|DVRfest 2019 (11.08.19 - 11.11.19, 14 movies)|
|11.08.19||Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom||J.A. Bayona||I had no interest in this since I remember having kind of major problems with the last Jurassic World but for some reason people at Fantastic Fest said this was, like, almost the best one of the whole series? iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii don't know about that. It's basically a re-make of Lost World which is the worst of the series... it's not as bad as LW, but follows basically the same story with basically the same outcome. Just upgraded with no terrible scenes (but also no great ones). It wasn't bad... but nowhere near great either.... which is why I had no interest in seeing it in the first place. Oh well, scratch it off the list. Caught up on the franchise now.|
Oh, hey. It's DVRfest, y'all.
|11.08.19||John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum||Chad Stahelski||Well Today didn't go as planned. Too much video games not enough movie. Plus I'm already seeing a trend of movies that I thought were streaming legitimately somewhere only to find that they are not. I guess all these streaming services are good for their landmark shows but when it comes to tracking down a year-old movie they suck unless you have some genius brain devoted solely to remembering which services have which movies when.|
In any case, I had a triple feature of catch-up Hollywood films planned for my first day this year, but I dillydallied then procuring the last one took longer than expected so instead I wound up watching John Wick at midnight.
This was ok. The action was great as we've come to expect... some of the gags were quite impressively brutal in interesting ways and there were plenty of set pieces to carry through the film. I do wonder if the world of John Wick, which seemed so marvel in the first one, is collapsing under its own weight now. The story this time around was a little strained. Never mind how the entire world is seeded with professional killers at every cafe, in every alleyway, even in the middle of the desert, and let's not forget about the army of tattooed ladies in uniform updating contracts and announcing stuff... to themselves, but John Wick spent the whole movie getting un-incommunicado-ed just to re-incommunicado himself at the end? Like, could've saved yourself a trip around the world, buddy. Or at least around half of it if he just killed whatever tabletop uppity-up that was in the desert?
However, I appreciate that this started right after the last ended and these movies are notable for their action not their story so whatever... oh, one other little nitpick: that generic action scene music... I don't know if they all had it and I just happened to notice more this time, but at times it felt pretty stale.
Still, I liked it. It kept me awake deep into the night, making a fun albeit short first day to the fest.
That brings me to tomorrow and the return of the Criterion random roll. Let's see how many movies I can fit in. It could be a lot, or the dice could dictate that I watch World on a Wire instead. We'll see!
|11.09.19||Le Corbeau||Henri-Georges Clouzot||Roll #1: 4|
Predictably, the random number generator chose a great choice for a saturday matinee in this early french noir from Clouzot. Clouzot's falls in a weird place in my brain. I remember reading in Truffaut's auteur article that the new wave kind of shit on Clouzot and held him as a symbol of the old guard, but the dude made Wages of Fear which is one of the best thrillers... ever. I remember being not so enamored with Diabolique but this was very very good! So who knows.
This one's about a "poison pen" writer who starts sending letters to everyone in town airing everyone's dirty laundry and putting the town in an uproar. At first I thought this would have something to do with Poe since the main actor looks kind of like him and has the same mustache and there's a scene where he holds a stuffed raven, but I was wrong. Instead, everybody's secret truths eventually get exposed and the town succumbs further and further into mob mentality to make it stop. Gorgeous high-contrast black and white photography, lots of dutch angles and proto-noirish undertones with a dangerous woman and an innocent man stuck in a trap and all that, but also still very French.
Really my only problem with this movie is with the very very last scene, so:
... spoilers start
Why the hell was he writing another letter? If Laura really was supposed to be the raven, then wouldn't another letter from the raven saying that she's the raven exonerate her? What the hell, dude? To me, this stinks of a studio note to give the ending a clearer resolution, but the movie would've been ten times as great if that letter didn't exist. We'd never know for sure if it was really him... yeah all signs would point to it and we'd still get that great beat of the widow doing her thing, but still... I loved how confusing and Christopher Nolan the movie got at the end with all kinds of possibilities blossoming out... having the real raven die in the middle of signing his last letter is too convenient... not to mention making no fucking sense.
... spoilers end
Anyway, I really liked this a lot. I think I have another Clouzot film in the lottery so maybe it'll come up. Or maybe not. We'll see.
|11.09.19||Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom||Pier Paolo Pasolini||Roll #2: 1 with a bullet|
Salo has been in the Criterion pool since it began. I've heard quite a bit about how extreme it is so it was never something to throw on for a tuesday night or whatever. It's kind of fitting that it took rolling a natural 1 on a d20 to select this and finally see it.
