Movie Diary 8/30/2021

Gattaca (Andrew Niccol, 1997). As before, a solid movie, based on a fine sci-fi idea, if a little schematic. Curious about what went on with Niccol, whose films Anon and Good Kill were not well distributed (I have seen neither).

Napoleon Dynamite (Jared Hess, 2004). Still hits the marks.

Serpico (Sidney Lumet, 1973). I was surprised to learn, by searching through the Crop Duster, that I had watched this as recently as ten years ago. Had forgotten that completely, and I’m not sure if that says more about the movie or me. At that time, I said that the movie displays two of Lumet’s best attributes, his feel for NYC locations and for fresh, oddball actors. True enough, although it also displays his tendency to indulge actors so that scenes become very emotional very quickly, in ways that seem to serve the actors a little more than the characters.

The Friday 8/27/2021

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II: Candyman (Universal Pictures)

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

Candyman. “It reminds you how infrequently, even in horror, movies today are willing to take a main character and make him wildly unsympathetic.”

I have a new installment of my radio show, “The Music and the Movies,” up this week. Our subject this time is “21st Century Film Composers (Who Are Not Men),” a look at exciting film-scoring work from female and non-binary composers. Expect to hear stuff from Mica Levi (Under the Skin), Hildur Gudnadottir (Joker), Anna Meredith (Eighth Grade), and others.

The previous episode, on the great Miklos Rozsa, will be online for a few more days. And if these links are dead when you read this in the future, you can go to my page at Voice of Vashon and see what’s live.

Two vintage 1980s reviews posted at my other blog, What a Feeling!, this week: Michael Almereyda’s Twister, a wacky family cult thing with Harry Dean Stanton; and Jeff Kanew’s Troop Beverly Hills, another stab at making Shelley Long a movie star.

Movie Diary 8/25/2021

The Gunfighter (Henry King, 1950). Gregory Peck and a mustache, in an early so-called “adult” western. Plays out mostly in interiors, wonderfully photographed by Arthur Miller. It feels very much of its era now, which is interesting; this is a smart, lean chamber-piece, and the weariness it conveys is persuasive, even if there’s maybe something slightly academic and studied about the whole thing. Good supporting cast, including those young-buck assholes Skip Homeier and Richard Jaeckel.

Candyman (Nia DaCosta, 2021). Will review tomorrow.

Movie Diary 8/24/2021

Whale People: Protectors of the Sea (2018). A 13-minute multi-screen film that surrounds a 3,000-pound whale totem carved by members of the Lummi people, a traveling exhibit that currently sits outside the Vashon Heritage Museum. The film features striking shots of the ocean and of man’s environmental footprint. The killer whale features most prominently, gliding by hugely in a way that gives a whole new meaning to “immersive.” There is also something damned eerie about hearing tribal elders talk about the “blackfish” as the people who live beneath the surface of the water.

Arthur (Steve Gordon, 1981). Periodic re-see of a Horton household fave. One thing to appreciate: how completely “in the mode” Liza Minnelli is here – full of showbiz snap, and in the spirit of 30s-era screwball, but believable as the blue-collar gal that the story needs (or believable at least as far as we suspend disbelief for glamorous people in those kinds of genre parts – think Cher in Moonstruck, too).

Movie Diary 8/23/2021

The Suicide Squad (James Gunn, 2021). I wrote about it for the Scarecrow blog.

Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967). Noir done up in L.A.’s “golden sunshine,” as David Lynch likes to call it. This film moves beautifully, even if jaggedly, each piece cracking along after the other. Lee Marvin’s performance is amazingly committed to the approach; he’s sometimes weirdly passive, other times cruel – an unexpected actor for an attempt at an art film.

The Friday 8/20/2021

David Dastmalchian: The Suicide Squad (Warner Bros/DC Comics)

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

The Suicide Squad. “It can’t stop nudging the audience about how ridiculous all of this is; the opening reel is essentially a series of eye-rolls about the film’s own preposterousness, with the audience flattered at being in on the joke.”

