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.

Wick SIFF (This Week’s Movies)


Keanu Reeves: John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (Lionsgate)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum. “I’ve always liked the fact that Reeves doesn’t look like he pumps a lot of iron to get into the role; it makes John Wick’s skill-set all the more otherworldly.”

And a SIFF preview.

No Scarecrow blog post this week. Thanks to those who attended the first semester of Scarecrow Academy. We’ll be back.


Beautiful Blue (Weekly Links)

Macon Blair, bearded revenger: Blue Ruin

Macon Blair, bearded revenger: Blue Ruin

Links to reviews I wrote for the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Blue Ruin. “Saulnier trusts his material enough to let the early reels unfold slowly, with very little dialogue, as he sets up his dominoes.”

Neighbors. “Seth Rogen’s need to stand around and riff on bodily functions and sex organs.”

Young & Beautiful. “Places her in a long line of French actresses who practically demand the word ‘enigmatic’ be placed before their names.”

A how-to preview of the Seattle International Film Festival.

At the Overlook Podcast, Steve Scher and I talk a little about Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and how it works intriguing variations on the revenge movie. Check in here.

And the most recent session of Framing Pictures is being broadcast on the Seattle Channel (regularly channel 21 hereabouts, channel 321 on HD). Check it out tonight at 8:30 p.m. and 3 a.m., Saturday night at 9 p.m. and etc. Schedule here. You should be able to watch it online soon. The talkers are Richard T. Jameson, Bruce Reid, and me, and the subjects include revivals of Orson Welles’ Othello, John Cassavetes’ Love Streams, and the opening of Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive.

Goon in Black (Weekly Links)

Smith and Jones and greenscreen: MiB3

Links to reviews I wrote this week for the Herald, and etc.

Men in Black 3. (dead link; review below)

By Robert Horton

The first two “Men in Black” movies (1997 and 2002, respectively) teemed with wacky ideas and throwaway sight gags, as though the premise (secret government agents charged with monitoring outer-space visitors) allowed for a special sort of sci-fi creativity to flourish.

Maybe the ten-year layoff was too long for everybody—well, everybody but an energetic Will Smith, as we’ll see—but “Men in Black 3” is streamlined and uncluttered by comparison. The jokes are more sedate, the pacing is languid, and the alien creatures are few and far between.

Oh sure, you can give points for the round-headed extraterrestrial whose noggin pops off and gets used as a bowling ball. I’ll grant you that one. But this sequel is full of promising ideas that don’t pay off. For instance, it sounds funny for Agent J (Smith) to travel back in time to 1969 to stop an alien from killing Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) at a tender age.

And it sounds even funnier that J would team up with the younger version of Agent K, and that this character would be played by Tommy Lee Jones’ “No Country for Old Men” co-star, Josh Brolin. Arrange for the climax to take place upon the launch pad of the first manned mission to the Moon, and you’ve got the ingredients. Alas, most of the ideas stay on the launch pad, waiting to be filled in by zany special effects or a crazed moment for an actor.

Despite a burst of shrill alien-speak, Emma Thompson can’t do anything with her underwritten role as a Woman in Black, and Michael Stuhlbarg (“A Serious Man”) is stranded in a humor-free E.T. part. Only Jemaine Clement, the “Flight of the Conchords” comic, is sufficiently in the spirit of the first two movies, even if you really can’t see him under all the make-up. Tommy Lee Jones is offscreen for most of the picture, and Brolin doesn’t carry much comedy snap. So it’s up to Will Smith, who works hard and finds a few good deadpan reactions mixed in with the fast-talking bursts of disbelief.

As his prominence on the poster indicates, it’s Smith’s show, and he again displays why he is a movie star, especially in his ability to build a quick rapport with the audience. But given how much lead time they had (Smith hasn’t had a movie out since 2008), you’d think the jokes would be better and the craziness more fleshed-out.

