It’s been thirty years, and I’ve got all but a few Joe Dante movies on the ol’ blog, so time for an Innerspace rewatch. I must’ve seen this more than once on cable – some scenes are clearly etched in my memory (The Cowboy singing “I’m an old cowhand from the rio grande,” for some reason) and most of the others felt awfully familiar as they unfolded. Besides the nostalgia value, it’s a tightly written, well-made studio comedy full of enjoyable performances and Bugs Bunny references.

The movie’s secret weapon: Robert Picardo as The Cowboy

Kevin McCarthy in his henchman lair:

Are the opening titles, exploring light beams inside a drink glass, a goof on Stan Brakhage? Probably not. The murdered scientist in charge of Dennis Quaid’s miniaturization experiment is John Hora, better known as Dante’s cinematographer on six movies. Evil Dr. Margaret is Fiona Lewis, the maid in Fearless Vampire Killers, and her false-armed henchman is Vernon Wells, lead villain in Circuitry Man. One of the movie’s writers did an unfrozen caveman drama, the other wrote The Dead Zone screenplay.

Quaid meets his host body:

Meg, right as Martin Short is jumping out the back of a truck:

The one where Nick Offerman and his daughter (Kiersey Clemons of Flatliners Remake) start a band, and he takes it really seriously, wanting to take the act on tour, while she just wants to start college like a normal person. I am easily irritated by lightweight feelgood indie dramas and by auto-tune indiepop, and mostly didn’t mind this at all, except when Offerman’s record store had a going-out-of-business sale selling new vinyl at ridiculous low prices and the people who showed up only bought a few records each – that’s just unrealistic.

Rewatched for the first time since theaters (?) in prep for M:I:6:Fallout, and it was much fun. I remembered Emilio Estevez’s elevator death, but not that it happens in the opening sequence and that he dies along with the entire team of Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Béart (not really dead) and her husband and team leader Jon Voight (also not dead, and the secret double-agent mole who planned the whole thing to frame Tom Cruise and make off with the secret documents or whatever). On the side of evil Voight are Jean Reno, who dies in the preposterous helicopter-in-the-train-tunnel finale, and Vanessa Redgrave, who is just quietly arrested. I was impressed by the rubber-masks game, recalling the advanced digital trickery in M:I:4:Ghost:Protocol, and then happily, part six featured just as many rubber masks.

Dramatic camera angles, first-person shots and entire subjective scenes which play differently in flashback, because it’s still De Palma.

Team 1: Estevez (his last appearance in a theatrical film that he didn’t direct), Cruise (same year as Jerry Maguire), Béart (right between her two major Rivette films), and Burnt by the Sun star Ingeborga Dapkunaite:

Cruise and K.S.T., lurking:

Got no screenshots or notes, but I watched this twice in two weeks, and might just watch it again right now. A commercial pilot becomes a CIA operative becomes a drug smuggler, ends up working for everybody and making far more cash than his family can spend, drawing increasing suspicion from all sides, and it ends badly for the guy. Tom Cruise projects his usual boundless confidence, this time with a hint of dumb panic underneath, and Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) throws out every technique he can think of to keep the movie from being your standard true-crime drama – and it all works. With Sarah Wright (Jerry’s daughter in Parks & Rec) as Cruise’s wife, and Caleb Landry Jones as her fuckup brother.

It was maybe a mistake to watch this right after Mission: Impossible, but it was fun to see the characters again, and I’ll probably appreciate it more after a rewatch. The movie makes a big surprise deal out of baby Jack-Jack’s powers even though they were revealed in both the original movie and the Jack-Jack Attack short, and it’s obvious that the casually-mentioned tech-genius sister of the telecom company president is gonna turn out to be Screenslaver (the anti-superhero TV-mind-control supervillain), and Edna Mode is kinda pried in there, and the whole plot where the townspeople are made to think superheroes are actually bad then they have to redeem themselves is played out, and the whole plot where mom gets a cool job and dad has trouble managing the domestic life is really played out.

The short before the feature was Bao by Inside Out story artist Domee Shi, about a woman who relives the joys and pains of raising a son through her dumplings. This and Sanjay’s Super Team join Coco in the new ranks of culturally interesting Pixar movies.

Can’t say that I loved Spring, but The Endless sounded enticing, and when I realized Benson & Moorhead’s first feature Resolution was a semi-prequel I went ahead and double-featured ’em. Great idea – I dug both movies and they’re even better when viewed close together.


