|DVRfest 2022 (11.10.22 - 11.13.22, 19 movies)|
|11.10.22||Confess, Fletch||Greg Mottola||Hey I watched a movie! And it's part of an event! and that event is DVRFEST 2022 *airhorn intensifies*|
Yep, it's officially back for one more year, back in its old time slot, and since I skipped Fantastic Fest this year it's probably the only blip of activity on this otherwise dormant blog. But let's not think about that! Let's watch movies instead!
This year was kinda tough. I knew this was coming up so I started collecting movies I wanted to catch up on, but now I have like 2 DVRfests worth of shit. So The schedule is a little fast and loose this year, but I'm excited. I have a small mountain of snacks, the house to myself for the weekend, and nothing to do but watch movies until I pass out.
I wanted to start with something easy and light and fun, like an apertif if you will. I'm happy to say that this movie fit the bill. I don't know if it's Knives Out that brought this resurgence of mysteries or what but I'm happy about it. I remember liking the old Chevy Chase movies way back when and feel like Jon Hamm is damn suitable to step into the role. I also like just about every Greg Mottola movie I see. I feel like it borders on too broad at times but for the most part stays in the pocket of charming. I particularly enjoyed the score which gave it a breezy jazzy attitude that is exactly what I wanted from this. So hooray for matching expectations! I liked it!
Next up is a movie I saw so long ago I may count it as new. It was also down to the wire to find a copy so I'm happy to have it available in slot number two. let's go!
|11.10.22||Tapeheads||Bill Fishman||I saw this at some point via the video store. I was a big fan of John Cusack due to Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer and I think I liked Tim Robbins ok too. I don't remember how old I was but I remember not really clicking with it because it was too all over the place. I remember much preferring the music video in that movie The Big Picture instead.|
Then some years ago, my friend Micah discovered this and fell in love with it. Ever since then I've been meaning to give it another watch, which now I have!
It's funny... I remember having similar feelings about both this and Repo Man. I liked Emilio Estevez from shit like Young Guns and Men at Work so I was not prepared for the galactic punk insanity of Repo Man. Watching this now, I still detect a share similarity... both in the setting of 80s LA with a bunch of punk musicians in roles but also a bit of the chaotic freedom that somehow got both pictures made. This is like the flip side of the coin, opting for blatant silliness rather than... whatever Repo Man is, but I still feel a kinship there, along with other stuff like Roadside Prophets (which has another gonzo Cusack cameo) which it comes as no surprise to see one of the writers on this film produced those others.
So, with the wisdom of age and experience, I really liked it this time around. The music video stuff is fun in a dated way, the story feels very much of its time, but the sheer amount of musician cameos is pretty cool. I think I maybe also saw Bobcat Goldwaith in there for a minute? You can tell it was made for very little money, but they were clever with it and it comes off as cool. Plus... what a band name: Swanky Modes. perfection.
So yeah, finally saw Tapeheads again. I'm glad to set that right in my memory.
I'm hoping to fit 2 more in tonight. Next up is some random pic that I hope is good.
|11.10.22||Arrebato||Ivan Zulueta||AKA Rapture. This was one some list of horror movies I think? It sounded intriguing since i like movies about movies, but really this is equal parts drug movie. I guess this has some connection to early Almodovar, but I haven't seen any of his early movies so that was lost on me.|
To be perfectly candid, I found most of this not for me. I didn't really understand what was going on and the droning music along with clicking camera timer actively tried to put me to sleep. I was hoping for something like the book Flicker. I got something like Godard.
I will try and slap myself awake because I've got one more to go through... which thankfully should not be slow or hypnotic.
|11.10.22||Hellraiser||David Bruckner||To wake myself up, I started this last movie with a screening of Nine Inch Nails' controversial long-lost "snuff film" made in conjunction with the Broken EP. I remember back in the day there were always rumors like that where the FBI opened a case on the Down In It video or something and this film was too intense for release since it had footage of "supermasochist" bob flanagan. It was on bootlegs for a time but I guess Trent or someone with an official copy released it on the Internet several years ago so now it's available. I was about as big a fan of NIN as you could imagine back during this time so I'm familiar with the videos MTV played for Wish and Pinion which was all of 60 seconds long. Then when NIN released their "Closure" VHS box set with all the videos I finally got to see the video for Happiness in Slavery and it was indeed pretty intense. I think the videos for Gave Up and Help Me I am in Hell were also on there although I don't remember Gave Up being so graphic. That's probably the most intense moment in the movie with all the blood and guts of a horror movie.|
The rest of the "new" footage is just a few minutes of random choppy footage. It's mostly the videos. But still, glad to officially check that one off the list and it's on to the last movie of the night: Hellraiser.
Why is this movie two hours long? I made it halfway through before passing out. But now that I'm done... why is this two hours long? There's not exactly a ton of story to get through and while the cenobite designs and make-up are pretty great, they don't have much screen time. I think this is the right call but most of the first hour dragged pretty hard for me. The second hour picks up a bit... I think they wrote themselves into a corner by having the puzzle box have like 7 configurations. I appreciated the deep exploration of exactly how the box works (I don't know if they've gotten into that in previous movies or not), but that box is like the star of the movie.
Now, it should be mentioned that I haven't seen any of the shitty sequels past 4 so I don't know how bad the series has really become. I don't think this movie is terrible by any means, and it's probably a joy for Hellraiser fans to finally have a new movie with some kind of budget made by people who don't hate the franchise (thanks, Daniel for that phrase). So the fact that it's a half hour too long is trivial compared to what it could be. And it's worth calling out a second time how great the cenobite designs are. In particular I loved the dude with the flat face like a callback to the wooden pillar in the first/second films.