Barry Sonnenfeld returns to the director’s chair, although even his antic style seems subdued this time (he does find a few amusing uses for 3-D). Or maybe it’s just the digital blankness of the picture: it has a clean, bleached sheen that makes everything look like actors standing in front of green screens, the world digitally created behind them. In other words, “Men in Black 3” looks suspiciously like the work of aliens. It’s too late, Agents J and K: the visitors have taken over.

Headhunters. “The gonzo energy of a born thriller-maker.”

Post Mortem. “The odd feeling that information is being left out of the top and bottom of your vision, as though you were looking through lateral slats in a window.”

Goon. “An awesome ’70s mustache.”

Some picks for the upcoming week at the Seattle International Film Festival.

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about the transformation of the wrong people into initialized brands (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed = KSM, for instance), plus a few SIFF tips. It’s archived here; our conversation begins at the 20:40 point.

At What a Feeling!, we conclude a week of one-word titles from the 1980s featuring strong female stars; the last one of the bunch is Robert Benton’s Nadine.

Rotten, the critically-acclaimed graphic novel, will be a presence at this weekend’s Crypticon in Seattle; watch Rotten‘s Mark Rahner clamber out of a coffin to promote the event here.

Culture Notes: SIFF start; Scarecrow

The Seattle International Film Festival is underway, kicking off Thursday night with the British political satire In the Loop, a regularly funny film with some extremely good actors’ moments for the likes of Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Mimi Kennedy, and David Rasche. I was taping bits with Art Zone host Nancy Guppy for a Seattle Channel special covering the event —  which meant shooting material before and after the screening, which in turn meant waiting around in the theater lobby during actual movie (which I’d already seen). There’s something ghostly about sitting in the lobby of the Paramount theater while a film is going on; the old theater has a Shining-like quality anyway, and dozens of people were wandering through the airy mezzanine, doing god-knows-what. We could hear laughter come regularly through the walls of the place.  A subject for Michel Gondry: the alternate society that springs up in the theater lobby while the real event is going on inside.

The TV special, in which I am marginally less foolish than last year’s entry, will be online soon. I apologize for the hair. It was windy.

Le Amiche

Le Amiche

SIFF itself arrives as the usual bewildering onslaught: hundreds of movies, many of them seemingly chosen in the spirit of let’s-throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks, as well as some recent international festival must-sees and a gallery of U.S. indie titles getting air time. The “Archival Presentations” include a couple of eagerly-awaited unseen movies for me: Terence Fisher’s So Long at the Fair (1950), which has one of the great movie premises of all time (I have wanted to see this since hearing it described in Francois Truffaut’s Hitchcock book), and Antonioni’s Le Amiche (1955), which is a recent restoration by The Film Foundation.

And speaking of film archives: the titles from the Warner Archive Collection, that smart-sounding project to get a great big backlog of catalog titles out in the world without expensive packaging or complex processing, is accessible even if you don’t pay Warner $19.95 to burn a copy of Mr. Lucky or Freebie and the Bean on a DVD-R. The staggering rental collection at Scarecrow Video, Seattle’s amazing brick-and-mortar mainstay, is being swelled by lots of the no-frills offerings from the Warner Archive. So if live around Seattle and you need to view, but not own, Jacques Tourneur’s Wichita or Nicholas Ray’s Party Girl, traipse over to Scarecrow. (Right now, Netflix isn’t carrying the Warner Archive stuff.)  The Scarecrow site, newly revamped, is here; search the Warner Archive here.

Terminator Bloom (Weekly Links)

Movies I reviewed for the Herald this week.

Azaria in excelsis.

Azaria in excelsis.

Terminator Salvation. “Here comes my headache.”

Night in the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian. “Face-slapping Capuchin monkey.”

The Girlfriend Experience. “An inert presence.”

The Brothers Bloom. “Sophomore jinx.”

Rudo y Cursi. “Rancid in their ambitions.”

Seattle International Film Festival preview.

SIFF picks.

On the Seattle Channel’s Art Zone in Studio, I do some quick SIFF picks with Nancy Guppy: here.

And on KUOW-FM, I talk about SIFF and summer movies with Steve Scher: here.