Madame Brouette (2002, Moussa Sene Absa)

Strong feminist single-mom “Mme Brouette” Mati (Price of Forgiveness star Rokhaya Niang) is trying to get by with her wheelbarrow business, inspiring her friend Ndaxte to leave her own abusive husband. Mati meets friendly and attentive young policeman Naago and falls for him. Unfortunately he’s actually a drunkard whose hobbies include chasing every woman in sight, shaking down local businesses for protection money, and hanging out with his trashy loanshark buddy. Now Mati is trapped and pregnant, turning to crime (smuggling) to open her own cafe, which I think Naago burns down at the end – he surely burns down something, to repay his shitty friend. Mati doesn’t initially have the nerve to just shoot the guy, but her daughter does.

Mati/Brouette is arrested for murder, the end, Kinda a depressing movie, flashing between the climactic murder scene and backstory, enlivened by musical numbers – what Time Out calls an “Afro-Brechtian griot chorus.”

Played the Berlin Fest in competition with 25th Hour, Hero, Soderbergh’s Solaris, Alexandra’s Project, Twilight Samurai and winner In This World.

Green Room (2015, Jeremy Saulnier)

Punk band witnesses the aftermath of a murder when playing a hastily-booked gig at a nazi skinhead joint, is locked in the green room while the Patrick Stewart-led thugs arrange the band members’ “accidental” deaths, band members decide to fight back.

Good use of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” and brilliant use of Creedence over the closing titles. The band members’ position (fighting for survival) is clear, but I liked how the movie doesn’t portray everyone else as pure evil. Some younger dudes will gladly slay for their master, but there’s also hesitation and horror and betrayal. Blue Ruin‘s Dwight as the club manager represents the morally-torn middle ground. Anton Yelchin (Ian in Only Lovers Left Alive – shouldn’t I be able to recognize him by now?) and Imogen Poots (She’s Funny That Way) are survivors, Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat and the others not so lucky.

Remake of a Truffaut film. Played Cannes last year in the “Director’s Fortnight” with Embrace of the Serpent and Arabian Nights.

Matt Singer:

The brilliance is all in the execution, which is just about perfect … More importantly, Saulnier’s screenplay puts a premium on logically sound decisions; this is not one of those movies where you sit in your seat moaning at the characters for going up the stairs when they should be heading for the exit. Every choice is reasonable. Every action makes sense, up to and including some of the second and third act twists. That makes the escalating body count that much sadder.

Born to be Blue (2015, Robert Budreau)

Take one of my least-favorite musicians and make a biopic about the years when he was making his worst music, but throw in lots of drug use and mouth bleeding. And add a pretty girl whom he seduces, makes promises to, and ultimately leaves. Remind me why I wanted to see this movie? Oh yeah, Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo (Mrs. King in Selma, Mrs. Cross in Alex Cross) are both very good. And I just watched The Band’s Visit, where the musicians bond over Chet Baker songs. I guess it’s an okay movie for people who like this sort of thing, and at least the advanced-age crowd in our theater was able to follow the story (you could hear them recounting it to each other in the middle of the movie), though they audibly disapproved of the cunnilingus and mouth-bleeding and drug use.

Experimenter (2015, Michael Almereyda)

First half hour covers Stanley Milgram’s (Peter Sarsgaard of Night Moves, Black Mass) obedience experiments, which I knew a fair bit about, but in school we covered their problematic ethics, not their much more problematic results, nor the connections Milgram made with nazi Germany – the elephant in the room. “The results are terrifying and depressing. They suggest that the kind of character produced in American society can’t be counted on to insulate its citizens from brutality and inhumane treatment in response to a malevolent authority.”

Jim Gaffigan as the confederate:

Winona Ryder plays his wife, and this is the second movie I’ve seen in two months with its emotional peak a shot of a distraught Ryder. Katy is actually annoyed at how much of a Winona fan I’ve become this year, but I’m sure if Beetlejuice 2 becomes a reality I’ll calm down.

