Kazuko (Tomoyo Harada, later narrator of the 1997 version) has known flower-obsessed Kazuo (Ryôichi Takayanagi of a couple other Obayashi films) since childhood. They’ve always been close, and once drank each other’s blood after a broken mirror incident. So she confides in him after passing out in a science lab and waking up with the barely-controlled ability to jump back in time, saving people from tragedies she’s seen occur from falling roofs and zooming bikes.

But it turns out these two met just recently, and Kazuo is a time traveler from the year 2660, collecting plants from the past for scientific research since the future world is barren, and he has psychically manipulated people into believing they’re friends with him, stealing Kazuko’s memories of her childhood friend Goro (Toshinori Omi, star of gender-swap comedy I Are You, You Am Me). The movie plays all this straight, just 1980’s teen drama to the point that even 1980’s-teen-drama-loving Katy, who loves the animated version, got bored and wandered off, but there’s some fun crazy stop-motion towards the end as she hurtles through time.

We heard that someone, somewhere, was having a Jean Arthur marathon, so we decided to participate and found this. Jean’s neglectful husband Fred MacMurray is lost at sea and presumed dead, but returns to find she has a new neglectful husband, his business partner Melvyn Douglas, and Jean enjoys having two men fight over her. The guys try leaving it to chance, but Melvyn cheats – the movie is pretty much on Fred’s side from the start. I guess Wes Ruggles was popular in his time, since his photo appears on the movie poster. I was not a fan of the first thing I saw him direct – looks like his thing is to cast all my favorite actresses opposite Melvyn Douglas. Written by Somerset Maugham, the highest-paid author in the world, also featuring butler Melville Cooper, who had played the Sheriff of Nottingham vs. Errol Flynn a couple years earlier.

We went to see some animated shorts, at a respectfully full theater across the street from SCAD. I’m struggling to remember A Dinner With Dad (Johanna J. Lunn) and Creationism (Janale Harris) and Lost In Phone (Yongji Chen & Mengchen Zhao). We missed Unsolicited (Meg Cook) and Don’t Croak (Daun Kim), and came in late during Reboot (Ellen Osborne), which was a beautiful vision of post-human Earth reminiscent of Handsome Family songs. The rest, in some order:


Aripi (Dmitri Voloshin)

Tribute to a fallen pilot friend, an astronaut experiences absolute chaos and ends up falling to earth, improvising a glider on the way down.


Shell (Stella Rosen)

Creature and Alien go through the same disfiguring changes in reverse, feels Jim Woodring-inspired in a good way.


Tutorial > SKIP? (Thy Vo & Sydney Seekford & Ryan Imm)

Cute gaming parody, co-created by a former coworker.


Tiffany (Christina Christie)

Memorable character design of a stained glass sculpture that becomes sentient without the coordination to navigate stairs, the sculptor’s daughter trying to prevent disaster while prepping the works for display.


Godspeed (Sunny Wai Yan Chan)

A tiny mother/son airport story by another former coworker!


Ouija (​Ashley Young)

I cannot improve on the official description: “Two dumb kids explore the dangers of a Ouija board and come face to face with the Ouija demon, Zozo.”


Anacronte (Emiliano Sette & Raúl Koler)

The one with blank-faced humanity walking across a giant game board, malevolent reapers hurling spears at them from cliffs above, causing misfortune and death in their real lives – kind of cool imagery.


Serpendipity (Carlos Mejia & Kevin Barwick)

Medusa-haired guy and blind-without-her-glasses girl on a date… kind of a disaster of flailing, rubbery 3D characters, but the fun, fast-paced story makes up for it.


Balance (Barzan Rostami)

Oh no, it’s the most heavy-handed visual metaphor of the decade.


Hawkeye Sucks (Hunter Collins)

Love when movies feel overlong at 3 minutes. People laughed at least, but then people laugh at the pre-show ads at the multiplexes too.

