Green Buster (This Week’s Movies)


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.


Movie Diary 11/27/2018

Roma (Alfonso Cuaron, 2018). A black-and-white dream film about a Mexico City family’s maid, set in 1970. I look forward to having time to think about this haunting film.

Green Book (Peter Farrelly, 2018). Much that is pat and predictable here, but Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali really make the buddy-comedy stuff come to life.

Movie Diary 11/25/2018

The Land of Steady Habits (Nicole Holofcener, 2018). Ben Mendelsohn plays a divorced man at loose ends, and this great Aussie actor seems just a little uncomfortable playing a normal person. The movie has its share of Holofcener’s sharp edges, and a fine cast including Edie Falco, Elizabeth Marvel, and Bill Camp.

Robin Hood (Otto Bathurst, 2018). Errol Flynn rests unworried. My review.

Ice Cold in Alex (J. Lee Thompson, 1958). A well-regarded British war film, mostly deserving of its status, that functions as both a post-Wages of Fear survival exercise and a postwar let’s-understand-the-enemy thing. John Mills leads a quartet of people across the Libyan sands (and the Libyan quicksand, in one sequence); the others are Sylvia Syms, Anthony Quayle, and Harry Andrews.

The Long Dark Hall (Reginald Beck, Anthony Bushell, 1951). Extremely strange accused-man movie with Rex Harrison arrested for the murder of his mistress; wife Lilli Palmer (Harrison’s real-life wife) remains loyal during the trial. The film is told with a mystifying framing device of reporters recounting the story (the credits carry a note about “additional scenes”), and the final minutes are left to these idiots to describe – the ending of the movie, to which everything has been building as a race against the clock, are literally left offscreen. What the hell?


Holiday Hood (This Week’s Movies)


Taron Egerton, Robin Hood (courtesy Lionsgate Summit Entertainment)

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

A streaming holiday movies article. (Herald version here.)

Robin Hood. “Trapped somewhere between the legit derring-do of Robin’s role in the resistance and the movie’s smirky attitude about the whole thing.”


Movie Diary 11/21/2018

Dance Me Outside (Bruce McDonald, 1994). I remembered liking this Native-Canadian black comedy, which mixes moods with reckless abandon. Indeed, there’s a lot to like – after a somewhat jokey opening it gets into its own odd groove (a blend of satire and weirdness that comes up in other work by McDonald and co-writer Don McKellar). Includes early work from Adam Beach and Michael Greyeyes, among other good Indian actors.

Older than America (Georgina Lightning, 2008). Memories of the abusive treatment of children in Indian boarding schools is stirred up in this indie, which has an important subject if an overly expositional treatment. Adam Beach and Wes Studi lend their reliable presences, the director herself takes the lead female role, and Bradley Cooper turns up in a supporting, pre-stardom turn.

Movie Diary 11/20/2018

Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018). The Palme d’or winner, which unfolds in such a gradual way that it hurts the movie to describe just what’s going on. I don’t think it’s Kore-eda’s best film, but it is consistently intriguing, anchored by a great performance by Sakura Andô.

Cremator (Juraj Herz, 1969). The Ljubljana International Film Festival did a retrospective of Czech New Wave films, and I managed to see this strange title after hearing about it for years, a very Sixties film set during the period leading to the Second World War. It’s about the sociopathic manager of a crematorium and his idealistic beliefs that cremating people leads to some kind of spiritual cleansing. The role is played by the Peter Lorre-like Rudolf Hrusínsky, a purring beast with a nasty combover. As the war approaches, his life becomes increasingly depraved. It would be no surprise if this film had an effect on a young Terry Gilliam (there’s even some cut-out animation), and also no surprise that Herz had previously worked with Jan Svankmajer. This film is aggressive and over the top, and, I suspect, unforgettable. Herz died in April of this year.

The League of Gentlemen (Basil Dearden, 1960). A heist picture, with Jack Hawkins enlisting a group of former military men (all with something black on their records) for a bank job. The cast includes Richard Attenborough, Nigel Patrick, and Roger Livesey. It probably should be more fun than it is – the cornball joshing drags it down a bit – but the actors make it satisfying overall.

Twice Round the Daffodils (Gerald Thomas, 1962). A real odd British therapy-comedy about a ward of TB patients and their super-competent nurse (Juliet Mills). The tuberculosis seems to be standing in for shellshock, because the film is relentlessly about ideas of masculinity, and how the various men deal with the unmanliness of being confined by illness. They include lovesick Ronald Lewis, blowhard macho Donald Houston, predatory Lothario Donald Sinden, and Carry On star Kenneth Williams doing a very camp act. The women are an impressive lot, too; along with the sensible Mills, there’s Jill Ireland, Nanette Newman, and Sheila Hancock. Thomas directed the Carry On films.


Movie Diary 11/19/2018

More from the Ljubljana Film Festival.

Little White Lie (Tomas Alzamora, 2017). This Chilean comedy gets off to a rollicking and inventive start, and although the idea doesn’t really sustain itself, there’s a lot of promise here. The gist of it is a failing small-town newspaper that gins up a story about possible alien abductions to raise circulation.

My Last Year as a Loser (Ursa Menart, 2018). A Slovenian coming-of-age tale about a young woman navigating various hurdles – bureaucratic, cultural, emotional – as she waits out an aimless year. Nicely rendered if not always very exciting.

The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018). Another backstabber from the Dogtooth director, in which two court ladies (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) vie for the affections of the clueless Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). In many ways the film is just as lethal as Lanthimos’s previous outings, but maybe a little more pleasurable.

High Life (Claire Denis, 2018). Robert Pattinson as an astronaut, surrounded by decaying hardware and flashbacks. Denis puts her imprint on science fiction and it is as dreamy as you would expect.

Crystal Swan (Darja Zuk, 2018). From Belarus, a very strong story about a young woman in 1990s Minsk trying to finagle her way to a travel visa for the USA, a process made difficult by bureaucracy and local customs. In the old arthouse world, this kind of movie could be a hit, given a determined Jeff Dowd-like publicist and the right critical support. It’s the Belarus submission to the Oscars, anyway.

Person to Person (Dustin Guy Defa, 2017). In some ways this is such a “typical Brooklyn indie” that one wants to resist. But the offhand cruise through streets and apartments and record stores is easy to take, and the cast (the main names are Michael Cera and Abbi Jacobson) is right on. The movie’s also got an ear for unabashedly “written” dialogue that sounds just a bit like Hal Hartley.