Movie Diary 10/30/2022

Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (Whale, 1935). I forgot to diary-note watching this double-bill in preparation for our current Scarecrow Academy online series. We talked about Bride, and it was as civilized and congenial as one of Dr. Pretorius’s picnics in a crypt. I remain the minority on comparing the two films, in that I actually prefer the first one – the sequel is glorious, but there is something absolutely pure and concentrated about the ’31 picture.

Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966). Also for the Academy theme of “Sci-Fi and the Director.” My interview with Frankenheimer is posted here, by the by. This was another good discussion; if you want to get in on Saturday’s conversation, which is about Blade Runner, check out the registration link.

The Friday 10/28/2022

Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson: The Banshees of Inisheran (Searchlight)

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

The Banshees of Inisheran. “You can see the relish that actors have when the material challenges and elevates them; it’s as though they’re so sunk into this world they never want to leave it.”

Saturday brings the next free online session of Scarecrow Academy’s “The Art in Sci-Fi Part 2: Science Fiction at the Director,” in which we will talk about John Frankenheimer’s 1966 film Seconds, an astonishing movie that gave Rock Hudson his most complicated role. That’s at 2 pm Pacific Time on 10/29; see the Scarecrow page to sign up.

Tuesday night, November 1, I’ll be presenting my Humanities Washington talk, “This Is the End: How the Movies Prepared Us for the Pandemic,” online at 6:30 pm Pacific Time, sponsored by Sno-Isle Libraries. Get more info and sign up here.

We have a rerun episode of “The Music of the Movies” this week, posted online for another ten days or so. This is the Paris show, with a batch of selections from Parisian film music for your je ne sais quoi. Listen at the Voice of Vashon website.

Movie Diary 10/24/2022

Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966), Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955), Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937). Yes, still teaching this quarter. How quickly the class moves through different stages of film form: Renoir’s fluid classicism to Ray’s well-structured neo-realism to Bergman’s tearing apart of the idea of projection. It seems like we’re going too fast, in some ways, but you’ve got to keep pace.

Movie Diary 10/23/2020

Creature from the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954). I will be moderating an online conversation with the author Mallory O’Meara tomorrow night, on the subject of her book The Lady from the Black Lagoon. It’s a look at the life of Milicent Patrick, the woman who designed the Gill-Man from the classic Universal horror picture – and of Patrick’s erasure from movie history. The talk is presented by the King County Library System, and begins at 7:30 pm Pacific Time, Tuesday night, October 25th. Here’s the link. Oh, and the movie? Still scoots along like a house afire, and man, what a monster.

The Friday 10/21/2022

Elsa Lanchester: The Bride

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

Bride of Chucky.

Why Bride of Chucky? (Why not, more like.) We are reviving Scarecrow Academy for its free online fall discussion series, “The Art in Sci-Fi Part 2: Science Fiction and the Director,” tomorrow at 2 pm Pacific Time, and our first subject is Bride of Frankenstein. The semester continues via Zoom through Dec. 10. See link here to register.

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 pm, I’ll be moderating an online discussion for the King County Library System, with author Mallory O’Meara, on the subject of her book The Lady from the Black Lagoon. The book tells the story of Millicent Patrick, who designed the Gill-man from the Universal horror classic. It’s a free event; sign-up here.

We have a repeat episode of “The Music and the Movies” online this week, and it’s timely: film music related to Dracula. Listen here.

Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 6:30 pm, I’ll present my Humanities Washington talk online: “This Is the End: How the Movies Prepared Us for the Pandemic.” It’s free, too, presented by Sno-Isle Libraries. More info and registration here.

Movie Diary 10/19/2022

We’re doing Scarecrow Academy again for the fall, this time the second part of “The Art in Sci-Fi: Science Fiction and the Director.” Join us for this free online discussion series, which takes place on Saturday afternoons at 2 pm Pacific Time. Our title for October 22 is James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein; follow this link for registration info, and see the rest of the schedule below.

Movie Diary 10/18/2022

More from the Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema, starting off with three titles that were not part of the FIPRESCI jury selection.

White Noise (Noah Baumbach, 2022). An adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel with Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig. Inventive rat-a-tat rhythm going on, some very funny lines, and maybe an overall sense of a literary meal that hasn’t been entirely digested. Oh, and if you haven’t heard already, the end-credits sequence is one for the ages.

The Director’s Film (Hong Sang-soo, 2022). I’m not sure the final section of this one lives up to the opening, in which people cross paths in amusing and sometimes uncomfortable ways. If charm can be said to be scalpel-like, Hong captures that here.

Les Cinq Diables (Lea Mysius, 2022). Adele Exarchopoulos stars in a truly bizarre story that combines magical elements with long-simmering resentments and an unwanted visitor from the past. (Nope.)

