Movie Diary 4/11/2021

I hope to be checking out things in the current Seattle International Film Festival this week, all happening virtually. So far:

The Pink Cloud (Iuli Gerbase, 2021). Brazilian movie about unexplained pink clouds that gather over a city, cause instant death, and drive the population indoors … for years. The movie must’ve seemed like a really original idea when written and shot – how could the filmmakers have known it would come true by the time the film came out? Watching it in the shadow of the pandemic provides an uncomfortable number of too-close-to-home moments, and if Gerbase – this is her first feature – doesn’t hit all the possibilities in the situation (you may find yourself asking, Why is this scene here, and not that scene?), she certainly knows how to set and sustain a mood. It’s also one of those “limited perspective” films that finds clever ways to work within its space – in this case, a roomy condo with ample views.

Mogul Mowgli (Bassam Tariq, 2020). A showcase here for Riz Ahmed, who also co-wrote the screenplay with the director. The actor plays a rising but no longer young rapper, stricken with a mysterious ailment on the verge of a big chance at opening for a major star during a European tour. I’m not sure how thoroughly the movie blends the character study with the cultural issues of Pakistani Muslims assimilating into British culture, as a lot of things get raised without being deeply explored. But Ahmed is a powerhouse, never less than nervy and arresting, and the film – like The Pink Cloud – finds an ending that is both suspended in mid-step but also somehow the right moment to finish on.

The Friday 4/9/2021

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

A SIFF “What I Want to See” article.

Tomorrow, Saturday 4/10, join us at 2 p.m. Pacific Time for a free Zoom session in Scarecrow Academy. Our “Art in Noir: Film Noir and the Director” series continues with a discussion of Joseph Losey’s The Prowler, a flat-out amazing film from 1951. Go to the Academy page to register. Here, I speak of the film:

Have you listened to my new radio show yet? I am hosting the program “The Music and the Movies,” a look at how music and film come together, with a different theme each week. Episode #1 is about Burt Bacharach, and will disappear from the website at end-of-day Saturday, so listen now. Ep. #2 is about Bernard Herrmann’s fantasy and sci-fi films. Check back on Sunday for the new one, which considers music from the films of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte.

At my other website, What a Feeling!, I corral a few vintage 1980s reviews on: Prince’s Sign o’ the Times, his musical recovery from Under the Cherry Moon; Claude Berri’s Jean de Florette, a huge French smash starring Yves Montand and Gerard Depardieu; Jill Godmilow’s Waiting for the Moon, a consideration of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas; Leonard Nimoy’s Three Men and a Baby, a gigantic box-office hit with the Selleck/Guttenberg/Danson juggernaut.

Movie Diary 4/6/2021

Slightly Scarlet (Allan Dwan, 1956). Daft in its storyline (the plot has many “Why is this happening now?” moments) and smooth in its mise-en-scene, this florid color noir is based on a James M. Cain novel. John Alton photographs the certifiably insane houses on display; the first time we see the home of the humble secretary (Rhonda Fleming) to a politician, we know the film takes place in a completely imaginative realm – and this is before we see “the beach house,” another garishly decorated and impossible-to-live-in space. Arlene Dahl is Fleming’s klepto-nympho sister, who wields a spear gun like a toy – good company in a movie like this – and John Payne is an ambitious “bright boy” gangster who steps into the void when mob boss Ted de Corsia has to leave town. When it’s violent, it’s quite violent. Those who think the Fifties were boring should watch.

Movie Diary 4/5/2021

Godzilla vs. Kong (Adam Wingard, 2021). Expected more from the director of The Guest, but too bad. There are some thrills in the physicality of the big monster fights, in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Ang Lee Hulk, but surely it would not have been that difficult to have constructed the humanoid sections of the movie with a little foundation. Got a chuckle out of Kyle Chandler telling his daughter, “That podcast is filling your head with garbage,” as the new “That rock and roll is rotting your brain,” and Brian Tyree Henry is a champ. It is amazing how a movie like this can make actors like Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgard vanish. I review it here.

The Friday 4/2/2021

Michelle Pfeiffer, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges: French Exit (Sony)

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

French Exit/Godzilla vs. Kong. “A gliding wackiness that never seems labored, but isn’t without gravity, either.”/ “It was disconcerting indeed to watch this one on a TV set, where its point is pretty much lost. I thought the previous Godzilla picture was pretty awful, but at least it was bigger than you.”

And hey, join us for Scarecrow Academy on Saturday April 3 at 2 p.m. Pacific Time for another free Zoom meeting in “The Art in Noir: Film Noir and the Director.” This week we’re talking about Gun Crazy, directed by Joseph H. Lewis, a delirious exercise in noir. I introduce the movie here:

At my other website, What a Feeling!, I line up five more vintage reviews from the 1980s: Henry Winkler’s Memories of Me, starring Billy Crystal and Alan King; Lezli-An Barrett’s Business as Usual, a feminist drama with Glenda Jackson – the only feature by its director; John Schlesinger’s Madame Sousatzka, a big showcase for Shirley MacLaine; Jerry Belson’s Surrender, a stillborn comedy with Sally Field and Michael Caine; and Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me, a crime romance with Tom Berenger, Mimi Rogers, and Lorraine Bracco.

Movie Diary 3/31/2021

Invisible Ghost (Joseph H. Lewis, 1941). The ghost is not actually invisible. Bela Lugosi plays a man haunted by a missing wife, who (this is not a spoiler) is alive and being hidden away nearby. An incredible number of murders are happening in the vicinity, the cause of which is revealed fairly early in the 66-minute running time. Some pretty bad actors in the cast, and the plot is nonsensical, but Lewis consistently finds a useful or evocative way of looking at and animating the action. Lugosi hangs in there, and Clarence Muse has a pretty good-sized part, mostly dignified, except for one throwaway “Do I look pale?” joke.