We hadn’t even seen a preview for this. A late-2018 animated Spider-man reboot movie sounded like the most skippable thing in the world, but it came out the same week as all the year-end lists, which kept awarding it the Best Animated Feature. Admittedly Ralph Breaks The Internet and Incredibles 2 both suffered from sequelitis, and The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl was too quirky to win awards, but I still didn’t expect some comic-book Spider-man re-reboot to show up and trounce the competition, so we went to see what the fuss was about.

The fuss: this movie is faithful to the comics to the point of emulating their printing quirks: the shading dots, the color layers slightly out of registration, making me feel like I’m supposed to be wearing 3D glasses whenever I pay too much attention to the edges. It’s a Peter Parker Spider-Man back-story re-boot but also extremely self-referential about being this, and contains multiple Parkers and reboots. No wonder it’s from one of the Lego Movie guys, but much wonder that it was allowed to be created on an obviously high budget and released in theaters during Peak Marvel Universe. We (highly) approve.

Ben Foster (Chris Pine’s trigger-happy brother in Hell or High Water) is too freaked out to join society, lives the survivalist life in the woods outside Portland, earning cash by hawking his PTSD meds. Problem is he’s got a daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) who’s good at finding wild mushrooms and hiding from the authorities, but would kinda like to eat normal food and meet other people sometimes. They are caught pretty soon, provided a home, escape back to the woods, are allowed to stay at a new home, escape back to the woods, etc., until McKenzie makes the decision to join civilization, even though her dad is psychologically unable to stay. One remarkable thing about the movie is that everyone they meet is generous and kind, the opposite of Winter’s Bone.

Love to spend years following rumors of the recreation of the lost masterpiece by an all-time great filmmaker, only for the thing to finally appear direct-to-video, then watch it in fragments over a week of late nights because I keep falling asleep. I watched the previously released scenes of this in the early days of the movie blog, never thinking there’d be a feature, and here we are, not quite knowing what to put in quote marks (the “complete” feature “by” Welles). Rosenbaum approves, so who am I to argue?

Stills, narration, and the line “that was long before cellphone cameras” mar the opening minutes, then hammy P-Bog becomes a main character, and the movie’s in trouble. It recovers easily – a party film with a magnetic John Huston as the Wellesian center, artists and hangers-on all around, cutting all over the place, and then the scenes of Huston’s never-to-be-completed film (this is an extremely self-aware movie – even Hammy P-Bog appears to be playing “hammy” “p-bog”), a miniature, fragmented work inside the work, which is both a beautiful art film and a pretentious parody of a beautiful art film, problematically starring an always-nude Oja Kodar, who in fact cowrote this film, making it knowingly, self-parodically problematic, I guess. Playfully homoerotic dialogue, apparently documentary sections, and all the colored lights making this more Suspiria-like than the Suspiria remake. The whole project and its implications fill your brain up all the way. Besides P-Bog there are a few overdone performances – I’m thinking of the film critic (Susan Strasberg) and Zimmy The Southern Gentleman (Cameron Mitchell) – but on first viewing it seemed 15% tiresome, 85% wonderful.


They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018, Morgan Neville)

I remember this being fun… let’s see, my notes say “uses every bit of Welles footage they could find to place in dialogue with interviewees” and “ends with Why Can’t I Touch It, wow.” I should watch the making-of and the new Mark Cousins doc then rewatch the feature, but I also got things going on besides Orson.

Yorgos has been refining his bold visual style from Alps to Lobster to Sacred Deer, but it’s hard to notice while you’re busy making sense of his oddball characters and dialogue. So now something amazing has happened, and he’s applied those bold visuals (now featuring more fisheye lens than I’ve ever seen in a movie theater) to someone else’s script, a period comedy about women in high court behaving badly. The result wipes the floor with last year’s The Death of Stalin. And YL’s actors have always been splendid, but it’s been hard to tell since they fall into an uncanny valley of almost-not-quite human behavior, so now that they’re playing recognizable humans with killer comic insult dialogue, they’re all getting award nominations.

Queen Olivia Colman’s best friend Rachel Weisz handles all the complex policy issues while the queen hides away in her rabbit room, and this is fine until Rachel’s cousin Emma Stone shows up and starts insinuating herself. These are all based on real people according to the wiki, though it doesn’t mention whether the real Queen had 17 pet rabbits representing all her miscarried children. Nicholas “Beast/Nux” Hoult plays a parliament member who tries to get Emma to spy for him, and maybe if I see him in a few more movies I’ll start to recognize him, but probably not. Premiered at Venice with Roma, Buster Scruggs, Suspiria and Vox Lux, and sold out Phipps on a Sunday matinee, which I thought was impressive until I realized Phipps got those gigantic lounge seats and now only 24 people can fit in their tiny theaters.