Some movies watched before, during, and soon after the China trip:


The Illinois Parables (2016 Deborah Stratman)

I know I watched it late at night, in Alpharetta, and somehow took no notes, and enjoyed it. Landscapes and history lessons. Sure sounds interesting from the letterboxd writeups! Maybe kinda if General Orders No. 9 was much better, and had been highly influenced by Profit Motive.


Widows (2018 Steve McQueen)

After all the hype – the follow-up to his best-picture winner with an outstanding cast – somehow I lost interest in this by the time it came out, and caught up months later on the seat-back of a plane. It’s overwrought and overstuffed, but undeniably pleasurable in its performances and genre plotting.

I wonder if the male actors were sabotaged in an attempt to draw attention to the heist-gone-bad widows Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez – or if they just misjudged the tone of the movie. Colin Farrell overacts as a cartoon-villain politician, Daniel Kaluuya plays a basic enforcer of a crime boss/politician stalking Viola Davis, and Liam Neeson goes from sympathetic victim to archvillain when he’s discovered by wife Viola (in the movie’s best scene) to be shacking up with the fourth widow after arranging the deaths of his buddies to get away with all the money. Does Viola throw aside spousal emotion for the sake of sweet revenge, killing Liams herself at the end? She does!


Transit (2018 Christian Petzold)

Watched at the Tara, huge, alone. Sicinski’s review says it all.


Us (2019 Jordan Peele)

Watched with Pro at Atlantic Station – on the secret screen with its own bar, not that this mattered. I don’t have a firm handle on the symbolism, but it’s a hell of a thriller regardless. See smart articles by Kyle, Monica, Mike, and Carol.


In Fabric (2018 Peter Strickland)

Watched at the glorious Plaza as part of the Atlanta Film Festival.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets & Lies) visits a creepy clothing store during sales week, is talked into buying a cursed red dress by a cheerfully coercive saleswoman (Fatma Mohamed, speaking in retail-poetry). Marianne dates Barry Adamson (a Bad Seed!), gets chastised by boss Julian Barratt, and keeps getting injured until she’s finally killed in a car crash. It’s a strange tone overall, kind of a creeping dread mixed with splashes of comedy – but Marianne is a sympathetic character stuck in a crappy job, being intimidated in her own house by her son’s new girl (Gwendoline Christie of Top of the Lake season 2), so the campy horror-comedy gets overwhelmed by sadness. The dress survives, and gets shared by another guy with a crappy job (Leo Bill) and his girlfriend Hayley Squires (of the latest Wheatley and second-latest Loach), misfortune and death follow, but this time the department store burns down during a consumer brawl.

Strickland:

A lot of us filmmakers have had to do the kinds of jobs these characters do: temping, retail. The challenge is to usher those experiences into one’s films without it feeling like a vendetta, because a lot of those experiences are quite ball breaking. It’s more desirable to find humor there, to take characters like [Sheila’s employers] Stash and Clive and make them funny.


Election 1 & 2 (2005/06 Johnnie To)

Watched a couple of HK double-features on the long flight back from HK – on the iPad, tragically, so no screenshots. These are Hong Kong underworld power struggle movies – Lok (Simon Yam, star of at least six other To films) wins the election that Big D (Tony Leung 2: Evil East) thought he’d bought, so Big D revolts and threatens to start a war. Lok placates the dude, offering him the chairman position after Lok’s two years are up, and the two become friends – until the moment Big D lets his guard down and gets murdered.

Part two is more complicated, starring Jimmy (Louis Koo, the movie star in Romancing in Thin Air) as a businessman using his gangster ties to get ahead, but with plans to go straight – until he’s arrested and forced by the mainland government to run as their puppet chairman. Lok attempts to run a second time, which is against the rules, Kun (Ka Tung Lam, a cop in some of the Infernal Affairs movies) kidnaps some of the elders to get ahead, and Jet (Nick Cheung of Exiled) attempts to eliminate the competition. In both movies, the baton signaling the chairman’s power is hidden as a strategic move, then the baton is recovered through scheming and brutality.


