The Friday (11/27/2020)

Hereditary (A24)

No new review this holiday week. A few happenings:

Tomorrow, Saturday November 27, we convene our final session of 2020’s Scarecrow Academy, presented by Scarecrow Video in Seattle. The free Zoom meeting begins at 2 p.m. Pacific Time; you can register by clicking on a link here. Our subject this year has been “The Art in Horror: Horror and the Director,” and we’ll be talking about Ari Aster’s 2018 film Hereditary. My video introduction is here.

Three 1980s reviews this week at my other website, What a Feeling!, before taking a brief pause for Thanksgiving and other things. Check out the vintage takes on: David Beaird’s My Chauffeur, with Valley Girl star Deborah Foreman and Sam J. Jones (from Flash Gordon); Pat O’Connor’s A Month in the Country, a fondly-recalled British idyll with Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh, and Natasha Richardson; and Philippe Mora’s Communion, with Christopher Walken in Whitley Strieber’s memoir of alien abduction.

Movie Diary 11/24/2020

Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018). Watched it again in anticipation of the final Scarecrow Academy session for 2020. We will meet via Zoom on Saturday, November 28, at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, to discuss this film for our “The Art in Horror: Horror and the Director” series. You can register for the meeting at the Scarecrow Academy page; it’s free. Thanks to everyone who has been participating, going all the way back to our first meeting for Nosferatu at Scarecrow in February and through the pandemic interruption and re-start. It’s been enormously enjoyable. Don’t forget to support Scarecrow if you can. Here I am introducing Hereditary:

Movie Diary 11/23/2020

The Little Foxes (William Wyler, 1941) and These Three (William Wyler, 1936). No particular reason, just watching stuff. Both shot by Gregg Toland, both written by Lillian Hellman. Wyler’s command of the screen is stronger in the later film, but you can already see his eye in ’36. One thing that always strikes me about Wyler: His ear for dialogue (or at least how to get actors to say dialogue) is weaker than what Capra/Hawks/McCarey were doing at the same time; with Wyler there are more stilted/Hollywood line readings coming through. There are an awful lot of strong female performances in these two, in a variety of styles.

Movie Diary 11/22/2020

Collective (Alexander Nanau, 2019). A spellbinding documentary about the aftermath of a nightclub fire in Bucharest in 2015. Dozens of people died, and multiple scandals erupted when a group of dogged newspaper reporters uncovered the layers of corruption that surrounded the tragedy. Romania submitted this movie as its official selection for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars; don’t be surprised if it makes the final list.

Uppercase Print (Radu Jude, 2020). An experimental treatment of the true story of Romanian teenager Mugur Calinescu, who wrote graffiti messages against the Ceaucescu government in 1981 and was caught by the authorities. (He had heard broadcasts from Radio Free Europe that inspired his actions.) The film consists of actors speaking the words of the people involved (frequently delivering their lines directly to the camera) interspersed with flagrantly kitschy propaganda from the 70s and 80s. Jude, the director of Aferim! and I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, deploys the various distancing devices to strong effect, as though in the blunt manner of the graffiti itself – and as counterpoint to the corn of the propaganda material. (Both films screened in the Romanian Film Festival in Seattle.)

The Friday (11/20/2020)

Carrie Coon, Jude Law: The Nest (IFC Films)

My review for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

The Nest. “Everything is top-notch in this film, which maybe contributes to the sense that The Nest is just a little too perfectly executed somehow.”

We’ll be talking about Jordan Peele’s Get Out in this week’s Zoom session for Scarecrow Academy’s “The Art in Horror: Horror and the Director.” Check the Scarecrow Academy page for information on how to register for the free conversation, which happens tomorrow, Saturday November 21, at 2 p.m. Pacific Time. Also, my video intro of the movie is here:

More reviews from the 1980s at my other website, What a Feeling!, added this week: Peter Yates’s Eleni, with John Malkovich and a lead role for Kate Nelligan during her heyday; Steve Jodrell’s Shame, an Aussie Walking Tall with an ass-kicking role for Deborra-Lee Furness (the future Mrs. Hugh Jackman); Richard Benjamin’s The Money Pit, with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long; Istvan Szabo’s Hanussen, third in a trilogy with a spectacular Klaus Maria Brandauer; and a twofer review of Michael Winner’s Death Wish 3 and William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A.

Movie Diary 11/17/2020

Acasa, My Home
(Radu Ciorniciuc, 2020). Almost like a documentary version of Leave No Trace: This film follows the travails of a family living in a watery wilderness right next to teeming Bucharest. Eventually the authorities arrive, and an adjustment to city living follows. The filmmakers gained astonishing access to the family, and nothing is easy or comforting about the story we watch. (Seen as part of the Romanian Film Festival in Seattle, which also has new features by Radu Jude and Cristi Puiu, among others.)

Movie Diary 11/16/2020

The Nest (Sean Durkin, 2020). From the director of Martha Marcy May Marlene (imagine making a movie that you know everybody who ever writes down the title is going to have to look up so the words are in the right order). A domestic drama that plays like a novella (or maybe an opera without music, although the music is very good), with unease throughout and sterling performances by Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Oona Roche, and Michael Culkin. (full review 11/20)

Movie Diary 11/15/2020

Ammonite (Francis Lee, 2020). A strong, austere film from the director of God’s Own Country. I review it here.

The Endless (Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, 2017). I missed this the first tie around. From the filmmaking partners who did Spring and Synchronic, this time putting themselves in the lead roles of the picture – which sounds like a vanity thing, but actually works out well. Two brothers go back to the cult camp from which they’d escaped ten years earlier, only to discover something very strange coalescing there. The movie has some familiar devices and a few big question marks, but the games it plays with time (when exactly is it set? how is it possible the men have been gone ten years when everything looks the same?) are smartly done.

The Friday (11/13/2020)

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Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan: Ammonite (NEON)

My review for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

Ammonite. “Mucus drips from the tip of Charlotte’s cold nose as she excitedly muscles a large rock out of the mud; you could hardly have a better measure of her journey from corseted wife to elbow-deep partner in discovery.”

Join us for another online session of Scarecrow Academy’s “The Art in Horror: Horror and the Director,” this week focusing on Antonia Bird’s 1999 film Ravenous. We’ll convene at 2 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, November 14; check the link at the Scarecrow Academy page to register for the free class. Oh, and I introduce the movie below.

At Parallax View we wrap up the 2000 Eyes project; my contribution this week is a review of Terence Davies’ The House of Mirth.

At my other blog, What a Feeling!, behold five more reviews from the 1980s: of Sollace Mitchell’s Call Me, a neo-noir with Patricia Charbonneau; Glenn Jordan’s Mass Appeal, a cutesy-priest movie with Jack Lemmon; Don Shebib’s The Climb, a mountain-climbing picture; Ken Cameron’s The Good Wife, an Aussie drama of lust with Rachel Ward, Bryan Brown, and Sam Neill; and Ron Howard’s Gung Ho, a Michael Keaton comedy I was way too easy on.

Movie Diary 11/11/2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Aaron Sorkin, 2020). The subject has been Sorkin-ized – which is to say, for every awkward grandstanding exchange or melodramatic showdown between representative viewpoints, there’s an equal number of crackling one-liners and juicy courtroom banter. It’s all a little too packaged – even the ambiguity isn’t very ambiguous – and given the cast and subject, a disappointment.