Movie Diary 1/29/2019

They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson, 2018). This is that documentary that Jackson did with all the WWI footage – very fiddled-around with, with colorized images and sound effects and some pretty good method for getting the variable-speed silent stuff to look smooth. You can argue about manhandling historical material like that, but it’s hard to deny how strong the effect is. Weird, though, at the same time.


Movie Diary 1/28/2019

The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959). Taking a cruise through the films of 1959 over at Scarecrow Video (and you’re invited to join). Truffaut’s beautiful debut is full of memorable things, some of which (like that kid who can’t keep his ink from spilling all over his exam book) exist as though to say – why shouldn’t movies be full of things like this?

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1978). Back home after thinking about Truffaut all day, it made sense to re-visit this classic for the first time in many, many years. One revelation after all that time is how unusual its storytelling method is – the way the pieces come together, the accumulation of fragments, not unlike the way Dreyfuss keeps slapping together his mountain.

The World of Apu (Satyajit Ray, 1959). The tremendously moving third part of Ray’s trilogy, and a film that actually stands up well on its own. The story is full of strange turns of fate, but Ray’s generosity toward human vanity and frailty keeps everything beautifully grounded.

Serenity Stan (This Week’s Movies)


Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway: Serenity (Graham Bartholomew/Aviron Pictures)

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

Serenity. “A premise so crackpot it’s impossible to believe that one of its 17 credited producers didn’t pull the director aside and slap him with a tuna.”

Stan & Ollie. “They re-create some classic routines, with obvious affection; these are performers who understand comedy in their bones.”

And please join us at the Scarecrow Video Screening Room tomorrow (Sat. Jan. 26) at 1 p.m., for the first meeting of the “Scarecrow Academy,” a yearlong project that will try to make the case that the greatest year in film history was 1959. The format will be intro/film screening/discussion, and I’ll guide the proceedings. There’s a little more about it in this post (not yet posted) for the Scarecrow blog.

Movie Diary 1/22/2019

We hereby declare that the greatest year in film history is … 1959! To prove this assertion, or possibly not, I will be haunting the screening room at Scarecrow Video all year long, as we establish “Scarecrow Academy,” a free series of screening/discussions.

First one’s on Saturday (Jan. 26) at 1 p.m. Tuition is free, but an RSVP is welcomed. You can see the poster below, or look at Scarecrow’s post about the project. Come along, tell your friends, and go deeper into film.


Movie Diary 1/21/2019

At Eternity’s Gate (Julian Schnabel, 2018). As a filmmaker, Schnabel still seems like more of a hobbyist to me, but he’s certainly a very sincere one. The life of Vincent Van Gogh remains a compelling one for movies, and 63-year-old Willem Dafoe – Vincent died at 37 – proves that age is no barrier to the exploration of a soul.

Ben Is Back (Peter Hedges, 2018). Stellar performances by Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges (the director’s son) keep this addiction drama on a steady path – but it’s actually pretty steady overall. If somebody had decided to get an Oscar campaign going for Roberts, it’s hard to see how she misses, but it’s really all about the campaign.

All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955). Checking out the Criterion blu-ray. Wowza!

Cold Glass Destroyer (This Week’s Movies)


Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig: Cold War (Palace Films, Lukasz Bak)

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

Cold War. “Along with the off-center black-and-white cinematography, Pawlikoski’s most effective tool here is the way music provides the pulse of the story.”

Glass. “I hope Shyamalan drops his grand ambitions to explain the Unified Theory of Everything and gets back to freaking us all out.”

Destroyer. “Switching the sex around doesn’t make it fresh.”

I contribute a Seasoned Ticket entry for the Scarecrow Video blog, this time looking back at M. Night Shyamalan’s second feature, Wide Awake. Read here.

Movie Diary 1/15/2019

Glass (M. Night Shyamalan, 2019). The movie has a cool-creepy final act, where All Is Revealed – but man, it is a long way to get there. I think I like Shyamalan better when he’s working on his standalone ideas, not when he’s universe-building. Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson look unengaged, to say the least, and James McAvoy recycles his Split turn. Impeccably made, as you expect with Shyamalan, but weirdly inert. (full review 1/18)