The Friday 4/30/2021

About Endlessness (courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

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

About Endlessness. “Life as a vague waiting zone. The unreality of it—the way snow doesn’t really look like snow in the film’s most enchanting sequence, but an artificial idea of snow—is well suited to these No Exit sketches.”

This week’s episode of my radio show “The Music and the Movies” is devoted to the film music that didn’t get nominated for Oscars this year. Stuff from First Cow, Lovers Rock, The Invisible Man, Emma., Tenet, One Night in Miami, etc. etc. Check it here.

Last week’s show, on the movies that were nominated for Best Score – including winner Soul – is here, at least until Sunday. Then on Sunday 5/2, the new one drops – at 7 p.m. on Voice of Vashon, and online thereafter for two weeks.

More ’80s reviews at What a Feeling!, including my vintage takes on films beginning with the letter O: Luis Puenzo’s Old Gringo, a literary adaptation with Jane Fonda, plus Gregory Peck as Ambrose Bierce; Garry Marshall’s Overboard, a Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell screwball comedy; Arthur Hiller’s Outrageous Fortune, featuring the unlikely pairing of Shelley Long and Bette Midler; Daniel Vigne’s One Woman or Two, a romcom with the (you got it) unlikely pairing of Gerard Depardieu and Sigourney Weaver; and a twofer recalling the time two animated behemoths opened on the same day, Disney’s Oliver and Company and Don Bluth’s The Land Before Time.

Movie Diary 4/27/2021

The Day of the Jackal (Fred Zinnemann, 1973). It holds up extremely well – almost as though designed as a pushback to today’s blown-up style of suspense. Mechanical in the best sense; even Edward Fox comes across as a constructed operator, lean and robotic, his smiles engineered for temporary social effect. (This is especially good in contrast to Michel Lonsdale’s very human presence, his pants mottled with guano from his pet pigeons.) It’s all coiled and dryly laid out, ideal for Zinnemann’s careful method. The bitter taste of the Campari that Fox drinks with fusspot gun-maker Cyril Cusack prevails.

About Endlessness (Roy Andersson, 2019). The new one from the Swedish master is just now arriving for regular consumption, and it is much as before: brief blackouts, meticulously/obsessively presented. Andersson has stripped down his thing so that even less happens within these tableaux than before, perhaps the inevitable result of pursuing this style. Not so much Campari as – aquavit? (full review 4/30)

Movie Diary 4/25/2021

93rd Academy Awards. It was cooler to look at than usual, and a few things were significantly better than the Oscars of late, including the absence of music beneath speeches to hurry the winners away (please, let’s make this a permanent deal). I particularly cherished the clips, which played out as single scenes, instead of a trailer-like montage. They used to pick a single moment to represent the movie or actor back in the 70s, and it was often something very telling and memorable; the montage, by comparison, is a hurried commercial. And no songs! Yes!

In the Earth (Ben Wheatley, 2021). My review here. A collection of nicely-handled bits and bobs reminiscent of other folk-horror films, and then a pretty annoying descent into gimmickry toward the end.

Barton Fink (Joel Coen, 1991). First re-visit in many years. The Coens’ cleverness sometimes undercuts their mystery, something that they got better at as the years went by. John Goodman’s “Because you DON’T LISTEN!” still strikes me as one of the greatest observations in any Coen film, superbly delivered.

The Friday 4/23/2021

Joel Fry, Hayley Squires: In the Earth (courtesy Neon)

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

In the Earth. “This is the kind of movie you go along with because you enjoy the genre conventions—or you don’t.”

My latest episode of “The Music and the Movies,” a radio show produced by Voice of Vashon, is online and available. The subject this week is the five Best Score Oscar nominees for this year; I play my favorite cuts from the soundtracks of Soul, Mank, Minari, Da Five Bloods, and News of the World. Listen to the Oscar show here.

Meanwhile, still online until at least Saturday night at midnight is my show on music associated with the films of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Then on Sunday 4/25 at 7 p.m., the new episode drops, this one about music from this year’s other Oscar-nominated (or in some cases, not) movies.

More vintage 1980s reviews this week at my other website, What a Feeling! To wit: B.W.L. Norton’s Three for the Road, a road-movie romance with Charlie Sheen; Steven Okazaki’s Living on Tokyo Time, a likable low-budget indie from an Oscar-winning documentary maker; Frank Perry’s Hello Again, a Shelley Long vehicle with a Lazarus twist; Andre Techine’s Scene of the Crime, with Catherine Deneuve in excellent form; and Gillian Armstrong’s High Tide, a fine reunion of director, actress (Judy Davis), and continent (Australia).

Movie Diary 4/20/2021

Outbreak (Wolfgang Petersen, 1995). Working on a project, so revisiting something here I never thought I’d revisit. It is shameless.

What’s Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972). Not working on a project, merely taking time for one of the Horton household’s “Movies for Fun” (TM). It holds up very nicely, trim and smart. This time I felt like I heard Buck Henry’s voice very distinctly in certain spots (the courtroom scene, especially), although I’ve no idea how the writing went down.