So there's plenty to like here... but it does have the vibe of a tired sequel that's more interested in the gore and novelty of monster design than something fresh and deep. Can't be avoided I supposed, but they're never gonna top the first film.
So that concludes day one (technically). Following DVRfest tradition, day two will be devoted to Criterion Random Roll, so I have no idea what's up next. I am down to 12 titles in the pool though, and I remember last year had some tough rolls. I think there are still a few mines in the field here but mostly it's good stuff I'm excited by so... let's see!
|11.11.22||Le Doulos||Jean-Pierre Melville||Roll: 8|
Spine Number: 447
So this is proof that Melville can make a movie under two hours! This is what I'd call a more typical noir which I guess stretched all the way into the 60s. I know they were making reactive noirs in the 50s as well so I'm not sure if this genre was still popular this late or if it was just Melville centering in on what would eventually become his trademark slow burn crime stuff like Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge. In any case, this plays like a classic noir with a few little touches that set it apart. There's a scene early on where the score rises with the action until Belmondo turns off the radio, making it diagetic. And there's still a very French vibe with the cigarettes and contemplative facial expressions. In one scene a character makes another character a sandwich on baguette and it looks so goddamn good... way better than the Goldfish I was munching on.
But it still follows the format with trenchcoats and low key lighting and convoluted but ultimately tragic story. The movie does an interesting thing with its on-screen text at the beginning explaining the title as underground slang for "Hat" but also the man who wears it: a police informant! So right off the bat you're like ok who's the Hat? The problem being, of course, that every one wears a damn hat. So like 30 seconds in you're primed to expect this informant and that led me to expect maybe a proto-Infernal Affairs or something... but the movie knows what its doing.
So... all these things are to mean that this movie is right in my wheelhouse. I liked pretty much everything about it. And while he's not wielding that pacing to expert effect like his later movies, Melville still has a strange effect where you start off thinking it's very slow and almost boring but soon enough you realize that you're completely engaged. I don't know if I'm giving Melville the benefit of the doubt because I've seen his other movies, or if it would work the same way for a newcomer... but that's how I experienced it.
|11.11.22||Brute Force||Jules Dassin||roll: 6|
Another noir, this time 40s American from heist-master Jules Dassin (who I believe was American but when to France when he was blacklisted?) and a prison drama written by Richard Brooks and starring tough guy Burt Lancaster.
I don't know if this is a real thing or not but it seems to me that there's a clear difference between 40s and 50s noirs. While 40s noirs are still dark and bleak and pessimistic, they also have a kind of reserved etiquette that the 50s movies don't have. So a movie like this, while it's about prison conditions and humanity under oppression and all that, it still has a polite level of decency. Compared to a movie like Riot in Cell Block 11 it feels like a melodrama.
And I'm not saying that's bad. Just a different vibe, less dangerous. But what it lacks in edge it more than makes up for in an almost romantic feeling of civility. Even the fearsome prison guard captain here is played by soft-spoken Hume Cronyn. He does still convey menace but in a classically-trained perfect-grammar sort of way.
I'd say Cronyn is actually the stand-out here. And the ending does deliver, but the various flashbacks showing how each main character came to be in the prison feel pretty flat to me. After Le Doulos, this one doesn't quite stack up. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, just that it was only good not great.
|11.11.22||The Testament of Dr. Mabuse||Fritz Lang||roll: 4|
The rolls are getting lower and lower, the movies are as well. I thought this was a 2-hour silent film from Fritz Lang so I thought it was a real landmine that I've been putting off for probably 20 years, but now that I'm forced to watch it I realize that it has sound! it's the follow-up to M!
Even with fancy sound to listen to, the movie takes a while to get going. And while there is some cool stuff with old-school visual effects like double exposure and even scratching the film for an explosion effect, it's also susceptible to a shitload of scenes where people are just standing around talking to one another in that early 30s way.
It also took quite a while for me to figure out what the movie was about. It's something to do with crime, but it takes quite a while to really come in to focus. I know that the Dr. Mabuse character is one that Lang revisited several times throughout his career but it takes a long time for him to come on screen.
Still, trying to put this film in context, it seems like it precedes a ton of psychological thrillers and crime procedurals, and I'm sure if you put it up against a typical Hollywood film from the same year this would really stand out. I mean there are car chases and it dips into expressionism and moves the camera a bunch, but it also has to explain stuff like ballistics analysis to prove that the same gun shot two bullets which is something the entire movie-going world has known for like 50 years.
So I can't say I had a great time watching it, nor can I say I didn't get distracted a bit through the middle, but at the end of it I find myself wishing for more time to go through the special features and learn the backstory of this film, why Lang stayed close to the character throughout his career, and if Mabuse is supposed to be Hitler or something, because his criminal plans are pretty extreme.
Also of note, the second disc on this ancient dvd release has a French version of the film that I guess Lang filmed at the same time. I know a few other movies have done this (notably Dracula) but it's wild to think, like, ok cut! let's go again with the French actors! Cutting together both films simultaneously. Pretty intense.
where is the time going!? time for a pizza and hopefully 2 more. Next!
|11.11.22||Deep Cover||Bill Duke||roll: 9|
from one of the oldest discs in my collection to one of my newest! I just picked this up in the last 50% off sale after talking to my friend Grant about it. I think I saw this at some point when it hit HBO but have no memory of it and back then I didn't know the director was also the dude from Predator so it was time for a revisit.
Also, part of me is feeling a yearn to return to these 90s thrillers that proliferated back then and I saw randomly on cable. My old neighbor and best friend Camron recently reached out and we've been catching up so the early nineties have been flooding back into my brain. Cable and HBO played a significant role back then, as did the video store, but more on that later.