So..... what to say... It definitely holds up. I've seen a bunch of fucked up movies so I had a feeling going into this that it would be tamer than people let on just because it's 45 years old now and we've had stuff like A Serbian Film and Martyrs and Taxidermia... but the feeling of descent that this film delivers is pretty affecting. By the final scene it's so unrelenting and ends so abruptly... and perhaps the music makes it even worse... the light jazzy piano over everything.
It's clear that I didn't get 100% of the influence, context, and symbolism at play here. Particularly the fascist stuff went over my head unless it was just a statement that unbridled power allows for unparalleled depravity. I also guess this much blatant homosexuality made people's heads explode in 1975 in a way that I, today, don't fully grasp.
All in all... glad I watched it. Definitely some indelible images. I definitely checked to see when it would end less than a minute before it actually ended. But I can't argue with the potency of the film, which is really extraordinary.
|11.09.19||Multiple Maniacs||John Waters||Roll #3: 15|
I don't know of a better follow-up to Salo than this. Super early John Waters movie with all his regulars in full effect. I want to say this is his first "real" movie? It's great that A) Criterion loves and supports John Waters, and B) the die chose this after Salo. It knows what's up.
I feel like this has some sort of parallel with Salo, but exchanging the condemnation for gonzo fun. Until she starts killing people, Divine and her gang of pervert circus misfits seem like a pretty fun bunch to hang out with. Plus I love how homegrown everything is... they just put up tents in someone's back yard right? Except for the cars, it felt like where I lived during my high school years.
And with... all?... early Waters movies, the whole movie is basically just a dial for Divine to go from 1 to 100000000. It can be grating at times but it's also just so glorious to behold. And that lobster.... man.
So I had a lot of fun with this. Not sure what that says about me... but I was smiling through most of it. Love Mink Stole and the scene in the church, love David Lochary's accent, love those printed out beginning titles. Doesn't watching this just make you want to go out and make a movie!?
So two weird ones in a row. Let's see what's
|11.09.19||All That Jazz||Bob Fosse||Roll #4: 14|
I believe the only Bob Fosse movie that I've seen is Star 80 which blew me away and kicked me in the balls. I recognize that Cabaret is something I need to see at some point but at least now I've seen this.
This was really great. I appreciate Fosse's frenetic editing style and shot composition most of all. You really feel inside his brain from start to finish. Roy Scheider's great but he has a ton to do between the dancers and the comedian movie and the "backstage" mental space which are all great on their own. All those topless dancers don't hurt either. whoa.
I also... so I'm pretty firmly on record as not caring for most musicals. My main problem is breaking narrative, where they're so happy they have to sing in a dining room or on a hilltop or in LA traffic, then the music ends and the world starts up again. The musicals I do like (mostly the old Busby Berkeley ones) felt like they were made before filmmakers figured out audiences would sit through that crap. So they set every musical on Broadway and the story of every musical was putting on a show. But when it came time to actually do the music numbers, film magic took over and you get to see more spectacle and flair than ever possible on a stage. I might be wrong but I feel like there's only two straight-up music numbers in this.. ok maybe two and a half if you count the girlfriend and daughter singing in the living room. The last one is forgiven because it's in his mind and works great especially at the end when he goes into the crowd and thanks everyone for being there, but my favorite is the sexytime one about casual relationships. That did that magic stuff a bit but still in the confines of the practice studio. It was so good.
And I loved how everyone was sweaty. Another major peccadillo of mine is that nobody in movies sweats. If all I saw was movies then I'd be a climate change denier because I'd think the 70s was the only decade where it got hot outside. People sweat when they exercise, dancing is exercise, ergo dancers sweat. So great.
So yeah, another great one. Glad I finally saw it.
The sun's down now and I'm in the realm of maybe two more movies, maybe one more. It could be like Che last year with World on a Wire, or it could be a nice 90 minute French noir. Or it could be Dr. Mabuse and put me to sleep at 10pm. We shall see!
|11.09.19||King of the Hill||Steven Soderbergh||Roll #5: 11|
I haven't seen any of Soderbergh's "early" (meaning pre-Schizopolis) films aside from Sex, Lies, & Videotape. I didn't really know anything about this one so it was cool to not have it be terrible. I think Criterion did a great job with the packaging art direction, adopting a Norman Rockwell-esque painterly vibe to it because the movie does look really really good in its depiction of 1933. Lots of warm lighting and vibrant color. The story is kind of a midwest depression-era version of Empire of the Sun where a kid is basically left to fend for himself and figure out how life works.
