Showing posts from November, 2018

The Favourite (2018) ****

Director Yorgos Lanthimos scores again with his most accessible film to date, The Favourite (2018), his third English language feature, after 2015's The Lobster(2015) and 2017's The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. While those other two films tend to be intentionally obtuse and as accessible as this film may be, it's still a bitter, darkly comic delight about what women of various statures will do for love, for country, and, in particular, for their own gain.

The cinematography draws much attention to itself but Lanthimos goes for broke (to great success) with swish pans, fisheye lenses, multiple exposure, and natural lighting à la Barry Lyndon (1975). All three leads are fantastic, as they plot, yearn, and backstab. The at times rapid-fire, acerbic dialogue is delicious. The costumes and production design are impressive but a wonderful juxtaposition is created by the crude language, anachronistic dance moves, and the repetitive, tense, atonal score. The movie is very funny but …

Blood Feast (1963) **1/2

Having finally seen Blood Feast (1963) I can now say that I've seen a Herschell Gordon Lewis film. And it was about what I'd expected: awful, laughable, cheesy, thinly plotted, and terribly acted but very entertaining. An important film for horror, impressive for having grossed $4 million on a $25K budget, and a huge inspiration to one of my heroes, John Waters, but not one I'd go out of my way to ever watch again.

Zombie (1979) ****

Lucio Fulci's Zombie (aka Zombi 2 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters(1979) is no perfect film, but it is a genre classic that never gets old. Full of blood 'n guts 'n maggots 'n eye violence (the mother of all eye violence in cinema, in fact), as any great Fulci horror film does, Zombie is the one that goes all the way and delivers where other horror films up until that point did not. The atmosphere is oppressive, the direction is technically impressive, Giannetto De Rossi's makeup and f/x are disgustingly delightful, and Fabio Frizzi's score is memorable.

You can find my Lucio Fulci Feature Films Ranked list here.

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018) ***1/2

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead(2018) is a highly recommended companion piece to the film The Other Side Of The Wind(2018). Presented in a way that mirrors the techniques of the film it documents and directed by Morgan Neville, who directed this year's other excellent documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?, TLWWID features interviews and footage from the cast, crew and people related to those that made the film, and helps make more sense of the at times confusing narrative of TOSTW, along with giving you a greater understanding of Welles's intentions and his struggle to complete it (which, sadly, he never did before he died).

The Other Side Of The Wind (2018) ***1/2

The Other Side Of The Wind (2018) is definitely a film that warrants multiple viewings. The rapid fire editing and multiple storylines make it difficult to decipher on a first watch, but just the fact that it finally saw the light of day is cause for celebration. The film-within-a-film footage is truly the highlight. It was as if Welles put on a mask (his own words) and channeled Jess Franco and Sergio Martino to make a satirical yet functional avant-garde psych film.

I highly recommend reading more about Wind here and watching the documentary about the making of this film, They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018), immediately after watching Windif you can. It helps make more sense of this film and gives you a greater understanding of Welles's intentions and his struggle to complete it (which, sadly, he never did before he died).

Women In Love (1969) ****

Ken Russell's Women In Love (1969) presents the many emotions and phases of love between men and women and between men and men. It's a film about sensuality, individuality, sexuality, possession, frustration, and breaking free of social norms—all through the lens of a cinema madman. Don't let the Academy Award win and noms fool you—Russell's version of this "love" story set in post-World War I England is personal, controversial, cinematographically and editorially experimental and absolutely of its time (the late 60s hippie movement, etc.). The four leads are all excellent, willing to go the distance in their portrayals of complex, deep-thinking, sadomasochistic individuals. The score by Georges Delerue is sumptuous but also jarring—the abruptness and juxtaposition of some of the musical queues is quite interesting. This is my kind of period drama.

