Spirit Curseloo (This Week’s Movies)


Rory Kinnear, Peterloo (Amazon Studios)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

Peterloo. “A complex but amazing movie, one of Leigh’s best.”

The Curse of La Llorona. “Notable for one good performance and an almost complete lack of distinctiveness.”

Teen Spirit. “It’s not what you tell, but how you tell it. And Teen Spirit has a sideways, moody take on its tale.”

My Seasoned Ticket blog post for Scarecrow Video this week recalls some past work by Mike Leigh, including the time I failed to connect with him during an interview. Read that here.



Movie Diary 4/17/2019

Teen Spirit (Max Minghella, 2018). Stock story all the way (small-town girl, in this case from the Isle of Wight, sets her hopes on a TV talent contest; add absent father, resentful immigrant mother, wise alcoholic mentor), yet the movie has a crafted look and sound. It’s also got Elle Fanning, expending not one iota of effort to charm the audience – this is a sullen teen who is actually a sullen teen. Until she sings – and then the ugly duckling becomes, if not a swan, a very passionate kind of bird. Interesting movie, pitched somewhere between the audience-repelling Vox Lux and the audience-hugging A Star Is Born, and thus not likely to find its own crowd. (full review 4/19)

Movie Diary 4/16/2019

The Curse of La Llorona (Michael Chaves, 2019). Mexican folk horror invades the multiplex, in this James Wan-produced haunted-house picture. Linda Cardellini plays it with more conviction than the movie otherwise deserves. The movie’s so uncomplicatedly straightforward it practically contains no air. (full review 4/18)

Sunset (László Nemes, 2018). From the director of Son of Saul, a movie I liked quite a bit. Oddly, considering the change in subject (from an extermination camp to an early-20th-century costume drama), the two films use a similar right-at-the-protagonist’s-shoulders technique, the use of which is frankly rather puzzling here. (full review 4/19)

Movie Diary 4/15/2019

The City Without Jews (Hans Karl Breslauer, 1924). Restored/rediscovered print of a real curio, an Austrian fantasy/satire about a society where anti-Semitism is intense enough to prompt a locality to expel its Jewish population, with disastrous results. Seen from the post-Holocaust perspective, the film looks clairvoyant, and some of the jokes are shaded by intervening history. A remarkable artifact, even if the delivery is workmanlike (save for a couple of expressionist moments, including one sequence that looks like a deliberate spoof of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). Based on a novel by Hugo Bettauer, a prominent provocateur of the time who was assassinated in 1925 by an early-adopting Nazi. Screened at the Paramount theatre, with score by Gunther Buchwald performed by the Seattle-based ensemble Music of Remembrance.

Broken Lullaby (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932). A shell-shocked French WWI vet (Phillips Holmes) can’t shake the memory of the German he killed in the trenches; he visits the dead man’s family without revealing the exact nature of his connection. A delicate, grief-stricken film, catching the same anti-war mood as All Quiet on the Western Front, with Holmes’ performance practically suicidal. Some well-placed Lubitsch moments, although overall the film is sluggish (maybe a hangover from the stage version?), even beyond what its somber mood requires. Lionel Barrymore and Nancy Carroll play the dead man’s father and fiancee.

Movie Diary 4/14/2019

Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Bi Gan, 2018). If someone mentions the phrase “bravura hour-long 3D tracking shot” I am always going to be up for it, and the sequence in this film does not disappoint. (About twenty minutes into it a character makes a demand that relies on another character sinking a ball in a pool game, and there doesn’t seem to be any CGI involved – stuff like that goes on.) The preceding 70-odd minutes of film (in 2D) are densely-wrought but frankly pretty mystifying, to an extent that rather undercuts the splendid effect of the 3D section. The whole thing feels just a bit like a stunt, though pulled off by a very smart and talented filmmaker.

The Alphabet Murders (Frank Tashlin, 1965). A randomly-selected title for weekend viewing, and an utterly bizarre misfire. Tony Randall plays Hercule Poirot in an Agatha Christie adaptation played for slapstick (presumably influenced by the success of the first couple of Inspector Clouseau movies?), set in London with Robert Morley as a bumbling Scotland Yard sidekick and Anita Ekberg as a mystery woman who keeps slapping Poirot around. Tashlin comes up with a half-dozen spot-on sight gags, but that’s about it. Randall seems to enjoy the false nose, baldcap, and fruity accent.

Ride Lonesome (Budd Boetticher, 1959). One of the best of the films Boetticher made with Randolph Scott. Among the ways it tweaks our expectations is the finale (spoilers here, I suppose), where a long-awaited reckoning with bad guy Lee Van Cleef is executed in amazingly quick fashion, and a long-awaited showdown between Scott and sort-of bad guy Pernell Roberts is short-circuited entirely, to everyone’s great relief.

High Magdalene (This Week’s Movies)


Mia Goth, Robert Pattinson: High Life (Alcatraz Films)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

High Life. “So many science-fiction films, though futuristic in content, unfold along familiar lines. Shouldn’t a sci-fi film take a new form, the way 2001: A Space Odyssey did?”

Mary Magdalene. “The film overall suffers from sluggishness; you wonder whether the characters are getting enough iron in their diet.”

Join us tomorrow, Saturday April 13, at Scarecrow Video at 1 p.m., for another session of Scarecrow Academy, a free series devoted to the films of 1959. This time we’ll take a look at Budd Boetticher’s Ride Lonesome, one of the best of the string of Westerns the director made with Randolph Scott. More here.

I talk a little about the 1959 series with KUOW’s Marcie Sillman; give a listen to the archived conversation here.

And for my Seasoned Ticket post for the Scarecrow blog, I say a little something about Hu Bo’s An Elephant Sitting Still (which plays again in the coming days at the Northwest Film Forum) and recall my reviews of the two previous Hellboy movies. It’s here.

Movie Diary 4/10/2019

Peterloo (Mike Leigh, 2018). A brimming account of the 1819 Peterloo massacre, presented in a series of meetings, speeches, and small gatherings – a kind of Frederick Wiseman approach to history, but with sly humor and caricature. Leigh’s eye for the foibles of even the most sympathetic characters is very sharp, and the depiction of atrociousness that attends to government officials and members of the aristocracy is – oh, how shall we say this – very welcome in this here day and age. Even if you like the film (and I like it a lot), this is not a movie in which things are understated. (full review 4/19)