The Friday 12/30/2022

Cate Blanchett: Tár (Focus Features)

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

Tár/The Eternal Daughter. “Watching this persona shatter is a fascinating experience, thanks to Field’s rigorous approach and Blanchett’s knifelike performance.”/ “If you glanced at the movie, you might think you were watching a comfort-food BBC ghost story from the 1970s.”

Usually I do a 10-best list this week, but I’m putting if off a week, because I want to watch more 2022 movies. So sue me?

Movie Diary 12/29/2022

More movies watched for a film-festival jury, thus diary-listed here without much comment.

You Won’t Be Alone (Goran Stolevski, 2022). Witches in a rural area in 19th-century Macedonia, shape-shifting and mostly fleeing the ur-witch who rules the area. Sometimes the cursed protagonist mutates into people played by Noomi Rapace and Alice Englert.

World War III (Houman Seyyedi, 2022). An Iranian film – initially black-comic, eventually melodramatic – about a sad-sack day laborer who finds himself in an extremely unlikely position on a film crew shooting a Nazi picture.

Beautiful Beings (Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson, 2022). By the seaside in Iceland, a lost, weird adolescent kid finds himself befriended by a trio of wised-up peers, their lives soon overwhelmed by various kinds of toxicity.

Mars One (Gabriel Martins, 2022). The four members of a working-class Brazilian family endure a series of cruel bumps – which are not exactly caused by the recent election of Bolsonaro, but perhaps not entirely unrelated, either.

Cinema Sabaya (Orit Fouks Rotem, 2022). A small group of Israeli and Arab women take part in an adult-education class in filmmaking; their go-getter instructor encourages them to use their own lives as subject matter for their experiments. But there may be something else going on, too.

Movie Diary 12/27/2022

This is another non-opinionated (so as not to tip my hand) list of movies I’m watching for a jury.

Close (Lukas Dhont, 2022). Two adolescent boys have the closeness of their friendship called out when the school term begins. The Belgian director seems to channel the style of the Dardenne brothers (Emilie Dequenne, star of the Dardennes’ Rosetta, has a significant supporting role), for understandable reasons.

Saint Omer (Alice Diop, 2022). A French writer attends the trial of an African immigrant accused of drowning her own child. Long courtroom sequences are punctuated with the writer’s struggle with the idea of turning this situation into a modern take on Medea.

Cairo Conspiracy (Tarik Saleh, 2022). Hollywood-ready intrigue about a religious student drawn into the lethal machinations behind choosing Egypt’s new Grand Imam.

Nostalgia (Mario Martone, 2022). A man in his 50s returns to Naples and an extremely delicate situation that has to do with the reasons he abruptly left 40 years earlier. The local Catholic pastor and the local gang kingpin are both very much mixed up in the trouble.

The Happiest Man in the World (Teona Strugar Mitevska, 2022). The setting is a daylong workshop for singles looking for a match in Sarajevo; the ghosts unearthed in this process are connected, inevitably, to the war in the 90s.

Victim (Michal Blasko, 2022). In a Czech city, a Ukrainian immigrant (Vita Smachelyuk) is on the verge of getting her permanent resident status, when her teenage son is wounded. The resulting spiral takes on a momentum that quickly gets out of her control.

Movie Diary 12/26/2022

Bones and All (Luca Guadagnino, 2022). With the notable exception of Call Me by Your Name, this director makes silly films, and this is a silly film. Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet touchingly execute the cannibal love story, and the film’s first bite is an effective shocker. The film’s cross-USA road tripping might be Guadagnino’s stab at creating some kind of Lolita vibe, I guess, but without much oomph. The shortfall here can be measured by what goes on with Mark Rylance’s character, a narrative construct who exists because of the needs of, well, narrative. (How interesting it would have been to have his older, experienced cannibal disappear after a certain point.) And it says something that Rylance, one of the world’s greatest actors, gives a busy performance that tips well into hambone territory.

Movie Diary 12/25/2022

It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946). For which no explanation is necessary?

The More the Merrier (George Stevens, 1943). Expert comedy and romance all the way down the line. Hard to believe anybody could do this better than Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea (and everybody else onscreen).

Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974). First time watching this since a drive-in double bill with The Exorcist, circa, I don’t know, 1978 maybe? It is, in fact, not a terrible movie.

The Friday 12/23/2022

Mads Mikkelsen: Arctic

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and that’s it – let’s have a holiday.

Arctic. “With his body and head swaddled in winter gear, Mikkelsen sometimes has only the narrow rectangle around his eyes available for conveying a multitude of complex ideas and emotions.”

Movie Diary 12/21/2022

I’m on a jury, and watching a bunch of movies for that, but I probably shouldn’t tip my hand about how my vote will go. So, a non-opinionated diary list here. (All made it to the international Oscar shortlist announced today.)

Decision to Leave (Park Chan-wook, 2022). Fractured noir, stylized frames, eerie climax. You have to be impressed by how much attention is put to each shot, even the ones onscreen for just a moment.

Corsage (Marie Kreuzer, 2022). Would it exist without Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette? Food, costumes, music, and Vicky Krieps rampant.

All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger, 2022). Mud, guts, shellshock. It’s been too long since I read the book to know what’s been added/subtracted. Dead men walking.

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (Alejandro G. Inarritu, 2022). The Oscar-winning director goes for it, a surreal 8 1/2 thing without the “what do I film next?” factor. Big starring job for the great Daniel Gimenez Cacho.

The Quiet Girl (Colm Bairead, 2022). An eccentric Irish lass is exiled for a summer from her slovenly and crowded household to the home of relatives. A calm approach to a potentially maudlin scenario.

Movie Diary 12/18/2022

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (Dean Fleischer-Camp, 2022). A film of cuteness, a quality that perhaps does not sustain itself for 90 minutes. Still, I liked Jenny Slate’s authenticity in voicing an anxious, cheerful shell (also Isabella Rossellini as a shelly relative), and that was enough in this case.

Argentina, 1985 (Santiago Mitre, 2022). Just a coincidence, watching this film on the same day as the World Cup final. It takes a workmanlike, very old-fashioned approach to an important national moment (a civil trial for the members of the overthrown military dictatorship), and that’s okay for the purpose at hand. As the lead prosecutor, Ricardo Darin brings his seasoned presence and admirably resists the temptation to get all soppy with the material – a welcome demonstration of professionalism that serves the cause here.

The Friday 12/16/2022

Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Don Cheadle: White Noise (Netflix)

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

White Noise/EO. “The film has a great feeling for supermarkets, where modern culture has been perfected; turns out Warhol was right about the Brillo boxes and Campbell’s cans”/”a film of striking sadness, and of occasional flowerings of beauty.”

I have an actual brand-new episode of “The Music and the Movies” this week, this one devoted to David Bowie’s movie career. Listen at the Voice of Vashon website.

Movie Diary 12/13/2022

The Wonder (Sebastian Lelio, 2022). A well-turned 19th-century tale of a rational nurse (Florence Pugh) brought to Ireland to observe the possibly miraculous phenomenon of a little Catholic girl (Kila Lord Cassidy) who beams with health and faith despite not having eaten in months. The movie’s skepticism about “stories” is well-taken, and underlined by a framing device that reminds us of the apparatus of storytelling persuasion. Lelio is always good with actors, and everyone is strong here; it makes sense that the local tribunal is made up of formidable characters players such as Ciaran Hinds, Brian F. O’Byrne, and Toby Jones, because they should be intimidating to Pugh’s undaunted outsider.