Salem's Lot (1979) ***

It's hard to believe that Salem's Lot (1979) was only the second adaptation of a Stephen King story. It's also hard to believe that I somehow only managed to watch it for the first time now. King had only written six books by the time that SL started filming, so it makes sense (and I say only six because he's been incredibly prolific over the course of his career). It's just I sometimes forget that "King Fever" didn't truly ramp up until the 80s (with three feature films based on his works released in 1983 alone). Speaking of the 80s, just six months after Lot aired, Stanley Kubrick's vastly superior The Shining(1980) was unleashed—still one of the best King adaptations (and I don't care what the man himself thinks about it).

Salem's Lot aired as a miniseries on CBS over two nights, totaling just over 3 hours in runtime. There was also a theatrical cut (released in Europe and aired on cable TV) called Salem's Lot: The Movie, running ju…

Blood Rage (aka Slasher) (1987) **1/2

Blood Rage(aka Slasher) (1987) is not a good film but it sure is a good time. It's filled with every 80s slasher trope imaginable, from fashion—perms, mullets, striped Nike shirts, popped collars—to gore—lopped-off hands, beheadings, bisected bodies, machete stabs—to nudity (apparently women of all ages were super horny in that decade). Blood Rage makes no attempt at any kind of artistry whatsoever—from the flat, garish lighting to the subpar camerawork to skipping any semblance of a backstory or character development (Thanksgiving is very loosely involved, though does provide an amusing, if overused one-liner)—instead favoring and embracing its tastelessness.

The "plot" revolves around two brothers (Todd and Terry), both played in their adult form by Mark Soper, who actually does a decent job of distinguishing between the two in his performance—though his acting isn't particularly great (then again nobody's is in this film). When the two brothers are young and t…

Some Like It Hot (1959) *****

Some films deserve all the hyperbole they receive. Some Like It Hot (1959) is brilliant, hilarious, flawlessly paced, endlessly rewatchable, one of my Top 10 Comedies, one of my Top 100 Films, and in a word: perfect. Billy Wilder truly was a genius and Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon were incredibly inspired casting (really, can you imagine anyone else in these roles?).

You can find my Billy Wilder Feature Films Ranked list here.

Sugar Kane: "Boop-boop be-doop!" 

Spats Colombo: "These are my lawyers. All Harvard men."
Jerry/Daphne: "I tell ya, it's a whole different sex!"

Osgood Fielding III: "Nobody's perfect."

Midnight Cowboy (1969) ****

Midnight Cowboy(1969) is one of those classic, much-heralded films that, while I don't hold it in quite the same esteem as a lot of folks, I recognize how influential, important and exceptional it is.

Dustin Hoffman and John Voight's performances are impeccably honest and seamlessly natural. They portray the at that time cinematically unique friendship (or is it more?) of two down-on-their luck men who, despite hurling insults at each other, care deeply for one another. Director John Schlesinger and cinematographer Adam Holender's vision is grimy, varied, realistic, and, at times experimental (flashbacks, dream sequences, the party scene). John Barry’s (uncredited!) brilliantly simple, harmonica-heavy theme song, along with Harry Nilsson's memorable tune "Everybody's Talkin'" (used numerous times throughout the film) provide the appropriately melancholic mood to match the story.

The ending of Cowboy has an interesting parallel with Hoffman's previo…

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (2018) ***1/2

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (2018) is an anthology film by Joel and Ethan Coen that presents six unrelated Western stories that share a common theme: death. Each story is very different from the last and yet the sense of loss seems to grow as each one unfolds. Tonally, they are all unique as well, and yet all distinctly Coeny.

In the most amusing story of the bunch, the opening segment that shares the title of the film, Tim Blake Nelson is a cocky crooning cowboy with inventive ways of killing his rivals. The violence is over the top and TBN is hilarious. The second story starring James Franco and Stephen Root is another funny one but with a dark turn at the end. Segment three is the most somber but also my least favorite—Liam Neeson and Harry Melling are both quite good, but the story itself feels the least developed and seems to drag on the most out of the six.