The second movie I’ve seen this year with a sea turtle girl at the beach. The wikipedia version of this movie is a frustrated teen off her meds who finds a community in a weirdo theater troupe, but conflicts arise between the girl (Helena Howard) and her mom (Miranda July), spilling into her acting and vice versa, and this is encouraged past the point of comfort by theater director Molly Parker.

The experience of watching it is something different, with editing and camera focus and framing just all over the place. Butter on the Latch was similarly disorienting, but more energy here from characters and story drives the thing into a jittery madness which is extremely fun to watch.

Fourteen Things That Haunt Me, from most intense to least:

1. the birth scene…
2. the beach scene…
3. Trying to park the giant family car in the narrow driveway
4. Taxidermied dog heads on wall of the country house
5. Group martial arts demo with guru who stands on one leg
6. Solo nude martial arts demo
7. Dad taking the bookcases, leaving the books
8. All the dog shit in the driveway
9. Department store confrontation between Cleo and Fermín during a riot
10. Fermin going to the bathroom and never returning
11. Father going on a “business trip” and never returning
12. Mom calmly explaining to the kids that father has left
13. Drunken new year’s forest fire
14. The pried-in references to previous Cuarón movies

It’s a pretty good animated period drama, but if you watched if before the others, you’d say what’s the big idea with this Ghibli thing, their movies aren’t so hot. At least “pretty good” puts it above what I’ve heard about Tales From Earthsea from the number one Goro hater in my office. But it’s missing something, the smoothness and refinement of motion. When people turn their heads it doesn’t look so much like a person turning their head as it does progressive images of a head turned at different angles – the flow is wrong. Or I dunno, maybe my blu-ray was bad, but this came out after Ponyo, and some of the stuff in Ponyo is leagues beyond. The old timey piano music on the soundtrack was different, anyway.

It’s the ol’ story of kids saving their clubhouse from demolition by fatcats – in this case it’s a creaky old multi-story house on a high school campus where all the boys run their after-school organizations, and the school board is demolishing it to build a nicer one, so the girls pitch in to clean the place up and show off its value. Shun runs the school paper, Umi runs a boarding house, and they think they might be in love, but then see photos of each other’s dead fathers and it’s the same guy so they’re worried they might be siblings, then this gets resolved and it turns out their fathers were just friends so they are free to do whatever.

A decent doppelganger thriller with an anticlimactic ending, our lead Alice challenging her alter-ego Lola to a live simon-says, and Alice gets more likes by smashing her nose against a table, so Lola hands over her account password and presumably dematerializes. Kind of a neat creepy concept in the meantime though, combining the phenomenon of “cam girls” (girls with live online video shows, often nude, competing for tips) and the problem of not knowing who online is a fake/clone/bot/ghost. Great music, too.

Star Madeline Brewer is from the Black Mirror episode with military vs. “roaches.” Her lead customer/stalker Tinker (“I can usually tell when a girl’s gonna be copied”) is Patch Darragh, a doctor in The Visit. Her brother Jordan is Devin Druid, Jesse Eisenberg’s younger brother in Louder Than Bombs, and her mom is Melora Walters of Magnolia who I guess I don’t recognize anymore. Watched on streaming, and it was too pixelated, but since it’s a movie about streaming video, I’m going to allow it.

Only a couple minutes after Buster Scruggs ended, the opening titles of this movie announced that it’s a story told in six chapters – what are the odds? Unexpected suicides in both movies too. It’s not that I wanted a faithful remake, since the plot is the weakest thing about Argento’s Suspiria, but what made them turn a bonkers Italian horror about witches in a dance studio into a 2.5-hour movie set in Berlin during the Baader-Meinhof hijacking, with long sections about a psychiatrist who lost his wife in the Holocaust? What’s the meaning of Tilda Swinton playing both Evil Mothers in charge of the studio and also the psychiatrist? Nice plot twist with Dakota Johnson (the older sister in Bad Times at the El Royale) appearing to be the fresh-meat new girl with especially good dance-murder skills, later revealed to be the reborn Mother Suspiriorum come to cleanse the school by killing one or both Tildas. I mean, this was a lot of movie for a single weeknight, so I think that’s what happened. I have mixed feelings, but pretty sure I need to keep watching all of Luca’s movies (this is my second of the year).

Chloe Grace is a paranoid escaped dancer in the opening scenes, then disappears forever, followed shortly by suspicious Olga, who gets gnarled up in the practice room. Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness) is the dancer who shows Dakota around, and Jessica Harper cameos as the psychiatrist’s dead wife. Most unexpected name in the credits: The Turin Horse cinematographer Fred Kelemen as one of the cops who Psych Tilda asks for help. Writer David Kajganich has also done a Body Snatchers remake and a Pet Sematary remake.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky compares it to “the movies Nicolas Roeg was making around the same time, confounding mosaics of predestination and psychoanalysis … It’s a movie where most of the characters are liminal figures, mid-phase between identities. It is packed with doors, mirrors, ceremonies, rehearsals, shared secrets, and make-up, suggesting commonalities between the backstage world and the supernatural through collage.”