So now that I've seen it, I'm pretty sure my memories of this are just from the Dr. Dre music video. The movies on HBO were more like Light Sleeper and Bad Influence. I wasn't into hip hop back then but that "It's 187 on the undercover cop" was catchy and everywhere. The introduction of Snoop Dogg... even though I greatly prefer Eric B and Rakim's song from Juice, but this certainly sits up there with Ice-T's Colors.
This was pretty good. It's a surprisingly mainstream pick for the Criterion collection, but I'm with it. This probably aged better than other black movies from that era like New Jack City (which I remember liking back in the day but even then i thought it was pretty over the top) and Juice (except the song of course). Boyz n The Hood and Menace 2 Society probably still pack more punch but for a crime thriller this was solid. It's nice to see Jeff Goldblum not play a wackadoo variant of his current persona, back when he could "act" "normal." Fishburne's also great, there's some great Hollywood scenery in the locations, and a nice breath of accessible air after a day full of reading subtitles.
Ok, it's midnight. Let's do one more. Next!
|11.11.22||The Earrings of Madame De...||Max Ophuls||roll: 5|
The only Max Ophuls movie that I've seen is Lola Montes, which I didn't like much the first time I saw it and absolutely loved it the second time.
This certainly follows similar themes both in style and story... I'm not sure if every Ophuls movie is about a lady with a heart problem who but the last two are. And while it's not the flashy spectacle of Lola Montes, Ophuls still whirls the camera all over the place with several impressive sequences through massive sets or locations. One in particular shows a burgeoning attraction between two characters as they dance at various functions with costume changes done with seamless cuts syncing with the steps of the dance. And there is this baroque level of detail pertaining to these characters' social standing. Like there's always some servant ready to hand them a hat or take a coat or whatnot. The costumes are lavish and sparkle in the lens. It's a very lush viewing experience.
As for the story, it involves the titular earrings and how they change hands through the course of the film. It's not quite to the extent of movies like Twenty Bucks which follows the item from character to character but it does make a nice framing device. When it first kicks in I thought it would prove to be a light-hearted comedy of coincidence type deal but... nah. It's sad. However, it is pretty cool how the earrings hold different meanings to the different characters that change throughout the film.
So, I thought it was interesting. I was engaged the whole time, but again I can't help but compare it to his next film which is just a filmmaking marvel, so that's hard to top. I am struck by the similarities between the two, and feel like this would be much more acclaimed if Montes doesn't exist because it showcases many of the same talents.
This is also the first movie i've seen Vittorio De Sica in as an actor. He's pretty good!
Ok. it's 2 am. I'm still awake. do i push it one more or call it a night? Looking through the runtimes of what's left, there's only 1 that's longer than 2 hours. As long as I don't roll a 7 I think I'm good for one more. Next?
|11.11.22||The Last Days of Disco||Whit Stillman||roll: 5|
I've actually never seen a Whit Stillman movie before. I don't know why... just slipped through the cracks. So when Criterion put out that box set with this and Metropolitan and Barcelona I almost bought it but then decided I should watch one and see if I like it or not first. I'm a fan of Chloe Sevigny so...here we are!
Ahh 90s indie... back to long dialogue-heavy scenes like the 30s talkies but now they're deconstructing Disney movies and talking about insecurity. Noah Baumbach, Nicole Holofcener, Kevin Smith, Neil LaBute... all sitting in diners or clubs or airports talking about snarky shit. That sounds dismissive, but I actually like most if not all of these movies and this is no exception. Plus it has a stellar soundtrack and - if you'll excuse my male-ness showing for a moment - absolute smoke shows in the forms of young Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale. I mean, jesus.
Anyway, I can see how this might be misleading to those taking the title at face value. The disco element of this movie is strictly a background, used as a... i don't know, metaphor? for the characters' arcs. Anyone not ready for 100 pages of dialogue is probably in for a bad time. But thankfully, this is exactly what I thought a Whit Stillman movie would be like, so I'm happy with it. I'll probably pick up the other two at some point.
And with that, Day 2 is over. I didn't fall asleep which means it's fucking late so hopefully Day 3 won't be postponed by sleeping in, but I managed to halve the random pool! We're down to d6 territory! Will next year be the end of this tradition? probably not but you never know!
|11.12.22||52 Pick-Up||John Frankenheimer||Day 3! and also the only full day of intentional programming. There were about 30 movies I wanted to fit into today but let's try and get through 6, starting with this 80s Elmore Leonard adaptation starring Roy Scheider and directed by John Frankenheimer.|
I remember this video box having an exceedingly boring cover and I think this came out before we had cable so I don't think I've seen this before, but it fits perfectly in that HBO-era crime thriller that I remember watching a ton of.
Also, my friend Grant recently turned me on to a movie podcast hosted by Josh Olsen and Joe Dante. For the longest time I swore off movie podcasts because I felt like it was one big echo chamber of the same circuit of guests answering the same questions, or geeks like me talking about how great John Carpenter's The Thing is. Well I already know how good The Thing is, I don't need other geeks to tell me. So for years the only podcast I listened to was Elvis Mitchell's Treatment, but even that has fallen off lately. However, with Tarantino and Avary starting up their podcast, I've found that hearing very knowledgeable people in the industry talking about other peoples' movies actually has some value for me, so I've been loving the Video Archives podcast and have tracked down and watched a few movies they've talked about there (without any self-applied pressure to watch everything they mention). Along those lines, The Movies That Made Us podcast on Trailers from Hell (Joe Dante's website) follows a formula of having a guest on not to talk about their own movies but... as the title implies, the guests' favorite movies. And of course Joe Dante has seen everything, walking encyclopedia-style so whenever he chimes in is always interesting to me.
That's a long paragraph to explain that this movie popped onto my radar because I heard it mentioned on a podcast.
