Movie Diary 4/29/2019

The Intruder (Deon Taylor, 2019). Young couple (Meagan Good, Michael Ealy) buys a fancy estate in Napa; former owner Dennis Quaid can’t let go of the place. Cue the jump scares. Oddly, the film never mentions race, even though the couple is black and their stalker is white and we are living in the age of Get Out and the Metaphorical Implications are going off the chart. Overall, not great. (full review 5/1)

Movie Diary 4/28/2019

Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais, 1959). Seeing a serious film that really reaches for big things has become rare, so a re-visit to this classic is a reminder of how scintillating that experience can be. The movie is like a modernist version of Brief Encounter, but one where the elegant flashback structure of the Lean film is smashed to bits by postwar anxiety (there’s even a scene at a station – a bus station, in this case – with the passionate lovers absurdly separated by a random third party).

All I Desire (Douglas Sirk, 1953). Strong Stanwyck (but why do I repeat myself?) in a well-managed melodrama (circa 1910) about a wife and mother who returns to the family home in Dullsville, Wisconsin, after abandoning the family for the stage a decade earlier. Sirk knew how to put things in a frame, that’s for sure.

Body Heat (Lawrence Kasdan, 1981). Reminding myself of what my Halloween ’81 costume was like – thanks for the inspiration, Bill Hurt. A silly and fun movie.

Endgame Sunset (This Week’s Movies)


Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle: Avengers: Endgame (Walt Disney/Marvel Studios)

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

Avengers: Endgame. “This movie is slow, steeped in nostalgia for the previous chapters, and very serious about itself.”

Stockholm. “Hawke never tips completely into cartoon territory — in the end, there’s something human about this idiot.”

Sunset. “The dazed look of someone recently smacked in the head.” (This is posted as my Seasoned Ticket entry at the Scarecrow Video blog.)

Please join us Saturday April 27 at 1 p.m. at Scarecrow Video for another session in our Scarecrow Academy semester, devoted to the films of 1959. This time: Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour, written by Marguerite Duras. The session is free; more info here.

Movie Diary 4/23/2019

Avengers: Endgame (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2019). I just realized that not only are you supposed to keep secrets about who lives and dies in this movie – fair enough – you’re not even supposed to mention the main plot device. Man, that doesn’t leave much, even with three hours of very slow-moving material to work with. It’s fair to say that this is an entirely competent (if very frequently cornball) factory-made product, and I would never pretend that sausage is easy to create. But I’m relieved this part of our lives is over. (full review 4/25)

Movie Diary 4/22/2019

Stockholm (Robert Budreau, 2018). The 70s bank robbery that spawned the Stockholm Syndrome, broadly fictionalized. At the very least, the movie offers good stuff from Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace, while aiming for a loopy American Hustle vibe. (full review 4/25)

Internes Can’t Take Money (Alfred Santell, 1937). Odd item with Joel McCrea as idealistic Dr. Kildare (the character’s first screen appearance), mixed up with an underworld godfather (Lloyd Nolan) and a hardluck dame (Barbara Stanwyck) searching for her child. Melodrama and charm go together nicely in an old-school way. Wonderful evocation of Stanwyck’s tiny working-class apartment, where McCrea stops by with hot dogs and beer. McCrea is graceful as usual, Babs is teriff.

Movie Diary 4/21/2019

Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989). I was lukewarm on this movie in 1989, and did a half-assed job of reviewing it. I thought after 30 years I should give another look. The good things in it hold up well, and there isn’t any doubt about its legit place in film history. Lee should get credit for some wonderful bits of casting, including people who would become sizable stars, and the film’s comic beat – not just within scenes, but paced through 120 minutes – is very sharp. The passages that resemble clumsy moments from two-decade-old episodes of All in the Family remain in place. I still think Lee’s stylistic flourishes are mostly flourishes, but the film’s vitality is unflagging. From the vantage point of now, it also deserves credit for not only reflecting its times but for predicting the future.

Spirit Curseloo (This Week’s Movies)


Rory Kinnear, Peterloo (Amazon Studios)

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

Peterloo. “A complex but amazing movie, one of Leigh’s best.”

The Curse of La Llorona. “Notable for one good performance and an almost complete lack of distinctiveness.”

Teen Spirit. “It’s not what you tell, but how you tell it. And Teen Spirit has a sideways, moody take on its tale.”

My Seasoned Ticket blog post for Scarecrow Video this week recalls some past work by Mike Leigh, including the time I failed to connect with him during an interview. Read that here.


Movie Diary 4/17/2019

Teen Spirit (Max Minghella, 2018). Stock story all the way (small-town girl, in this case from the Isle of Wight, sets her hopes on a TV talent contest; add absent father, resentful immigrant mother, wise alcoholic mentor), yet the movie has a crafted look and sound. It’s also got Elle Fanning, expending not one iota of effort to charm the audience – this is a sullen teen who is actually a sullen teen. Until she sings – and then the ugly duckling becomes, if not a swan, a very passionate kind of bird. Interesting movie, pitched somewhere between the audience-repelling Vox Lux and the audience-hugging A Star Is Born, and thus not likely to find its own crowd. (full review 4/19)

Movie Diary 4/16/2019

The Curse of La Llorona (Michael Chaves, 2019). Mexican folk horror invades the multiplex, in this James Wan-produced haunted-house picture. Linda Cardellini plays it with more conviction than the movie otherwise deserves. The movie’s so uncomplicatedly straightforward it practically contains no air. (full review 4/18)

Sunset (László Nemes, 2018). From the director of Son of Saul, a movie I liked quite a bit. Oddly, considering the change in subject (from an extermination camp to an early-20th-century costume drama), the two films use a similar right-at-the-protagonist’s-shoulders technique, the use of which is frankly rather puzzling here. (full review 4/19)

Movie Diary 4/15/2019

The City Without Jews (Hans Karl Breslauer, 1924). Restored/rediscovered print of a real curio, an Austrian fantasy/satire about a society where anti-Semitism is intense enough to prompt a locality to expel its Jewish population, with disastrous results. Seen from the post-Holocaust perspective, the film looks clairvoyant, and some of the jokes are shaded by intervening history. A remarkable artifact, even if the delivery is workmanlike (save for a couple of expressionist moments, including one sequence that looks like a deliberate spoof of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). Based on a novel by Hugo Bettauer, a prominent provocateur of the time who was assassinated in 1925 by an early-adopting Nazi. Screened at the Paramount theatre, with score by Gunther Buchwald performed by the Seattle-based ensemble Music of Remembrance.

Broken Lullaby (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932). A shell-shocked French WWI vet (Phillips Holmes) can’t shake the memory of the German he killed in the trenches; he visits the dead man’s family without revealing the exact nature of his connection. A delicate, grief-stricken film, catching the same anti-war mood as All Quiet on the Western Front, with Holmes’ performance practically suicidal. Some well-placed Lubitsch moments, although overall the film is sluggish (maybe a hangover from the stage version?), even beyond what its somber mood requires. Lionel Barrymore and Nancy Carroll play the dead man’s father and fiancee.