Green Book **
Green Bore. Love Viggo, Ali. A more ambient, ambling take on These Two Dudes Getting To Know Each Other might've worked. Fails as a corny heartwarming feel good thing. A faint shadow of a critique exists in the portrayal of genteel southerners putting on hyperfriendly airs whilst simultaneously doing dehumanizing, racist shit. Portrayal of "regular" "blackness" is so lacking one wonders why it was included at all.
Isn’t It Romantic ****
A romcom committed to pessimism, or, at least, anti-optimism. Like (the amazing) Rebel Wilson is always looking fly as fuck she doesn't need to have a Cinderella transformation bullshit thing happen, in fact, living the dream is an impediment to finding her bliss. Chopra, Hemsworth, Devine, Jones are all stellar. Musical numbers rock. My favorite gag is Hemworth on the phone kicking nothing, but there's LOTS to like.
Deutch was miscast (she very obviously wasn't 17) so her performance 100% came off as a 'performance', which kind of worked?, given the performative nature of the character. There's moments, there's stuff, there's flourishes, but ultimately it's a played out Hooker With A Heart of Gold thing that ends with Deutch proclaiming herself to be a "one dick woman." Prior to shitty ending the plot was a mess, but a fun mess.
Slut In A Good Way ****
Everyone was cute + cool photography + captures the vacillating nature of how un/important some stuff is.
Ash Is The Purest White ****
Strange movie. Kept turning away from what I thought it was going to become, instead choosing to zero in on a weirder view of the world.
Everybody Knows ***
Loved the freewheeling party wedding vibes and overall the setting was gorgeous. But it eventually became boring and never recovered.
The Beach Bum ****
Felt a lot of feelings, a wider range of emotions than a movie typically evokes. Visually awesome. There were moments when I was deeply moved. Other times I was shocked/delighted/weirded out by the physical comedy stuff. I think Korine pulls off the poetic, comic, surreal, hyperreal thing. As someone who is an addict but doesn't like American discourse re: addiction, I simply loved the breaking out of rehab moment.
Mad Dog and Glory **
Some great scenes, great images, great moments... but doesn't add up to much. Just some dumb happily-ever-after Nice Guys Finish Last (but not this time!) bullshit. Wants to challenge American Masculinity but ... just... can't. Also it's just a boring movie. Like you're bored watching it.
Captain Marvel ***
Brie Larson is perhaps the most terminally boring movie star ever. That said, this was better than expected. Ya it's Military Industrial Complex Propaganda but there's stuff about how Imperialism=Evil!... this is both insidious and felt, if that makes sense. I liked how the main message was the stuff that's most fucked up about you is also the source of your power. "Chekhov's Cat" bit was nice, too.
Powerful riff on Casablanca. "This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" = alone, perpetually waiting for a ghost to come through the door. Plays with truth/falseness in the stories we tell in a really thought provoking way. Intense portrait of fascism. Lots of other stuff. IDK I loved it.
Visually brilliant and puts a lot of interesting ideas on the table but it never quite blew my hair back, hit me hard, however you wanna say it. I look forward to rewatching.
Gloria Bell *****
The promo for this + how it started out, I thought it'd be a lesser version of a film like Enough Said. But yeah became it's own swirling, psychedelic thing. Captures the weirdness of experience, how incoherent it is. Turturro as like, the Platonic Ideal of a Shitty Dude, the way his shittiness is hidden in plain site, that was really expert. Some amazing visual moments as well, visually this is an all-time fav.
Moody post-Water Gate thing. Works well as a hazy political commentary. The other part of it, Warren Beatty misses out on true love, doesn't as much? Cuz you never get the feeling he's in love? IDK, that's the movie's flaw, as far as I'm concerned.
Pretty Woman ***
I've always liked Julia Roberts, but I'd never seen this, and seeing it, lol it's really obvious why she became such a massive movie star. Other than that, it succeeds at what it's doing, but doesn't have any extra special flourish.
Almost makes me cry thinking about it. The idea that society forces us to give up the things we love, and if we don't, people will despise you or think you a fool. It's potently rendered. Bleak but manages also not to be, which is the great strength of the movie. Has a lot to say about what it means to be loving. Both melancholy and life-affirming. Her alone in the glow of the tent is an outstanding final moment.
