Movie Diary 7/30/2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (David Leitch, 2019). The ampersands run wild, baldness prevails, and this absurd movie turns out to be daft fun. (full review 8/1)

David Crosby: Remember My Name (A.J. Eaton, 2019). Interesting stuff along the way about this unusual American life, but it feels like a skim: Certainly needs more than 95 minutes, at least. (full review 8/8)

Movie Diary 7/29/2019

Psych-Out (Richard Rush, 1968). Susan Strasberg comes to the Haight in search of her missing brother, who has dropped out and become a bearded weirdie calling himself “The Seeker.” Ladies and gentlemen, Bruce Dern. But he’s in it only briefly; Strasberg’s main dude is Jack Nicholson, as Stoney, a gregarious free-love guy who shares a house with a ragtag collection of hippies, among them Adam Rourke and Max Julien. Lots of footage on the streets of San Francisco, and lots of vintage Sixties cinematographic gestures (Laszlo Kovacs shot it). Dean Stockwell is in the zone as a blissed-out meditative type who constantly calls out Stoney for his “games.” The Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Seeds appear. It is, in short, a must-see.

Movie Diary 7/28/2019

Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941). Almost like a chamber piece for Hitch, a movie about little spaces and big rooms, quite unsettling even through the final moments. Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant are aces. Almost every scene makes you feel like you walked in on a couple and came away thinking, ooh, this marriage is not going to last.

Luz (Tilman Singer, 2018). Probably for horror cultists only, but this German film works its demon-transference ideas in a thought-out way. The soundtrack is especially nerve-pricking. (full review 8/1)

Once Upon A Love Trust (This Week’s Movies)


Leonardo DiCaprio: Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Sony Pictures)

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

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. “DiCaprio and Pitt own the picture. Their different styles — DiCaprio coiled, Pitt hanging loose — go directly to how they create these two bros who need each other. Neither actor has ever been better.”

Sword of Trust. “Mel is sardonic, pragmatic and just barely tolerating all this. The role fits like a glove for the comedian (and celebrated podcast host) Marc Maron, who brings a splendidly rumpled humanity to his role.”

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love. “There’s something powerful here about certain kinds of 1960s dreams and realities, and how emotional bonds can survive the decades.”

For the Scarecrow Video blog, I contribute a Seasoned Ticket post recalling a previous Leonard Cohen documentary, 2005’s fine Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, which I begin with a rash speculation about the greatest song ever written. Read that here.

Movie Diary 7/24/2019

Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018). Missed it the first time around. A good insanity picture, even if I’m not entirely sure about how some of the connections are made, plot-wise.

Doctor Renault’s Secret (Harry Lachman, 1942). Monster movie variation with a little Island of Dr. Moreau transported to the French countryside (the direct DNA comes from Gaston Leroux’s Balaoo, a monkey-into-man property). George Zucco is the mad doctor, J. Carrol Naish is the sympathetic experimental man-ape. This was the last feature directed by journeyman Lachman, and if its 58 minutes are not especially inspired, it benefits greatly from a handsome Fox house style and some energetic compositions.

The Drum (Zoltan Korda, 1938). Technicolor, action on the India frontier, Mohammedens in revolt, Sabu. Pretty good formula. The film has the feel of something brewed up to encourage harmony between Britain and its territory, with Sabu (his second movie) carrying the lion’s share of goodwill. Roger Livesey and Valerie Hobson are the Brits stationed at an unstable outpost, Raymond Massey is the war-mongering religious zealot. The kid with the bomb from Hitchcock’s Sabotage, Desmond Tester, is Sabu’s freckle-faced counterpart.

Movie Diary 7/23/2019

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019). Ten years ago in my diary blurb for Inglourious Basterds I wrote, “Does anybody else make movies like this? Would anybody else get away with making movies like this?” I see no reason to change that sentiment here. The movie is certainly stuffed to the gills. But a lot of it is movie pleasure. It’s especially for people who watched a lot of TV in 1969 – a movie made just for me, in short. (full review, 7/25)

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (Nick Broomfield, 2019). There’s more here than just another music documentary that trades on Baby Boomer nostalgia (I understand now, by reading Twitter, that Boomers were terrible people who ruined everything for the otherwise faultless generations that came after). Anyway, Leonard Cohen, folks. (full review 7/25)

Movie Diary 7/22/2019

Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940). Joan Fontaine is so neurotic and “on” in this movie, she propels it into a more modern place. It gets less Hitchcockian as it goes on, but of course it remains a very good watch. It has nothing on Suspicion, as you perfectly well know.

Zero Hour! (Hall Bartlett, 1957). The airborne nail-biter that inspired Airplane!, right down to the exclamation point. It’s not a good movie, but it’s not completely awful, either, and you realize the Airplane! boys took a lot from those 70s disaster pictures, too.

Movie Diary 7/21/2019

Something Wild (Jack Garfein, 1961). Ambiguous to a fault, this strange film is a bona fide art movie mixed in with Actor’s Studio workshop material. Carroll Baker plays a woman who drops out of her nothing life after a sexual assault, only to meet pathetically lonely mechanic Ralph Meeker. He needs someone to love and lock up in his one-room apartment, which he does. Baker remains somewhat blank, but with oddball line readings at curious moments. Meeker gives a remarkable performance, vulnerable and animalistic by turns, suggesting a very different actor from what he was usually allowed to be. Aaron Copland did the music. Despite the tendency toward overstatement, the movie makes you wish Garfein (an esteemed acting guru/stage director, married to Baker at the time) had made more movies; after The Strange One and this one, nada. (Both his films were given titles – different from the material they were based on – that served as warnings to the audience.)

S.O.B. (Blake Edwards, 1981). It holds up funny. The way the film gravitates to its older actors – especially William Holden, Robert Preston, and Robert Webber – is splendid. Julie Andrews is a heckuva trouper. Then there’s Larry Storch, reading out the titles of Richard Mulligan’s past career. And – the dog on the beach.

King Farewell (This Week’s Movies)


Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola: The Art of Self-Defense (Bleecker Street)

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

The Lion King. “When Scar’s dastardly plottings turn dark and scary, the image lacks the romantic spookiness of animation. Here, things just look bleak.”

The Art of Self-Defense. “The sensei is a gem of controlled acting: Nivola finds all the humor, but he gives the character a weird breeziness, with the hint of anger beneath the surface, all while conveying the guy’s complete and utter insanity.”

The Farewell. “The handkerchiefs will be out, yet Wang knows how to keep the tears honestly earned.”

And a Seasoned Ticket blogpost for Scarecrow Video, on the subject of a new arthouse theater in Seattle (the Beacon) and the ineffable Starcrash. Read it here.

Movie Diary 7/16/2019

The Art of Self-Defense (Riley Stearns, 2019). Dark comedy served up nice and chilled, with too many good touches to spoil. Jesse Eisenberg does his thing – but even more so – as a young dullard whose mugging leads him to a karate studio. And Alessandro Nivola puts it all together as the guru of the martial-arts place, a freakishly placid sensei with his own peculiar system. This is a smart movie. (full review 7/19)