The Friday 7/29/2022

Ben Affleck: Deep Water (Claire Folger, 20th Century Studios/Hulu)

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

Deep Water. “It’s all very slick, ideal for a 30-second cigarette advert, if people still made those.”

We have new episodes coming, I swear, but in the meantime here’s a “Music and the Movies” re-run, devoted to Western theme songs. Listen to the Voice of Vashon “M&M” page, where something will live even if the Western show has expired.

Movie Diary 7/27/2022

Picture Mommy Dead (Bert I. Gordon, 1966). Gaudy color (fun to look at, in other words), dopey storyline, paycheck-collecting performances. Don Ameche, Martha Hyer, and Maxwell Reed are conniving after a fortune in different ways, but the key rests with Ameche’s daughter, who is played by Bert Gordon’s daughter Susan, and she is off her rocker. Zsa Zsa Gabor plays the dead mother, and she is very Zsa Zsa; Wendell Corey has one scene as a lawyer, and he looks like he’s in very bad shape (he would be dead in two years, at 54). There’s a falcon that does its job very well, presumably shoehorned in because Gordon had seen The Birds. Uninspired overall except for the interiors of the house, and at least Martha Hyer seems to understand the kind of horror-melodrama they’re making. Is this the earliest use of “The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out” in movies?

Movie Diary 7/25/2022

Historieta amarga (2021), Daydreaming (2021), ¿Te puedo llamar? (2020), Mal viaje (2019), Marea alta (2019), Adiós(2018), all directed by Leopoldo Muñoz. I recently watched this batch of short films from the Chilean filmmaker and critic. Taken together, the films chronicle a collection of wandering souls, viewed with curiosity and empathy, but also with a frankness that doesn’t allow for sentimentality (even when the subject might lend itself to sentiment, such as Adiós, in which a man sinks into melancholy after suffering a loss). They’re especially good at exploring isolation and the yearning for connection. Sometimes in a director’s early short films you see an interesting eye or an inquisitive mind; in this case, you have both, and even the films that seem to float along on a reverie contain visual coups that display a real filmmaker at work. Muñoz, who works in Santiago, is preparing his first feature.

Movie Diary 7/24/2022

The Innocents (Eskil Vogt, 2021). Children with extrasensory powers, making various levels of mayhem in a housing development. There are some tired ideas in the thing, but it’s hard to deny Vogt’s skill at mounting certain creepy effects, or his ability to lock us into a child’s perspective. Overall, though, an unsavory experience. Vogt is the co-writer of Joachim Trier’s films.

The Friday 7/22/2022

Cliff Curtis, Gracija Filipović: Murina (Kino Lorber)

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

Murina. “Combines fervent ideas, literary-style symbolism, and an enthusiasm—almost a hunger—for transforming idiosyncratic locations and people into cinematic landscapes.”

I have a new episode of “The Music and the Movies”: Elvis! We track the dispiriting film career of Elvis Presley, with a nod to Baz Luhrmann’s new Elvis, and include some of the best songs of that run, plus a couple of clinkers. Check that at the Voice of Vashon website. If the Elvis link has expired, see what else is there.

Movie Diary 7/19/2022

Murina (Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, 2021). From Croatia, a story by the sea with fairy-tale elements. It opens next week at Northwest Film Forum, and I’ll write about it.

Deep Water (Adrian Lyne, 2022). The director’s first film in 20 years, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith, with Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. It is a film by Adrian Lyne, so yes, there’s a goddamn dog in it. I hope to write about this one, too. Some people have taken it seriously.

Movie Diary 7/18/2022

Mr. Jones (Agnieszka Holland, 2019). The film is imperfect, but its main problem was coming out three years too early: The subject is the Holodomor, the man-made 1932-33 famine in Ukraine caused by Soviet policies. We see it from the perspective of the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones (James Norton), who reported on the famine at the time; the film has special disdain for Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard in his characteristic oily mode), the New York Times Moscow correspondent. Vanessa Kirby co-stars. It’s a movie about an issue, and it’s a powerful issue, but not without directorial interest.

The Friday 7/15/2022

Alexander Skarsgard: The Northman (Aidan Monaghan/Focus Features)

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

The Northman. “It is disappointing that The Northman goes past what would have been a truly radical ending and extends itself for a zany climax that qualifies as Valhalla porn.”

I have a new episode of “The Music and the Movies” this week: a look at music associated with the films of Nicolas Cage. Listen to it at the Voice of Vashon website, or, if its online time has expired, see what else is up there.

Movie Diary 7/11/2022

Save Yourselves! (Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson, 2020). This is an end-of-the-world movie, so I had to watch, and I’m glad I did. A Brooklyn couple (you know they are a Brooklyn couple before you know they are a Brooklyn couple) decide to unplug their devices for a week and stay in a friend’s upstate cabin. This is the precise moment the aliens arrive, in the form of “poufs,” which look like basketball-sized Tribbles. The film’s comedy is constant and smart, well delivered by Sunita Mani and John Reynolds, who mostly have the field to themselves. The ending is just enough of a new wrinkle to satisfy.

Movie Diary 7/10/2022

The Northman (Robert Eggers, 2022). Might write about this later in the week. One thing: The impressions I’d casually picked up from scanning Twitter and whatnot – that the film is overlong, “surprisingly conventional,” extremely violent – turn out to be not true.

Dark Journey (Victor Saville, 1937). In 1918, we find Vivien Leigh in Stockholm, passing along French military secrets to the German high command, via her high-fashion business. A curious set-up made odder by the arrival of a romantic German general (Conrad Veidt) who falls for her. Very sharply made, with some elaborate sets and costumes, and Veidt in wonderful bigger-than-life form. The final 30 seconds are pretty cornball, but otherwise, a keeper in the spy-romance category.