|DVRfest 2021 (12.27.21 - 12.29.21, 14 movies)|
|12.27.21||The Matrix||Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski||As the year wraps up into another total shit show, some of you imaginary readers out there may be lamenting the fact that, for the first time in 16 years I did not do a DVRfest. PSYCHE! It's happening right now!|
This year, the weekend that I usually hold this ridiculous thing happened to fall on the first weekend after starting a new job. The beginning of November is already a pretty busy time of year so I figured it wouldn't be much fun to give up that weekend where i'd probably need sleep and video games to help get over that flood of new information. Plus, last year I did it in December when I had more time off and no DVR-police showed up at my door. One of the good things about a personal film festival is I do what I want, so this year I delayed until Christmas week when I knew I'd have stress-free time off to enjoy myself.
As a side-effect to that, some of the year's Oscar-bait movies are already available. So if I can get the time, I'm going to plow through a bunch of hopefully good stuff.
Starting with this. Usually my festival rule is to limit movies I've already seen to one, but with a new Matrix movie coming out I feel like in order to give it the best chance of me liking it, I need to revisit the original trilogy first. You could kind of make the argument that they're all kinda one movie? but not really... so I'm breaking my rule but again: I do what I want. Let's sit down and watch this Matrix stuff again, for the first time since before starting this site!
True to form for recent years, DVRfest started already behind. This year, the fest really started with a three hour call to Jarrette, catching up and talking movies and how we're old and Austin has changed and everything is terrible. In many ways this represents cherished memories of attending festivals in person and was completely welcome even if it pushed back my start time to 6. I have no idea how I'm cramming all four of these in tonight but I can't waste time writing about it on here if I'm ever going to make it. So, what did I think about revisiting the first Matrix all this time later?
Well... so much of it brings back memories of when it came out. If memory serves, friends and I saw this movie five times in the theater. Once with all of us, once or twice with Trapper and I alone, maybe once with my roommate Anthony, and definitely another round when it hit dollar theaters. It was amazing in ways that are hard to comprehend these days... probably similar to Citizen Kane or something now that we've had 20 years of CGI sci-fi mind-bending nonsense in its wake (not to mention the dampener that the sequels brought to this film, which I'm sure I'll get into with the next entry). But for starters, we had no idea what the movie was before we saw it. The trailer and tv spots were genius, playing up Laurence Fisbhurne's line of "nobody can be told what the Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself." matched with these slow-mo shots of the underside of helicopters or people jumping from rooftop to rooftop or whatever, all set to slammin' late 90s soundtrack. So the first half hour or plays straight in a way that I don't think anyone these days can experience, kinda like knowing what Rosebud is or the end of the first Planet of the Apes or something. It's seeped into society such that people just know what The Matrix is.
But after that... plenty of movies try to pull a twist or a reveal, usually in the last act or whatever. And Lots of movies foreshadow stuff or make vague statements that make sense later, but I feel like this movie is the king of all of that. Watching the first half hour now makes a level of sense that felt impossible on first viewing. And to have this revelation spill forth like half way through the movie, really spending half its time trying to explain to the audience what the hell is going on... but to also make that entertaining is so crazy to think about. I have a distinct memory of sitting in the theater seeing Morpheus hold up the battery and completely having my mind blown.
But fast forward to now, where I know everything going in, it's still fun to watch! The exposition feels super graceful and succinct and straight-forward. Even the Oracle stuff (which I suspected was deliberately obtuse to levels I'm preparing for with the Architect scene in the next movie) make sense in retrospect. I'm not sure there are many movies that pull the trick of having nothing make sense then having everything make sense more deftly than this.
And on top of the ideas being presented, you also get top-tier kung-fu fight sequences. The training dojo scene alone can sit on the same shelf as any Jackie Chan or Donnie Yen movie. It's clear the actors trained their asses off, you can see them doing the moves, you can follow the fight through the edits, and everything is photographed as effectively as possible.