Mary Magdalene ***
Honestly I wasn't able to pay attention to much of this movie for a variety of reasons. But there were these moments of trying to bring to life Christ's more challenging teachings and I found it to be really meaningful. Other stuff seemed kind of boring. Like the plot was boring. Not cuz I know the story but cuz of the mechanics of the Peter/Mary conflict. That said it's a superb riff on why Christianity is doomed.
Loving Pablo **
Boring, unfocused. The riffage on social pecking order, the rise of a criminal nouveau riche is undercooked. It's easy to forget that this story is being told from Cruz's perspective. Spanglish presentation is subtly transformative, feels like yr listening to Spanish-speaking people but can understand what they're saying. Performances are solid. But ya there's dozens of movies exactly like this one that do it better.
The Hustle *
Most of this movie revolves around making fun of blind people and vaguely valorizing the Zuckesque Tech Bro Archetype. The utter pointlessness of the 'story' continually devours whatever funny may exist. For Wilson, this is a cynical and heartless version of (better) previous work she's done. For Hathaway, her fake posh accent sucks so bad and this role is the kind of role her best roles subtly skewer. IDGI!
Sound design is wild yr always straining to hear the doomful hum of Simo's motorbike. Enough joy (saving frozen pup, snorkeling, handing out grooming biz fliers in dog forest, etc.) that yr just barely able to maintain a strained hope for Marcello. Ending destroys you, leaves you baffled. It doesn't offer redemption nor does it consummate our darkest fears. Haunting and deeply sad. Unlike almost anything.
Incredibly emotional. Dunst=great, as iconic as James Dean in Rebel W/out a Cause. Hernandez lacks her emotional range, yet it scans true that his uncertainty is obscuring hard-to-articulate feels. The central metaphor of photography, the process, the messiness, the active role we play in creating the memories that shape our lives, is rly effective. My ding is there's mad issues w the writing, otherwise a classic.
Does a great job recognizing/celebrating/critiquing how inextricably intertwined beauty/joy/progress is w fuckedness/tragedy/shit. Drawing explicit parallel between doomed romance & doomed contours of history is a risky proposition. But it pays off! Fav is back2back scenes of Keaton trashing Beatty's feckless movement, then trashing Nicholson for being too big a coward to commit to something bigger than himself.
Long Shot **
Nice romcom vibe & despite being dumbly apolitical works as a critique of Conservative Media Ecosystem & Misogyny Sludge it pumps into our culture's River of Ideology. Becomes garbage once falling in love fades & "will she or won't she" plot machinations take over. I'll give it credit for riffing on the wrapped-in-shame yet weirdly romantic experience of being young & getting hard around someone you think is cool af.
Dragged Across Concrete ***
Needed to be 4 or 5 hours long. Like, it's a slow burn leading up to...? Watching the most potent conflict (Kittles v. Gibson) get introduced then resolved in 15 minutes so as to clear the path for "& everyone (else) lived happily ever after"? Ending's rushedness also dumbs down the film's rich and contradictory politics. Also, Vaughn's arc is undercooked, everyone else's is great, esp. Gibson, Kittles, & Carpenter.
John Wick 3 ***
Could do without the corny plot shit where John Wick is constantly asking someone or other to grant him some sort of passage to the next set piece based on some nebulous honor among thieves overarching thematics. More acid trip fight scenes plz! I liked how this one riffed on celebrity. Dacascos is great/hilarious + his sidekicks ruled. Wishlist for #4: more Mantzoukas and pleeaaaase cast Hugo Weaving as the Big Bad.
Nobody understands or cares what anybody else wants, needs. Ace is a worker bee trying to do great at what he's told. He's mystified by Nicky who only wants to do whatever the fuck he wants. DeNiro's character is terrifying example of a man using "love" to control & punish a woman. "Loves" purpose is to provide a context within which hatred can flourish. There's a lot going on with this. Love it more every time.
American Honey *****
Common complaints from me: movies are 1) afraid to show people kissing and 2) they don't even begin to attempt to depict the lives of regular ass people. American Honey beautifully succeeds where most fail. I think it's a masterpiece. It's trippy watching it cuz I've had meaningful interactions with every character in the movie. I saw it in theatre and rewatching was worried it wouldn't hold up but it rly fuckn does.
