I had low expectations because of Olivia Wilde’s tiresome Regal Cinema shorts, which I’ve started using as an opportunity to check twitter before the feature begins, to make sure we haven’t gone to war, or that someone in the movie I’m about to watch hasn’t been caught sexually harassing anyone. But this was good!

It’s not perfectly realistic (WAY too woke, per letterboxd), but is Better Off Dead realistic? Granted, Booksmart is no Better Off Dead – it’s just a version of the only high school movie plot that screenwriters can think of (loser has limited time to get a date with crush) but it’s girls this time, one of them is gay, and they end up with different people than they intended. It’s supposed to be extra-funny that the shitty villain from Colossal plays their principal, but I’m not sure why – Katy says he’s married to the director.

Writers include David Mamet’s PA, the creator of a TV show where Kyle MacLachlan plays “Dr. Frost,” the writer/director of The Spy Who Dumped Me, and the writer of the upcoming Tom & Jerry reboot, which I dearly hope will look like that Lion King remake.

So many details to talk about in this movie, but the main thing I’ll remember is, after the whole twisty, backstabby mess, when Chris Evans has been taken away for murder (one provable, two attempted), that final shot of Ana de Armas (the hologram-girlfriend in Blade Runner 2049) with the “my house/my rules” mug. The nazi child was Jaeden Martell of Midnight Special – so the second time he’s played Michael Shannon’s son. The silly-ass state trooper is Noah Segan, a Rian Johnson regular since Brick. Murdered Fran is a Groundling, Shannon’s wife is from Garfunkel and Oates – lot of comedians in the cast, but most everyone plays it straight against eccentric detective Daniel Craig.

“Try to keep up with the plot.”
“There’s a plot?”

Sure it’s been a while since I watched The Fisher King, but this seems like a semi-remake. Disillusioned former artist comes across a man whose life he’d inadvertedly destroyed some years ago, follows that man on adventures into a dream life inspired by ancient literature and legend? Fisher King was from the writer of The Ref, and this one by Gilliam with his Tideland cowriter Tony Grisoni. Dedicated to two late Quixotes, Jean Rochefort and John Hurt.

Adam Driver is an arty director on a chaotic ad shoot, having an affair with Olga Kurylenko, wife of his boss Stellan Skarsgård, but once he was an idealistic young filmmaker, in fact he made his Don Quixote student film over there, right over that hill, with local Spanish shoemaker townsperson Jonathan Pryce, wonder what happened to that guy. Turns out Pryce still believes he’s Quixote, and when he sees Adam again, he dubs him Sancho and they go on Adventures.

“A good host looks after his hostages. Is that the right word?” The movie has some good writing, and unbelievably, in 2018, Terry Gilliam made a feature film in which the Spanish Inquisition arrives unexpectedly, and this didn’t blow up the heads of every Python-quoting 50-year-old in the English-speaking world. Maybe that was Gilliam’s intention, but alas, the movie remains underwatched. It will age well, as Star Wars fans discover Adam Driver’s peerless pronunciations of swear words, and they will gravitate, one by one, towards this unrated cornucopia of profanity.

Okay, the last hour is weird and didn’t work for me, but that leaves a solid 75-minute movie, and also Rossy de Palma is in there.

Yoav’s orange coat won the big prize at Berlin this year. We’re still catching up with the year in fests – after this, we saw Honeyland (Sundance) and Atlantics (Cannes), and I hold out stupid hope for Vitalina Varela (Locarno) to play in this town. Too bad that Venice voted to give no awards this year, guess I’ll have to run with critical faves About Endlessness and Cold Case Hammarskjöld.

I watched this – in theaters, no less – but couldn’t fathom what to write about it. Then I read Theo’s review, which is perfect. Tom Mercier made an impression as our French-obsessed Israeli, will appear in the next Luca Guadagnino joint. The beautiful rich boy he fortunately runs into is Quentin Dolmaire (My Golden Days), and his girl is Louise Chevillotte (Lover for a Day). My first Nadav Lapid after meaning to catch up with Policeman then The Kindergarten Teacher all decade.

Happy to see that much of the motion in these motion-paintings involves snow or animals – in fact, when there are humans in a scene, they’re the only things that don’t come alive. The visuals sometimes remind of The Mill and the Cross, and sometimes you can’t tell they’re based on still photos at all.

Here’s me, pointlessly taking stills of motion versions of stills:

Crows are prominent. Rare is the scene without any birds in it. The movie is as attuned to outdoor bird behavior as I am, always wondering what the crows and ducks and sandpipers are up to. Whenever there are birds seen through a window we hear opera. Not all the animals survive… tense music in frame 5 before a deer gets shot, and there are more bird fatalities in this than in The Lighthouse. In the most narrative scene, a seagull gets shot and another mourns him. Great ending: a Disney-sounding song, a sleeping motion designer, a classic film on an iMac rendering at about 1fps, the wind in the trees outside.

Nice to see this at the Landmark before it disappeared onto the small screen (bragging). Quiet movie – there are long stretches with low conversations and no background music. I don’t want to say it’s too quiet, but its epic length and contemplative air didn’t resonate as much with me as others – I didn’t feel a great sadness that the hit man’s family wouldn’t talk to him and he ended up friendless, puttering around a retirement home and choosing his own casket. Still, from scene to scene, undeniably a heck of a movie. Scorsese with his Gangs of New York screenwriter. Starring all the actors I recognize, plus a few I almost do (The Captain from USS Callister as Hoffa’s foster son).