Now the third element comes in: the visual effects. Maybe part of the reason this movie hit so big is because it presented ideas that perfectly leveraged new technology. There's probably a version of this movie using old-school film magic techniques that would also work, but bending reality through CG with bullet time and that building ripple when the helicopter hits it perfectly shows off the glimpses behind the curtain that they were going for. The one note here that hasn't aged is the real-life stuff with the hovercraft eluding the sentinels. Since those shots are pure CG they come off much faker than the Matrix stuff, which I guess could be a philosophical comment but I suspect is more a product of its age.
And lastly, both the iconic horns of the score and the ultra 90s-ness of the source music used puts the musical atmosphere of the film into the category that all the other 90s techno-babble hacker shit like Lawnmower Man and Hackers and The Net to shame. The Propellerheads bassline when Neo and Trinity enter the lobby is like... a joke at this point. Or the Rage Against the Machine that closes the movie, or even the Prodigy and whatnot that blasts in the hacker/bdsm club at the beginning all work so hard for the tone of this movie. It really feels to me like a definition of film at the end of the millennium.
I guess that's a lot of words to say I still liked the movie, and probably nothing a ton of critics haven't already said, but it's now on the record one more time as I bid adieu to this most perfect version of the story and its world and head into the sequels. I honestly can't remember many actual details about the second or third... but I'll get into those more in a couple hours.
|12.27.21||The Matrix Reloaded||Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski||It felt like much had changed between 1999 and 2003. I had graduated college. Was trying to figure out what came next. I was watching a lot of movies. And the gang of college friends had continued on in the form of a semi-annual weekend where we got together and hung out. Usually these revolved around some big movie release and this was one of them. I think I first saw this in some theater in Chicago as part of a whirlwind weekend where we also played through the entirety of Enter the Matrix.|
The first was such a huge hit that the sequels were one of the biggest budgets and all-consuming deals ever. Production took forever... I think the Wachowskis really wanted to get Jet Li to be in them, I think the dude who played Tank held out for more money and was replaced... so much was made about these two sequels being shot together that the release more or less dominated a year or so. Not only was there the movies but also the video game where you played as Niobe and Ghost, setting up the events of the second film. There was also The Animatrix which was an anthology of sorts of animated shorts told in the Matrix world... It seemed like every idea from the first movie was now exploded and any possible influence or inspiration was on full display for the world to consume in preparation of the all-mighty coming of the second and third movies. Maybe Phantom Menace was the only movie with more hype behind it.
So of course everyone was disappointed. I do remember being a defender of this one at the time. Second movies are tough, right? They have to build on the first but also set up the third. The Two Towers had also just come out so it seemed like a few awesome set pieces and a lot of connective tissue was the template they were following. And I loved the second Back to the Future, so I was willing to give benefit of the doubt. If you considered the highway fight scene The Matrix's Helms Deep, you could kind of let the zion rave and all the clunky resistance politics slide in hopes that the third paid everything off nicely. I was also of the opinion that while some of the effects clearly didn't work, a lot of it really did.
Watching it again, I'm not as convinced. Even the highway sequence, which was still the highlight for me, cut to really clear green screen when it was time for Morpheus to fight the agent. All of the car and motorcycle work still looks great, but it's super obvious any time they abuse the digital human effects they had. Neo and Agent Smith look completely video-game-y. This isn't helped by the cartoonish sound effects like bowling pins accenting the action. The level of effects fit so well in the first film but now it's clear they reached too far for the sequels. That kind of thing is polished now with the Marvel movies but didn't work back then.
A major problem that I had at the time was wrapping my head around why Neo still needed to fight agents. Once you defeat death and realize that pain is a mental construct and stop bullets and fly around, why do you still need to kung-fu? Now I guess I see it like he's a superhero with specific abilities maybe? But it still holds true that if he's seeing The Matrix for the code that it is, he should be a MUCH bigger badass there. He should be not just able to fend off a hundred Smiths but to walk through walls and stop fists like they were really slow bullets. It still bugs me but I do understand that the intent of the movie is to be a cool sci-fi mixture of martial arts and technology and philosophy so the fighting's gotta be there even if they have to invent characters like Seraph just to put more fighting in. But it stretches the premise that the first film set.
