There’s a Guy Maddin retrospective on Criterion so I rewatched the great Saddest Music in the World, where everyone is tormented and traumatized except for cheesehead Mark McKinney, so he has to die in the end. Since this came out, Mark has starred in Superstore, which I heard was very good. Amnesiac Maria de Medeiros was in Son of Joseph and Pasolini. Serbian Ross McMillan was in a Dave Franco zombie/cannibal horror called Bad Meat. Canadian dad David Fox was in Jessica Chastain horror Mama. And Isabella… half the actors I’ve looked up this week have led to Two Lovers, so maybe it’s time I watch that thing.


How to Take a Bath (2009)

In its original form, so the MPEGing transitions predate The Forbidden Room by a few years. Mmmm, that’s what bathing is all about.


Lines of the Hand (2015)

Wow – another Forbidden-adjacent short. This one takes a John Ashbery poem, a Jean Vigo script, Vigo’s daughter Luce, and Udo Kier, and smooshes them into a colorful impressionist blob.


Accidence (2018)

A music video masquerading as installation art. Single take, mostly wide shot of an apartment building where a murder/investigation is happening along with much hanging-out.


The Rabbit Hunters (2020)

A sequel to My Dad Is 100 Years Old! This time Isabella plays Fellini, and the short is a dream fantasia with very funny dubbing. The rabbit hunters are discovered inside a bed, after searching in vain for the screening room of a movie premiere, and en route to a flight with Fellini’s ailing wife… it makes more sense while watching then written down.

The opening scene is full-on nuts and very fakey looking, but i dunno that you need a sand-dune sailboat being attacked by giant duneworms to look “realistic.” Back in “our world” Milla Jovovich is an elite UN soldier(?) until a desert storm transports her to the monster-hunting world where her team is wiped out and she’s cocooned by skittering creatures in an underground insect Matrix until kidnapped by incredible archer Tony Jaa. She fucks up his shrine and they have a really violent fight, then they join forces and make her an arm-mounted grappling crossbow. “To kill a monster you need a monster.” Lost Boy Ron Perlman joins them, fighting off a stampede with flaming swords, then we go through the kidnapping / friendship thing again to fight a fire-breathing dragon. If I’m making this movie sound unbelievably awesome, that’s only because it is.

Never Like the First Time (2006, Jonas Odell)

First-time sex stories. The participants seem youngish until the last guy tells a story set in the 1920’s. He and the first guy tell joyous stories of satisfaction, while for the women in the middle it was either disappointing or traumatic. The animation is a confusing mix of 2D photos and images composited into a 3D environment. Shared Golden Bears in Berlin that year with Sandra Hüller, Michael Winterbottom, and Andrzej Wajda. Ten years later Odell made a short called I Was a Winner, presumably not a reference to his Berlin prize, a short doc about video gamers as told by their game avatars, which sounds better than the new Rodney Ascher.


The Tale of How (2006, The Blackheart Gang)

Extremely trippy story involving tentacle creatures and seagulls with teeth – a musical, set to an elaborate song, one suicide pact short of a Decemberists number. A South African movie, it doesn’t appear the Gang has remained in the movie business, except the composer with the great name of Markus Wormstorm. From the same omnibus as the previous film, but somehow I only found these two of the nine.


Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936, Dave Fleischer)

Sindbad is just Bluto, lording over an isle of monsters and calling himself a most extraordinary fellow (is that from a Harold Lloyd film?). Highlights: each sailor introduces himself with his own theme song, and Wimpy tries to catch a duck with a meat grinder. There were a million Popeye shorts, so why is this one famous? Lost the oscar to The Country Cousin, not a great year.


Quimby The Mouse (2009, Chris Ware)

Quimby is a domestic abuser who marries a severed head, makes it cry until sea levels rise, then uses it as bait to catch sea fishes, all set to a jaunty Andrew Bird song. Fun!


Invention of Love (2010, Andrey Shushkov)

Beautiful shadow animation. Boy takes Girl to the steampunk towers where all plants and animals are machine replicants, and when she gets sick, he replicates her.


Rowing Across the Atlantic (1978, Jean-Francois Laguionie)

Young adventurers attempt to cross the ocean in a rowboat, witness the Titanic sinking, fight and hallucinate and live their whole lives together on the boat. Some unexpected imagery, really nice. Laguionie made a couple of features last decade – I hear good things. This won best-short awards at the Césars (which also honored Dégustation maison) and at Cannes (which gave prizes to The Tree of Wooden Clogs, The Shout, and A Doonesbury Special).


At the Ends of the World (1999, Konstantin Bronzit)

Delicate balance of comings and goings in a house perched on a mountaintop. Single-take until post-credits when disaster has relocated the house to a valley. Zagreb is a big fest for animated shorts, eh? This won its category, and The Old Man and the Sea took another.


Fist Fight (1964, Robert Breer)

His most full-of-things film that i can recall, flickering edits of clippings and photos and drawings, musique concrète soundtrack involving bird sounds. Mice, cigar tricks, and eye-bending patterns. Proper figure animation, some Klahr-ish stuff, some Rejected paper manipulation – every technique Breer had at his disposal, like an itunes library of animation with their frames set on shuffle. Internet says it’s autobiographical, and Stockhausen-related.