Aggressively boring, but the rhythm starts to cast a spell. Good characters, good acting. I like the pacing, the way the story skips forward in time. It's kinda crazy how mundane the pseudo-intellectual ruminations re: The Age of Information were. No interesting observations, no particularly boneheaded ones either. The scene where Leonard tackles Selena onto the bed was really cute.
Echo in the Canyon *
This documentary primarily consists of people saying "Pet Sounds was a great album" then cutting to Jakob Dylan pensively nodding and perhaps blinking his eyes.
The Leopard *****
Weird movie with themes/ideas that are rendered with zero subtlety yet the place, the sound, the ambling energy... it becomes a deeper and more penetrating meditation than I expected. The party scene in this movie is one of the greatest scenes I've ever watched and you start to feel like all of human history is collapsed into this one weird scene... almost like a limbo.
Gets deep into the economic logic of slavery. Riffs on how to carve out power in systems of social organizing meant to render you powerless. Points out larger economic machinations (ones that are still very present in our lives) that are disadvantageous to slave owners without letting slave owners off the hook (not even close). Emotionally powerful and beautiful.
Prologue segment was incredible. A superlative portrayal of getting fucked on drugs. Also--and I don't see this often--shows the more "shitty" side of human social relations. Ultimately, though, too many ideas, movie hedges constantly, lacks a vision. Does it want to assert that the cult is a better mode of human organization than the current western paradigm? Or what? It's all very muddled. A classic becomes a miss.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood *****
Tarantino's first foray into melancholy. The discourse around Django and Basterds that never rang true to me was about how the finales put the viewer in a morally compromised position of taking pleasure watching insane violence. Like FUCK nazis/slavers. With this you actually feel weird/shitty gleefully watching the fucked up kids being brutally disposed of in extremely comic ways.
Los Angeles Plays Itself *****
One of the best movies on movies and one of the best movies on architecture. The filmmaker's authorial perspective is so great, gives the flick an immediacy that movies like this so often lack. Like he's coming from a place of exigency. Love it.
Prince of the City ****
Cheesy in the best way. The ongoing love between him and his "brothers" who he rats out stretches credulity. But yeah, most "undercover cop" movies take this tack of how the existential dread of living a false life weighs the hero down and ruins them. This is more like, bureaucracies are stupid and make no sense. Like he's stoked about being a rat until he starts getting chewed up and spit out.
Late Night **
Dumb, probably the worst movie about "Late Night" I've ever seen. Kaling is the most compelling character yet she's so far from the film's focus that, by the end (which features a utopian writers room where plucky women of color AND Harvard Lampoon scumbags live and love together in perfect harmony), the whole "woke" conceit is almost entirely forgotten. Also, "cheating on an ailing partner" is a wack plot mechanic.
The Late Shift ****
Very clipped. There's not a lot of space for psychological depth or thematic richness or aesthetic achievement. Like they just chose however many scenes from the book and filmed them and bam that's the movie. But it's a great story and the performances are great.
Rare instance where I didn't see the "twist" coming. Great portrayal of a "cult" with a charismatic leader. Most of the time movies that wade into that territory focus on the charisma of the leader, cuz that's just inherently cinematic. But this dude isn't really charismatic he's just a broken soul collecting scumbag who gets off on hurting people. Kidman is great, some of the plot stuff is rote but not detrimental.
Rolling Thunder Revue *****
Performances are so killer. A couple personal highlights: one of the best portrayals of how Patti Smith is a total phony lightweight on the one hand, yet can still tap into some serious poetic soulforce on the other. I also loved the arc of the violinist... she's introduced as this mystical seer of sorts, and when the Hurricane arc unfolds and it shows her just killing it during performances, that's a great payoff.
The Homesman *****
Sad as fuck but the end was a really beautiful counterpoint to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN's final moment.
A Most Wanted Man ***
Another failed Middle-Eastern geopolitical thriller. This is one of the better ones, though. Very well plotted plus there's actually a Western character who is personally invested in the humanity of a non-Western character. HOWEVER!!! The film is exclusively about the Western character's investment, not the actual humanity of the non-Western character. He's just a bland cipher caught up in tragic circumstance.
