This movie also contains a possible thesis statement on Hong’s cinema:
“Why do you take pictures?”
“Because the only way to change things is to look at everything again very slowly.”
Unfortunately, it’s also the worst movie of his I’ve seen. Everything’s going fine until Kim Min-hee meets Isabelle Huppert for the first time, they converse in English, and the movie stops flowing and I start feeling embarrassed for everybody. Set in Cannes, Kim is fired from her film sales company in the middle of the festival for sleeping with Film Director So (Jung Jin-young of Ring Virus), who is in a relationship with Kim’s boss (Chang Mi-hee of 36th Chamber: The Final Encounter). That situation’s not gonna resolve itself in 70 short minutes, and Huppert as a naive tourist blundering into meals and hangouts with the other three characters doesn’t add anything but international star power.
Of course, Sicinski and Bahadur on letterboxd put in more thought than this, figured out the point of Huppert’s connections, and appreciated the movie more than I did, so if letterboxd is still in business when I finally decide to go through all of Hong’s movies in a chronological marathon, remind me to re-read their reviews before rewatching this film.
“Everything is gonna be okay. You know why? Because we’re good people.”
Our four sleuths head home from Canada victorious, with the rescued Chantal (Clare McNulty of Fort Tilden), but having left Keith behind in a shallow grave. They completely fail to act naturally or cover their tracks, evidence mounts against them over the course of the season and two more people end up dead, but they pull it off in the end? No they do not.
Dory’s ex Julian publishes an article about Chantal being a huge fake. Drew briefly dates Chantal and schemes against a coworker, Elliott loses all control and does not write his book, and Portia breaks up with her mom because her theater director Jay Duplass tells her to. Dory blackmails a politician (J. Smith-Cameron, Anna Paquin’s mom in Margaret) to get the money for her own blackmailer, crazy neighbor April (Phoebe Tyers, also of Fort Tilden, which I should obviously watch). Also, Judy Reyes (Scrubs) is Keith’s ex-wife who knows about Dory, Tymberlee Hill (The Hotwives of Orlando) is a cop investigating Keith’s murder, Dory sends an email from a dead man, and a Canadian fucks a tree. Season three coming soon!
I loved watching this, paid attention to the access afforded by the phone-cam cinematography and the always-good Soderbergh editing. But is it just me, or does nothing major actually happen? There’s an NBA lockout, agent Andre Holland threatens status quo by proving that the players can play for big money without the league, and the owners and players suddenly come to an agreement. It’s a strong move within the system, earning the players a small percent higher pay in negotiations, but doesn’t upend the power structure as promised.
The cowriter and costar of Moonlight, along with that Netflix money, apparently gave Soderbergh a chance to revisit his abandoned Moneyball project, dramatizing “the game on top of the game” and cutting away to interviews with sports stars. The movie is all dialogue, but either it’s omitting some conversations or I didn’t pick up on some of the sly maneuvering, since I still don’t know how the climactic one-on-one between rookie Melvin Gregg (excellent as the dupe pawn who never realizes he’s being played) and established star Justin Hurtt-Dunkley is arranged. The excitement around this game, staged only for a community gym run by Bill Duke (Commando, director of Hoodlum) forces a quick settlement between owners-rep Kyle McLachlan and players-rep Sonja Sohn (Kima!). I guess Andre gets fired as Melvin’s agent but keeps his agency, his former assistant Zazie Beetz (Atlanta) who helped pull the strings is moving up, maybe Andre is getting his boss Zachary Quinto’s job, and again I’m missing some details, but it’s pulled off so convincingly.
Immediately after watching a movie by rule-breaker iPhone-cinematographer Soderbergh, roughly his 30th feature, it was fun to catch up with his third, a period piece with relatively subdued editing and energy. The movies would seem to have nothing in common, except that I’d just read David Ehrlich’s review of High Flying Bird, saying that Soderbergh is “drawn to stories about people who try to steal back a measure of self-worth,” and that connects. So now I’ve seen all of his movies except Side Effects, and I guess Mosaic.
Our boy is Aaron, abandoned by both parents due to work and illness, he and his little brother attempt to live in a hotel room in Depression-era St. Louis with no food or income for as long as possible. He tries breeding canaries, dances with an epileptic neighbor, sees the arrest of Adrien Brody and suicide (!) of Spalding Gray while avoiding cops and death himself, and finally escapes the hotel when his travelling salesman father returns.
Gray and Elizabeth McGovern:
Aaron with Lauryn Hill:
Like a much improved Ready Player One, stupider but better in every other way. Or it could be this year’s Valerian, but in that movie you felt the hugeness of its universe, and this one feels like a video-game future city full of NPCs, with only ten real people who keep bumping into each other. Anyway, I heard Rodriguez made a campy, awesome sci-fi comic action flick with producer James Cameron and his Avatar effects team, rushed out to watch this in 3D, and was greatly rewarded.
Sam Adams in Slate:
There are moments so purely ingenuous they make you laugh with a mixture of disbelief and glee, like when Jeff Fahey shows up as a redneck bounty hunter who keeps a pack of cybernetic hounds on hand. It’s goofy as hell and borderline inexcusable at times, but it’s also kind of glorious.
Nick Cage has one last chance to find the enemy who once held Cage captive and messed up his ear (Benir – sounds like “bent ear” – is played by Alexander Karim, actually a Swede). The first problem is that Benir is presumed dead (actually sick, in seclusion), and the second is that Cage has been diagnosed with rapidly-advancing dementia – so both men are dying of health issues aside from the revenge drama.