I have a new episode of “The Music and the Movies” this week, this one devoted to the great Miklos Rozsa: We go Double Indemnity, we go Spellbound, we absolutely go Ben-Hur.

The previous episode is still online; put a nickel in and listen to the Jim Jarmusch Jukebox. And if you’re reading this at a time when those links have moved on, check the M&M page to see what’s live.

Three vintage reviews posted this week at my other website, What a Feeling!: Bill Fishman’s Tapeheads, a black comedy with John Cusack and Tim Robbins; Alain Cavalier’s Therese, a wonderfully unorthodox study of a saint-in-the-making; and Joseph Ruben’s True Believer, a legal story with James Woods and Robert Downey, Jr., two actors whose lives have taken interesting turns since then.

Movie Diary 8/16/2021

Saint Maud (Rose Glass, 2019). This movie has nun hysteria, saint-related mortification, and highly unusual UK location work. How did it take me this long to watch it? Morfydd Clark – in a stunning match of actress and character – plays Maud, a young acolyte, serving as a home nurse to a terminally ill woman (Jennifer Ehle). Maud speaks to God (in Welsh) and believes she has been sent to convert her patient to the Lord. There is, perhaps, nothing blazingly new about any of it, more of a well-executed exercise, but Glass has a strong eye, and her work with the actors is uniformly fine. There’s one scene in the late going, with a minor character visiting Maud’s spartan apartment, where you find yourself tensing up in the knowledge that this person may not get out alive, and in its own intimate way it’s as suspenseful as the Manson ranch sequence in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. And the final 15 minutes has hair-curling moments that qualify the film as an sterling example of the modern horror movie without violating the likelihood that everything is happening in one crackpot’s head.

The Friday 8/13/2021

Maja Ostaszewska: Never Gonna Snow Again (Kino Lorber)

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

Never Gonna Snow Again. “A thoroughly engaging little weirdie, made with great rigor and just the right measure of black humor.”

I’ve got a new episode of “The Music and the Movies” up and running, this one called “Jim Jarmusch Jukebox,” in which we consider the songs used by that director in his films – which often feature jukeboxes, as a matter of fact.

And still up for another few days is a show considering the music of films featuring Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Or if those links aren’t working as the shows disappear, check my Voice of Vashon page to see what’s happening.

Three vintage reviews posted this week at my other blog, What a Feeling!: Paul Bogart’s (and of course Harvey Fierstein’s) Torch Song Trilogy; Emir Kusturica’s Time of the Gypsies, from a time when that director seemed more acceptable than he does today; and Nancy Savoca’s True Love, one of the big indies from a time when “indie” was newly defining itself.

Movie Diary 8/11/2021

Never Gonna Snow Again (Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert, 2020). An outsider with a curious set of quasi-supernatural skills installs himself as a massage therapist in an upscale (yet tacky) suburban development. A Polish exercise in weird vibes and sly comedy. (Full review 8/13)

Heaven Can Wait (Warren Beatty, Buck Henry, 1978). A film that was very, very popular at the time, and understandably so; it wears its skills lightly, and puts it all over with great charm. I was able to anticipate certain line readings even after 40 years. A rare modern comedy (if I can use that phrase at this distance) that knows how to deploy a supporting cast of top-flight character actors.

Movie Diary 8/10/2021

Vita & Virginia (Chanya Button, 2018). I’m prepping a program on female movie composers and Isobel Waller-Bridge did the music for this one, which I didn’t see the first time around. So. The music is interesting, anyway. A period piece about Virginia Woolf and her relationship with Vita Sackville-West, the movie groans with awkwardness, save for the scenes elevated by Elizabeth Debicki’s soulful performance as Woolf. (Gemma Arteton is Vita.) Otherwise, production design overwhelms everything. Footnote: Future Promising Young Woman director Emerald Fennell plays Vanessa Bell.