Movie Diary 3/30/2021

The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957). I’m preparing something to do with the end of the world. This film is very alive, moment-for-moment, which is one thing people might forget about it, given its Official Classic status.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989). Hadn’t seen it since writing my ’89 review, which I stand by. But it has not aged well, folks, I am sorry to report.

The Friday 3/26/2021

Regis Myupu: The Fever (KimStim Films)

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

The Fever/This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection. “With its soundscape of insects and rainfall, and its keen eye for lived-in interiors and fluorescent-lit urban in-between spaces, The Fever is, minute-by-minute, a compelling experience.”

Join us for this week’s session in Scarecrow Academy, as we continue our free online discussion series, “The Art in Noir: Film Noir and the Director,” with a look at John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle. We convene Saturday, March 27, at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, via Zoom; the event is free. I say more about the film here:

Eighties action continues this week at my other website, What a Feeling!, where I revive vintage reviews of these 1980s pictures: Steven Kovacs’s ’68, a coming-of-page movie with a Neil Young performance and a cinematographer with an amazing CV; Martin Brest’s Midnight Run, a buddy-movie hit with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin; Stewart Raffill’s now-legendary McDonald’s tie-in camp classic Mac and Me; Gary Sinise’s Miles from Home, a farmbelt cri de coeur with Richard Gere; and Maximilian Schell’s Marlene, a documentary portrait of Dietrich, for which the star refused to appear on camera.

Movie Diary 3/24/2021

The Fever (Maya Da-Rin, 2020). An indigenous worker in the Brazilian port city of Manaus suffers from an undetermined fever, as he watches the containers loaded off the ships and perhaps senses the pull of something ancestral. A movie that recognizably takes place in the real world, and yet has dreams percolating mysteriously beneath the surface. (full review 3/25)

Movie Diary 3/22/2021

The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 1950). So many ingenious touches in Huston’s streamlined heist picture, and what a cast. We’ll be talking about the film in detail on Saturday, March 27, at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, as part of Scarecrow Academy. Online, free, via Zoom – join us. I go on here:

The Friday 3/19/2021

The Inheritance (courtesy Grasshopper Films)

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

The Inheritance. “Acknowledges the influence of Jean-Luc Godard by placing a poster for La Chinoise in the kitchen, which means that a scene in which one roomie engages in some healthy juicing while positioned beneath the poster raises the question of whether Maoists would’ve achieved more if they’d had access to antioxidant smoothies.”

We continue our Scarecrow Academy semester of “The Art in Noir: Film Noir and the Director,” with an online Zoom discussion of Robert Siodmak’s Criss Cross, the 1949 noir starring Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo. The session, presented by the nonprofit Scarecrow Video in Seattle, begins at 2 p.m. Pacific Time and is free. Find out details and register at the Academy page. And below, I introduce the picture:

At my other website, What a Feeling!, the vintage 1980s reviews continue: Lindsay Anderson’s The Whales of August, starring Bette Davis and Lillian Gish; Blake Edwards’ Micki + Maude, with Dudley Moore married to both Amy Irving and Ann Reinking; Dominique Deruddere’s Love Is a Dog from Hell, a Belgian adaptation of three Charles Bukowski stories; Mike Figgis’s Stormy Monday, with Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sting; and Mike Nichols’ Silkwood, featuring the memorable trio of Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, and Cher.

Movie Diary 3/17/2021

Criss Cross (Robert Siodmak, 1949). This week’s title in the ongoing (and online) Scarecrow Academy, which we will talk about on Saturday, 3/20, at 2 p.m. Pacific Time. A good obsessive focus on just a handful of locations, wonderfully realized, especially the nightclub that attracts the characters. Nice feel for l’amour fou playing out in a regular American milieu. And oy, what an ending.

Jigsaw (Fletcher Markle, 1949). Some Proud Boys-like anti-immigrant thugs are killing people, and assistant district attorney Franchot Tone (who also produced) investigates. Super-oddball, with progressive messaging lost in a soupy storyline. Tone’s wife, Jean Wallace (you will recall her from The Big Combo), co-stars, herself super-oddball. There are a couple of unusual directorial flourishes, including Tone’s sudden inner monologue during a party scene, and the novelty of left-leaning celebrities in bit roles: Henry Fonda, John Garfield, Marlene Dietrich, Everett Sloane, Burgess Meredith.

The Inheritance (Ephraim Asili, 2020). A young man inherits his Grandmother’s Philadelphia house, and tries to turn it into a Black collective space, with all the earmarks of past radicalism: free library of Civil Rights classics, Godard posters, poetry readings. The film that results is far more eccentric, and more funny, than you expect. (full review 3/19)

The Friday 3/12/2021

Anthony Hopkins: The Father (Sony Pictures Classics)

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

The Father/The Mauritanian. “Illuminated, often thrillingly, by a central performance from Anthony Hopkins that might be the best of his career.”

