Trace Sunshine (This Week’s Movies)


Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Ben Foster: Leave No Trace (courtesy Bleecker Street)

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

Leave No Trace. “The beautifully observed details of this heroine’s journey are heartbreaking.” (Herald link here.)

Sicario: Day of the Soldado. “Effective enough even though the plot depends on a couple of very big coincidences.”

For my latest Seasoned Ticket column at the Scarecrow Video blog, I say a few words about Claire Denis’ new film, Let the Sunshine In, and recommend a few previous films by this one-of-a-kind filmmaker. Read it here.



Movie Diary 6/27/2018

The King (Eugene Jarecki, 2018). The documentary about Elvis, which would also very much like to be a Statement. (full review 7/4)

The Good Die Young (Lewis Gilbert, 1954). Heavy on melodrama, but this crime picture has the kind of set-up I like: strangers come together to attempt a heist, each man with his own well-described reasons for breaking bad. A very watchable cast indeed: Laurence Harvey is a scoundrel (duh) who needs cash because his wealthy wife (Margaret Leighton) is finally getting wise to him; Richard Basehart is an American in London collecting wife Joan Collins from her needy mother; John Ireland is a serviceman ditched by his wife, a would-be starlet played in vintage form by Gloria Grahame; Stanley Baker is a boxer whose final fight leads to the amputation of his hand, thus crimping his plans for a simple workingman’s life. Robert Morley plays Harvey’s father. Some decent noir shooting, if not exactly crisply paced.

Movie Diary 6/26/2018

Farewell (aka Abschied, Egon Günther, 1968). A very New Wave kind of approach in this East German tale of a boy formed by (in the sense of reacting against) the stuffy bourgeois manners of his parents and the brutality of his classmates. Lots of interesting stuff, including the portrayal of war fever and the chockablock storytelling. (There’s also a distinct gulf between the Sixties look of some of the design – and the haircuts – and the time period.) Might’ve been a little stronger with a more dynamic lead actor; the Brian Jones-like Jan Spitzer doesn’t bring a lot to the table (though he went on to have a long career). Some very impressive, and muscular, black-and-white widescreen cinematography. The movie was a little too interesting for the authorities, and its exposure was limited.

Movie Diary 6/25/2018

Naked Among Wolves (Frank Beyer, 1963). Set in Buchenwald, in the final days before the Americans arrived in 1945. A child is smuggled into camp, and at first this threatens to become a sentimental story hook. But soon the film turns to the strategies of survival in the camp (including the Nazis’ anxiety about what their status will be after the liberation), and it becomes an absorbing study of inhumanity and endurance. Beyer also directed the very funny Carbide and Sorrel and the later banned Traces of Stones. The cast here includes Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Berlin Around the Corner (Gerhard Klein, 1965/1990). A sincere, if sometimes disjointed, portrait of factory workers – both young and old – who may be feeling the shortcomings of the socialist dream. Klein and screenwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase had previously made Berlin – Schönhauser Corner, a film that caught the wave of the youth movement in 1957; this one was not so lucky, and before it was edited it was banned by a new regime of state censorship. It was finally put together and screened after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

For Eyes Only (Janos Veiczi, 1963). An East German spy picture, sometimes hilariously campy though fairly tiresome overall. All the usual conventions are in place, but done in a cheapjack manner. The inspiration was an actual spy who brought documents back from West Germany that were trumpeted as proof that the West was going to attack the GDR; it was decades later that the revelations turned out to be entirely fake.

Movie Diary 6/24/2018

Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018). I am not completely certain I like everything that’s going on here, but I’ve been thinking about this movie, that’s for sure. Toni Collette’s performance is remarkable, but then you probably heard that already. I love horror movies, but for years now I have said that the only thing that actually terrifies me is insanity, and ultimately I think this movie is about mental illness. The audience I saw it with was dead-silent until the last ten minutes, when the tittering began. But the end is great, and the laughter is another sign that audiences (let down by Hollywood) have lost track of how to watch movies like this.

The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957). A free screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival. In some ways this movie is very simple – almost skeletal in its rollout. But it has real mystery. The revelation this time was noticing how quick and smart Gunnar Bjornstrand’s performance is – he could be a template for the sarcastic-but-tough thing Mel Gibson did in his prime.

Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, 2018). Another beautifully observed film from the director of Winter’s Bone, this one focusing on two people (Thomasina Harcourt Mackenzie, Ben Foster) discovered living in the forest outside Portland. (full review 6/28)

Jurassic F*** (This Week’s Movies)


Chris Pratt, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (courtesy Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment)

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

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. “If it all sounds calculated, that’s how it plays, although the film is peppier than the first Jurassic World. ” (Herald link here.)

Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town. “Amid the Diablo Cody-style one-liners, a couple of things raise Izzy above the usual indie fare.”

My contribution to the Seasoned Ticket column for the Scarecrow Video blog is all about some films by Olivier Assayas, whose exhilarating 1994 film Cold Water returns to the Grand Illusion a week from now. Read here.


Movie Diary 6/20/218

Puzzle (Marc Turtletaub, 2018). The opening night selection of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. A nice movie, thoughtfully written (script by Oren Moverman), with well-rounded supporting work by Irrfan Khan and David Denman. But most importantly, a movie carried – not showily or loudly, which is probably why she won’t get an Oscar nomination – by Kelly Macdonald, who proves herself more than capable of the task.

Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town (Christian Papierniak, 2017). Never mind the off-putting title (not because of the Fuck, but because of the assertive hipsterishness of it), and enjoy the continuing rise of Mackenzie Davis (most recently the spooky nanny of Tully), whose performance is a bit theatrical but admirably confident. (full review 6/22)