A Better Tomorrow 1 & 2 (1986/87 John Woo)

I alternated these with the Election movies, and they’re either good indicators that John Woo is no Johnnie To, or that the 1980’s were a horrible decade for filmmaking. Gangster Ho (Ti Lung of a ton of Shaw Brothers movies) is protective of his cop little brother Kit (Leslie Cheung). He tries to get out, but they pull him back in! A few years later, Kit and Ho and his best friend Mark (Chow Yun-fat) sort-of team up to take down the gangster boss. The movie’s main attractions are guessing where the shifting loyalties will land, and watching Chow Yun-fat overplay his part as the super-cool guy, a schtik that nobody would fall for (jk, he became a massive star from this role and won the best actor award). At least he definitively dies at the end of the movie, so he won’t be in the sequel.

Part two is pretty much the same movie, Ho and Kit versus new gangster Lung (Dean Shek of Drunken Master), but it turns out Lung is being set up, so they all team up against the new superboss. Kit is killed as his baby is being born across town (by Emily Chu, also Cheung’s costar in Rouge the following year). The movie suffers from the lack of Chow Yun-fat’s stupid energy… ahhhh kidding, he appears as Mark’s identical twin brother, a non-gangster who transforms into a Mark-like badass after about twenty minutes.

Alternate prequels were filmed – producer Tsui Hark made the official A Better Tomorrow III, and Woo adapted his own prequel script into Bullet in the Head (in which Simon Yam played a character named Lok, an unexpectin’ Election connection).


Lu Over The Wall (2017 Masaaki Yuasa)

Schoolkid meets a manic pixie dream mermaid – sort of a Walk On Girl-distorted version of Ponyo. Not as thrillingly nuts as Walk On Girl – surprising, since that’s a teen drinking drama and this one’s about a rock music-loving mermaid. She gets discovered, captured, rescued, etc., less interesting for the story than the wavy-jumbly animation style.


Diamantino (2018 Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt)

Loopy, extremely fun cult flick about a massive soccer star manipulated by his scheming sisters, a mad scientist, and a cop who masquerades as his adoptive daughter. Everyone spends the movie trying to catch him out, but Diamantino is too simply sweet to be scheming.

Lead actor Carloto Cotta also starred in Tabu, and appears in Mysteries of Lisbon and all three of the Arabian Nights. I’ve been rooting for Abrantes since his Brief History of Princess X, so glad this was wonderful. I haven’t watched many movies at the Plaza since getting back, but between this and In Fabric, they’ve been extremely Plaza-appropriate.

(adapted from an email to Neil)

Yesterday, Katy and I went out to a VIP opening of a guitar-based art exhibit cosponsored by my company. I brushed against St. Vincent’s guitar, and the one Jack White made in that documentary and one Cobain played on the In Utero tour, and a bunch of musicians and guitar-company bigwigs who I didn’t recognize so tomorrow I’ll ask Steve who they all were.

Anyways, Jarmusch has a new movie called The Dead Don’t Die, which is a star-studded zombie comedy three weeks into its three-week run in Atlanta, so we recruited everyone we know to go see it after the museum thing, and lemme tell ya, it’s not a good movie by any criteria, but it’s surely interesting. Casting Tilda Swinton to play a sword-wielding mortician from outer space (via Scotland) is interesting, as are all the third-wall-breaking references to the movie’s script and theme song and other films the cast members have starred in, and the decision to kill all the main characters, and the constant swipes at hipsters and materialism – none of it works, but it’s interesting. Afterwards, Katy said I’ve now picked two movies in a row which sucked, but at least the Jarmusch movie sucks in unique new ways. His odd, slow pacing and his tendency to comically overemphasize things worked for the vampire movie and his very dry comedies, but fights against the wacky mayhem here.