Resolution (2012)

A tense, comic hangout movie with unusually good dialogue about two old friends, one having lost his mind on drugs in a shack on the woods, and the other one handcuffing him to a wall for a week so he’ll get clean. Mike is a normal-looking guy with mild sideburns, and Chris is an unstable beardy Jason Lee type, has a gun, rants about bugs and birds, just wants to be left alone and get high in his forest full of junkies, cultists and crazies.

Things get horrory when Mike starts to believe that he’s being given clues to a mystery, starting with the video from Chris that brought him here, which Chris says he didn’t send… the digital video leads to a book to some slides to a grave to a videotape. The first definitely supernatural discovery is a video showing what happened in their cabin minutes earlier, shot from inside the room. The clues start revealing alternate futures, showing them killed by the junkies, or by the owners of the cabin, and this somehow relates to some missing students who stayed in the cabin doing research on “manipulating light and sound waves.”

“I think it wants a story with an ending.” References to these guys being trapped inside the movie while the script is messing with them, but it’s not too blatant… edits are abrupt with a bloom of scratchy color. The inevitable happy ending, after all this adventure Chris agrees to go to rehab – then some Blair Witchy Twin Peaksy WTF mystery in the final shot.


The Endless (2017)

The movies have a different feel though they sound similar… again we’ve got two guys hanging out, smartass dialogue, receiving a mysterious tape in the mail which later the sender will claim they never sent. Directors Aaron and Justin played cultists accosting Mike in a scene of Resolution, and now they’re the leads, having left the cult a decade ago to live ordinary lives. After watching the video, young Aaron is antsy to return to their doomsday cult for a visit, and his beardy older brother Justin agrees.

“I can assure you that nothing here ends.” This movie has more of a normal setup, as we get to know various cultists with their own quirks, old resentments gradually surface (apparently Justin spread lies about the cult to the media after escaping), but the camp is surrounded by the shimmer and Mike’s wife from Resolution shows up looking for him. Timelines don’t always match up, but it turns out the movie’s whole point is time manipulation, trapping characters in looped routines, offering the illusion that they can choose their own fates then resetting back to zero. Of course our guys visit the Resolution house, stepping back into their own movie, like the View Askewniverse inside The Cabin in the Woods. There should be more of this kinda stuff.

Claire Foy (of Nicolas Cage monk-actioner Season of the Witch) makes the huge mistake of confessing suicidal thoughts to her therapist, gets admitted to a psychiatric ward for evaluation for a couple days, which gets extended to a week because she keeps railing against her confinement. She sees her stalker ex-boyfriend working at the clinic, and I thought the whole movie was gonna be the old “are these things really happening or is she actually crazy” routine, but it becomes clear only a few scenes later that he is a dangerous stalker abusing his position of power and her inability to escape. I haven’t seen Side Effects yet, but between this and The Knick and Contagion, Soderbergh has got a thing for dangerous hospitals.

“There is no path to happiness from here.” The stalker is Joshua Leonard of the Blair Witch Project. SNL’s Jay Pharoah helps Claire out, claims to be a recovering drug addict who checked himself in, but is actually an undercover reporter exposing the hospital, or he would have if Josh hadn’t murdered him. Josh also kills unstable patient Juno Temple (the blonde one in Jack & Diane) and Claire’s mom, then miseries Claire’s foot when she runs away. I think she kills his ass in the end, the hospital gets busted for being run like a secret prison, and Claire gets a promotion at work. Whole movie was shot on a phone, with some unique angles and fishbowl views.

Such Bressonian Bergmanism. Bergssonic. With a bunch of other movies, some obvious, some had to be pointed out to me by Schrader, who is not afraid of naming his specific influences in interviews. Such a tormented Ethan Hawke, meant to be a calm and calming priest but falling apart in real-time, haunted by Amanda Seyfriend and her late husband and corporate malfeasance and man’s destruction of the earth and the terrible absence of God. Such a lovely, ambiguous ending. Such the movie of the year.

“If you’re optimistic about the world as it now is, you’re just simply not paying attention.”

Love’s Refrain (2016, Paul Clipson)

Measured zooms and pans through textures of nature, always overlapping and dissolving, set to an ambient groove with a steady beat. As the music gets blurrier and the beat recedes, the picture focuses more on streaks of light swishing past the natural photography, and finally the music turns into an insistent blare and the picture becomes abstract light squiggles. Clipson died last month, which is how I first heard about his work. My first thought is I’d like to see this in a theater, projected large, maybe in some kind of weekly screening program before a feature, and imagine how lovely that would be, and how nobody who sat through it would ever return.


Describe What You Heard (2017, Joe Callander & Jason Tippet)

“Tips on how to better describe your next mass shooting experience,” reacting to how people in news interviews are always saying “pop pop pop.” Jumps back and forth between shooting story footage and a guy providing a better sound effect vocabulary. This played True/False last year, now on vimeo.