Anyox (Jessica Johnson, Ryan Ermacora, 2022, Canada). Somewhat experimental documentary about a former mining town in British Columbia and the long effects of its anti-union philosophy and bountiful pollution. The combination of razor-sharp digital photography from the present day with astonishing old footage of mining operations is very effective.

Grand Paris (Martin Jauvat, 2022, France). A couple of at-loose-ends lunkheads bop around the Parisian suburbs, convinced that a weird object they found might be a valuable Egyptian artifact. Unless it’s from space. This lightweight confection is proof that sometimes it’s okay to have a completely silly movie in the midst of the generally serious festival roster.

Super Natural (Jorge Jerome, 2022, Portugal). A non-narrative piece that moves around the island of Madeira with a variety of differently-abled performers in full bloom – a tactic not without a handful of startling moments.

Phi 1.618 (Theodore Ushev, 2022, Bulgaria/Canada). The first live-action feature from the Oscar-nominated, Bulgarian-born, Montreal-based animator. The zany sci-fi trappings are very much in the Terry Gilliam mode, and so is the humor.

Desvio de Noche (Ariana Falardeau St.-Amour, Paul Chotel, 2022, Mexico/Canada). The thread of story is peculiar, but the world evoked by this Mexico-shot feature is persuasive and mysterious.

Soft (Joseph Amenta, 2022, Canada). Another astounding child performance (by Matteus Lunot, a Mickey Rooney-like dynamo) fuels this tale of queer kids in Toronto, at loose and at risk.

Jerk (Gisele Vienne, 2022, France). Almost impossible to actually recommend this harrowing 60-minute adaptation of a one-man stage play, a monologue about a psychopath recalling his experiences in sexual torture and murder. At the same time, the actor (and puppeteer) who occupies center stage, Jonathan Capdevielle, is a brilliant performer, and his presence is remarkable. But please, let me forget this one.

Movie Diary 10/17/2022

Well, so, I was in Montreal for the Festival du Nouveau Cinema last week, on the FIPRESCI jury. We saw fifteen movies in our competition, so I may run out of energy to put them down in one post. Here’s a few of them, beginning with our winner.

How to Save a Dead Friend (Marusya Syroechkovskaya, 2022, Sweden/Norway/France/Germany). The co-production status is a function of this Russian filmmaker working outside the national system – which we definitely want to mention when we talk about giving an award to “a Russian movie” these days. The director shaped this nonfiction look at her late husband (ex-husband, at a certain point in the story) – so the film uses plenty of home-movie footage, yet also has a marvelous sense of craft and structure (and a keen eye for haunting repetitions). A fine, sad, personal documentary.

Aftersun (Charlotte Wells, 2022, UK). This one will get a strong arthouse run: father and daughter sharing a summer vacation, navigating shapeless sunny days and the almost physical presence of his melancholia. Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio deliver the two roles with heartbreaking accuracy, and Wells has a sure sense of pace.

The Maiden (Graham Foy, 2022, Canada). More shapeless days here, in a Van Sant-esque study of teenagers and death, where the woodsy outdoors is home at least as much as places with walls. It’s a feature debut for its director, and a good one, with a few well-earned shivers (not of the horror-movie kind).

Diaspora (Deco Dawson, 2022, Canada). Winnipeg isn’t only for Guy Maddin: Here’s a discursive tale of a Ukrainian immigrant (Yulia Guzhva) wandering around the new city, trying to find some flavor of home. Longish and Linklater-like, with a shrewd feel for running bits and tucked-away places.

Dalva (Emmanuelle Nicot, 2022, Belgium/France). A stunning performance by Zelda Samson (one of many strong child presences in this festival) anchors an unsentimental account of an adolescent girl and the aftermath of incestuous abuse.

Before I Change My Mind (Trevor Anderson, 2022, Canada). Coming-of-age comedy about a gay kid in a new town, buoyed by some SCTV-style comedy around a high school musical of the crucifixion.

Cette Maison (Miryam Charles, 2022, Canada). One of the more experimental selections, this one looks at a family of Haitian descent, and their wrenching experience with the death of a teenager. There is no attempt to please the audience here, which makes the movie’s rumination all the more bracing.

Les Pires (Lise Akoka, Ramane Gueret, 2022, France). A movie about the making of a movie, with particularly pointed questions about the do-gooder filmmakers – who seek to tell the truth about underprivileged kids – and their own culpability in using real street kids in their film.

The Friday 10/7/2022

Cate Blanchett: Elizabeth

No piece for the Scarecrow blog this week. Instead, some etc.:

I have a new episode of my radio show, “The Music and the Movies,” available for the ear. This one looks at movies about queens, with a pretty heavy emphasis on queens named Elizabeth (and Mary, too). Listen to that at the Voice of Vashon M&M page.

Movie Diary 10/3/2022

Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932). According to this website, I last watched this movie on the weekend The Crop Duster launched in 2008. This was back when, you know, blogs were going to be the future. And here I still am, and here this still is, and here Trouble in Paradise is still a great one.