Umm... I liked this. It felt open and heartwarming and maybe a little sentimental but not in a bad way. Didn't love love love it, but it was a perfectly fine movie. I guess it's kind of hard to follow All That Jazz.
Also, what's Adrien Brody been up to? Feel like I haven't seen him around lately.
Incidentally, this goes back into the pool due to having The Underneath included as a bonus feature. Pretty crazy to have a whole other film listed along with interviews and deleted scenes. I could just double down and watch it but I had other Soderbergh films on my potential line-up so I think I'll end the Criterion random roll at 5 and finish up the night with his latest instead.
|11.10.19||The Laundromat||Steven Soderbergh||Fell asleep halfway through this but it's not the movie's fault. This was like Big Short meets Fast Food Nation, halfway between separate vignettes and a TED talk. I liked this... but have mixed feelings overall about the whole Big Short type of thing where these issues in the news are now so complicated that it takes a movie to explain to people. On one hand, they're necessary and done well to explain issues in a way that entertains as well as educates, but on the other they're so damn bleak because it means the first world is in such a trash heap that people don't even understand how they're getting fucked anymore.|
But anyway, Soderbergh's fun to watch. Love the 4th wall breaking stuff. Meryl Streep is good, as is Gary Oldman (i know, shock). Lots of familiar faces in there... I like the Will Forte and Chris Parnell parts in particular... but it does feel like... 20% a homework assignment. This would be great to see in highschool on a day when the teacher's out sick, but kind of a drag for DVRfest.
Speaking of highschool, next up is a documentary that I missed out on kickstarting but, years later, got the blu-ray when it finally went on sale on their website.
|11.10.19||Industrial Accident: The History of Wax Trax! Records||Julia Nash||This is a documentary about seminal industrial label Wax Trax! records. Well made, talks to pretty much everyone it needs to talk to with no notable exceptions, tells the story well. Good doc.|
My favorite scene was the woman who worked mail order talking about sending packages to kids in smaller towns who couldn't get this stuff anywhere else. i WAS one of those kids. I remember getting the catalog, sending my money in and months later, almost after I'd forgotten sending the order, getting a box full of random stuff. There'd be the stuff I ordered but also a few extra things. Posters, promos, stickers. The inside of the box even smelled like incense. It gave me this glimpse to a much cooler world that I had no access to since I was going to highschool in rural Maryland. We'd go into Baltimore or DC for shows but that was always a big ordeal, driving hours into the scary big crime-ridden city to see shows. Once or twice a year I'd get to go to Tower records or a place called Phantasmagoria to spend some serious cash on music. Japanese Red Hot Chili Pepper singles, special stuff that the mall music stores didn't stock, and old Luxa/Pan cds that weren't available anywhere else. We had one record shop downtown that had PTP on vinyl but alas... no record player.
It's fair to say that Wax Trax!, along with Invisible records, defined my musical tastes during my most formative years. I wasn't around for the heyday of 87 - 89, but I was there 92 - 95 to revel and explore and also witness the beginning of the end. CDs started showing up with generic TVT cardboard cases around them. Releases were spotty, I went to college and heard The Prodigy and lost interest for a decade or two, but I still hold the record label up in the highest regard.
My friend and neighbor played me Ministry's Mind album and Nine Inch Nails' first album The WaxTrax! sampler introduced me to Underworld. Those three bands were favorites for a long time, Underworld still is.
So I am very happy and grateful for Wax Trax! to finally get a moment in the spotlight in this film. For as huge a fan as I was, I'd never once been to Chicago to go to their retail store. So I'm really glad to hear the whole story.
Never mind that everyone was strung out the entire time. I guess it was a good thing I never went to the store. I got to retain my innocence until I read Chris Connelly's book.
Up next is... oh, this looks good.
|11.10.19||The Whisperer in Darkness||Sean Branney||I've been getting back into Call of Cthulhu for the past year or so, reading the source books and revisiting some of the original writing in preparation to run a few games for my work group. It's fun. I think maybe Lovecraft's fiction lends itself best to RPGs rather than movies in terms of adaptation.|
This one, by the "HP Lovecraft Historical Society" who made the silent-era Call of Cthulhu, a stellar prop kit for Masks of Nyarlathotep, and a sweet set of period fonts and stationery to use for prop creation, was supposedly pretty good. They present this as an early-30s talkie the same way they made Call of Cthulhu as a silent, but the resolution and acting easily mark it as a contemporary low-budget project. That, along with the main actor's passing resemblance to Alton Brown, gave the whole movie a vibe like it was a Good Eats sketch that I had trouble shaking.