Funniest movie I saw all year. Excitable white boy Adam is “studying” battle rap for a thesis (Anthony Michael Hall is his professor, also his dad), starts to hang out with the participants, including Behn Grymm (Jackie Long of Idlewild). Adam rhymes with mixed results, until he goes full-racist, destroying the competition in battles, drunk with power and success, alienating all his new friends. Ends with a crushing/triumphant battle against Behn then a jaw-dropping cut from homeless Adam to credits, implicating both Kahn and producer Eminem.

Adam’s soon-to-be-ex girlfriend: “Do you really want to be another white guy shamelessly appropriating African-American culture? I mean, we don’t need Macklemore, we need Mackle-less.”
Kahn has been a music video director for 20 years, has also made a high-school horror and a biker-gang action movie, both with Dane Cook. Writer Alex Larsen works on battle-rap series Drop the Mic. Adam is Calum Worthy (a former Disney TV star), and most of the supporting cast is composed of celebrated battle rappers, including violent villain rapper Megaton (Dizaster).

Devine, Prospek, Behn, Che, Adam:

Adam Nayman:

It’s almost beside the point to say that Kahn’s direction and staging are wonderfully fluid (like Edgar Wright, if he gave a shit about anything beyond his own iPod), or that the actors are all great, or that the raps are dazzling and appalling, but all the provocation in the world is worthless if it isn’t put across with some skill. In this case, it is…

Steven Shaviro, in the Cinema Scope cover story that made me track this down:

His self-imposed formal challenge in Bodied is how to make a kinetic and dynamic movie from a screenplay that is word-heavy, largely composed of one-on-one verbal exchanges. I have never seen a movie that does so much with that old staple of narrative cinema, the basic shot-reverse-shot setup … these sequences also feature flips of perspective (often by the deliberate flouting of the 180-degree rule), confusions of address (when trying to hold two conversations at the same time), expressionist camera movements used as emotional punctuation, and textual and sonic interpolations (words appearing on the screen, or voices booming within a character’s head). All these devices are sometimes deployed for comedic effect; at other times, they underline the rappers’ strategic moves during the battles; at still other times, they work to amplify the stakes of everything the characters say and do.

Yes, I’m stealing twice from Cinema Scope, but somehow they’re the only publication that noticed this movie? Guess it doesn’t help that it got no distribution and after playing fests in 2017 it showed up on the paid version of Youtube for a year before finally coming out on blu-ray a couple months ago. Also watched Swiped, Kahn’s short from the same year. It’s a one-joke premise about a guy who matched himself on a dating app, but only three minutes long with lots of fx, so it doesn’t get tiresome.

Our three lead murderers were definitively killed at the end of The Devil’s Rejects, gunned down in slow-motion, so how will Zombie make a sequel? They’re not dead, they were just wounded, and all better now! Sid Haig, alas, didn’t stay better for long, so he gets a brief scene before being replaced by Baby and Firefly’s half-brother Midnight Wolfman.

A decade after the previous movie ends, Wolfman springs Firefly (they murder a cameoing Danny Trejo along the way), then they threaten the cartoonishly facial-haired warden into freeing Baby, and the three run off to Mexico. That’s about a half-hour’s worth of movie – the rest is them deciding to fuck with strangers, then murdering them, or getting in trouble because strangers recognize them, then murdering them. It’s not a bad movie, surely a step up from the terrible 31, but it’s pretty unnecessary, and there’s no tension – the stakes are always low in a movie where no lives matter. Zombie exercises his TV/film texture fetish in the news footage covering the escaped outlaws, and builds to a big showdown in Mexico when the son of Danny Trejo comes with twenty armed dudes.

The Howling star Dee Wallace plays the vindictive prison guard in chage of Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, always good in these things). Richard Edson (Sonic Youth, Stranger Than Paradise) is the dude in Mexico who puts them up (and turns them in). Bill Moseley was in about 40 movies between Zombie’s Halloween and this, mostly crappy horrors, and Wolfman Richard Brake played the only person Cage doesn’t kill in Mandy.

Edson:

They Might Be Giants “I Left My Body” still has the edge, but this was good too. Told out of order, we see two-handed Naoufel stalking a girl he likes, getting a job with her carpenter uncle and building her a wooden igloo (Neil: “isn’t a wooden igloo just a hut?”). Meanwhile his hand, severed through his incompetence with power saws, can apparently see eyelessly, kill pigeons, and have little hand-flashbacks on its quest to get back to Naoufel. When it arrives, he’s listening to tapes of his dead parents and thinking about jumping off buildings, and the hand wanders off again.

Mark Kermode:

The primary tone is gentle and melancholic – an almost existential evocation of memory, and the longing to be made whole … Just as the themes of I Lost My Body dextrously juggle light and shade, so the film seamlessly blends 2D and 3D-animation techniques with elements of rotoscoped live-action to create what Clapin calls “an animated world halfway between the tangible and the imaginary”.

We saw Clapin’s Skhizein in an animated shorts program a decade ago – can’t remember it well, but it’s also about a guy who lives in two different places at once. The writer worked on my favorite Jean-Pierre Jeunet movies. Played (won!) Cannes Critics’ Week with a bunch of fascinating-looking features that I could spend all week watching, if I could find any of them.