What Goes Up… (2003, Robert Breer)

Rotoscope-looking Jeff Scher-ish animation with flickering photograph injections. I attended a Breer program at Anthology Film Archives in the early 2000s, later discovered Scher, then Jodie Mack, and now I’ve forgotten all the original Breers. They are short and delightful and I should be watching them on the regular.

Whoa, big movie… I was hoping for something Tarkovsy-esque, but if anything it was closest to Andrei Rublev. Too plotty, full of unhappy Christians doing desperate things. Choir music, the voices dubbed with a mesmerizing echo effect. Some proto-Hard To Be a God ancient miserablism. The movie is full of birds – generally a good thing, but with a notable bird death.

Catching up on the storyline via wikipedia, and most of this is news to me. I did not realize that Kozlik (the bald guy with a crack in his head) and Lazar (Marketa’s dad) were rival clan leaders, both under assault by the King’s captain. I got the relationship and revenge-killing stuff, with thanks to the descriptive title cards before each chapter, but not that one-armed Adam’s other arm was removed as punishment for sleeping with his sister. The arrows being shot into everyone in the last hour look unnervingly real.

After Profit Motive, Gianvito made a couple of 4+ hour docs about the messes that US military bases leave behind in other countries, but here he’s back in Profit Motive mode with a compact doc full of reading material. The subject is Helen Keller, so he plays with narration and silence, also mixes in period sound recordings and tactile nature photography. A dead bird is photographed for metaphorical reasons, and I’m still recovering from all the avian violence in Bird Island but I’m going to allow it.

Keller was turned onto socialism by an HG Wells book, and after socialist party infighting, she joins the IWW/wobblies and becomes increasingly radical – but remains philosophical and witty in her Q&A responses.

Robert De Niro trying to pick up girls at a VJ Day party runs up on Liza Minnelli, whose first 20 lines in the movie are “no.” De Niro plays a guy with social problems, if you can believe that. It’s a talky hangout drama with some good character moments, gradually accumulating plot as their music careers develop.

The audition:

Then after an entire two-hour not-great movie, Liza’s husband is having a crisis because she’s more famous than him, and she stars in a play where her man runs off because he can’t bear being with a woman more famous than him… the movie finally, gloriously becoming the full-blown musical it had been hinting at, Liza’s glamour more interesting than De Niro’s aimless dissatisfaction. According to the wikis, the movie-within-the-movie was cut from the theatrical release version – no wonder it wasn’t commercially successful. And here I was stupidly wondering if it’s based on the real couple who wrote the titular classic song in the 1940’s/50’s, but the song was written for this movie.

Dick Miller, being the man:

“Lenny’s a racist, but he’s one of the good ones.” Filipe’s short letterboxd review kept coming to mind, “the overall absurdism does have its moments and Morris’s anger comes through,” especially when the movie ends with cops and feds getting cheerfully promoted for destroying the lives of cool weirdos. Lead weirdo is Moses, who runs a black militant duck farm. Agent Anna Kendrick is looking for people to set up to take credit for saving the world from terrorism I guess. The feds determine Moses’s crew is no threat, but after Moses sells fake uranium to nazi cop Jim Gaffigan (!), the higher-ups get involved and everybody below goes to jail.

Moses presides:

Danielle Brooks (Clemency the same year) gives Santa a touch-up:

Afrika nails informant Kayvan Novak (Four Lions):

The couple years between Buñuel’s two Mexican bus films were productive, and this is a good one – better than Illusions Travel by Streetcar, anyway.

El Bruto is an exploited slaughterhouse worker, mocked by coworkers despite his strength, hired by a local landlord to terrorize the organizing tenants into leaving an apartment complex so it can be redeveloped. I wasn’t intending to watch two collectivist worker films in a row, just a happy accident.

While fleeing from the law after terrorizing the locals, a tragic chicken murder occurs. Then Bruto busts in on Meche, the woman whose chicken (and father) he killed, falls for her and attempts to manufacture a happy ending, but his wife Maria interferes.

Bruto had major roles in a couple John Ford movies and a James Bond. The landlord’s girl Maria Juado had a good Hollywood run in at least three major westerns and Under The Volcano. Wife Maria was better known as a ballet dancer, and Meche was in The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy.

Bruto getting his orders from the landlord:

Bruto’s excuse for everything:

Bruto’s ex is enraged that he’s got a new girl:

Things end as they must, in a hail of gunfire:

A barely pre-covid movie set on a cruise ship, haha. Everyone gave the same description of this movie, that it’s about a writer who has to take a trip across the ocean, chooses ship travel and invites her two oldest friends, then invites her nephew to keep them occupied while the writer avoids everyone. Doesn’t sound interesting based on that, but I trusted in the actors and Soderbergh’s rep, and was rewarded with some very natural dialogue mixed with exquisite writing, and an engaging watch despite some clunky bits.

Happy to see Lucas Hedges not end up with spying lit agent Gemma Chan (soon to star in Chloe Zhao’s Eternals, which is hopefully better than The Old Guard). Happy to see Dianne Wiest for the first time in a memorable movie since Synecdoche NY. She and Candice Bergen have scores to settle, which had ultimately less payoff than the Dean Koontz stand-in getting everyone’s respect at the end. Meryl Streep’s second Soderbergh movie in a row (still haven’t checked out The Laundromat). Writer Deborah Eisenberg is a Malick associate, and Soderbergh ought to have a twisty crime drama ready to go when theaters reopen.