Still, it's nice to have the source material (which I have never gotten around to reading for whatever reason) feel faithfully adapted. Certainly the tone feels right... lots of talking in the beginning followed by an isolating trip to the country where bad things happen... a fitting ending... all these things feel 100% Lovecraftian to me. In that regard I suppose this is a success, although I'd hesitate to recommend it to anyone not already a fan of the author (or RPG).
These guys now produce radio plays based on other Lovecraft stories. I haven't heard them but i bet they're great. I definitely applaud the amount of work that went into this. Period cars and visual effects and even a plane! I just wish it was a little softer focus, lower resolution. I guess in a perfect world they would've shot it like The Lighthouse with vintage lenses and special stock but who can afford that.
Next up is... a bit of inventory as I see what from my list is available on which platform. It's nice to just write a list of movies to see and feel confident that I can get them, but I should've done this legwork before the fest started. oops.
|11.10.19||Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse||Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman||This... was really good. The animation was spectacular, so fluid and detailed. The music was great, story was great, various styles from the different universes were great, and the villains and fight scenes were just like how you'd picture them when reading the books. Quite an achievement I have to say... I think the only joke they missed was having the second Peter Parker have the Andrew Garfield origin sequence... but honestly that's probably in there somewhere and I just missed it. Every frame seems like some homage or reference to Spidey's past, I could probably spot new things four or five viewings in.|
But alas, who has time for that. The sun is down, it's time to start watching horror movies.
This was great though. Loved it.
|11.10.19||Veronica||Paco Plaza||My boss recommended this to me a few years ago and gives me shit pretty regularly for not watching it. In the spirit of DVRfest, I am officially catching up and finally crossing this off the list.|
It's actually decent! Starts off pretty standard - don't mess with Ouija boards during an eclipse - but some of the gags are well done and the lead actress does a fine job portraying the growing torment as she gets messed with by spirits. The ending takes on a full 'based on true events' vibe which I thought was interesting. A google search later and apparently it is! And it's a very famous incident in Spain! That kind of paints the movie in a whole new light, making it more of a Spanish Exorcist than anything else.
I guess I can no longer fault the film for staying close to the genre...
OK room for one more tonight. The one I was planning on watching Friday night. Let's see if I can stay awake through it.
|11.11.19||Midsommar||Ari Aster||Nope. Not a chance I stayed awake for this. Two and a half hours!? I mean Hereditary was good but jesus... two and a half hours!? And a 3-hour director's cut? Just to make a not-as-good version of Wicker Man?|
OK maybe I'm being harsh. I did enjoy this... many things about it good, the film has a level of cohesion that's admirable, and no doubt a lot of time and effort were paid toward little details that all serve the narrative. But to me the poster sums it up perfectly: flowers and crying. That main girl cried. And there were flowers.
So I have mixed feelings about it. It's a good movie in that it's very well made and serves as an interesting horror movie that's not just, like, people mysteriously die when they install an app on their phone. Both on the other hand, it doesn't travel far enough away from its inspiration so I can't help but see it in Wicker Man's shadow.
|11.11.19||Disorganized Crime||Jim Kouf||As per the rules of the fest, I'm allowed one movie that I've seen before. For this year, I chose an old favorite that remains fond in my memory but I've been interested to revisit and see if it still holds up. This is a late 80s comedy heist starring Fred Gwynne, Lou Diamond Phillips, Ruben Blades, and Corbin Bernsen as bank robbers and Ed O'Neill and the crazy dude from River's Edge as cops on their trail. It's a small town heist filmed in Montana mixed with some nice twists and ticks all the things I want out of a heist movie. Plus it's a great artifact of the 80s where there's no nudity or violence but they threw a few "shits" and "fucks" in there... just because? It really shouldn't be rated R except kids porobably wouldn't be interested in watching it? Except this kid was. I saw this a bunch on rental, HBO, and whatever.|
I'm happy to say that it still holds up! For me at least. Hard to tell honestly... I think it works but a heist comedy is kind of a weird tone but I think it's great.
And that's it. Another year down. I wish I could've hit another film or two but I'm out of time. Let's cap it at that.
14 in the past week (2/day avg.)
15 in the past month (0.5/day avg.)
78 in the past year (0.21/day avg.)
3225 in the past 15 years (0.59/day)
Without this and FantasticFest, it sure looks like I don't watch movies anymore. May some day. Now it's back to HBO's Watchmen.