Mike D’Angelo wasn’t a fan of the second half, when the movie follows Milgram’s post-obedience academic career: “Facts of the enemy of art.” Interesting though to see his other work (he came up with “six degrees of separation”) while the movie plays around with reality, using rear-projected photographs as sets, and having Saarsgard-Milgram visit the set of a TV movie starring William-Shatner-Milgram (played by Kellan Lutz of Twilight). “There are times when your life resembles a bad movie, but nothing prepares you for when your life actually becomes a bad movie.”

Also Dennis Haysbert as Ossie Davis:

Matt Singer:

Provocative stuff, much of which is tied together in the final scenes about Stanley Milgram’s philosophy that men are puppets who can be made conscious of their strings. Experimenter is almost a test to see if the same can be said of film audiences.

Captain America 3: Civil War (2016, Anthony & Joe Russo)

One of the better Disney/Marvel superhero movies (not counting the X-Men, which are almost all better than the infinity-stone saga, or whatever we’ll ultimately call these things). After a few civilian deaths are caused while saving the entire planet from certain destruction, everyone is angry at the superheroes and propose they be commanded by the UN instead of by an absent Sam Jackson (maybe he’s dead – someone mentioned the collapse of SHIELD?). While this is happening, Captain America’s old buddy The Winter Soldier (I missed the last movie, but he seems to be a Manchurian Candidate version of the Captain with an iron arm instead of a magic shield) is framed for killing an African king. The Captain wants to check in with his friend before antiterror squads kill him, but Iron Man says no, we have to let the UN tell us when/where to intervene, and an Avengers-rift is formed – a loud, punchy rift! These guys solve all of their problems through punching. Also it’s a three-hour movie with few interestingly-shot action scenes and no memorable images (no wonder it opened with a Bourne sequel trailer).

So, let’s see, UN Iron Man is joined by his buddy War Machine, Black Widow, Vision, the dead king’s son Black Panther, and a newly-recruited teenage Spider-Man

And the Captain is joined by his buddy Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Falcon and Ant-Man. So it’s six on six. No Thor or Hulk or Loki or Gwyneth Paltrow this time.

I guess the Captain’s team wins – it’s his movie, after all, and Black Widow defects at the last minute, War Machine is badly hurt, and Black Panther is pretty cool about accepting the truth that Winter Soldier didn’t really kill his dad, but in a weird twist, Iron Man is angry when it turns out Winter Soldier actually killed HIS dad. All this mayhem was somehow orchestrated by an anti-superhero crusader called Zemo, who despite his supervillain name is just a regular guy.

These Russo brothers made the last Capt. America and I guess are making the next two Avengers. Before all this happened, they were best known for You, Me and Dupree. I would’ve already covered most of these heroes in my Avengers 2 writeup but I apparently chose to make a point about how forgettable a movie it was instead. New (to me): Winter Soldier is Sebastian Stan (The Martian), Black Panther is Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson in 42), Spider-Man is Tom Holland (The Lost City of Z, Broadway’s Billy Elliot) and the evil Zemo is Daniel Bruhl (the nazi war hero/actor in Inglorious Basterds).

Jen Chaney:

[Civil War] doesn’t contain a moment that enables the audience to emotionally relate to the characters the way Spider-Man 2 did. It entertains, but it doesn’t transport to the degree that, say, The Dark Knight or even Superman: The Movie did … it’s a sign that the bigger the mob of infighting superheroes gets, the more difficult it becomes to leave a space in the crowd and let the audience in, too.

Only Yesterday (1991, Isao Takahata)

Thirty-ish Taeko is helping harvest crops with relatives in the country as a vacation, hanging out with a hottie neighbor who will obviously be a love interest. Meanwhile Taeko is reviewing her life to this point with extended flashback stories of when she was ten, the frequency of cuts between time periods gradually increasing until they blend wonderfully over the closing credits. In a few spots it’s overly slow or precious or obvious, but it also has 10-12 moments of magical beauty like that final scene.

Nice stylistic choice to make backgrounds in the memory scenes pale and faded at the edges, lacking the environmental details of the present-day. The highest grossing Japanese film of 1991, but poorly treated in the states… it wasn’t supposed to be The Menstruation Movie until Disney acted like the film’s third-graders and refused to touch it unless the icky girl stuff was removed.

