majority of films in my life). Throughout the years, my reliance on clearing out my DVR shifted more toward general catching up on anything and now stands as a throwback to those glorious years 2006 and 2007 when I had no job and just watched movies all day. Especially this year since I went to Peru rather than Fantastic Fest, it will be my only movie-related event of the year.|
So with all of that in mind, I've made a very aggressive schedule to try and get through this weekend, filled with mainstream stuff, stuff I missed in theaters, and even a few which I will possibly let fate decide. But it all starts with this political documentary about a guy's dick. Let's watch!
Huh. So... huh. Well right off the bat I'd say this was a fantastic documentary. Toward the end, one of the directors asks Weiner "WHY are you letting us film this?" To which he shrugs without answer. The root cause, perhaps connected to some interview footage a few minutes before where Weiner ponders whether his need for fame forms an inability to connect deeply with anyone or vice versa seems to be the heart of this movie, and you can't help but wonder how many other politicians this doc COULD'VE been about if only they were the ones who got exposed. But it's also about the whole political system and how popularity and scandal intertwine with "issues" and what even matters in that world and the nature of media and how it feeds the whole thing and whether it's good or bad but feels like human nature regardless. And then there's the wife: Huma. A sphinx. Mostly Unreadable.
This might be a spectacularly male take on things, but I kept feeling like this is a portrait of a good well-meaning guy who's just guilty of having a cock. I mean, the amount of stupid shit that guys have down throughout history just because they're horny... I can't help but feel for this guy. I'm sure a part of him felt like Mugatu, like Marion Berry gets to be caught smoking crack on camera, Bill Clinton gets to have oval office BJs, George W Bush gets to manufacture a war, but I get killed over a few dick pics!? Donald Trump gets to call me a pervert for THAT!?
So yeah, a complicated swirl of thoughts and feelings about this, which again, tell me that this is a great film.
I still haven't fully digested this but it's DVRfest so it's time to move on. Next up is another doc... this one I'm pretty sure won't generate such a mix of emotions.
|11.11.16||Flyin' Cut Sleeves||Henry Chalfant, Rita Fecher||Well... I THOUGHT I was going to watch a doc about Frank Dux, famously portrayed by Jean Claude Van Damme in the movie Bloodsport, but I guess that video was removed from youtube since last night, so instead I watched another doc I've had saved for quite some time.|
Flyin' Cut Sleeves is about 1970s gangs from The Bronx... basically the source material for the movie The Warriors. The production is pretty rough/amateur but the subjects are real and the subject matter strikes that nerve for me so I liked it. I still find that era fascinating in a hard to believe way... like remember that time that the biggest city in America almost went bankrupt and whole parts of the city were neglected to the point where kids roamed the streets like wild dogs? haha yeah, good times.
Up next is one more doc (this year is pretty documentary-heavy... A triple feature today and a planned double feature on Sunday), this one presumably flyin' long sleeves (man, i love that title) but also sporting a helmet.
|11.11.16||Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman||Adam Carolla, Nate Adams||I listened to the first couple years of Adam Carolla's podcast and just as I was losing interest he started mentioning putting interviews together for this documentary about Newman's racing career. Paul Newman seemed like an awesome dude. From all accounts of people who knew and worked with him, it seemed like he was just a great guy. Certainly, many of his movies are great. So learning more about this other side of him mostly just reinforced that. Since Carolla's a racing guy, I feel like he gave it more interest than if anyone else did this. Really my only complaint is the music, which is generic and pretty heavy-handed with its emotional direction. Oh, and they had this weird thing where each person got a little sad moment whenever they died. At first it was kind of jarring because it was about some other dude not terribly connected to the story, but it made sense as more people started dying off.|
Otherwise, they got interviews with everyone but Tom Cruise (probably for the best), and found a lot of footage to tell an engaging story. Still kinda niche-y though. I was ready for it to end since I don't really care about the cars so much. But mostly pretty solid.
