Young mom Halley, impulsive and disrespectful, is barely getting by, staying in a motel run by Willem Dafoe, living on food smuggled from her friend Ashley. But the film takes the perspective of her bright, energetic daughter Moonee, who is making new friends, tormenting Willem, accidentally burning down neighboring properties, and so on. The kids are barely aware of the adult world’s workings, and Moonee doesn’t realize how precarious her situation has been until child services arrives for her at the end.

Dafoe is getting award nominations, and deservedly so, if only for the scene in which he chases off a possible pedophile and the one where he tries to reason with some cranes blocking the driveway, but Moonee and her friends Jancey and Scooty with their completely naturalistic play and banter are the reasons this film will be loved forever.

I guess the title refers to the ultimate horror, that in darkest Haiti, not only the deceased natives are being resurrected as workhorse zombie slaves but… white people, too! Good evocative opening, the clueless foreigners arriving to encounter a burial in the middle of the road (to avoid grave robbing) then asking directions from local zombiemaster Bela Lugosi. Of course the Christian missionary has been here 30 years and insists all this zombie nonsense is primitive superstition, but even he comes around by the end.

How are hipsters not waxing their eyebrows like this?

Since all 1930’s movies are about two white people wanting to be married, we’ve got Neil (John Harron of Satan in Sables, Karloff’s The Invisible Menace): simple, impulsive, a very slow learner… and Madeline (Madge Bellamy, star of Lazybones, who would later become infamous for shooting her millionaire ex-lover)… who is also desired by local fancyman Beaumont (Robert Frazer of The Vampire Bat), who has hired Neil in order to get closer to Mads. Beau fails to woo her from Neil, so he poisons her at the wedding, then has Lugosi resurrect her to marry.

“Surely you don’t think she’s alive in the hands of natives? Oh no, better dead than that!”

Even dense Neil figures out what has happened, teaming up with the pipe-smoking missionary (Joseph Cawthorn, William Powell’s dad in The Great Ziegfeld) to meet Haitian Witch Doctor Pierre (played by a Brit) for advice, learning that houses of the living dead can be identified by nearby vultures (played by hawks or falcons). Meanwhile Beau is bummed that Zombie Mads has no facial expressions or speech or emotions (but can still play piano), gets zombified himself for daring to complain to Lugosi about it. After a couple of attempted murders and a slow-motion shove-fight atop a cliff, Lugosi falls dead and Mads awakens (so her resurrection was permanent, but her stupor-state was maintained by Lugosi’s will?). Mostly the movie seems important for its historical place as the first zombie film, and for its wealth of Bela Lugosi poses and expressions, silently controlling zombies with hand gestures like he’s playing a Wii game.

Beau and Mads:

Nice pose… but not a vulture:

Produced by Victor’s brother Edward, the two Halperins also made a loose sequel set in Cambodia, gangster KKK drama Nation Aflame, and the Carole Lombard ghost thriller Supernatural.

Part of a Late Horror Masters’ Lesser Works double-feature. Opens with a disclaimer about the treatment of the movie’s monkeys, but they never appeared to be in any convincing danger, except maybe in the final scene. No mention of the treatment of the movie’s parakeets. Monkey tricks are the primary reason to watch this movie, except for George Romero and/or Stanley Tucci completists.

Allan’s car accident:

Allan and monkey giving the same steely expression:

Moody Allan (Jason Beghe of One Missed Call Remake) is badly crippled, so his monkey-researcher friend Geoffrey (John Pankow of Talk Radio) donates a brain-eating monkey to service-animal trainer Melanie (Kate McNeil of The House on Sorority Row) to get Allan a furry helper buddy. Brain-eating monkey in a George Romero movie – what could go wrong?

Mad scientist Geoffrey:

Geoffrey’s boss Stephen Root:

Moody Allan is a bad influence on the monkey, who starts to murder everyone who she perceives as a threat – first setting fire to Allan’s ex (Lincoln NE’s Janine Turner of Northern Exposure) who has run off with his doctor (Stanley Tucci), then electrocuting Allan’s annoying mom (Joyce Van Patten of Bone), killing Geoffrey via drug injection, and most horribly, murdering the parakeet of Allan’s hateful catetaker (Christine Forrest, Romero’s wife). After she threatens Melanie in a rage, Allan manages to dispatch the monkey using only his neck and mouth. We also get a monkey-surgery dream sequence and blurry monkey-POV shots. Mostly dullsville compared to the space vampires. My birds reacted to the monkey chatter, but not to the parakeet.