I guess that's what many of my story issues share. How can Agent Smith can infect a physical person with his personality? Wasn't he obliterated? Even if he has some of Neo's "code"... Neo can't do that shit, he's still kung-fu-ing. So a lot of that speaks to them having to make more story... set up some plot devices that allow them to carry four more hours of content. Where the first hour of the first movie is like a master class in exposition, this one feels like I'm watching Star Trek: The Next Generation or something. All that stuff in Zion felt so strained and uncinematic. Clearly the "easy" scenes to shoot quickly to make enough room for the hard shit.
Side Note: The rave scene doesn't bother me so much as that there is exposed lava right where they are dancing. All those people would be boiled alive or asphyxiated right?
And while I did understand more of what The Architect was talking about, I still have that vivid memory of being... almost pissed off that there's this chunk of exposition intercut with these action sequences... I remember understanding nothing of what The Architect said. Like my mind was dashing to keep heads and tails of everything going on, so much so that the dude's words one-by-one made sense but strung together meant nothing. Now I think it's just the Wachowskis thinking "how would a computer sound trying to talk to a human" and using some big words. And again. Neo can see in code right? Like, why are his conversations with both The Oracle and The Architect so stilted? For the most part I thought Keanu did a decent job of acting "different" in this one, more mystical or empowered or whatever... but he still reverts to "Whoa..." guy in these two scenes.
So... final thoughts on the middle movie. I do appreciate the stuff with these rogue programs... TRON-esque exiles hiding in the nooks and crannies of back doors and hacky bits of the matrix. I think Neo stopping the sentinels is a good ending to a second movie (although again! if he can digitally start Trinity's heart... if he can stop the sword blade with his hand then why does it bleed! Shouldn't it be he either stops it cold or it lops off fingers? Why is there a middle ground?), and it's not really that bad I don't think. If the first movie is a 9, this is a 7. I guess it really is the next movie that shits all over the franchise like the last season of Game of Thrones. Let's find out.
|12.27.21||The Matrix Revolutions||Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski||And now it's over. I think it's not so much that this movie is bad - in the time since, we've seen some legit BAD endings to things, like the last Hobbit movie and Game of Thrones - but more that this doesn't feel much like The Matrix to me. For one, it's barely in the matrix at all. There's the fetish wear club scene and a few scenes with the new Oracle (due to the original actress passing away I believe) but most of this movie is in the real life and leads toward a massive CGI battle between mechs out of nowhere and swarms of sentinels kinda Minas Tirith style.|
The problem is this becomes like a war movie with all the sigh-inducing war movie tropes like the recruit kid saving the day, lines of dialogue like "I made a promise!", "You can do it", and "Neo, I believe!" Gone is any trippy mind-fuck stuff, replaced by typical CGI spectacle that is now tired and commonplace in every Marvel movie.
I will say that for some reason the CGI looks a little better here than in Reloaded, but that may be just because they're doing sentinels and other machines instead of humans. The Neo vs. Smith stuff still has that uncanny valley coupled with the scale being so big that it becomes less interesting. On one hand, I guess Neo has finally figured out how to be indestructible, but he's also still punching dudes.
Now, My memory of the final scene between the Architect and Oracle is subtly different. I doubt they changed it so it must be my mind playing tricks, but I could've sworn they more explicitly acknowledged that everything would be reset, there would be a new One, and the cycle would start again, but this go around things are a little happier or something. Instead, I now understand their conversation to mean that zion still exists and the matrix kinda soft-reboots but the peace that Neo made a deal for (somehow the result of machinations by Oracle? like she set up that Agent Smith would start replicating?) would hold and anyone who wanted to yeet out of the matrix could do so without being hunted down.
My big issue with that is that the ending as i previously understood it was that zion itself and the 'real world' was also a simulation, and that's what the Architect was talking about at the end of Reloaded. If it's not, it REALLY doesn't explain how Agent Smith could possess someone or how Neo could see without his eyes (or affect sentinels). The story kinda only works that way... otherwise we're talking about supernatural elements otherwise not present anywhere else. If my understanding is correct, it's not as explicitly explained as I thought it was. But mostly I think by the time people got to the end they were done caring one way or the other.