Cage gets help from his spy buddies Anton Yelchin (between Only Lovers Left Alive and Experimenter) and Irène Jacob (The Double Life of Véronique), and impersonates a doctor (Serban Celea of Retro Puppet Master) to gain access to his nemesis. But this is where the movie finally gets interesting. After the studio recut the movie and released it as Dying of the Light, Schrader recreated his preferred version using unconventional means, with Lynchian overlays, quivering closeups, reversed shots, and scenes rephotographed off a TV. Finally, after the typical spy-movie plot and dialogue, Cage and Benir’s confrontation breaks down into experimental sounds and colors, then cuts to Cage’s tombstone.
Watched this soon after reading Vox’s reviews of Joe Berlinger’s two new Ted Bundy movies, a documentary (“a bit of a slog”) and a “morally confused” Zac Efron feature. I was considering that maybe serial killer movies are a bad idea in general, but was also stressed out and feeling like watching some murders, so thought I’d torment myself by watching ol’ self-serious Lars alienate his fans. Divided into chapters, or incidents. “You might as well be a serial killer,” taunts Uma Thurman repeatedly in the first, until Matt Dillon finally, blessedly, beats her face in. Their self-conscious Tarantino conversation immediately calmed my concerns that this would be a grim, punishing movie. I keep forgetting about the campy prankster side of Lars – this was an escalating series of hateful murders, played for laughs and meta-commentary.
Segments are divided by short scenes, Dylan references, and stock footage in every aspect ratio and voiceover conversation with “Verge,” who turns out to be the late Bruno Ganz playing Virgil, Dante’s guide through hell, speaking of Jack’s murders as artworks. Next, Jack sets out to murder a woman alone at home (Siobhan Hogan, prison guard in Dancer in the Dark), talks his way inside with the most ridiculous excuses (he’s a cop but “my badge is at the silversmith”). He clumsily, awkwardly kills her then photographs the body, comes back inside to clean up and has to escape a visiting cop. Then he takes a date (Sofie Gråbøl, star of the series The Killing) and her two kids on a hunting trip and hunts them, kids first. Then the infamous double-mastectomy incident with a girlfriend (Riley Keough) whom he has cruelly nicknamed “Simple”. Then Jack, now known to the press as the serial killer Mr. Sophistication, is found out by his ammo supplier (Jeremy Davies of Dogville), and chased to his body-freezer home base by cops, where Virgil leads him into the underworld through a house made of the bodies of Jack’s victims.
I may have accidentally watched the censored version, but runtime is only two minutes different, so I’m not gonna sweat it this time.
Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I got a lot on my plate these days. Running a few months behind on the ol’ blog. Obviously I could quit, but instead let’s rush out some posts based on my sparse notes and weak memories, and hit reset in July. I can always revise the posts when I rewatch these on their decade anniversaries, which I’ll probably do if no more new movies get released after 2019. Using this opportunity to pause and take stock of movies… movies are still good, about twenty of the movies in the backlog were excellent, and I hope to watch more movies in the future.
A very long, bizarre movie, feels like the script was written by a distracted conspiracy theorist then it was was filmed completely straightfaced by dedicated (but low-budget) actors and craftsmen armed with heavy giallo lighting.
Opens with a massive fake rant about yuppie culture on 60 Minutes, then our man Trent sees himself inside the TV preview for The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Outside, a maniac in a hairpiece is wrapping a dead woman in foil. I think this is Trent’s brother, but Trent complains to his wife about “your brother-in-law,” which is a strange way to refer to your own brother. After the brother(-in-law) sexually harasses a woman whose Secret Service ex-boyfriend then runs him over repeatedly in an alley while a lumpy pink alien look on, I realized I needed to let go of basic things like the characters’ identities and relationships.
“Get her some coffee, some cocaine, anything left over from the 80’s.” If the Mr. Robot guy can win an oscar for portraying Freddie Mercury, then Damon Packard can fill his movie with sub-cable actors and claim they’re major celebrities. Julia Roberts crashes on Trent’s couch for six months, Sade rehearses next to Rush, a hitman is sent after Bono, Dick Cheney takes orders from Johnny Carson’s band leader Doc Severinsen, William Friedkin gets mad that nobody wants to see his movie The Guardian, and Janet Jackson is married to one of Trent’s fellow Illuminati members.
This is all aimed at people slightly older than me, who saw Sleeping With the Enemy in theaters and got upset when Rush rapped on a 1991 single. Have I mentioned that it’s long? Every scene goes on for a small eternity, with repetitive dialogue, though sometimes the sound mixer will amuse himself by randomly pitch-shifting an actor, or blatantly dubbing in completely different lines, or an actor’s face will get Black Hole Sunned. The song Ice Ice Baby is being used for mind control, the movie New Jack City sparks riots (the rioters simply chanting “new jack city!”)… even this movie has multiple titles. The whole vibe is cool and unusual, chase scenes through empty Hollywood streets in the middle of the night with 1991 movie posters photoshopped onto the billboards, cheap direct-to-video effects combined with creative production design and an indecipherable story. I’ve long been tempted to rent Packard’s Reflections of Evil, which sounds similarly demented (but is very, very long); there’s also the 1982-set sci-fi feature Foxfur, the hour-long SpaceDisco One, and the twenty minute fake-trailer Dawn of an Evil Millennium, and I should watch all of these – even if they’re “bad,” they’re also exactly the kinds of movies I always aspired to make.