It’s extremely typical in a zombie movie to make a joking George Romero reference, so someone is driving the same model car as in Night of the Living Dead (and the metaphorical comparison of zombies to shopping-mall consumers is swiped from Romero’s Dawn of the Dead), and it’s typical in any self-aware graveyard-set auteur comedy to reference other filmmakers via gravestones, so Zombie Iggy Pop crawls out of a grave marked Samuel Fuller… and the references get more obscure from there… Jarmusch names his town after the one from Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels

Then there’s a scene near the end where Caleb Landry Jones and Danny Glover have barricaded themselves inside a hardware store. It may have been meta-humor, when the zombies finally breach the hardware store, that Jones and Glover, surrounded by weapons, continue their laconic conversation instead of properly defending themselves, and are easily killed by the consumerist swarm. But earlier, they’ve killed a couple of invading zombies whom they recognize… “That’s Dallas and Travis Good… the Good Family… those two brothers were great guitarists… it’s said they were born with guitars in their hands,” they say to each other robotically. I get the Romero and Fuller references, and the Trump joke, and Star Wars stuff, and the ultra-hipster Zappa quote, but why this extended Sadies plug?

And today, pondering all the bizarre choices made in that movie, I realized Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL and the Sadies played the same Hanukkah show in 2017.

Just another Hanukkah show that changed culture forever.

Katy hated this, and sure it’s not one of the better or even more memorable movies we’ve watched this summer, but when I heard that Johnnie To made a movie starring Andy Lau as a monk/stripper/strongman in a rubber muscle suit, I knew I had to watch it right away, and I regret nothing. Guess I’m on my own for Johnnie To’s comedy Love on a Diet starring Andy Lau in a fat suit…

This movie starts out crazy enough, with bodybuilder Lau making a nude getaway while a more serious crime is being committed, running into a cop and seeing a vision of her future. They team up and fight crime… but then Andy retreats to a mountain for years, battles his past self, and captures a reclusive killer… and we sense that they either filmed a three-hour epic then cut it to ninety minutes, or everyone was making it up as they went along. The staging of even simple scenes is better than it needs to be, the movie’s never boring, it features some villains straight out of the comics, and it follows through on its promise to kill Andy’s romantic interest (the cop, Cecilia Cheung of The Promise and Zu Warriors), so I admire it despite the parts that never really work (the editing, the muscle suit).

Intense cops-and-robbers movie bouncing between long Tarantino hangout scenes and grossly brutal action, connected by a plot that throws typical movie morals out the window. Zahler’s Haneke-like trolling of his audience is revealed when the climactic bank robbery begins and a new mother who just returned to work is graphically murdered. But most of the movie is spent sympathizing with cops Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn, suspended for being caught taunting and brutalizing a suspect, slowly justifying their turn to crime. These guys are underpaid and oversupervised by paper-pushing weenies, and they’re just stealing from other criminals, so what’s the problem? At least Zahler doesn’t let them get away with it, instead rewarding a younger criminal (Tory Kittles of True Detective and Colony) with a family in need, who is maybe less evil than his compatriots.

“I don’t politic, and I don’t change with the times, and it turns out that shit’s more important than good, honest work.” I still can’t believe they made a racist-cop film and cast Mel Gibson. For all the bad morals and outrage, it’s a hell of a good movie, with better suspense and action than the last two, and at least as good dialogue as Puppet Master 12.

Michael Jai White (above, being dragged across concrete) is Tory’s partner, Udo Kier hooks up the cops with info on the heist crew, Vaughn’s wife from Brawl in Cell Block 99 plays the banker, Fred Melamed her boss, Tattiawna Jones (Keyhole) as Vince’s girl, and Mel’s wife is Laurie Holden, the mom in Pyewacket.