Love Audiard so much. The central question of, "What is family? If you pretend to be someone's family are you their family? If you pretend to love someone how long before you actually love them?" seems like it'd be almost mundane to explore, but here it's so intense and beautiful and sad and strange. The "shootout" scene, where we never see Dheepan's face or a weapon being fired or a person being hit, is incredible.
That iconic shot of John Wayne is so great. I think what I like about this is the cast of characters. Everyone has their own little cliché role to fill. Then it's just a matter of moving pieces around. I guess the plot of like, "there's an impending threat" also works well. The whole like, "What's Ringo gonna do?" bit wasn't as strong. His showdown at the end feels like an afterthought. Fun movie, though.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? ***
The conflict between Bernadette and the neighbor was good. I wish the movie was more about architecture. Precocious daughter? Put upon husband? Carpe diem? I guess it works because Blanchett is a powerhouse. Scene where she's ranting to Fishburn and it's intercut with Crudup talking about her... a pure, uncut Blanchett rant, that would've been a very iconic scene. It was still great but could've been greater.
The Kitchen **
Total mess of a movie, so much of it makes no sense or is confusing, but there's a lot of weird Freudian psychological shit going on w/r/t The Masculine Impulse vs. The Feminine Impulse. So it's a fascinating watch because it goes into weird shit in weird ways and it's typically fare that movies fear to tread. Like most "girl power" movies are significantly less radical than this one. I'd like to watch again.
The scene where they're screaming at each other is really good. The stuff with the gay girl and the super hot chick felt very real to me. There's laughs to be had throughout. But the plot is boring. What sucks is it's this like massively privileged gloss on everything. Everyone is going to Harvard. A teenage girl can go to "Africa" and fix everything. I hope Wilde works with better material in the future.
Chunking Express ****
There's moments where it's sloppy or boring, particularly the opening vignette, but it all builds up to a series of transcendent moments. It's a sad movie about how difficult it is to find love, but it's imbued with joy and fun. An interesting thing is all the characters are really hot, but in a very normal/"average" way? Like a love of humans, a recognition of our beauty, is at the core of the project of this film.
The Last Castle ****
This movie fucking rules. I was like... "Why have I never heard of this Gandolfini vs. Redford meditation on freedom and self?"... oh, cuz it came out on like, September 5th, 2001... and the plot is about a bunch of convicts in a military prison taking over and crashing a helicopter into it. It's definitely a critique of a lot of American shit, but the weakness is it clings to this nationalistic patriotic ideal.
Army of Shadows *****
I've often talked shit on American leftists calling each other "comrade" cuz it seems anachronistic and fake. But there's a scene here where the primary protagonist uses the word to signal to a stranger that he's willing to collaborate with him against fascism... made me rethink my cynicism. Really sad movie, but at the same time shows the level of sacrifice required to actually FIGHT the good fight, which is cool.
Lovely and Amazing ****
Feels "lesser" than Friends With Money but there's enough dynamic/idiosyncratic energy flowing through this to make it work for me. I'd be interested in reading a critique of the racial aspects of the plot. It struck me as iffy at times? But ultimately had enough heart? The fucking a teenager plot was similarly fraught but more deftly handled? The "Hollywood" stuff was a nice mix of demoralizing and fun, LMAO.
Ready or Not ***
"Get Out" for WASPs. Promising but ultimately tedious and predictable. Also they telegraph this showdown between the protagonist and the crazy aunt and it never happens. What the fuck!
Murder Mystery ***
The way these Netflix movies do product placement is godawful surreal. I think it's an interesting document of our times... this middle class fantasy of becoming a billionaire and how operative it is in the hearts and souls of so many people... but more than that it's a stupid, well-paced movie that features attractive people (and Adam Sandler) being variously humorous. Which is an okay way to turn off your brain.
Suffers from being formulaic but the cocktail of emotional resonance, topicality, and pure star power is potent as fuck. Oddly this kind of reminded me of Godard in that it was all these transcendent sequences stitched together awkwardly, creating this dissonance in the viewer where it's like, you're expecting more rote celebration of the ca$hed up stripper lifestyle, then it takes the form of a wild Usher cameo.