This movie had me with John Glover's obscenely strong mid-atlantic accent that comes and goes throughout the movie. It was like he came to it via coke-fueled John Waters marathon or something.
The mid to late 80s were for the most part a hard time to make a sincere thriller that didn't involve explosions or russians or exploding russians, but this movie tries pretty hard to remain in the realm of realism. The score dates it most heavily but I guess that can't be helped. But this does a good job remaining on earth as the story of a guy being blackmailed plays out in an interesting way that I found to be very satisfying.
There's also a sleazy element here which I wasn't aware of, where the blackmailers are all in the adult video/porno world of LA so there are are cameos from vintage porn stars (including Ron Jeremy) and both Vanity and a super young Kelly Preston show some skin that was de rigeur at the time but probably problematic for today. The vibe still wasn't as grungy as something like Hardcore, more 8MM in that it's a soft-focus Hollywood studio look at the scene more than, you know, real.
So I liked this. It's definitely an 80s movie but the story was smart and intriguing and the supporting cast was all entertaining. It's funny to see Clarence Williams III here playing more to his type (crazy psycho killer) right after his religious cop in Deep Cover, but he was great in both.
So next up we're going to keep the podcast picks going with another movie I learned about from Joe Dante and Josh Olsen.
|11.12.22||True Confessions||Ulu Grosbard||I didn't know this movie existed until the Movies That Made Us podcast brought it up. Apparently, Dustin Hoffman was going to direct Straight Time himself but realized it was too much and brought in Ulu Grosbard to direct him, who then went on to make this picture with Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall about the Black Dahlia murder.|
What? How had I never heard of this movie!? And that was my mistake.
In the festival circuit, if a film hits the schedule with a bunch of bankable stars and it's not the opening night film, it's usually a bad sign. It means that movie sucks so bad no one wants to distribute it even with Robin Williams or whoever. It's one of the most reliable signs that a movie is terrible (another being if the studio pays for the audience's food and drink). Similarly, if there's a movie out there starring Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall right after Raging Bull but it's never come up in like 30 years of watching movies? That's a bad sign. I mean The it falls right in between Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, and King of Comedy, Once Upon a Time in America. It SHOULD'VE come up.
This movie is a total snooze-fest. I don't understand, it's like the filmmakers wanted to make the slowest most boring version of an interesting story. They've got the body, meticulously recreated I might add, and a Brenda Allen stand-in and Duvall is a cop in the 40s with a priest brother (De Niro) who's involved with a smarmy Charles Durning. You've got the 40s sleaze of stag films and pin up girls. Yet it takes like 20 minutes just to get to the crime scene, and another hour to get around to any detective work. For some reason they thought all this nonsense with De Niro's monsignor talking to other priests about collecting money for some land deal and going to weddings and other random crap - all at 40% speed - and who cares? It's so drowsy you forget there even is a murder.
This makes me think the filmmakers must have had some other idea in mind, like the rekindling of a brotherly relationship in the backdrop of a historical crime that everyone knows? I really don't know what they were trying to do.
Now, it's entirely possible that I've just read too much James Ellroy to see any other version of this era as captivating. That's likely. And even when a director like Brian De Palma tries to tell the Ellroy version on film it comes out terrible so maybe it's just... hard? to make a movie about a girl found cut in half in a vacant lot? i guess? But so often this feels like the bizarro version of Ellroy's novel where every time it was cool or surprising or interesting, you get another seen of people whispering through a confession booth.
I'd say... the last, 20 minutes? were engrossing? But it's a lot to sit through before you get there. Tough. This is the first film of the weekend that I have not liked. Hopefully it's the only one! I'm 100% sure that I will love the next.
|11.12.22||Is That Black Enough for You?!?||Elivs Mitchell||When I moved to austin and started going to the alamo drafthouse a lot, I was really opened up to a whole other world of cinema that I wasn't aware of (if this journal is good for anything, it's a document of that time circa 2005 - 2008). Of all the stuff I was exposed to, i gravitated toward the Blaxploitation genre as a favorite. I was really taken by the exuberant energy suffused in so many of them, where a lack of budget or resources didn't stop the movies from not only be important representation of a culture but also fucking hilarious. I still remember a screening of Human Tornado that brought a full capacity house down. They had a series on February that showed Tick... Tick... Tick, Penitentiary, and The Spook Who Sat by the Door... and every one of them really stuck with me. Since then, I went through a period and tracked a lot of them down online and have notes on here documenting how I felt about them, but I really enjoy them for the most part. Yes, the socially-conscious melodramas are harder to get through than the Jim Brown action movies, and the term "blaxploitation" is somewhat divisive as is how the black community sees that era, but with as much cultural aspect aside, they are really fun movies to watch.|
So when I learned that Elvis Mitchell had put together a documentary about the decade in which they flourished, it was immediately on the watch list. No question.
Mitchell hosts The Treatment on kcrw, a show which I've been listening to in podcast form for years and years and years. I saw him one night for one of the QTfests talking to Quentin and fanboyed out more for him than Tarantino. Didn't go up and say hi because I'm a coward, but I definitely stared at him from across the venue like an idiot, so that's cool. Anyway, I'm really happy that it seems like Soderbergh and Fincher and some people got together to help him make this visual essay because he's the guy that I want this document from. This is maybe the longest movie of the fest but it didn't seem that way. I loved it.