Pure Flix and Chill: The David A.R. White Story (2018, Anthony Simon)

The week God’s Not Dead 3 came out I watched this half-hour doc on its star and studio founder, thanks to a Filmmaker article. Simon uses visuals from Pure Flix features and interview audio from White to craft a hilarious montage about the Christian entertainment industry and one of its biggest stars.


Idiot With a Tripod (2010, Jamie Stuart)

Jamie went out into a New York snowstorm, caught images of the city and edited them rhythmically to a Reznor/Ross song from the Social Network soundtrack. I watched this to see if I need to watch his feature A Motion Selfie, but I still don’t know!


Koko Trains ‘Em (1925, Dave Fleischer)

The earliest Fleischer I’ve seen, and it’s ambitious. An animator (Max) dressed in a suit is trying to impress a fashionable woman at his studio by drawing her dog, but the drawing keeps mutating into Koko the Clown. He puts Koko aside, they wrestle over the fountain pen, and the animator draws the dog next to Koko setting up a circus scenario. Not sure why the fashionable woman would want to see her dog break into pieces while doing flips and impersonate Teddy Roosevelt at the behest of a whip-wielding clown, but I never claimed to understand the 1920’s. Ends with Koko jumping out of the paper and riding the actual dog. Wikipedia says nearly 120 of these “inkwell” cartoons were made, that Dave’s job as a Coney Island clown inspired Koko, and that the dog named Fitz evolved into Betty Boop’s boyfriend Bimbo.


The Heat of a Thousand Suns (1965, Pierre Kast)

One of the few Chris Marker-related movies I hadn’t seen – he’s credited with editing. Sci-fi animation about a rich, bored space explorer with a robot crew who travels to a planet in another galaxy and fails to have a major romance with the beautiful girl he meets there since he does not understand how their relationships work. The animated movement is limited, but the drawings are lovely and unique. There’s a Jules & Jim reference, a cat, and a utopian society that is possibly into orgies.

It closes with a montage of real-life Earth women, including future Sans Soleil narrator Alexandra Stewart, who appeared in most of Kast’s films. This was his final short – he also directed features including an Easter Island sci-fi mystery, a Stéphane Audran cancer drama, and one in which scientist Jean Marais shrinks his female lab assistant to pocket-size. For Marker this was three years after La Jetée. Shot by Willy Kurant the year before he’d jump very impressively into feature films with Masculin Féminin, Trans-Europ-Express and Les Créatures. Played Locarno 1965 alongside The Koumiko Mystery.


La Legende dorée (2015, Olivier Smolders)

“God is a mediocre idea.” Librarian who hasn’t slept in 57 years claims his mother was conjoined twins, his dad a farting musician cannibal. He is fond of talking straight into the camera and showing off his scrapbook of tragic historical figures including a castrato, some torturous murderers, and Simon of the Desert – repeating and changing his story. Watched this to see if I want to see more Smolders, and… maybe?


Disintegration 93-96 (2017, Miko Revereza)

Either I am tired or the narrator has the kind of voice that it’s impossible to concentrate on – it’s something about this kid’s memories of hating his dad in 1993, his words illustrated with period VHS footage cropped to widescreen. Something about being illegal aliens in America, something about work and philosophy and class. If it was written, I’d have to reread some sentences, skim others, process it in my own time – but it’s spoken at a rapid, droning clip while I’m mostly trying to follow the visuals. Sponsored by Laika!


Muta (2011, Lucrecia Martel)

Someone’s been watching The Ring! Horror movie fashion models, faces unseen, creep around a yacht like an Under The Skin insect alien convention. I guess it’s an ad for a clothing company, like that Leos Carax short, but I appreciate these luxury brands giving great filmmakers a budget and letting them get deeply weird.


Things that aren’t shorts, but aren’t TV or movies exactly:

Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is quite the journey… a middling comedy special for the first half, which turns into something more serious and interesting. Some early bits I’d noted as clunky and overserious turned out to be gradual setup for the later parts. I mean I hope it’s not the future of comedy, but as a singular show, it’s really well-constructed and I felt all the things.

I watched the whole Fred Armisen comedy thing about drummers, and I love both comedy and drumming, so I rather enjoyed it a lot.

And it seems like ages ago, but we saw Distant Sky, the second Nick Cave/Bad Seeds movie I’ve seen in theaters since moving here, and it was just as transcendent as the last one. Well-made concert movies can be better than actual concerts, and they’re easier to tour around the country, so why aren’t there more of them?