OK enough nonfiction for a while. Let's change gears (eh? eh? get it? cars?) to a double feature from a director who doesn't drive at all but somehow got famous for a movie centered around the activity: Nicolas Winding Refn.
|11.11.16||Only God Forgives||Nicolas Winding Refn||I didn't have much interest in seeing this when it came out, especially after everyone who loved Drive more than I did (I feel like I liked it, didn't love it more than life itself) suddenly went silent after they watched this. But then a year or two ago, Refn was at Fantastic Fest and they played his wife's documentary on the making of this film and I liked that so I felt I might as well see this just to say I did.|
As I could've guessed, this felt like too much style, too little story. It was pretty and the music was interesting but it felt too distant and static and was way too sparse to be interesting to me. It kind of felt like if someone took a DVD and watched it on fast forward, but then slowed what they saw down to a normal running time. Like, a lot of people just standing there. scenes float by i guess, but at any given moment it's just some people standing still not saying anything.
So, whatever, I've now seen this. Really I threw this on the schedule just to set up the next film, which I do really want to see. Let's hope it's a little more lively than this one.
|11.11.16||The Neon Demon||Nicolas Winding Refn||OK well... I guess maybe I have to come to the understanding that I am more of a fan of Refn as a person than I am of Refn's work. Again: very pretty, interesting music. And I was into it but then there was like a half hour there toward the middle that just completely zoned out in weird meandering whatever. Then it got super dark all of a sudden and probably made the movie worth seeing just in two or three scenes. So I guess that was cool but again, for the most part, just not quite enough substance there to sustain me. |
So, I'm already to my last scheduled movie of the evening, but I think it's still early enough that I can sneak one or two more in after that. We'll play it by ear, but for now it's time for a completely random netflix disc choice.
|11.11.16||Murder Party||Jeremy Saulnier||I'm maybe the last paying netflix disc customer, and I've totally become the guy I could never understand 10 years ago. I've had these three discs collecting dust on my desk for probably 10 months. So long that I forgot why I added this to my queue in the first place. As it turns out, Murder Party was Jeremy Saulnier's first feature length film! I loved both Blue Ruin and Green Room so I was curious to give this one a watch.|
Several things right up front: Definitely a tiny budget, definitely made with friends/family (AKA mostly amateurs), definitely the sort of script you'd write as a college student. It's more a comment on art school and the art scene. But amongst all that, you can see a sensibility which carries through in his next two films. A love of humor, tension, and gore.
So yeah, this was pretty fun. It reminded me a bit of Bad Taste, the first Evil Dead, and a tiny bit of the shit I used to do with my friends when I was in high school.
So... up next... It's only 10pm so I'm gonna try to fit in two more movies tonight. so... let's go!
|11.11.16||Swiss Army Man||Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert||So... this movie exists. I'm honestly a little befuddled as to what I thought of it. I feel like... I was certainly entertained. I haven't really seen many movies like it before. But I also didn't love it. I liked parts of it, like all the built replications of real life things and the many quick jokes and things like that, but the overall tone was just a tad off center for me.|
So these notes are getting shorter and shorter. It might be me getting tired, or maybe it's just the run of really weird movies. It's midnight but I've already watched my midnight movie, so instead I'll poach another one from Sunday's line-up and hopefully stay awake for this one which has been on my netflix queue for years.
|11.11.16||The Hunt||Thomas Vinterberg||So, this is what's great about DVRfest. I'd heard this movie was really good, but the subject matter seemed so dark and depressing that I've always put off seeing it. Now, I'm more or less forcing myself to watch a good movie, and it's for the best. It was great. But it was also depressing as fuck... although to be fair I thought the ending would be even darker than it is... because although this is my first Vinterberg movie I've seen enough of his compatriots' work to know that nothing ends on a high note in his country.|
But still, the filmmaking is undeniably great. This is what everyone's talking about with Mads Mikkelsen. As a guy, you are so with his character every step of the way. So full of rage... and all it takes is one jackass with an ipad. I'm glad I finally saw it. Can't say I'll be watching it again any time soon.