And I felt the same way. This movie is much more of a slog than the last. I was pretty detached by most of the zion fight. and like there wasn't much left in the ideas barrel so it was all typical bombast and spectacle like the third Pirates movie (complete with a limbo scene at the beginning). If the second one was a 7, I'd put this at a 6, maybe 5.5. Not egregiously terrible and maybe the sequels' reputation is a little overly harsh, but they do turn a remarkable first movie into a somewhat more mundane trilogy.
Or should I say Quadrilogy? After all this, I'm finally primed and ready to check out the new one. Unfortunately it's like 3AM and I'm guaranteed to fall asleep before the end, but whatever I miss tonight I'll finish up in the morning. Let's do it!!!
|12.27.21||The Matrix Resurrections||Lana Wachowski||This one's kinda weird. and I guess it's new enough to contain spoilers.|
I didn't think it was unforgivably terrible, but I also don't know that it's notably good. For one, we live in an age where sequels and reboots are getting mixed together in all sorts of weird ways. While this is certainly a sequel, it uses a few too many "flashbacks" for my taste. I liked the echoed usage in the Trainspotting sequel but here they use it both for us and in the fiction of the narrative as a video game that Neo created. I don't know how a bunch of old film footage passes as a video game but whatever. I think I wouldn't have minded if they did one or the other but doing both is not needed (especially if you've just watched the trilogy beforehand...).
The fight choreography is ok but not incredible. Kudos to Keanu for holding his own with the younger actors but Carrie Ann Moss was probably like "one scorpion kick is all you get," which is understandable. But still... it's just another factor to put this movie firmly in the "ok" category. The first two films tried really hard to present top-tier martial arts fighting scenes augmented with CG and this one is back to relying a bit too much on editing and music.
The story... I liked. It didn't answer the big question I was left with at the end of Revolutions, probably because it needed all of its exposition time to explain how Neo and Trinity were still alive. Laurence Fishburne's absence is very notable to me... I guess maybe if they do a 5th one he can come back Cobra Kai style or something but considering the lengths they went to answer some of the other continuity questions, a mere mention and a statue doesn't seem fitting given Morpheus' stance in the original films.
And the new characters were good for the most part. I'm not sure how I feel about overt humor in the world of The Matrix... To me, one of the things that set that series apart was its unabashed epic-ness in tone. Sure there were laughs, but never a goofy sidekick or things like that. But again... I think maybe these days all movies have to have all things.
So... since I made the mistake of rating the first three in these notes, I guess I have to say that this was like a solid 6.5? I think I liked it more than Revolutions but less than Reloaded. Mostly what I felt with this movie was that it was a reunion for the cast and whatever crew re-joined (the cameo from Chad Stahelski was a nice touch) and like the meta -comment at the beginning of the film hints at, if this was gonna happen no matter what with or without Wachowski input, then it could've been a lot worse).
And thus ends Matrix Day. On to day 2!
|12.28.21||Celine and Julie Go Boating||Jacques Rivette||Day Two! Criterion Random Roll!|
This year the pool size is 16, which for now makes sense as a 1d2 followed by a 1d8. As always, these are Criterions I own but haven't seen, some of which I'm really psyched to watch and others will probably never see unless the fates tell me to do so (looking at you, Dr. Mabuse).
First roll, stack 2 film 7.
Spine number 1069.
I've had this on my list to see since waaay back in college when I was going through all those top 100 lists and whatnot. Peter Bogdanovich wrote a list of essential movies and this was one of the few I could never track down a copy of. All these years later, Criterion released it and here it is. What I did not know is that it's more than three hours long... which is always tough when you're trying to watch as many movies as you can in one day. Oh well, maybe I'll love it!? I really don't know anything about it other than Rivette is generally a part of the French New Wave but I haven't really seen any of his movies. Let's see how this goes.