Noel Murray:

Only Yesterday can sometimes seem a little too random in what it chooses to show, but it has a cumulative power as Taeko comes to understand that the past that shaped her needn’t define her. That’s a remarkably sophisticated theme for any film, let alone a cartoon. But then what else should we expect from a filmmaker so precise that he’d spend five minutes describing the exact texture and taste of a piece of fruit?

A Prophet (2009, Jacques Audiard)

Malik (Tahar Rahim) goes to prison, seems way out of his league, becomes a lackey for Italian mobsters led by Cesar (Niels Arestrup), eventually gains knowledge and power, turning on his masters and starting his own drug business. Along the way, the movie illustrated some things I would’ve been better off not knowing, like how to slash a guy’s throat using a mouth-concealed razor.

Strong acting, kinda complicated plot with murders and trips outside and ghosts. I’m bad with names so I liked the movie’s trick of putting new characters’ names on the screen. Ends with the welcome and unexpected sound of Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The last crime movie I watched had Willie Nelson in it – I guess country music works well in prison settings.

Cannes Month continues. This is the first I’ve seen by Audiard, who has been Cannes-nominated four times. He won best screenplay in 1996 for A Self-Made Hero, second place to The White Ribbon with this movie, and finally won the palme last year with Dheepan. This also won nine Césars and was nominated for everything in the world.

Cowritten with Thomas Bidegain (Les Cowboys), Abdel Raouf Dafri (Mesrine) and Nicolas Peufaillit (Les Revenants remake). Tahar Rahim won a ton of awards for this, later played Samir (Berenice’s fiancee with the wife in the coma) in The Past, starred in Day of the Falcon and The Cut, and will apparently costar with Mathieu Amalric in a Kiyoshi Kurosawa movie but I’ll believe that when I see it. Neils Arestrup also played the father-figure in Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped and played “Il” in Akerman’s Je Tu Il Elle.

R. Porton in Cinema Scope wasn’t a big fan:

Numerous critics have pondered whether the film’s conclusion, which ends with Malik’s release from prison and the promise of life with a new family, is “redemptive.” Yet this prospect ultimately carries little weight in a film that is sabotaged by its own contradictions – contradictions that are the product of authorial sketchiness instead of salutory complexity. Audiard does not have the courage (or the talent) to be either straightforwardly pulpy or an unabashed social realist. Consequently, Un prophète, despite near-universal critical acclaim, languishes in an aesthetic no man’s land.

News From Home (1977, Chantal Akerman)

Exciting to get to see this in theaters… glad I held off on watching the DVD for so long. I’m always afraid Akerman’s movies will put me to sleep at home, probably unfounded since I found D’Est mesmerizing. This one is similarly anthropological, showing New York in its specific era, making me wonder if the movie feels more special as a time capsule with each passing year. Akerman had moved to the States for a couple years and her mom wasn’t taking the separation well, writing constant letters, mostly to ask why Chantal hadn’t sent more of her own letters. So Chantal reads the letters from her mom aloud rapidly over her long-take images and sounds from the city, often letting the spoken correspondences get drowned out by traffic and train noise. In practice, it’s more interesting than it sounds.

M. Orange:

The keenest signifier of Akerman’s pervading sense of rootlessness, of unbelonging — a reaction, perhaps, to the threat of confinement of any kind — would also be her truest anchor in the world: her mother, Natalia … Speaking in I Don’t Belong Anywhere, a documentary profile shot shortly before her 2015 death, Akerman wonders if “throw[ing] Jeanne Dielman in her [mother’s] face was very generous of me,” describing the film as “a kind of mirror that wasn’t necessarily something [women of that generation] appreciated seeing.” In the same documentary, Akerman says it was only with News From Home that she realized her mother formed the center of all of her work. At the time of these interviews, Akerman was completing work on No Home Movie, a meditation on her elderly mother’s decline and impending death. It would be her final film.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1997)

We’re dumped into the middle of a complex situation in a mechanized future city, where teenage kids are piloting giant robots to fend off invading aliens, or “angels,” then as the show settles into a groove of one angel per episode (each requiring either skill, strategy, or brute force/rage to defeat) it gradually fills in the details – some of them, anyway. Plenty of questions remain: why teenagers? Where do the alien-angels come from, and how are they connected to the apparently partly-biological robots (or “evas”)? Who’s the shadowy organization that runs the shadowy organization that runs the eva program and where did they get their plans and prophecies from? Why do the main characters have a pet penguin? And why is every single character in this show extremely neurotic?