And that brings me to the end of Day One. This might be a non-marathon daily best for me, eight films in one day. Sunday me will be thankful for the extra four hours though. And for tomorrow, I have something pretty fun planned, but first: some sleep.
|11.12.16||Night Train to Munich||Carol Reed||Welcome to Day 2 of DVRfest 2016! Even though I don't actually use the DVR to store movies on anymore, this fest is still in the spirit of going back and catching up on films I've been meaning to see. There is no more megalithic monument to that motivation than the top row of my DVD/Blu collection, which houses all of the blind buys that I have yet to get around to actually watching even though, in some cases, I've owned them for over a decade. Some would take that as a sign of me not really wanting to watch the movies. In a few cases, I'd say you're right (I mean, how much Bergman is enough Bergman?). In other cases, like the netflix rental from last night, there is still a reason why I want to watch the movie, even if I happened to have forgotten it.|
Of the monumental top row of my collection (which stretches across the whole back wall of my home office/game den here), the most monumental section is that of Criterion. I love the Criterion Collection; used to joke that if I ever got stupid rich I'd want to own the whole thing (a statement less logistically complicated back when there were only 200 releases, not the ~750 of today). I love their design, usually find their releases at least interesting, and owe my love/admiration of several favorite filmmakers (Jean-Pierre Melville, Sam Fuller, Akira Kurosawa) to their library. So what's become a recent development since the dawn of the streaming age is that I pretty much only buy Criterion titles still, and even then only once or twice a year during their 50% sale. So I have a ton of Criterion blind buys, so much so that it was hard to pick just a handful for today's programming.
Therefore, like any good gamer, I am turning control over to chance. I have my trusty d6 and d10 here, ready to program today's festivities. There's only one movie locked in for midnight, otherwise I am going to try and fit in as many of these gems as I can. I won't lie, some of them are pretty scary choices (I left out the box sets and anything with a running length over 4 hours, but there are still some Bergman in there, some french nonsense, and at least one silent), but that's what makes randomness fun.
So, without further ado, I am literally rolling the dice to see what's first on today's agenda. See you in a few hours!
The dice could not have chosen a better Saturday matinee! This early war thriller from Carol Reed has that 40s British breeziness mixed with wartime patriotism and tension typical of Reed's thrillers. I mostly knew Carol Reed only by The Third Man until a screening of The Fallen Idol at the Paramount completely blew me away. Since then, I've been keen to explore more of Reed's work. This one reminded me a ton of Hitchcock's early stuff. Foreign Correspondent but also 39 Steps (I guess it makes sense considering the script was from the same guys who wrote The Lady Vanishes). A lot of the stuff here gives me the best feeling of old studio productions. Heavy use of sets, miniatures, rear projection, stock footage, British guys playing Czechs, Germans, and Poles... it's all so wonderfully cinematic in an historic sense. Plus a young Paul Henreid and even younger Rex Harrison... but to me the real stars of this movie are the two British chaps caught up in the middle Hidden Fortress / R2-D2 & C-3P0 style as they happen upon Harrison on the titular rail car. Those guys were amazing, chucking off old Brit slang left and right like Denholm Elliot in Raiders.
Ok, so one down. what's next? Only the dice knows...
|11.12.16||Le Silence de la Mer||Jean-Pierre Melville||Whew. So... the dice did a great job in pairing subject matter. This one is about a French family giving the silent treatment to an occupying Nazi official. The tone however was drastically different than the previous film. I should've known going into it with such a title that there wouldn't be much dialogue, but really there was.. like... next to none. I suppose it made for a very "novelistic" approach to have a narrator and the nazi guy give monologue after monologue to these two people who refuse to talk to him, but in watching the film it feels like I was listening to the clock tick for an hour and a half. I mean it was pretty rough. Melville's always had a very deliberate pace, but usually there's some sort of amazing climax or release to the build up. Here it just feels slow. Thank goodness it's not as long as the other films of his which I've seen.|
So... time to shake this off a bit and hopefully roll something which is a bit more lively.
|11.12.16||Blast of SIlence||Allen Baron||Boom. This late-era low budget noir has everything that I love about the best in the genre. Amazingly hard-boiled narration, cool diegetic music, an insane amount of location shooting (in this case all over 1960/61 NYC), crazy subversive subject matter, and a pitch black ending. I mean it's really something, and judging from the credits it's a completely homebrew movie from producer/writer/director/star Allen Baron. I guess crime flicks like these were the horror movies of their day. A genre bankable enough to yield breakouts like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity (floating in a sea of crap). To me, this really feels like Baron went out and tried to make a film, then got in the editing room and realized it BARELY made sense, so this layer of narration was poured on top, seeping down between the bricks like sensational grizzled mortar. You can see the stuff that Baron is taking from, the same stuff that the french new wave and Melville are taking, but still thoroughly american. Really great stuff.|
Wow. It's so exciting to see a "new" noir that's on par with the greats that made me fall in love with the genre so many years ago.