Wine Country ***
Feels "off" at various points, the ideas about "kids these days" are dumb but kind of funny. Why didn't they do the molly? Like Chekov said if there's a bag of molly in the first act they better be rolling by the third. This is all to say there's a lot of flaws. But, it has a unique and weird pacing that ultimately I vibe with hard. Captures the pace at which feelings are felt more adeptly than a lot of flicks.
Not sure if this is a smart movie that's trying to be dumb, or a dumb movie that's trying to be smart. Either way, the relentless stream of meathead violence is mirrored by an equally relentless stream of meathead metaphysical inquiry. This cognitive dissonance opens up a strange imaginative space that a more thoughtful treatment of a similar subject (Ex Machina, for example) doesn't really allow for. Minor classic?
Inglourious Basterds *****
Basically a canonical masterpiece. I don't have much to add. I guess I have a small critique. Shosanna's arc is so tragic and beautiful and heroic and funny and strange. But she just dies and the movie moves on? IDK I feel like she deserved a bit more. This is an undercooked thought.
De Palma ***
A handful of great moments where DePalma actually goes into his aesthetic/visual philosophy. Rest of it is just boring blabber about the nature of showbiz and this rote iconoclastic reflection on the highs and lows of being a true original. DePalma has the gift of gab so it never gets too bad. Going through the whole filmography is weird. If you're just going to gloss over half the movies, why talk about them?
How Do You Know ****
Odd yet extremely charming. I like romcoms that end with, "We're excited to get to know each other" vibes. Scene in the hospital where Hahn's babydaddy proposes was great. I've seen that actor (Lenny Venito) as a "schlubby" bit player in so many things. Really cool to make him the emotional anchor. The daddy issues stuff is weird but works. Reese and Paul are great, and I truly wasn't sure if they'd end up together!
Spider-Man: Far From Home **
Tomei's plastic surgeon is amazing but I digress. Wish they'd commit to the "Spider-Man is a teen who fights crime on the side" premise. Instead of focusing on Zendaya and Peter entire movie is wasted on tediously predictable Tech Bro existential threat to humanity plot. Totalitarian subtext "Military Industrial Complex=all powerful fact of life, best case scenario is it's overseen by benevolent heroes" is so grim.
Very realistic portrayal of teenage druggie fuckup ennui. Everyone in the movie was very real to me, like I can think of people from my life who reminded me of most of the characters. The "true crime" elements of the story are kinda corny and rushed but not in a detrimental way. It still works even though the plot collapses cuz, again, it's real. Dumbass kids are incapable of not getting caught.
Official Secrets **
The heroes are lawyers who use, to vindicate the whistleblower, the same Fog of War legalese that got Britain into the war. Which is to say the broken system that allowed the illegal war isn't just upheld, it's reaffirmed. Also, it's just a BORING movie. Almost everything is uncinematic. Best stuff was early on: Keira watching TV, being disgusted by Tony Blair, the data theft, some of the journo stuff re: Koza, etc.
Brittany Runs A Marathon ***
A longform New Balance advert that does a good job showing the fucked up sociopsychological dimensions of becoming hotter. People love you more, but the people who've been with you start to act weird, and do these new people even really love you, cuz they don't even know what a piece of shit you are? All covered briefly and effectively. Rest is boring. Stuffed to the gills with woefully underdeveloped characters.
Love final sequence up to blood smile Joker funky dancing Clown Prince of Gotham's Antifa/Occupy movement, should've ended there. Best stuff was in the King of Comedy ripoff vein, next best was in the Network ripoff vein. Taxi Driver ripoff stuff flopped. Beginning/middle was a slog. Not a compelling examination of mental illness or social forces that exacerbate it. Reduces real shit to an overwrought plot mechanic.
Un Flic ****
Robbery stuff was stellar (both instances). The strained code of Honor Among Thieves worked well. The strained Existential Plight of Cops I wasn't as interested in, but the main Cop performance was great. The Love Triangle is the aspect of this movie that sucked to me. Still, it's an aesthetic masterpiece and on a visual and sound level is just... amazing to watch and listen to. Really digging JPM.