Part four is basically a one man show with Tom Waits at its center, as a gold prospector. It's neither laugh-out-loud …

The Blood Spattered Bride (1972) ***

The Blood Spattered Bride(1972) is a slow-burn supernatural Spanish horror film with an interesting mix of vampirism, lesbianism (a la Jean Rollin), progressive gender politics and sleaze. Some scenes and images in particular are quite striking while others are a tad goofy, making for a mixed bag of a film. I had watched this before on Halloween twelve years ago and I did seem to remember the basic plot—that of a new bride who has visions of a long-dead bride who killed her husband on their wedding night, while fantasizing about killing her own husband—but largely forgot the rest. The movie was definitely worth revisiting—the ideas are strong; it's just too bad that the execution isn't a bit better.

One On Top Of The Other (aka Perversion Story) (1969) ***1/2

Lucio Fulci's One On Top OF The Other(aka Perversion Story) (1969) is a non-traditional giallo full of psychedelic fashion, double-crosses, sex, innovative camera techniques, beautiful actors (Jean Sorel and Marisa Mell) and a fantastically unhinged, brassy, jazzy Mancini-like score by Riz Ortolani.

You can find my Lucio Fulci Feature Films Ranked list here.

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked listhere.

Candyman (1992) ****

Candyman (1992) is one of the best horror films of the 90s, in a decade that saw a definite downturn in quality from the heyday of the 1980s. Bernard Rose's film deftly walks that delicate line between class and trash—treating its Barker-based subject matter with respect but not shying away from the grue or the tropes that, when handled this well, we love. A bloody gothic-cum-urban tale of social status, fear, and romance with a grimy yet beautiful visual style, a compelling performance by Virginia Madsen, and an exceptional and exquisite score by Philip Glass.

Sisters (1973) ***1/2

I place Sisters (1973) in the lower half of my Brian De Palma rankings, but even as he was finding his footing, honing his Hitchcock homages, and perfecting his techniques (including those famous split screens), he was able to craft a very rewatchable, creepy, funny and exploitative thriller. Margot Kidder goes for the gusto in a suitably psychotic performance and Bernard Herrmann delivers an intense, Moog-driven score.

If you'd like to hear me discuss Sisters, along with two other De Palma films (my first time on a podcast!), with Movie Matters Podcast hosts Michael Mackenzie and Lee Howard in a special episode from 2011, you can do so here.

You can find my Brian De Palma Feature Films Ranked list here.

The Perfect Cure

I still think about the Agganis Arena show by The Cure that I attended with my friend Kate on 6/16/2016. I'd seen the band before in 2004 and that previous show was excellent because it was with Mogwai, The Rapture, and Interpol, but the setlist from the 2016 show was exponentially better. It got me thinking about what my dream Cure setlist* would be...

With such a deep catalog and so many choice non-album tracks, it would be nigh impossible for The Cure to play my perfect setlist live but I decided it would be fun to create a playlist. I ended up with a sprawling 46-song, 3 hour and 21 minute compilation. In some cases, I chose single mixes because I thought they worked better in this context.

The list is below, along with a guide to where the tracks originated. I made a YouTube playlist so that you can all enjoy The Perfect Cure,if you like (thanks to all the original posters for putting the songs up). I've also included a picture of the cover art that I made for the playli…

Wild At Heart (1990) ****1/2

Wild At Heart (1990) features my favorite young rebellious on-screen couple, Sailor and Lula, two innocents who deal with all the shit in their lives the only ways they know how—through heavy metal, sex, cigarettes, and their undying and true love for each other. WAH is a film about passion, crime, dancing, individuality, freedom, good and bad witches, temptation, menacing baddies, weird families, and much more, all filtered through the strange and wonderful mind of David Lynch.

You can find my David Lynch Feature Films Ranked list here.