The thing about this movie is that there's no boating. I started the movie, and I saw Celine and I saw Julie, but then I started waiting for them to go boating. An hour passes, half the movie, two hours in, three hours in! still no boating. All this stuff happens with this house and these people, but where's the boating? The only thing I know about this movie is that Celine and Julie go boating!!!
They go boating.
In all seriousness though, this movie was a slog for me. I liked the second half a tiny bit more than the first, and I liked the ending but the run-time killed me here. I could've gotten the same effect in half the time I think. I'm sure this has its place for those who love it, but for me it was slow. I had more than enough time to ponder the nature of making shit up and watching movies and all that, but I've also seen other movies do the whole surreal deconstruction thing (with shorter run-times).
I will say I noted the Alice in Wonderland references and thought it was a nice transition from the white rabbit stuff in The Matrix to this. The dice are probably better festival programmers than I am.
Perhaps this will be a film that sticks with me and my fondness for it will grow, but right now I'm ready for the next one.
|12.28.21||Riot in Cell Block 11||Don Siegel||Second movie of the day: Stack 2, roll 4: Spine #704.|
After 4 Matrix movies in a row followed by a three hour plus French surreal comedy, this 80-minute 1950s prison movie by Don Siegel is like a breath of fresh air. Escape from Alcatraz is a near perfect movie in my opinion and it's been quite a while since I've seen a film noir (I went through a major phase just prior to starting this journal) so I'm totally psyched.
This starts out with a total newsreel style intro complete with an interview bit with prison commissioner Robert McGee (who's thanked in the titles, presumably for access to shoot in Folsom). What follows is 75 minutes of lean tough filmmaking. It's not showy but feels extremely authentic for its time, and carries the bleak social commentary shared by many similar films (particular some Fox noirs).
It flew by, and I liked it pretty well. I could watch 4 more just like it, but let's see what I roll next.
|12.28.21||Paris is Burning||Jennie Livingston||Movie 3: stack 2, number 5. Spine 1018|
I actually bought this for Molly, who is a huge RuPaul's Drag Race fan, but since I haven't seen it and it's a criterion... it went in the pool.
While I'm not really a super drag fan, what I do obsess with is 90s/80s NYC. I also was growing up during this time so I have vague memories of this movie coming out along with, thanks to MTV's House of Style (which I watched for... reasons) like Madonna's Truth or Dare and the Isaac Mizrahi doc and stuff like that... plus seeing club kids on Jerry Springer all that. It seemed like this culture was on the fringe yet still had small glimpses of visibility at that time. Nothing like today of course, but I think this stands as one of few seminal docs on the subject.
Huh. This was pretty good. There's not a lot of exterior footage here but that 80s dirtiness comes through. Of course the movie's not really about that... it's just the setting for this subculture which feels portrayed without judgement or exploitation by the filmmaker to me (who has no clue). It does almost feel foreign at times, stepping into this world with its own rituals and lexicon, but just like that krumping doc Rize or Penelope Spheeris' third Decline of Western Civilization or I guess any other movies in this vein, it lives by presenting individuals that you grow to care about.
It's also a time capsule considering most of the footage was shot in 1987 in a community deep in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. It's only lightly touched upon in the film but you have to imagine a significant impact just as or right after this movie happened.
Some of this interlocks with other stuff I've watched regarding DJs and famous clubs like The Loft and Paradise Garage but mostly it's balls and vogue-ing and reading shade and a bunch of other words I now know about.
And it was only 76 minutes! which means I'm on to the fourth film of the day before midnight. Let's see what it is.
|12.28.21||Irma Vep||Olivier Assayas||Criterion 4: stack 2, number 5. Spine #1074.|
I'm rolling very high today, and consequently getting a bunch of these recent purchases. This one I think I saw a few parts of on IFC or something but have never seen it straight through, so I'm pretty excited! And it's under two hours long so I'll be able to get one more in after this, which is great. Let's do it.
As it turns out, I'd only seen the last few minutes, which is maybe a shame since it's quite different from the rest of the film. I didn't think the whole thing would be that experimental, but I also didn't know it was such a Day for Night type movie. I think I like movie-about-movie movies more than the average dude, but they can tend to become a little familiar after a while. This has enough of those 90s stylistic touches (not to mention a ton of latex catsuits with hilarious foley work) to give it an identity.