...with just a few nitpicks. As a documentary about the films from years 1968 - 78, we spend a looong time getting to 68. Maybe he wanted to tell himself it was just about this decade so he didn't feel the weight of having to tell the story of the entire black history of cinema, but that's kind of what he did. You could argue that to understand the impact that these movies had you have to know the context of where they came from, but he's going back to Birth of a Nation! Gone with the wind. It's like a half hour to get to Putney Swope. which I have no problem with, except on the other side of the coin, representing all the movies made by black artists after 78 we get like a 7-second montage of random film posters. I mean I know I just watched Deep Cover so it's fresh on my brain but how are we not gonna get more than a literal afterthought for the various waves of black movies from the decades after the 70s? Trying hard to avoid Tyler Perry? whatevs.
Also, even with the scope tightened to a decade, some parts of the film start to feel like a laundry list with each movie getting one, maybe two sentences of narration before moving on. It reminded me of when i tried to do a mix cd of rock songs and have them completely mashed up together and I wanted to call it "30 rock songs" but I don't know shit about music theory like which songs are in what key so in the end it was more like "the beginnings of 30 rock songs." I know it's a hard choice in which movies to spotlight, which to include, and which to exclude... but a few of these films are like "then this came out."
And lastly... I'm not trying to say I know more than Elvis Mitchell here, but for all the pivotal films and independent stuff he included... no Welcome Home, Brother Charles? Jamaa Fanaka was another ucla student like Charles Burnett who released his thesis film except for instead of a poetic family drama it's about a wrongfully-imprisoned guy who gets revenge by strangling people with his huge dick. No room for that in your doc, Elvis?
So those three admittedly minor nitpicks aside, I thought this was great. It's cool to see so many good movies in one place, see the genre blossom, and special shout out to Odds Against Tomorrow which is one of my favorite noirs (a 50s noir, connecting it to my Brute Force notes, where the protagonists' plans come apart due to Robert Ryan's racism).
And putting footage of Once Upon A Time in the West set to Isaac Hayes' Walk on By? Perfect.
ok. I don't know where the time went. It's already 11 and I have 3 more movies planned for tonight. I may have to do some shifting but let's see what we can do. Next up is a double feature from a black director, both of which were acclaimed but I haven't seen.
|11.12.22||Us||Jordan Peele||There be spoilers here for this movie. Ye've been warned.|
When Get Out came out, everybody talked about it. Like, Everybody. I feel like I liked it pretty good but maybe didn't freak out? But it was a good movie and it definitely hit at the right time and maybe it was a surprise from the funny Key & Peele dude?
When Us came out, people didn't really talk about it. I took that to mean that it sucked.
The trailer showed something to do with doppelgangers, so that's the only thing I knew about this going in. Unfortunately, that was enough for an idea to come to me 15 minutes in that I spent the entire movie hoping wasn't true.
Like, I'm not one to go searching for christmas presents. I did that once as a kid and found it harder to pretend I hadn't seen it and act surprised on the day, knowing it was down there but inaccessible was worse than not knowing. But after I stopped looking I'd still literally run into them, like my mom didn't think that because she wasn't tall enough to see on top of the fridge didn't mean it wasn't exactly eye level to me. It's the same with movies. I don't spend the whole time trying to figure it out, really. If it's supposed to be a twist then I'm hoping it works on me, which is why it sucks when people say there even is a twist because that can't help but put your mind in a place to think about what it could be.
So... back to this... i "figured it out" right at the beginning. not that it helped in any way. It doesn't really matter if it turns out that the main character is the double/clone/whatever if the whole concept of the doubles/clones/whatever doesn't make any sense. Like making up words. Ah hah! The jodhpur was the rigamarole the entire time! ok?
so this underground tunnel network was home to an entire duplicate population subsisting on raw rabbit and mimicking their "surface" selves? How do they get the right clothes? what happens when the surface one dies? or has sex? It just opens a can of worms that is too much for me to extend my disbelief that far. Not even getting into who did the cloning? or where did they go? how do they have power? I mean an abandoned mineshaft is one thing but that had a working escalator. like a shopping mall. It's too much.
But I will say this. I like that they shot in Santa Cruz. I thought it was a sly reference to a movie being shot on the carousel circa 1986. I liked Peele's style in having the main characters behave in realistic ways. I was never bored, the movie moved along with a tight pace, the horror/thriller elements worked well with creepy kids and whatnot. There was some stuff here to like. I didn't have a bad time with it.
It's just that the premise demanded an explanation, like telling the audience that there's gonna be a twist then having that twist be that the people are fucking cosplayers living in some park the whole time. Unsatisfactory.
Let's see if his next one is any better.
|11.12.22||Nope||Jordan Peele||this movie is newer than Us so beware of spoilers in this post.|
The trailers showed something about aliens. This one was a little harder to avoid spoilers for... there was some article about some crazy lighting or photography technique used? That and this unspoken expectation that it's, you know, gotta be SOMETHING. Can't just be aliens or whatever. Hopefully if the story does rely on a twist it won't be telegraphed to point that i get it in 15 minutes. let's see.
Hey it was just aliens! no twist! yay!
I liked this one pretty well. Definitely more than Us. It kiiiiiinda gets loosey goosey at the very end... and the connection to the monkey tv show thing is kiiiiiiinda thin, but for the most part I thought it was good.
I especially appreciated how Peele went ahead and showed the inside of the thing. It's definitely weird and alien and not good. I also liked Daniel kaluuya's minimal-as-possible performance to counterbalance Keke Palmer, but the Fry's guy was the standout for me.
It still doesn't quite come together like Get Out did, so I can see why nobody talked about Us and this one isn't getting much chatter either, but I guess it's notable that the guy made three horror movies that didn't suck.
Ok. it's too late to watch the last movie. I'm going to try and shift it to be the last movie of the fest. it will be hilarious and awful if it gets bumped because it's a movie I REALLY should have seen by now, but I can't control time.
|11.13.22||The Ghost and Mr. Chicken||Alan Rafkin||Day four, last day, last few hours really before my time window closes.|
I wanted to start off with a classic Sunday Morning Matinee and this movie is about as Matinee-ish as you can get. Of course, since I slept in it's more like a mid-afternoon matinee but whatever.