Cool stop-motion, meticulous big-headed characters, the camera rarely moving – kind of a laid-back movie. Opens with a nine-year-old accidentally killing his drunken violent mom by shutting the attic door as she’s coming up the stairs. He’s sent to an orphanage, where he befriends red-haired bully Simon and broken introvert Alice and new girl Camille and gets everyone to work together. The kids are surprisingly in-touch with their feelings for nine-year-olds. Anyway, the cop who first talked to Z after his mom’s death finally adopts him and Camille, but the movie doesn’t address how their budding young romance will be affected when they suddenly become siblings.

First time rewatching this since 2003.

A warmup for Playtime, toying with modern technology and living/working spaces ill-suited for the decidedly unmodern Mr. Hulot. At his sister’s house, sound is made by electric gizmos, and at Hulot’s, it’s made by aiming a sunbeam at a caged bird.

Sidetracks follow neighborhood dogs and schoolboy pranks. At the end the dad bonds with his son in a small way, at the expense of having Hulot sent away, and the dogs again take over the film.

On of my favorite gags, the women talking to each other but facing the direction the path dictates:

Won the oscar over Big Deal on Madonna Street, and won a jury prize at Cannes the year of big winner The Cranes are Flying. So many blu-ray extras and reviews of this… a good one: Matt Zoller Seitz for Criterion.

Some ancient maps and drawings and texts about Joan of Arc – good timing, since I was just reading about Bruno Dumont’s new Joan movie before putting this on. Then a half hour spent at a strip club (or exotic pole-dancing, if there’s a difference). The girls spend most of their time trying to uncomfortably (to me) hard-sell patrons to join them in the expensive private cabins. In private conversations we learn this is a job where girls tend to stay too long, as we’ve recently seen in LoveTrue. “But in my case I know this is only temporary,” says the new girl.

New Girl and her mentor finally venture out into town and meet the girl playing Joan in the town celebrations, spending a moment alone with her horse in the woods. They go to the parade to see their new friend in all her glory, then wander to a church… it’s all pretty low-key, a pillow-film between more substantial LNKarno screenings, but it ends the way all movies should end: telling secrets to a falcon.

A hybrid-documentary, it turns out. Vernier looks prolific, and his Mercuriales appears to be a similar sort of movie. Of the actors, I’m only seeing that Damien Bonnard later starred in Staying Vertical… but who was he, a strip club patron? If so, you could barely make him out under the murky red lighting.

Gary (Josh Charles of Sports Night) checks into a Paris hotel for a business trip before an important meeting, then calls work to say he quits, and calls his wife to say he’s never coming home. Typical movie behavior would have him drop these bombshells on stunned boss and family then walk away, but Gary spends half the movie on phone and skype, helping his coworkers deal with his sudden absence and discussing the sudden separation with wife Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill).

Meanwhile, student Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier, Isabelle Huppert’s daughter in Time of the Wolf), a bit of a voyeur, is dispirited by her job as a part-time hotel maid. While cleaning a suite the power goes out, and Audrey becomes a sparrow. She flies around the airport area, going in and out of hotel rooms through open windows, and we hear her voice puzzling things out and gasping in sheer delight – at least when we bird-lover film viewers can hear her over our own delighted gasps. You don’t want the movie to come down to earth, and her to inevitably meet Josh Charles, but all things must end.

First meeting, on a moving walkway in the airport:

From Mike D’Angelo’s great review (spoiler-free, he says “Audrey poses nude for a Japanese artist staying at the hotel, and is paid in Pringles” without mentioning she’s a bird at the time):

Only two characters figure prominently in Bird People, Pascale Ferran’s alternately mundane and magical tale of extreme liberation, which is set almost entirely at a Hilton adjacent to Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport. Before getting hermetic, however, Ferran serves up an expansive prologue in which her camera flits and darts, birdlike, among the diverse passengers of a commuter train, eavesdropping on their conversations, their music, and their random thoughts. None of this has any bearing on the twin stories that follow (though one of the two protagonists is briefly seen); it’s just the movie’s way of suggesting, in advance, that the anxieties it explores are universal. We could potentially wind up following any of these people, and each journey might be every bit as unexpected.

Said to have been inspired by Haruki Murakami novels. Audrey’s bird-transformation wasn’t entirely unexpected – the last movie I watched with “bird people” in the title also featured bird people, not just a metaphor. I think this is Ferran’s fourth feature – she’s also a Céline Sciamma associate and cowriter of The Red Turtle. Played in Cannes UCR 2014 with Jauja and Force Majeure and winner White God, which it turns out wasn’t even the best animal movie in that lineup.

Perhaps I picked a strange week to finally watch Amour, having just returned from a funeral, or perhaps I picked the perfect time. After all, I hear that it’s an emotionally wrecking movie, but the experiences in the movie seem brief and merciful compared to what a couple of my relatives recently went through.

Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant are tasteful and educated, have lived together for decades in their quiet apartment where she gives piano lessons. One day she has a minor stroke, then a corrective operation doesn’t go well, and she slides further away every week while her husband watches, helping as much as he can, but desperately unable to keep her mind from deteriorating, until she’s almost completely gone and he finishes her off with a pillow. In a typically quizzical Haneke ending, their daughter Isabelle Huppert comes home at the end looking for them – we’ve seen police find the body in an opening flash-forward, but we don’t know where Jean-Louis has disappeared to.

I thought it an excellent movie despite how dismissive I’m sounding here, and it’s encouraging that Haneke seems to have learned empathy. It’s also much, much better than the last movie I watched called Love. The movie (and Haneke and Riva) won all the awards, from césars and oscars to the Cannes palme d’or, but the AARP “movies for grownups” award went to Flight instead.

Adam Cook:

The couple’s apartment, full of their memories and long collected items (paintings, books etc.), slowly shifts from a haven to a prison, both physically (the camera rarely ventures outside the confines of their flat) and in the objects that fill the cavernous rooms. Music, once the loves of their lives, becomes a painful reminder of their pasts and what will never be again. Haneke, in the use of long static shots allows the audience to soak in these all important details and help to understand who these people were before the debilitating illness systematically destroyed their world.

Ouch from C. Huber:

Haneke, meanwhile, adhered demonstratively to the world of his polite, bourgeois couple, tactful even in the “provocations,” making Amour the ultimate in art-house art: a film that comfortably ushers its dwindling target audience towards its eventual demise.

I followed along for a while, as this arthouse mystery quickly turned into a twisty goofball survival thriller, until I started getting flashbacks to The Catechism Cataclysm, and then I was really too distracted to take anything that happens seriously. I think I’m missing religious aspects, since the letterboxd summary mentions the stations of the cross. Of course, as usually happens, I read some articles and interviews afterwards and came to appreciate the movie more.

Ornithologist Fernando (“the body of Jason Statham lookalike Paul Hamy, the voice of director João Pedro Rodrigues,” per Mark Peranson) is cataloguing the storks and vultures along a river when some rapids catch him off-guard and his kayak crashes. He’s rescued by travelers Fei and Lin, who are following a pilgrim path to Santiago, making me realize I forgot to watch the short Morning of Saint Anthony’s Day, which may be related, but then they tie him up and threaten to castrate him, so maybe not. Fernando escapes but loses his medication, and we don’t know what it was for, or if any part of the movie turns out to be hallucinated from lack of meds. He runs into some ritual partiers and gets peed on by one of them, makes out with (and murders) a deaf-mute sheepherder named Jesus, rescues a dove at a shrine, cuts off his own fingerprints, gets shot by topless woman hunters, and awakens as Antonio, then is then murdered by Jesus’s twin brother Thomas.

Even if the whole thing felt somewhat goofy, I enjoyed the mystery of the killings and rebirths at the end, and the bird photography. Music is all quavering feedback. João Rui Guerra da Mata was a collaborator, and the only familiar element from their Last Time I Saw Macao was the use of still photographs. Won best director at Locarno, where it played with Hermia & Helena, By the Time It Gets Dark, The Challenge, The Human Surge and a bunch more that still haven’t opened here and probably never will. Oh yeah, look at that… you have to go back six years to find a Locarno movie that played theaters near me – it’s the festival of doomed distribution deals.

Peranson:

Rodrigues’ blasphemous exploration of the transformative process of religious awakening, through a serious of wild—at times sexual—adventures focusing on the pleasure and the pain of the body is a modern film, in line with Godard’s Hail Mary or Buñuel’s The Milky Way.

Sicinski:

The Ornithologist is as shapeless and picaresque as the conventional Lives of the Saints, forming a clothesline more than a narrative. Granted, when this concerns getting peed on and being hogtied and swinging with your junk hanging out, as is the case here, it feels a bit more dreamlike, which is probably what Rodrigues is going for. At the same time, The Ornithologist gets a bit tiresome in its relentless punishment of the nonbeliever.

Rodrigues:

I wanted to be an ornithologist when I was a kid … Cinema interrupted this, and in a way I replaced this love of watching and observing birds in the wild and being alone, although I never felt alone because I felt surrounded by nature and living creatures.

The short looked at a post-apocalyptic celebration of St. Anthony, while The Ornithologist looks at St. Anthony more directly … the film is always set in a place that has never changed since ancient times, in a natural world that hasn’t changed very much at all. Those rocks were there when St. Anthony was alive. When I was going to these unchanged places, I thought I was going back in time. It’s a landscape that belongs to all times and has no time.