There may be more to say here, but it's quite late and I want to roll the dice one more time.
|12.28.21||A Brief History of Time||Errol Morris||Criterion movie 5. Switching to a d12 since the pool is down to that many: 11. The dice rolled incredibly high all day!. Spine #699.|
In a way, this is a great late night movie. The Philip Glass score and Hawking's "voice" combined with Morris' unique documentary style makes for this meditative almost hypnotic vibe.
I definitely fell asleep.
You know, in a way... this is a great matinee movie. A bunch of very intelligent British academics talking in polite tones about Hawking's life, black holes, the nature of time, and a unified theory of the universe make for a very pleasant daytime experience.
I very much like Errol Morris' "early" work and this was the one that always slipped through the cracks. I kinda thought it would be a dense head-scratcher with a bunch of close-ups of Hawking's face and voice-over. While it does have that visual style (along with trademark Morris beautiful abstract photography of things like teacups and clocks and whatnot), there's a surprising amount of interview footage from all manner of other people (none of which are identified on screen) to portray both the biographical stuff and the astrophysics stuff in a much more understandable and relatable way. So really this is just prime Morris which is a treat to get to see for the first time.
An early statement stuck with me: that Hawking chose to study theoretical stuff because he had slacked off and didn't know many facts. Pretty funny, even in computer synthesizer voice.
This really works on two levels. For one, there's the heady stuff that Hawking's book is about which is supremely ponderable and fun to think about, but then there's also the concept of Hawking himself, a genius brain perhaps trapped or perhaps formed by his ALS. How that limitation might unlock other areas, further limits of what the human body and brain are capable of... is also very interesting to think about. So any time whenever these Cambridge eggheads lose you, you can always fall back to "geez! Can you imagine doing all of this without being able to write anything down!?"
Overall I liked this very much. I should look for Morris' later work... give his Netflix show another chance.
|12.29.21||Licorice Pizza||Paul Thomas Anderson||Day Three: Bangers Day.|
Every movie I watch today I'm pretty psyched about. So much so that I had a hard time picking an order. So why not start with the movie I'm most looking forward to seeing.
Wow. Absolutely loved it. In terms of non-spoiler stuff, this is like a PTA Version of Once Upon a Time in the San Fernando Valley. Similar period vibe but with a PTA story rather than Tarantino. They will probably make an inevitable (but tonally incompatible) double feature.
Ok spoilers ahead...
First off, any movie that starts off at Cupid's Hot Dogs I have to love. While we moved away when I was around 8, I was born and did spend my childhood in early-80s LA right there in the valley. This movie takes place a good 5 - 10 years before my memories kick in but it's enough that the signage and vibe was still there, along with my family's beloved Cupid's. At first, we would have it every so often, but then as my various aunts and uncles moved further away from the valley (end definitely once we moved to Colorado), getting to go to Cupid's was a highlight of any trip back to the area. Their chili dog still stands as my all-time favorite hot dog even though I haven't had one in probably 25 years. My family's ritzy meal out was always Lawry's Prime Rib in Beverly Hills which was quite a todo and I only got to go a small handful of times, but Cupid's was the neighborhood spot like a mile from our house. Loved it.
Nostalgia for a single shot of the movie aside, this is a real journey of a movie as it winds through all sorts of places as these two characters come to know each other. You never really know where it will go next but each stop along the way are just wonderful pieces of filmmaking. Not showy like Boogie Nights/Magnolia, not awkward like Punchdrunk Love, but mature and sure-footed and astute. It's what I feel Inherent Vice reached for but couldn't quite grasp.
And practically every scene is a joy. I wanted to just list them off here so I don't forget but I wouldn't do them justice. All these worlds are represented though. The Valley haunts and restaurants, the crushing weird world of childhood acting, the novelty of 70s LA Japanese food, the bizarre insanity of old-world Hollywood, talent agents, entrepreneurs, waterbeds, pinball, fuckin crazy ass Bradley Cooper... Everything gets its attention in perfectly written, amazingly performed moments that are sometimes hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking.