At some point in childhood, I saw this movie called The Private Eyes. it was basically Don Knotts and Tim Conway bumbling through a whodunnit. I laughed my kid ass off. My mom, somewhat dismissively, referred to this particular brand of comedy as "slapstick", intimating that it was on the sillier and more childish end of the humor spectrum (at the time i thought the comic strip Cathy and Doonesbury was at the opposite end being erudite sophisticated Frasier-type shit). I didn't care. I thought it was maybe the hardest I had laughed up to that point, but I didn't know the name of it and haven't seen it since. Well, I got a copy of that but in the process realized that I had never actually seen this classic ever, so what was going to be a Don Knotts double feature has turned into just this one because I picked 50 goddamn movies to fit into 19 slots.
I knew pretty much nothing about the story of this film other than it was some venue for Knotts to do his thing. The story actually had a strong Preston Sturges vibe to me with the whole small town and cadre of supporting characters like the house tenants and the ladies' psychic league and everyone. Plus the guy saying "Atta Boy!" from off-screen like he's Rob Schneider. The ending gets a bit nuts but whatever, still fun.
My favorite part was probably the speech he has to give. Just him shaking his notes in front of the mic cracked me up. All these bright 60s technicolors just scream nostalgia for me and I wasn't even alive. I think it comes from watching Disney channel as a kid with Swiss Family Robinson and the ilk.
On a final note, I was very heartened to read on Knotts' wiki entry that he was a ladies' man. There's a chance for us all.
|11.13.22||Everything Everwhere All at Once||Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert||This was really good. Better than Swiss Army Man, waaaaaay better than Death of Dick Long. It's impressive to see what happens when the story is so nailed down and strongly envisioned that every element can be in sync. It definitely feels like a mosaic where every tile is placed with care, but the grand picture is also beautiful. And fun! I feel like this is the first multiverse movie that really explored some of its vast potential.|
I was trying to keep track of aspect ratios but either they got sloppy at the end or i missed some transition to where Evelyn's home universe shifted from 1.85 to 2.35... or maybe she left that one behind when... well whatever, no reason to go into spoilers about it.
I particularly liked the nods to other films here. They really had a great time playing the the actors' experiences. All in all a complete and well-realized ambitious impressive movie.
|11.13.22||Weird: The Al Yankovic Story||Eric Appel||When funny or die was a thing and the fake trailer for a Weird Al biopic starring Aaron Paul came out, I thought it was quite funny. When I heard, years later, that they were going to actually make a Weird Al biopic, I thought it was cool that he's getting his due but it's going to be a boring movie because I've heard his story and it's much like mine (except for the talent, success, enduring career, huge group of friends who speak fondly about him, and generations of fans who still come out to see his shows). When the trailer for the biopic came out, I thought something was up because they totally stole that old funny or die video! Then the dots finally connected and I realized what this was... and that was when I knew it would be great and that I would love it.|
Well, actually I was a little iffy on it because it went straight to Roku, but i had hope!
Now I've finally seen it and can say that it is great and I do love it. Daniel Radcliffe brings a real pathos to the role that I think Aaron Paul may have had trouble with. Evan Rachel Wood captures Madonna's essence perfectly, with just a soupcon of mischief behind her eyes. And Tommy O'Brien's performance was... well, it was as if John Bermuda Schwartz put down his sticks and picked up acting.
I'm joking of course. Not that the movie is terrible, so I guess I'm not really joking. What am I doing? The format and content of this movie are exactly as they should be. It hits the exact tone of Weird Al's humor, that being largely childish and silly but with an extra layer or two to appeal to the big kids in the room. Never malicious, always ridiculous.
My favorite scene has to be the Boogie Nights pool party. It's so perfect I don't even want to talk about it.
I had programmed this movie to be the festival closer and I think it works beautifully as such, but there's that one movie that I ran out of time on last night... that one movie that's been sitting in the queue ever since it came out, and it gets constant mentions... constant reminders that I haven't seen it. So let's stay up a little bit late for a Sunday night and finally cross it off the list. Consider it a secret track at the end of the cd. This is the closer, but the next one is the afterparty.
|11.14.22||Mandy||Panos Cosmatos||Mandy. The movie everyone loves. The movie I should love. The movie I was afraid I wouldn't love. I had it confused in my mind. I know Beyond the Black Rainbow played at Fantastic Fest, but there were several films like that in the early 2010s and I remember watching some Greek art-meets-genre film where all the sets were wild and colorful but the story was a huge bore that didn't go anywhere. so I thought they were one and the same, I was hesitant to watch this because I thought it was by the same guy. The film I saw was actually called Norway by Yannis Veslemes, I haven't seen Beyond the Black Rainbow, so that clears that up.|
Mandy does play largely like how I imagined it would. The story is very simple, the pace is glacial (for the first half), the simplicity of its story is obscured by a heavy veil of color and lighting, it puts you in a trance-like state, etc. The difference, for me at least, is that the movie is actually good enough to pull it off. The colors and shot composition are beautiful to look at, the score is sweeping and evocative, enough to keep things from getting boring. The title treatments are very cool, i love how the movie's title comes up halfway through the film.
Then there's one "normal" scene smack dab in the middle, between Nic Cage and Bill Duke, where there's actual dialogue and shit. After that, the last half plays out an incredibly satisfying revenge.
Cage is great here. The scene where he screams is amazing. That sentence probably sounds funny if you haven't seen the movie, which I now have.