Ok... so what's next?
|11.12.16||Le Trou||Jaqcues Becker||Finally caught a long one. I think this is the first film over two hour all weekend, but in some ways it also felt like one of the shortest. I mean I'm a sucker for a prison escape movie anyway but this film unfolds like a procedural wet dream. There's one shot where one of the inmates, one of the men involved in the real-life incident which inspired the novel and the film, lifts up the parquet floorboards(!) of their cell and turns a smooth plane of cement into a foot-deep hole. And it's riveting! There's like two full hours of watching these guys dig and explore and smuggle and solve problems all in executing their escape, and like 10 minutes of talking and whatnot. It's awesome.|
The whole cast is great too. Something about a good prison movie is all about that borderline-gay brotherhood of honor and friendship. Watching these dudes share their amazing-looking French prison food is really enjoyable for some reason. Also, why they have full suits and leather jackets in prison is a bit of a mystery for me, but I guess that was just the way. But mostly the one guy, the real guy who at the beginning of the movie walks up to the camera and says "My friend Jacques Becker made this movie and it's about me" is totally amazing. He's missing the tips of his thumb and forefinger on one hand, but still handles prison-tools like a champ. I got the same feeling from watching Danny Trejo in an Eddie Bunker movie like Animal Factory. I can totally tell that he has been there and done that. I totally believe that this guy has no problem pounding through rock walls, filing door hinges off, and fashioning makeshift hour glasses. I mean i believe that because they literally showed me in the movie, but still.. i totally believed.
So yeah, this movie was great. I loved it. Le Trou, The Hold.
So... it's 9:30. It looks like I might only have time for one more random choice before the pre-ordained midnight movie, but let's see.
|11.12.16||Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion||Elio Petri||I'm not ashamed to admit that this purchase was based solely upon the strength of the film's title. I just thought it sounded cool. I didn't know anything else about it. What I got was a Kafka-esque spiral of a police chief who commits a murder just to see if his colleagues would possibly suspect him. It's nice to get an Italian vibe in the fest, although in some ways this reminded me of how I felt watching my first Fellini movie (Juliet of the Spirits). Everybody constantly talking very loudly, I'm not quite following what's going on, and a disorienting roaming camera with never ending pans and zooms. On one level it's quite a spectacle, but on another I'm not really sure if I should be laughing or intrigued or what. This main dude with his tiny suit to match his tiny body really gives a tour de force... I feel like he even looks directly in the camera right at the beginning, as if to say "ready?" before starting the whole ride off. I thought I was ready, but by the end it was clear that I was not. My takeaway is that I enjoyed it as an experience, but I won't be in any hurry to revisit.|
So it comes time for the last Criterion film of the fest, and the only not left up to chance. As is tradition, I get to watch one movie that I've seen before at some point in the weekend. This year, I'm choosing a film that I haven't seen since it came out a decade ago. I feel like everyone else loved it more than me when it was released, so let's give it a re-watch and see if my feelings change, shall we?
|11.12.16||Pan's Labyrinth||Guillermo del Toro||Yeah... I guess now I have to revisit Chronos and The Devil's Backbone as well. I mean I can't argue that the design of the fantasy creatures are bar none. If this whole movie was just the crazy dining room scene with that floppy old thing with eyeball hands then that would be enough to secure a place for this movie in history. The problem for me is that the rest of the movie is like a kind-of-good war story with a few good moments of gore and not much else. And I mean it doesn't have to be anything different... but I'd like it more if it were.|
So I've always said I liked Devil's Backbone more. Now it's time to watch that again and see if it holds up to my memory. Not tonight though; I'm beat.