I can't believe how good the Bradley Cooper scenes are, or goddamn John Michael Higgins. Fred Gwynne, Harriet Sansom Harris as the talent agent oh my god. And these are just the players bumping off Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim who are both so authentically unique and comfortable in their selves. Really the whole Haim household are better actors than I thought they'd be. I guess for whatever reason you assume Phil Hoffman's son has in his genes to be a great actor but that's a lot to live up to and he does a great job here.
And just like Tarantino's movie, the plot is pretty loose. At times it seems like it could become Taxi Driver, or Dazed and Confused, or ... well, Boogie Nights, but you're along for the ride and are kind of bummed when it's over. To me, all the period stuff is done just as well as Tarantino's movie, and it's kind of a shame that they share so many similarities.
One more thing to put on the record before I stop gushing and get to the next movie. PTA Shoots every time of day so wonderfully. There's some amazing sunset, magic hour, and post-sunset shots, some of which seem like they might be digitally-corrected because they are so well photographed. A lot of hubbub came up about Phantom Thread not having a DP but this movie really swings for the fences much more than the previous in my opinion, and it knocks it out of the park.
Ok ok ok. Gotta move on. But goddamn was this a good movie.
cupids hot dogs!!!
|12.29.21||Isle of Dogs||Wes Anderson||Next up we're moving on to a Wes Anderson double feature! For whatever reason, I never saw this when it came out and now that French Dispatch is out I can actually see two new Wes Anderson movies in one sitting. I sometimes feel like Anderson has carved such a niche for himself that his movies have become formulaic, but on the other hand... when you like the formula, who cares? I drink Coke Zero like every day, I'm not sitting here thinking "I wish some cans would switch it up and taste like Pepsi." And it's also not like anyone else is doing Wes Anderson movies so... enough talk, let's go!|
I liked this. I don't know why but for whatever reason... maybe because this was semi-crowd funded or whatever, I thought this would not be as good as his usual films. I like Fantastic Mr. Fox quite a bit though, and I liked dogs quite a bit. Guess I was being dumb because this feels every bit as charming as Fox while retaining that insane formalism and symmetry that's in all of Anderson's work.
This one does lean quite heavily into Japan, which makes for wonderful music and excuses to put even more words on screen. It is a little weird that if you squint your ears, Bryan Cranston's voice becomes George Clooney's and this is basically a sequel to Mr. Fox, but whatever. It's still good stuff.
And I'm sure whatever I have to say about Wes Anderson's style can also be said after the next one so we might as well move onto the second half of this double feature and trade Japan for France!
|12.29.21||The French Dispatch||Wes Anderson||Whew.|
It really does seem like Wes Anderson is folding in on himself. This is either the best Wes Anderson movie or the worst, depending on how you view his particular... particular-ness. To me it was overwhelming dense. I felt like I should pause after each cut to fully absorb everything but that would've exploded the view time into next week. I remember when people were talking about different aspect ratios for Grand Budapest Hotel but this is completely out of control. Everything is cranked up, which again is a triumph and pinnacle but may be approaching Orson Welles levels of baroque-ness. Except where Welles' work was frenetic and layered, this is intricate and precise. Either way, it can be exhausting with its too-much-ness.
So yeah... I mean there's not even one movie in here but like three and a half, jammed together better than any anthology I've seen, but I don't even know what to talk about. I mean there's like a thousand people in the cast, I probably didn't spot half of them.
BUT, I did enjoy it. All this faux-complaining is to say that it's remarkable work that's probably made for repeat-viewing which beats 90% of the stuff coming out these days. I will just have to watch it again after some digestion to see how it flops out in the Anderson Oeuvre.
|12.29.21||Nightmare Alley||Guillermo del Toro||Next up is the new Guillermo del Toro although I'm not sure what led him to remake this classic noir (excuse me, re-adapt the book from which a classic noir has already been made) although I suppose the freak show carnival angle makes sense.|
It's certainly a good cast doing good work, and the extra running time puts more space into the story for sure... On paper I should've loved this a little more than I did though... probably because of the source material. I suppose it's a decent enough noir but we've also had Carnivale and I've read Geek Love in the meantime. Definitely the first act is my favorite. It's very cool to see Ron Perlman and Willem Dafoe and Clifton Collins, Jr. together as carnies, but funny enough the whole femme fatale fatalism thing that's so iconic in noirs works way better for me in 40s and 50s movies than it did here. I love Cate Blanchett but seeing Bradley Cooper's character so clearly self-destruct felt a little tired where maybe it was novel way back when.