So I liked it quite a bit. I was surprised by the quality of it and how I wasn't bored. I watching with my headphones on which probably helped as the score is such a huge factor. I now understand why so many people bring it up. constantly. Because it's really good.
And that finally wraps up another DVRfest. This is the part of my notes where I typically list off the annual stats, mention how Peter Bogdanovich kept his notes for 17 years, and talk about the future of my movie-watching habits...
...but the numbers are crap (19 in the past week fora 2.71/day avg, 20 in the past month for a 0.67/day avg, 62 in the past year for a 0.17/day avg, and 3378 since the site started for a 0.51/day avg)...
...and Bogdanovich died this year...
...and this is the 18th birthday of this journal, so I have officially beaten him. Of course I didn't have a full career making movies including some amazing classic films, but whatever.
So instead of apologizing for another lackluster year of watching more television than cinema and not going to a theater once, I am going to fill up this space talking about my movie-going habits BEFORE the journal started. If this site is to be the document of my cinematic experience, then indulge in a prequel of sorts.
I was born in LA. The valley more specifically. I remember passing a Pussycat theater on my way home from and loving the huge marquee... not realizing it was a porn theater at all. Other than that though, I didn't see LA as the movie town. We lived in the valley, my mom worked for Western airlines (the airline that Arnold sneaks out of at the beginning of Commando), my dad did some vaguely business-y thing, our family wasn't connected to the entertainment industry at all. I remember we went to a drive-in a few times and I've been told that Temple of Doom was the first movie I saw in a theater. I was 6. I do have a memory of sitting in the lobby hearing that iconic theme play over the end credits of the previous show but nothing about if Mola Ram or the bugs scarred me for life or anything like that. I do remember seeing the trailer for Ghostbusters which showed the librarian and thinking that was scary. I also remember watching some movie with Dudley Moore about a tank and my mom asking the ticket clerk what gave the movie an R rating. She was alright with profanity but I guess didn't want me to see too much nudity or violence.
As an only child I was spoiled. I loved Star Wars, somehow, so had those toys. I had a ton of toys. But as far as actually watching them I only have fleeting memories of Empire being on one saturday or something, watching the hoth battle in the living room. We had a Zenith floor model that I think was our only tv so it's not like I had any command over what we watched. I usually slept in too late to catch the Saturday morning cartoons although I did see them once or twice.
We moved from LA to Colorado in 86. I remember the reception being terrible in the mountains; my mom trying to watch tv through the fuzz and snow. She was a movie fan. John Wayne was her and her sisters' favorite star. She had a habit of watching this mini-series called Centennial every year. It was like 20 hours long; she had a VHS box set that was like 12 cassettes, looked more like a log than a box. She also loved The Godfather and had "The complete saga" on VHS as well (that's the first two movies with Part 2 split in half to tell the story sequentially). She also loved Gone with the Wind and had a framed poster of it down in the basement. What I knew was that she liked very very long movies.
Sometime during my short stint in Colorado, we started regularly going to the theater. My dad travelled a lot for business during that era so it was her and me for the most part. There were a couple multiplexes around so I remember seeing a lot of stuff. Lost Boys, Predator, Die Hard, Back to the Future Part 2, Batman, and we also had a drive-in where I saw Friday the 13th part 6 or 7, not caring about the other half of the double feature.
This was also the time where a video store popped up. I remember they had these massively-wide boxes with the actual video cover centered between pillarboxes almost. That's how I first saw Stand By Me.
Sometime around then we also got cable and the snowy barely-there image was replaced by bright vibrant stable colors. We had a tv in a basement room next to the garage (our house was on the side of a mountain so was multi-level) so I'd live down there, watching SNL and American Gladiators and the Friday the 13th series (which didn't have anything to do with Jason Voorhees).
Somewhere around here, my mom also started recording movies she liked onto tape. I remember the earliest still being crappy over-the-air antenna quality but she recorded so many she had to put little number stickers on the spines and keep a record of which movies were on what tapes.
In 89 we moved again, this time to Maryland. We got cable again not long after moving in and this is where my agency in what I saw started kicking in. We had 2 tvs (one in the living room, one in the fully-furnished basement) so I could usually get access to one. I also met my neighbor Camron and became best friends with him, who was into comic books and movies and video games like me.
My mom's catalog begat a rolodex to keep track of, video stores proliferated including one just a mile or so from the house (B&B Video, soon to become Hilltop Video), we got HBO, our town had like 3 theaters to choose from. Not too too long after, I got a tv in my room (at first just to play games but eventually got a cable box attached). I saw a lot of stuff during this period.
Cable also meant cinemax. My puberty was fueled by Cinemax after dark, picking movies to watch based on if anyone got naked in them, and... yes... I had a Boner Jams type tape where I would just record the sex scenes from the softcore flicks to watch back later. I'm sure it was laughable, spending more attention hovering over the record button trying to guess when the sex would start rather than actually exorcising the demons, but it made sense at the time.
By the early 90s Camron and I were in the theater every friday, followed by a good hour of choosing what to rent from the video store for the weekend. I never worked in a video store but these were the years where I memorized all the boxes looking for some diamond in the rough. Sometimes it worked (Amazon Women on the Moon, especially Arsenio Hall's bit at the beginning really made me laugh), sometimes it was a bust (usually if it had Full Moon Entertainment on the spine). Still, I watched it all. And if it was good, I'd watch it twice before returning it. And if it was really good, I'd tape it myself when it hit HBO.
This is how I spent most of high-school. The main difference was that I graduated to a deeper pool of resources in the form of Wonder Book & Video, a sprawling complex that was half dusty overburdened video shelves and a labyrinth of stacked and unorganized used books. My mom would get lost looking at the books while I spent hours scouring the shelves. I found a Night of the Living Dead / Reefer Madness double feature on one tape, Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom (thanks to a Stephen King quote on the box ("like ER on acid")), the two-tape Dawn of the Dead re-release just to name a few. As a testament to its quality, the place is still there today.