Tomorrow, Saturday March 13th, we’ll convene for another session of “The Art in Noir: Film Noir and the Director.” This free Zoom discussion will tackle Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai, a baroque 1947 noir. Join us at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, and consult the links at the Scarecrow Academy page for how to sign up. Meantime, here I am introducing the picture:

More vintage reviews posted this week at my other blog, What a Feeling!, featuring more 1980s movies, such as: Jack Clayton’s The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, starring Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins; Robert Dornhelm’s Echo Park, with Tom Hulce and Susan Dey; Patricia Rozema’s I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, a Canadian arthouse hit starring Sheila McCarthy; David Beaird’s It Takes Two, pure 80s screwball from the director of My Chauffeur; and Hector Babenco’s Ironweed, a prestige literary adaptation with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.

Movie Diary 3/9/2021

The Mauritanian (Peter Macdonald, 2021). At times it relies on some well-worn storytelling tricks, but the performances and the strong sense of moral outrage are more than enough to put this one over. It’s based on a Guantanamo memoir by one of the detainees, played in an exceptional performance by Tahar Rahim, star of A Prophet. Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch pitch in nicely. (full review 3/12)

Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947). Watched this last week in prep for Scarecrow Academy. Lots of astonishing cigarette-lighting code, some fascinating masculine behavior alongside the central femme fatale story, oodles of noirish emphasis on fate and luck. And I note again Tourneur’s great gift for how to arrange people in rooms and slice that up with a camera and light. (Join us 3/13 for a discussion of The Lady from Shanghai.)

Movie Diary 2/8/2021

Social Hygiene (Denis Cote, 2021). It wasn’t in the Competition category of the Berlin Film Festival, but I wanted to see Cote’s new one, a stylized talkfest shot in spectacular outdoor locations. (I would put the circumflex over the “o” in his name if I had the slightest idea how to access one in WordPress’s awful new editing scheme.) A very funny movie, in its odd way, and except for a close-up in the final 60 seconds, the lead actor Maxim Gaudette plays his entire performance in long shot – and yet conveys an abundance of attitude and character through sheer, sometimes zany, body language. An enormously droll movie.

The Friday 3/5/2021

Alexandre Koberidze’s What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?

No review for Scarecrow this week – but quite a bit in the etc. department.

I was on the FIPRESCI jury for the Berlin Film Festival this week – that’s the international critics’ jury at Berlinale. The FIPRESCI jurors handed out four awards for different sections of the festival. I was the overall president of the jury but I voted only in the Competition section, and we gave our award to a film from Georgia, What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?, directed by Alexandre Koberidze – a movie full of cinematic enchantment. For a full list of our awards, see the FIPRESCI section on this festival page.

Does anyone want to know how I ranked the 15 films in competition? You do? All right, ranked on a scale of 1-10:

(10/10) What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? (Alexandre Koberidze, Georgia)

(10/10) Herr Bachmann and His Class (Maria Speth, Germany)

(10/10) Bad Luck Banging, or Loony Porn (Radu Jude, Romania)

(9/10) Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan)

(8/10) Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma, France)

(7/10) A Cop Movie (Alonso Ruizpalacios, Mexico)

(7/10) Introduction (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

(7/10) Natural Light (Denes Nagy, Hungary)

(7/10) Ballad of a White Cow (Behtash Sanaeeha, Maryam Moghaddam, Iran)

(6/10) Next Door (Daniel Brühl, Germany)

(6/10) Forest – I See You Everywhere (Bence Fliegauf, Hungary)

(6/10) Memory Box (Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige, Canada/Lebanon)

(6/10) Drift Away (Xavier Beauvois, France)

(6/10) I’m Your Man (Maria Schrader, Germany)

(4/10) Fabian, or Going to the Dogs (Dominik Graf, Germany)

I hope to write more about these films shortly. You know, after recovering from watching 15 films in four days.

A reminder: The current semester of Scarecrow Academy continues on Saturday, March 6, with an online discussion of Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past; this is part of “The Art of Noir: Film Noir and the Director.” We’ll convene via Zoom at 2 p.m. Pacific Time; for more details, consult the Scarecrow Academy page, and for an introduction, watch me talk about the movie:

And we have five more vintage reviews from my other website, What a Feeling! Here are a few from the 1980s: Rob Nilsson’s On the Edge, a long-distance running picture with Bruce Dern in his groove; Luis Puenzo’s The Official Story, an Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film with a powerhouse Norma Aleandro performance; Denys Arcand’s The Decline of the American Empire, an Oscar-nominated talkfest; Dick Maas’s Amsterdamned, a supercharged Dutch action flick; and Anthony Perkins’ Lucky Stiff, a DOA comedy that was Perkins’ final stab at directing.