Who knows. I still liked it. And there's a glimpse of Bradley's ween which is something I suppose.
OK. I think we're down to the last movie of the fest, ending with what I hope is a great midnight movie. For whatever reason I've got the Girl from Starship Venus' theme song stuck in my head...
|12.29.21||Last Night in Soho||Edgar Wright||It was a toss-up between this and Nightmare Alley for the last film but I thought this might be a little trippier and more appropriate for late-night viewing. I think I made the right choice even if I wound up liking Nightmare Alley more.|
It's kind of a shame because I'm an Edgar Wright fan and, like Tarantino, love to hear him talk about movies... but I think the balance in this one was a little off for me. At first I thought it would be kind of a thriller version of Midnight in Paris where the modern-day girl investigates the swingin'60s girl's murder, but instead it's more of a psychological thriller that falls into the trap where what seems like 60% of the movie is the lead actress running around afraid/crazy. Some movies can pull that off, but it's easy for it to feel old to me. The mystery aspect is quickly solved on a meta layer because there's only two older actresses cast and Terence Stamp is too on-the-nose. So that's kind of a shame, because I'm sure a lot of the technical aspects of seeing both actresses in reflections all over the place took a whole bag of tricks and the production design of the period stuff is great and the music is top notch. It's really just the story that let me down... but unfortunately that's a critical element.
But you know, It's not terrible or anything. I enjoyed it well enough, and it's a decent enough film to be Diana Riggs' last (who's cast quite well I might add, as is everyone). And the Swingin' 60s bits are every bit as flashy and energetic as they should be. If it was just a tinge more of the beginning part and less of the chased-by-ghosts part I would've liked it 10x more.
And thus concludes another DVRfest! I had more movies locked and loaded but 3 days feels right this year so those will have to get watched another time. It seems like it gets harder and harder to find the time to do these but I'm very glad that I still do. I'm not really sure what the future will hold for me and Fantastic Fest so this very well may be the only "festival" experience I have left!
And to get them out of the way, here are the numbers for the year: 14 in the past week (2/day), 15 in the past month (0.5/day), 47 in the past year (0.13/day), and 3332 since the site started (0.53/day). 47 beats last year as my lowest view count since the site started (for comparison, I watched 61 movies in 2004 just from November 9th onward). The numbers are pretty tough to look at, and I'm not really in the mood to comment on them this year.
Instead, I'm happy to report that I loved Licorice Pizza which helps affirm that great movies are still being made. I'm generally pretty pessimistic about that, not that the Marvel movies are bad but with all the changing factors it seems like we're down to a dozen directors with the ability to make an interesting individual experience anymore and the years where they put stuff out are good and the years where they don't are bad. To bring it around and end on the conversation that started this festival, Jarrette's opinion is that more people need to go to theaters to keep that primary revenue stream open to keep the machine working. Now, he's in the industry so I understand that 100% but I also think streaming is toothpaste out of the bottle. It's a shame that people aren't double- or triple-dipping on movies anymore (paying at the theater, paying to rent, paying to buy the dvd/blu) but just like music, the Internet has facilitated a world in which watching movies has to be easier than pirating them, same as Steam for PC games and Spotify for music. I don't know what that spells for exhibitors but it caused pretty massive change in games and music. I do think creators will still have avenues to show their content, but conventional movies seen together in a theater may not be guaranteed... which is sad but also, how many hobbies do we basically enjoy exactly the same today as a hundred years ago?
Anyway, all this gobbledygook to say... I don't even know. I just figured I needed to end this note on some rambling nonsense :)