We had a True/False Makeup Weekend to celebrate One Child Nation‘s release in local theaters on the same day Amazing Johnathan premiered on streaming. As with this year’s fest itself, our programming was about half successful. We followed this one for a while, but as the filmmaker lost exclusive access to his subject, who also refused to quit or die, the director turned the movie towards himself (and itself) and tried to manufacture drama and stunts. Given how it ends up being about his competition with other Amazing Johnathan documentaries, and this one’s “twist ending” is its own executive producer credit, I’m surprised they didn’t film an addendum with our dude filming himself signing the Hulu deal. The other finished doc, Always Amazing, apparently scored a David Copperfield interview. In interviews, AJ says he likes the other movie just as much, which Berman says is impossible.
Katy suggested watching some Criterion Channel, and had never seen True Stories, one of my all-time favorite celebrations of special-ness. She liked it! Hard to believe that things like this could get released theatrically by Warner Bros. Looks like it was released around the same time as Under the Cherry Moon, Howard the Duck, The Mission, Deadly Friend and Little Shop of Horrors – an overall weird year for a major studio. Despite its studio backing it was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, but beaten for cinematography by that $138 million-grossing indie film Platoon, and for best first feature by Spike Lee (fair enough).
IMDB reports that two of the “Hey Now” kids went on to be voice actors, one in Disney movies and video games, the other on tons of dubbed anime including Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Summer Wars.
and in memory of D.A. Pennebaker…
One of those 1950’s shorts where people were just discovering that you can take the camera outdoors and make short docs with jazzy editing. Brakhage’s Desistfilm and The Way To Shadow Garden (admittedly both shot indoors) came out the same year. This one stars D.A.’s young daughter wandering through a zoo.
Shake! Otis at Monterey (1967/87)
A Monterey Pop bonus performance film – D.A. and Maysles and Leacock and others filming the hell out of a short, fiery performance by Otis Redding. This was Redding’s big break in June 1967, and he was dead in December. Superb concert footage of a tight 20-minute set, each song with its own visual look/flow, so an appropriate closer to a night begun with a David Byrne movie.
The most colorful African movie we’ve seen – well-acted, a high-quality production with a timely subject. Shame about the weak and obvious script. At least that was my position before reading Sarah-Tai Black’s Cinema Scope article, which basically says to shut up about the conventional structure and narrative, since it’s a groundbreaking film in other, important ways.
Kena (right) and Ziki should’ve known better than to hang out near these spies:
Kena’s dad is a shopkeeper who recently ditched Kena’s very religious mom to start a new family, and he’s in a political race against Ziki’s dad (Dennis Musyoka, a small role in Sense8). Kena starts ditching her would-be-boyfriend Blacksta and the daughter of the local gossip when she meets Ziki, and the two start growing closer until, inevitably, they get caught, beaten, arrested, preached-at and prayed-for, and permanently separated. I’m pretty sure Kena becomes a doctor at the end and Ziki moves away.
Kena hashes things out with Blacksta, but spies are everywhere:
In which the conspiracy uncovered by burnout loser Sam (an extremely likeable Andrew Garfield) turns out to be true. Gathering clues from Topher Grace, the Mulholland Dr. diner guy with the eyebrows, a pop-up local rock band, the Homeless King (David Yow!) and hospital boss Barrow from The Knick (in heavy old-age makeup as a secret apex popular songwriter), Sam discovers that his hot neighbor Riley Keough disappeared into a bunker to die (eventually) with a famous rich guy, and that he is not going to rescue her in the end.
I deny the Southland Tales comparisons, will happily loop this in with Big Lebowski and Inherent Vice, a trilogy of hapless L.A. detectives with different styles and tones. This was hilarious and terrific to look at, and probably warrants a rewatch, as well as catching up with his first film during the presumably long wait for his next, since this seems to have flopped.
Secret owls on the dollar bill:
Under the Silver Lake dunks on its dipshit of a protagonist (beautifully played by Garfield as haplessness incarnate, right down to the way he walks and runs throughout; that puppy-dog quality no doubt gets in the way of folks recognizing that he’s meant to be kind of awful)… but it’s also achingly sincere about the innate human desire to believe there’s some secret code that will reveal the key to everlasting happiness, or at least enable some basic understanding of what the hell’s going on.
Matt Singer in Screencrush:
It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to see the film is poking fun at Sam, and at the urge to search for buried meanings in things in order to avoid the painful reality staring you in the face. And Sam’s sexuality is part of that; Mitchell openly compares his hunt for life’s little Easter eggs to the act of masturbation. Some viewers seemed to miss the joke altogether — even though Under the Silver Lake is a movie where former Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield buys an old issue of The Amazing Spider-Man that then gets stuck to his hand.
Spends a significant amount of time with a makeshift family who adopt/kidnap a neighbor from an abusive home. Their daily life and care for each other is seen up close for the first hour, until just like in yesterday’s movie Too Many Husbands, the decision of how to arrange their own family is taken out of their hands when the Morality Police show up and straighten it out according to the Law. Suddenly each member of our close movie family is revealed as a low-class criminal, reduced to a mugshot and named by their crime (thief / murderer / kidnapper / fraudster). It’s an extremely effective sympathy tactic – a moving film even though I could see the gears turning.
The first Kore-Eda I’ve watched since Nobody Knows, 15 years ago, even though the eight he made in between were variously acclaimed, making top-ten lists and Criterion blu-rays… I guess the Palme d’Or finally got me. Sakura Andô (Love Exposure) won Japan’s top acting award as the mother. One of the final films by Kirin Kiki (Suzuki’s Zigeunerweisen and Pistol Opera) as the grandma.
A middle-school bully turned high-school pariah tries to humbly make amends, finds it isn’t so simple, goes on adventures. Multiple suicide attempts later, our group of misfits manages to find some peace. Nice visual expression of our dude’s alienation, his classmates with X’s on their faces as he stares at the ground. A high-quality production, earnest and emotional – maybe not my kind of thing under normal circumstances, but the movie had my sympathy since we were watching in memory of the 30-some people at Kyoto Animation who were murdered last month.
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.