Movie Diary 4/19/2021

Street of Sinners (William Berke, 1957). Continuing my investigation into the films of William Berke, prolific B-movie maker. This is from his late period of independent crime pictures, and although it doesn’t have the New York atmosphere of The Mugger or Cop Hater, it’s got some interesting and/or flat-out weird scenes. George Montgomery plays a new, by-the-book beat cop, who inherits a notorious neighborhood run by tavern owner Nehemiah Persoff. (Either that, or a cigar-store wooden Indian plays the cop; it’s hard to tell.) Montgomery’s flatfoot is so uptight you wonder whether some great neurosis is going to be revealed about him, but no, he just needs to become more realistic about his methods. And speaking of Method, Geraldine Brooks gives a high-powered Actor’s Studio performance as a lush who takes a liking to the cop, a twitchy, occasionally startling turn for a character doomed to end badly. Lots of juvenile delinquents and hot rods; the Wild One moment comes with the question “What’s wrong?” and the answer “The whole world.” The cast includes Marilee Earle, who also starred in Berke’s The Lost Missile and Island Women, Joseph H. Lewis’s Terror in a Texas Town, and Jacques Tourneur’s The Fearmakers and basically nothing else. The well-traveled Stephen Joyce makes his film debut and leans heavily on James Dean’s ghost; also debuting is Andra Martin, soon to be immortalized in The Thing That Couldn’t Die. Overall, not exactly great, but there are some inventive shots, including a dangerous-looking stunt with an out-of-control hot rod.

Movie Diary 4/18/2021

Two more from the 2021 Seattle International Film Festival.

Love and Fury (Sterlin Harjo, 2021). The talented Native American filmmaker takes a documentary look at a group of Native artists, from a variety of disciplines. The movie doesn’t just rely on the sense of discovery, but brings an unusual amount of intimacy to its encounters with the artists, and it barrels along at just the right speed. Main drawback: The tendency of some artists to talk too much academy-speak instead of letting the art do its own talking.

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet (Ana Katz, 2021). A droll, mysterious item from Argentina, about a young man whose life, over the course of a few years, includes the loss of a dog, the finding of a wife and child, and the arrival of a mysterious pandemic that occupies the air above the level of four feet. It’s in black and white, doesn’t bother to explain itself, and clocks in at 73 minutes. This movie has something going for it, something ultimately charming.

The Friday 4/16/2021

Poitier/Belafonte

Skipping a week on my contribution to the Scarecrow blog. Instead:

I am hosting a radio show. That’s right, not a podcast, a radio show. Produced by Voice of Vashon, it’s called “The Music and the Movies,” a weekly emanation in which I look at different ways music has informed film. Each show stays online for two weeks after its initial Sunday-night (7 p.m. Pacific Time) broadcast. Right now you can listen to my latest episode, on music related to the films of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte; and the previous one, about Bernard Herrmann’s music for fantasy/sci-fi films. On Sunday, that one disappears, and we debut a show about this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Score.

Tomorrow, Saturday 4/17, join us online at 2 p.m. Pacific Time for Scarecrow Academy, where we wind up our ten-week semester on “The Art in Noir: Film Noir and the Director.” We’ll discuss Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly this time. Go to Scarecrow Academy and sign up for the free Zoom session, and do it now. Meantime, I introduce the movie here:

I’ve got more vintage 80s reviews at my other website, What a Feeling!, specifically: Jeff Bleckner’s White Water Summer, with Kevin Bacon tormenting Sean Astin in a teen Deliverance; Alex Cox’s Walker, a punk true-story Western with Ed Harris as the Oliver North of his day; Simon Langton’s The Whistle Blower, with Michael Caine in a spy picture; David Leland’s Wish You Were Here, which introduced Emily Lloyd in a widely heralded performance; and Carl Reiner’s Summer School, starring Mark Harmon as a laid-back teacher.

Movie Diary 4/13/2021

More from the 2021 Seattle International Film Festival.

There Is No Evil (Mohammad Rasoulof, 2020). Last year’s winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Four stories, linked by the theme of what capital punishment does to people involved, often against their will (because of military assignments), with administering the process. Rasoulof’s immense patience in telling this quartet of tales is extremely effective, even if there are times when various withheld revelations begin to feel overbearing. Each story has a distinctive setting – mundane life in the city, inside a prison, two very different country houses – and along with measuring the damage of capital punishment, the film beautifully depicts these different levels of Iranian life. Along with Rasoulof’s social conscience, this too leaves a lasting impression. The director was sentenced to a year in prison shortly after winning the Berlinale; this year he was on the jury for the festival.

Movie Diary 4/12/2021

More from this year’s Seattle International Film Festival, happening now.

Summer of 85 (Francois Ozon, 2020). It has the form of a remembered summer romance, but you would expect Ozon to run variations on this, and he does. (At the same time, Ozon isn’t so interested in deconstructing the form that he can’t take time to linger over the nude bodies of his lead actors during their summer idyll.) Those variations are intriguing, and they have less to do with doomed romance and a death-obsessed hero than with what makes a writer come into existence. It’s based on a novel, and I wonder whether the book had the film’s more cinematic moments in it; a scene in which the protagonist listens to Rod Stewart’s lugubrious “Sailing” on headphones while the rest of a nightclub is bopping to something faster, for instance.

Slalom (Charlene Favier, 2020). The issue of sexual abuse in sports is dealt with sincerely and straightforwardly in this story of a rising skier (Noee Abita) preyed upon by her charismatic coach (Jeremie Renier). Well acted and psychologically credible, with a few striking images (the sight of coach and student sitting in a ski lift at night, looking at a wolf in the snow below) and a strong sense of something awful playing out in an incongruously gorgeous landscape.