Movie Diary 12/11/2018

Mortal Engines (Christian Rivers, 2018). Peter Jackson’s production team is responsible for this Young Adult adaptation, about a future in which cities are giant ambulatory entities rolling across continents, eating smaller communities. What the hell? Maybe it sounded good on paper. Once you get past the concept, there are actually some groovy moments in the thing, though not enough to really carry it off.

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Movie Diary 12/10/2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman; 2018). Lots of people ecstatic about this one. I am left with the impression that five years from now we will tell only one story in cinema, and that story will be about how Spider-Man became Spider-Man, and it will run in an endless loop, and that will be all. We’re almost there. (full review 12/14)

If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018). The broad appeal of Moonlight might have been somewhat flukey, because Jenkins seems like a film student-y guy with experimental tendencies. Those tendencies are evident in this James Baldwin adaptation, which has a very idiosyncratic rhythm and a splendid cast.

Favourite Roma (This Week’s Movies)

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Yalitza Aparicio: Roma (courtesy Netflix)

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

Roma. “The way Cuarón accumulates details—the jumble of clothes drying on a roof, a broken jug after a New Year’s toast, the ubiquity of the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack in 1971—builds an elemental power.” (Herald link here.)

The Favourite. “Serves as a corrective to all those fluffy period movies where pretty costumes and set design function as the cinematic equivalent of a bubble bath.” (Herald link here.)

For my Seasoned Ticket contribution to the Scarecrow Video blog, I salute the opening of Lee Chang-dong’s remarkable new film Burning (which plays in Seattle this week at the Northwest Film Forum) and look back at his previous feature (eight years ago!), Poetry. Read it here.

 

Movie Diary 12/5/2018

Hold the Dark (Jeremy Saulnier, 2018). I loved Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and Green Room, which were both extremely clear about their narrative pulses. This one’s a little more complicated, and the complications create a whole mess of problems. Jeffrey Wright plays some kind of grizzled wolf expert who travels to Alaska after hearing that a woman (Riley Keough) has lost her child to wolves. Also in the mix are Alexander Skarsgard and James Badge Dale. The mountains and the animals are impressive.

Movie Diary 12/4/2018

Play Misty for Me (Clint Eastwood, 1971). I can watch this thing anytime. Despite some clumsiness (including a few crude zooms), there’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, including the portrait of the beach town, which is unforced but authentic-feeling. Eastwood’s treatment of his own studly character is hand-in-hand with The Beguiled as a skeptical portrait of masculinity, much more complicated than what was coming from a lot of the counterculture at the time. Also, how odd is it that after one of the film’s big shockeroo sequences, the narrative is taken up with three songs in a row?

Vice (Adam McKay, 2018). Christian Bale really brings it as Dick Cheney, with every facial tic and vocal mannerism in place. In general, one misses the more overtly comical approach of McKay’s The Big Short.

Destroyer (Karyn Kusama, 2018). Nicole Kidman goes the hideously deglamorized route in this narratively-fractured hard-crime movie that would ordinarily feature a burned-out male in the central role. A weird, weird film on many levels, but the treatment of Kidman-as-actress is the weirdest.

Movie Diary 12/2/2018

Burning (Lee Chang-dong, 2018). An interesting movie to watch if you don’t know the slightest thing about its story. Which I didn’t. A man meets a woman who may or may not be from his past (indeed, she may or may not be the woman she claims to be); she gets him to pet-sit a cat who might or might not exist. It goes on from there, with a vague feeling of Antonioni hovering about, but with a distinctly South Korean sensibility in place.

RBG (Julie Cohen, Betsy West, 2018). Documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a modern hero and someone it turns out I didn’t know much about. A solid treatment, without too much sweetening involved.

The Exiles (Kent Mackenzie, 1961). I said ten years ago about this landmark film: “The recent restoration of the remarkable feature about displaced Indians navigating a long night in Los Angeles – the city captured in as vivid a way as such contemporary movie cityscapes as Sweet Smell of Success and Breathless. The faces and voices of the non-actors are completely of their time but timeless, too.”

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (Catherine Bainbridge, 2017). Catching up to this documentary about how Native Americans have influenced the world of popular music. It’s an enormously enjoyable survey, only occasionally stretching to make its case. A good chance to get tons of anecdotes on the record, no pun intended, including a gem about Jesse Ed Davis’s guitar solo on Jackson Browne’s Doctor My Eyes.

Green Buster (This Week’s Movies)

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Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen: Green Book (courtesy Universal Pictures)

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

Green Book. However much I rolled my eyes at its cornball touches, I have to admit that the film generates a great deal of goodwill, due to its smart pace, bright colors, and the Mortensen/Ali double act. (Herald link here.)

For my ongoing Seasoned Ticket post at Scarecrow Video’s blog, I offer something on Buster Keaton; Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary tribute The Great Buster opens in Seattle this weekend at the Grand Illusion. Read it here.