I love the convenience and the selection of the Criterion Channel… and the quality, and the extras, but it’s tough to take screenshots, which ruins my blog flow. This was presented with Biller’s The Love Witch, which I was sorely tempted to watch a third time, but thought I’d better check out her debut while it’s online. Set in the early 1970s, it’s more campy than Love Witch, with self consciously horrible dialogue, shot like a cross between a sitcom and an advertisement. These aren’t complaints necessarily. Of the actors, I only recognized Sheila’s horrible husband Mark, who led the ren-fest scene in Love Witch.

Anna plays Barbi, whose husband Rick leaves her for weeks at a time. Anna and her friend Sheila decide home life is dull, so they sneak off to a modeling agency and get jobs as call girls. Anna as “Viva” meets a nudist musician, a hot girl named Agnes, and a big-deal artist… stars in a few musical numbers and a psychedelic animated fantasy. On one hand, as Viva she becomes a glorious sex goddess, but still everyone she meets is abusing her.

I’ve already covered Random Acts of Flyness and Search Party – here are some others.


The Tick (Serafinowicz version) season 1 (2017)

We’re defining season one as ending on “Cliffhanger!” with Arthur kidnapped by The Terror; half-year hiatuses initiate new seasons in my TV episode accounting. After an episode each I wasn’t sure about either this or Dirk Gently, but this had shorter episodes so it won, and I warmed up to it significantly. I mean just rebooting the cartoon would seem easier, but if they’re gonna keep spending money to put funny actors in cartoonish suits instead, I won’t complain.

Griffin Newman (Arthur) is yet another Search Party actor who’s also in Fort Tilden, a movie I’ve already said I need to watch. Lint is from the Sean Bean remake of The Hitcher, Dot is from the Adam Wingard remake of Blair Witch, and Overkill is from the Reggie Bannister sequel to The Mangler.


Review season 3 (2017)

With only three episodes left to close things up, Forrest is beautifully gifted a chance to make amends for his destructive obsession with reviewing life experiences – and he blows it, left alone and clueless at the end of the show (and the Show).

It looks like Andy Daly has joined Veep, so I don’t have to start watching Silicon Valley to see him again.


The Good Place season 3 (2018)

The team goes back to life/earth, tracked by evil Adam Scott, while Michael visits Doug Forcett and investigates the point system. That’s a poor writeup, we should probably just watch it again.


Archer season 7 (2016)

The “Figgis Agency” season, the group acting as Hollywood private eyes hired by Patton Oswalt to protect a film star (Mary McDonald-Lewis, who played Lady Jaye in the 1980’s). Nice Sunset Boulevard intro scene.


Barry season 1 (2018)

It seemed like overkill to start watching a sadsack hitman comedy when I’m in the middle of Archer, but this show hits new levels of sadsack without ever losing sight of the comedy. Stephen Root as Barry’s handler is the secret weapon from the start, then Henry Winkler shows up as a minor celebrity turned acting teacher. Most unexpected success: the Chechens as Root and Hader’s enemies-turned-partners, especially Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank. It’s all dark as hell, introverted Barry finding new friends only to end up having to kill them when they discover who he is.


Nathan For You season 1 (2013)

“I graduated from one of Canada’s top business schools with really good grades.” Nathan is an advisor to small businesses, helping them gain customers by, say, promoting shoplifting, or offering a discount via a rebate that has to be claimed by climbing a mountain and answering a series of riddles. He also does public stunts that can’t be seen as promoting anything, like hiding inside a cigar-store indian to spy on a security guard hidden inside a video game machine, and eventually the show ignores the businesses and gets more about Nathan’s awkward loneliness, looking for love by creating a “fake reality show” inside his fake reality show, and performing a pants-dropping escape act (“I took the judge’s suggestion that I should expose myself to children”). I’ve long heard good things about this show, but didn’t start watching until the True/False connection, Nathan attending this year’s fest with an extended version of the series finale, which I guess I’ll catch after three more seasons.

Body doubles who look “identical” to Nathan:


Mystery Science Theater 3000 season 12: The Gauntlet (2018)

Preeeeeeetty nice.