Art School Confidential (2006) **1/2

Art School Confidential (2006) is to this day Terry Zwigoff's most recent film and I can only guess that is at least partly due to the poor reception that it received. And I can't say that I disagree with the consensus in this case—I seemed to remember liking this film more when I saw it the year it was released. I've come to realize that Zwigoff is a very inconsistent director—he made one masterpiece (Crumb(1994), my favorite documentary), one excellent coming-of-age outsider comedy (Ghost World(2001)), another solid documentary (Louie Bluie(1985)), a crude but funny and popular (though IMO overrated) comedy (Bad Santa(2003)) and then Art School Confidential—a solid, but underwhelming effort.

ASC comes off scattershot, due to a lack of a distinctive "voice." Part of that is because it doesn't go pulpy enough for its wanna-be dime store novel plot and it also doesn't have a particular visual style or tone (which could be argued is appropriate given that th…

Twelve Monkeys (1995) ****1/2

Twelve Monkeys (1995) is a film I've seen many times and it's always been a favorite—one of those films where you know all the beats and it's no surprise what's going to happen but it still holds your attention and moves you. Terry Gilliam has made more than a few sci-fi films and while Brazil(1985) is undoubtedly his masterpiece, 12M is a superb, at times Hitchcockian, neo-noir tale of time travel, a post-apocalyptic future and unexpected love. It features an excellent script co-written by David Peoples (Blade Runner(1982), Unforgiven (1992)), one of Bruce Willis's best and most vulnerable performances, a standout role by Brad Pitt, full of rapid-fire mannerisms and quotable dialogue* (no one plays nutty quite like he does in this film), and a memorable, melancholic score.

You can find my Terry Gilliam Feature Films Ranked list here.

*Fun fact: my first band, Sector Nine Eight, named one of our earliest cassettes (Shaved, Sterilized And Destroyed (1996), which I&#…

Suspiria (2018) ****

Suspiria(2018) is the best kind of remake and the best kind of art film. Re: the first point—director Luca Guadagnino and writer David Kajganich take the basic premise of Dario Argento's 1977 film, that of an elite dance school in Germany run by witches, and use it as a springboard to go gonzo. Re: the second point—a. I'm still not quite sure exactly how much I liked the film; I'm still processing it and b. Suspiria '18 is clearly a film that is not out to please a mass audience (and that is something I appreciate, when directors are willing to take risks), be that due to its running time (and it is just a bit too long, in my opinion), its languid pace or its grotesque imagery.

Guadagnino wisely chose not to imitate or pay homage to Suspiria '77's famous primary color palette (in particular red) and rather go with a more muted tone and create his own fantastic and phantasmagorical set pieces. There are references to all three of the films that comprise Argento&…

Jim Thompson "South Of Heaven" (1967) ***1/2

South Of Heaven (1967) was one the last few books written by Jim Thompson during his lifetime (he wrote three more novels before he died in 1977). The story of a young man in Texas (a staple of Thompson's work), his grueling job working on a pipeline, his elusive best friend, the prostitute he falls in love with, and the unsavory characters he wants to bring to justice, South Of Heavenhas a bit more of a poetic nature than a good deal of Thompson's usual fare (the lead character even writes poetry)—it feels like a Cormac McCarthy novel at times (right down to the title).

Torso – Hybrid English/Italian Audio Version (1973) ***1/2

Torso(aka The Bodies Show Traces Of Carnal Violence) (1973), was Sergio Martino's fifth giallo in the span of two years (!!), all five of which were written by giallo superscribe Ernesto Gastaldi. It's a sleazy but stylish slasher—filled with unnaturally beautiful women, absurdly oafish and clueless men, and an excellent score from Guido and Maurizio De Angelis. The plot is actually pretty straightforward as gialli go, but as with many of these films, the killer's reveal comes out of left field. The best part of Torso though is the disturbing final third, featuring an incredibly tense cat and mouse game and an impressive fight sequence.

You can find my Giallo Feature Films Ranked list here.