I get that we’re in Japan, so of course there are teenagers piloting giant robots and of course there’s an out-of-place, comic-relief pet penguin. These traditions endure from Voltron to Macross/Robotech to Gundam to American movies like Robot Jox and Pacific Rim. I just played a 2015 Japanese video game in which cool dudes and underdressed sexy ladies pilot giant robots to kill marauding aliens, accompanied by a comic-relief talking potato, so it’s still going strong.

Our heroes:

Things get dark quickly:

The show is obsessed with numbering things (the third child, unit 04, seventh construction phase of tokyo-3, twelfth angel, second branch, code 707), feeling at times like the script was written in Excel. Set in the futuristic time of 2015-2016.

Seele or Nerv or something:

Our tormented lead character is Shinji. He lives with Misato, a hard-drinkin’ penguin-owner who runs mission control along with ex-rival Ritsuko and ex-flame Kaji, or actually I’m not sure what any of their jobs are because I watched the show slowly and missed or forgot some details. Also living with them is super-cocky pilot Asuka, whose whole world falls apart if she can’t be the best at everything. And living on her own is the quiet, often-injured Rei. Everyone has major, major parental and/or love-life issues, the worst of which is that Shinji’s dad Ikari runs the shadowy Eva organization Nerv but has never once spoken to his son with affection, and has a weird offscreen relationship with Rei, who he might be cloning.

Rei-clones:

Ikari-hand:

Then in the final episodes, instead of polishing off the story it dives into the tortured minds of the lead characters for an experimental-film psychoanalysis session. “This is the me that exists in your mind.” Shinji meets the perfect friend who turns out to be the final angel and must be killed by Shinji’s own hands. Asuka’s and Shinji’s moms die repeatedly in flashback. Ikari talks to an eyeball in his disfigured hand. Rei keeps being resurrected. Even the penguin is sent to live with someone else. Finally, Shinji reaches self-acceptance. “It’s okay for me to be here.” I found parts of the final episodes whiny and repetitive, but over the next few days warmed up to the idea of the whole series having been a prolonged Shinji therapy session.


The End of Evangelion (1997)

Then, the movie remakes those last two episodes the way the fans preferred: with mad apocalypse instead of therapy. There are still sexual and parental hangups, petty grievances, inter-agency power struggles, and everyone’s still super lonely and unhappy, but now there’s more sci-fi storyline to go with it. Nine new winged evas are unleashed along with military forces upon our Tokyo base, decimating it. Asuka goes on the biggest homicidal rampage of all time, taking down all the new evas, then Shinji has the biggest crippling self-doubt paralysis of all time, then every other character in the entire series is killed, then Rei becomes a planet-sized god, rapturing and absorbing the souls of all humanity. Unfortunately, the underground control panel nerds stay alive until the very end so they can keep spouting nonsense:

“Ikari has installed a Type 666 firewall on the MAGI’s external feed circuits.”

“Psychograph signal down!”

and my favorite,

“Pilot response approaching infinite zero!”

Said to be one of the best anime series ever… after this and Paranoia Agent I wonder what I should try next. Apparently Death & Rebirth is a skippable movie, condensed from the series and End of Evangelion movie, and there’s a trilogy of remake movies from 2007-2012 from the original creative team, which might be good, but I’ll hold off watching those since Wikipedia says there’s a part four coming. Writer/director Hideaki Anno apparently created the series (particularly the finale) in response to his own battle with depression. He started out as an animator on Nausicaa, also made Cutie Honey (which I enjoyed), some other kid/teen animated shows, and I guess he’s making the next Godzilla movie. Codirector Kazuya Tsurumaki directed the weirdo series FLCL.