|11.13.16||Inside Out||Pete Docter||The third and final day of this year's DVRfest starts with a Sunday matinee that I can watch with Molly. I feel like I've taken a few years off from Pixar films. After Cars 2 (which I did not like), it feels like they've been churning out sequels mostly, but this one got a bunch of acclaim and it sounded like a good premise.|
I liked it a lot. It reminded me of how good Pixar films can be. It's so smart and attentive to detail and the animation is top notch and the voice acting is on point. Really good stuff. I particularly liked all the other heads we got to glimpse inside of. It makes me wonder if cat lovers like the same things about cats that I don't like, because to me it seemed like Pixar is full of dog lovers, but maybe cat people feel the exact opposite? Like look at that stupid dog just wanting food, meanwhile the cat is so crazy and messed up that it freaks out for no reason which is lovable and hilarious? I dunno...
Anyway, onto the next movie.
|11.13.16||Real Life||Albert Brooks||This satire of the American Family documentary is also Albert Brooks' first film and sorta kinda the first mockumentary. I laughed quite a bit with this. A lot of the little jokes that Brooks is constantly throwing away were great but really also a few stand-out scenes in my opinion show the great strength of both Brooks' style and Charles Grodin's genius. The horse operation, the depression sequence, and the awesomely terrible zoo montage - all with the constant presence of these absurd head-mounted cameras looming around and movie studio / social scientist dissection and analysis - are all amazing. All of it seems like a prescient precursor to all the reality-based stuff that we're going through now. |
So yeah, This was great. I liked it more than Modern Romance, maybe more than Lost in America.
And now I we come to the last double feature of the fest. I've had sort of mixed reaction to this director's documentary work in the past but I just could not pass up the opportunity for such a specific double feature. So now let's watch two Werner Herzog documentaries whose titles start with "Into the"!
|11.13.16||Into the Abyss||Werner Herzog||Well that was fun. I guess it's my fault for not realizing that a documentary about a kid on death row for murder would be depressing as fuck. Jesus. So this had some of the same rough mixture of thoughts and emotions as any true crime doc, especially as you watch the kid smile in the interview, complete convinced that he's innocent even though the evidence is pretty definitive. But here we also have the weight of the death penalty argument added on top. I mean I guess this was good but now I want to eat ice cream in a bath tub.|
All in all a good time.
Ok, last shot. Let's hope that volcanoes are a little more uplifting than death row.
|11.13.16||Into the Inferno||Werner Herzog||You know... some things just never get old. Staring at lava and magma is one of these things. In between the mesmerizing footage of roiling turbulent heat, Herzog and his Volcanist buddy go around the world to explore the science and the magic of some of the largest, and talk to the people about how their culture has reacted to this raw natural force.|
Some of it wanders a bit too far I think (all the North Korea stuff is interesting but kind of gets away from the volcanoes) but for the most part I was taken with what Herzog was showing me. I think I enjoy that he's taken on this non-fiction interest as he grows older, not just because I find his narration lovely but also because he mostly chooses interesting subject matter to explore. This wasn't as popcorn-entertaining as Grizzly Man but also wasn't as dry for me as Cave of Forgotten Dreams. I liked it.
And that puts another DVRfest to bed. I'm pretty surprised and proud to have met my schedule this year, although it's definitely time to return to the real world or work and bills (as all film festivals must do). Looking back, I quite enjoyed my random Criterion marathon and feel like I will do that again, either for next year's fest or some random nights as we go along.
Now let's dump some stats. These are gonna suck I know it, but I guess I have to do it. I'm at 18 in the past week (including this one) for a 2.57/day average, 22 in the past month for a 0.73/day average, 81 in the past year for a 0.22/day average, and 2949 since the site started for a 0.67/day average. Ouch.
I mean, there's nothing stopping me from watching more movies. It's not like I'm the only one with a job and a girlfriend and other interests vying for my time, but part of me does get sad when I think about how few films I'm watching these days. I've been loving movies since I was a kid though, so I guess I have to take a long term view on things. Perhaps I'll trend heavier in the year to come and perhaps I won't, but I know I will always maintain my love for this medium and the joy and excitement that it brings me.
Ok enough sappiness, time to watch the next episode of Westworld.