Around now I began to do deep dives on directors. My friend Jim and I became preoccupied with Alfred Hitchcock. I got an assignment for German class to do an essay on Fritz Lang (my other choice was Fassbinder. I had no clue who either was). I started to wonder what the deal was with this Citizen Kane movie. So I began studying each issue of TV Guide and setting my vcr to record anything that looked interesting. Tapes and Tapes full of stuff off TCM... the intros were all over the place: early morning birds chirping, late night guy in coffee shop, so many Robert Osbourne introductions. I saw most of Hitch's films this way. For Lang's films I had to go to Wonder, who had Metropolis and Die Nibelungen in their silent section (seriously, we had no art-house theater in town but this video rental store had a silent section).
I went away to college, where I got "serious" about movies. I fashioned myself a movie geek, having spent untold hours staring at the idiot box already, but soon met friends who actually worked at a theater, new stuff like digital sound and how the popcorn was made. A Cinemark Tinseltown opened outside the college town my first or second year there. It was the late 90s- a heyday of good studio stuff. I didn't rent much at first, instead going as a group at least once a week to the theater to see whatever was playing.
My second summer, AFI came out with their first Top 100 list. A straight up Top 100 Best Movies to celebrate 100 years of cinema. A guy that worked where I was doing a co-op offhandedly mentioned that he and his wife were working through the list as something to do and that sounded like a great idea to me. I had already seen a bunch of them, probably 60% of the list so why not fill in the rest? Thus began my film snob period of the hobby.
At one point I was so naively hypocritical that I was criticizing a roommate for reading a list of classic literature even though he wasn't liking them WHILE I WAS DOING EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Like gosh, why is he reading goddamn Siddhartha? Anyway, I'm off to rent Sunrise.
To help in this endeavor, Blockbuster had a extreme-level membership dealy with a bunch of coupons like renting 2-for-1 on tuesdays or whatever, so I basically descended upon that store (which was nothing compared to Wonder Book & Video) and rented everything from their foreign and classics section over the course of one summer. I'm sure my roommates hated my ass.
But by then DVD was also a thing. DC Was one of the test markets so I saw them show up at Suncoast Motion Picture Company and became an early adopter. Friends and I started a DVD review site where we offered 4 opinions on the same disc, including technical specs and commentaries and stuff like that. It was fun until we got sued for our domain. We tried a second iteration that didn't have the same energy and it quickly faded. But my collection was growing, this time with high-quality digital content that was more compact than VHS but way way cheaper than LaserDisc. My mom's collection of home-recorded tapes had grown to take up an entire wall of shelving in the basement: a uniform run of TDK or other VHS manufacturer's cases with orderly little stickers on the spine only spotted with official releases like Star Wars, and Fargo (which came with a fun little plastic snow globe), but my collection was a dizzying array of colors and typesets, dense and alluring as the films held within.
One such class had an arrangement with the local arthouse theater (The Little) where the class would see a movie (in this case In the Company of Men) then the manager came out afterward to direct a conversation with the handful of people who stayed after. It struck me as something I wanted much much more of but it never happened again. Many many Q&As with lame non-questions later, i think it probably would never be that constructive again... so it's better than it just happened once.
College ended with a burn-out. I had a tech degree but didn't want to use it. My senior year was spent taking freshman-level film courses. I wanted to double-major but it didn't really work that way and the shool told me i'd basically have to stay four extra years to do it. So I was a senior, firmly in love with the medium, amongst incoming freshman more interesting in partying and getting laid. I had a film history class with weekly screenings and the students wouldn't show up. Like, who doesn't want to watch Sunset Blvd!? "Oh, I'm going into animation. this live action stuff doesn't matter." Idiots!
I wound up living back at home, basically in my room for a few years trying to figure stuff out. They had moved while I was in college so no more cable but satellite with Tivo and pay-per-view instead. And the DVD collection kept growing. I'd watch these documentaries on movies like Visions of Light or Martin Scorsese's personal journey through cinema and come out with laundry lists of things to see. I read Truffaut's biography and finally got into the French New Wave (predisposed to like him more than Godard). Criterion Collection was fueling my art-house queue while TCM gave me an education on film noir. I read Bogdanovich's Who the Devil Made It which sent me on more excavations. IFC ran interesting documentaries on Sam Fuller and for Halloween did programs on Cronenberg and Tom Savini. The movies were coming in on all cylinders. These 2 years after college was probably the height of my interest in movies in a vacuum. I had no one to talk to about these, not outlet to vent or share. I felt I had grown too big for my pond.
And it's right about then that I created this site. My Aunt Suzy mentioned years beforehand that she had started keeping a list of books she read so she could remember since she'd started a couple books just to realize she'd already read them. This combined with off-and-on efforts I had made to start or keep a journal but never kept up with. The thought was to record initial thoughts - no format or expectation or pressure at all - and if I saw a movie again, I could compare my thoughts, like if I liked the movie more a second time or less or whatever. It was important for me to be able to say if I didn't have thoughts on a movie I could keep the entry short. Just make it and say whatever I felt, that's it.
And that's what it's been. 18 years later and here we are. Unfortunately this wasn't around for my past forays into classic hollywood or Hitchcock or film noir, but it was here to record me moving to Austin, finding a community in the Alamo, living there for a few years, then having to get a job and slowly diminishing my viewing habits to the point now where I think about watching movies more than I actually do. It's been a long and varied journey but a few things have remained constant: there's always more good stuff out there to see, I've never known as much as I thought I've known, and the next great movie is always just over the horizon.