Where Is Infinity (This Week’s Movies)

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Daniel Gimenez Gacho: Zama (courtesy Strand Releasing)

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

Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2018). “Infinity War gets by with a witty first hour and the starry appeal of the cast, but the gears really grind near the finish.”(Weekly link here.)

Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017). “Gorgeous, sneakily funny, and amazing to hear, with its soundtrack of buzzing insects and screeching birds.” (Herald link here.)

Where Is Kyra? (Andrew Dosunmu, 2017). “Isn’t so much about Kyra’s fling with criminal behavior as it is about a world in which a decent person can fall from safety to destitution in just a few weeks’ time.”

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Movie Diary 4/26/2018

Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2018). “Thanos is coming.” “Who?” One of the things to enjoy about the Marvel behemoths is their cheeky sense of their own absurdity, a saving grace in this otherwise overstuffed universe. Cuz man, those giant fight scenes are boooorrring, especially after you’ve seen 18 movies. One thought: If somebody could just edit out the scenes of superheroes punching each other in the jaw, you might have a bearable longform TV series. Also, the ending (I will be vague, but I guess spoiler alert): People are saying there’s a “Whoa” factor about Infinity War‘s ending. But how can this be true, when everything else we’ve seen about the superheroes suggests that they will simply bounce back and be rejuvenated? And we know some of them have to be, because they have movies scheduled to be released in the next couple of years. Death has no sting here, so the ending’s a kind of a cool idea, and yet – meh.

Movie Diary 4/25/2018

Landfall (Ken Annakin, 1949). A WWII tale (from a Nevil Shute novel) about a devil-may-care pilot (Michael Denison) who sinks a submarine during his English Channel patrol, only to learn the sub may have been British. The movie’s a little thin in the storytelling department, but Denison is a very engaging leading man (with an uncanny resemblance,physically and vocally, to Richard E. Grant), and his courtship with barmaid Patricia Plunkett is lively and funny. Nothing dampens the upbeat mood of a 1949 movie looking back at the Finest Hour, but the film does capture some of the awfulness of friendly fire and its place in warfare.

Movie Diary 4/23/2018

Where Is Kyra? (Andrew Dosunmu, 2017). A painterly approach (DP Bradford Young also shot Arrival) defines this slow-burn study of a woman set adrift when her mother dies. Michelle Pfeiffer is fine in the central role, although the nature of the part and the film’s mostly arm’s-length style keep her within sometimes frustrating boundaries. (full review 4/27)

Movie Diary 4/22/2018

Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017). Lucrecia Martel’s first feature since The Headless Woman, a decade in which her skills appear to have sharpened to an even more lethal degree. Very Kafka with some Werner Herzog mixed in, and weirdly funny, too. (full review 4/25)

A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018). I like movie exercises, and this one is pretty well executed. Blind monsters terrorize the world, and their super-hearing means that the few humans alive must stay quiet. The characters behave intelligently, and the one puzzling decision – who would bring a squalling baby into this world? – has its roots in the opening sequence. In fact virtually all the film’s emotional relationships have their roots in the opening sequence, a measure of how thought-through the story is. This is not a great movie, but it’s awfully good, and the ending is a pip. A few shots – the silhouettes of children jumping from a grain silo at night, for instance – deserve a place in the annals of folk horror.

Woman in a Dressing Gown (J. Lee Thompson, 1957). Kitchen-sink British film, with a bravura performance by Yvonne Mitchell as a scattered wife whose simpering husband (Anthony Quayle) has fallen for a younger woman (Sylvia Syms). At this stage in his career (ably abetted by cinematographer Gil Taylor), Thompson busied himself with creating charged compositions, especially ones that suggest how trapped these characters are. Mitchell’s performance is consistent with other 1950s neurotic actors, except you’ve heard of them and you haven’t heard of her.

Violent Playground (Basil Dearden, 1958). A mix of social issues and police procedural, as tough Liverpool cop Stanley Baker is assigned to the juvenile unit, where he comes across a parentless family ill-served by the system: two cute kids, a hoodlum older brother (David McCallum, looking all death’s-head cool), and responsible sister Anne Heywood. A strange, intense film, with some charged dialogue by Scots novelist James Kennaway (Tunes of Glory).

Never Really Final (This Week’s Movies)

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Joaquin Phoenix: You Were Never Really Here (Amazon Studios)

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

You Were Never Really Here. “Phoenix is in complete sync with Ramsay’s cryptic style — he slugs through the action as though bearing the weight of a thousand unspoken guilts.” (Weekly link here.)

Final Portrait. “Tucci does some admirable things, despite the film’s slimness.”

Movie Diary 4/18/2018

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Mouly Surya, 2017). This “indonesian feminist Western” does indeed follow the outline of a classic frontier-justice scenario. It’s slow and scenic, and within a few moments you get the distinct feeling that somebody around here knows how to make movies.

A Kid for Two Farthings (Carol Reed, 1955). In some ways this looks like Reed’s Powell-Pressburger film, a wildly colorful, slightly unreal view of a low-rent community of London street hawkers. The connecting element is a boy (Jonathan Ashmore) who believes his pet baby goat is a unicorn that will grant wishes to the folks around him, all of whom have their modest needs. Celia Johnson plays the boy’s mother, pining for a husband in Africa; Diana Dors is a garment worker waiting for her bodybuilder fiancé (Joe Robinson) to make some money in wrestling so they can marry; David Kossoff as the wise Jewish trouser-presser; Primo Carnera as a blowhard wrestling champ. In Wolf Mankowitz’s screenplay (from his novel) there is much that is touching; Reed’s approach serves that sentiment, but also creates an intriguing tapestry, not just visually but also sonically, as the jumble of voices and noises in this clamorous neighborhood is almost constantly in the background.