Wedding photographer John and bartender Levi discover supernatural phenomenon in Levi’s apartment and shoot a documentary about it. Maybe his closet is a gateway to another dimension. Finding symbols and coincidences in Los Angeles, like Silver Lake or Lodge 49, but this time it’s not just one conspiracy/coincidence, it’s ALL of them.

“Why did you play yourselves in the recreations?” Feels pandemicky, the writers/directors playing the lead roles, set in an apartment. As they start to mistrust each other, doc interviewees cast doubts on the histories and findings, and the movie we’re watching itself, speaking of visual effects tests to create the floating crystals and stuff. But it ends – in typical Benson/Moorhead fashion – with a possible callback to a previous film (someone falling inexplicably from a great height).

“Death’s a commercial necessity.”

This absurd murder conspiracy movie was the perfect follow-up to a Final Destination sequel. Logical movies are boring, illogical ones are stupid, but movies that follow their own dream logic, where a woman in a busy daylit park can suddenly, while lighting a cigarette, become all alone at twilight, then get chased through a hedge maze, ending up trapped between cobwebbed stone walls… what was I saying?

Drummer and Wife:

Drummer Roberto is being tailed by guy in suit, follows the follower into a theater, but it’s a setup, where he’s photographed killing the suit guy. Paranoid, he tells his blonde wife everything, . Detectives get involved, a terrible gay private eye is hired, the drummer’s cat gets kidnapped, he visits a coffin convention with “God” Godfrey and a wacky Professor. In the middle of all this, a hot cousin stays over and wants to give him a massage in the bath. After the cousin’s incredible death scene, her retinas are scanned to find an image of the last thing she saw, which leads to the drummer’s wife. The drummer and his wife are good in this (some side characters are very dubbed) but the wife’s last-minute psychological backstory keeps reverting to Italian before she fatally flees from the house.

God with his parrot Jerkoff:

Intense filmmaking, this worked better for me than Crystal Plumage or Deep Red. The lead guy was also in a Bea Arthur movie. His wife Mimsy Farmer has a great Italian horror career – Autopsy, Fulci’s Black Cat, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, and something from the Cannibal Holocaust guy. The cousin was in The Disappearance, Stuart Cooper’s followup to Overlord.

A young hot blank dude (Nightmare Detective Ryuhei Matsuda) is found wandering with amnesia and returned to his wife Narumi (Masami Nagasawa of Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister). Blank teen boy Amano (also the name of my favorite sandwich place) recruits dickhead reporter Sakurai (Sion Sono’s Fuck Bomber) to help him locate a blank girl (Yuri Tsunematsu, also in Wife of a Spy) at the center of a recent crime.

Blank Nightmare Detective backed by choir:

But the blank trio are really aliens, learning about human concepts on their way to build a device from scavenged parts that will invite global destruction. The boy and girl finally meet, ruining a cop’s sense of self over wacky comedy-suspense music. The reporter is surveilled by Ministry of Health officers in an unmarked van. Gunfights and CG explosions ensue, and none of it’s very good, ruining my plans to follow this with the miniseries spinoff Foreboding.

Reporter, blank girl, and blank boy with machine gun:

Park’s followup to The Handmaiden doesn’t reach the same heights as Stoker, his other English-language movie, held back by the writing and the six hours of buttoned-up spies underplaying to survive. Big actory dialogue though – by episode three I decided I wasn’t buying any of it, but it’s pretty fun so I watched to the end. On the plus side, cool sets and costumes and cars. Park can really throw light exactly where he needs to, is excellent at photographing multi-level architecture. Michael Shannon has a wonderful laugh, but we maybe hear it once, given he’s playing a tormented Israeli agent on a convoluted revenge mission. Most importantly, Florence Pugh has the most openly expressive face of any actor right now, so what’s she doing in a spy movie? Well, it’s complicated, but she plays an actress hired by Shannon to get caught up with the Palestinian bombers so they can eventually be trapped or killed. Kidnappings and love letters and multiple fake relationships as she becomes a terrorist-in-training… as far as U being who U pretend to be, I wonder if Mother Night is out on blu-ray.

Pugh dances with Alexander Skarsgård:

Pugh practices with evil mastermind Khalil:

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:

Mike D’Angelo:

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.

A very long, bizarre movie, feels like the script was written by a distracted conspiracy theorist then it was was filmed completely straightfaced by dedicated (but low-budget) actors and craftsmen armed with heavy giallo lighting.

Opens with a massive fake rant about yuppie culture on 60 Minutes, then our man Trent sees himself inside the TV preview for The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Outside, a maniac in a hairpiece is wrapping a dead woman in foil. I think this is Trent’s brother, but Trent complains to his wife about “your brother-in-law,” which is a strange way to refer to your own brother. After the brother(-in-law) sexually harasses a woman whose Secret Service ex-boyfriend then runs him over repeatedly in an alley while a lumpy pink alien look on, I realized I needed to let go of basic things like the characters’ identities and relationships.

“Get her some coffee, some cocaine, anything left over from the 80’s.” If the Mr. Robot guy can win an oscar for portraying Freddie Mercury, then Damon Packard can fill his movie with sub-cable actors and claim they’re major celebrities. Julia Roberts crashes on Trent’s couch for six months, Sade rehearses next to Rush, a hitman is sent after Bono, Dick Cheney takes orders from Johnny Carson’s band leader Doc Severinsen, William Friedkin gets mad that nobody wants to see his movie The Guardian, and Janet Jackson is married to one of Trent’s fellow Illuminati members.

This is all aimed at people slightly older than me, who saw Sleeping With the Enemy in theaters and got upset when Rush rapped on a 1991 single. Have I mentioned that it’s long? Every scene goes on for a small eternity, with repetitive dialogue, though sometimes the sound mixer will amuse himself by randomly pitch-shifting an actor, or blatantly dubbing in completely different lines, or an actor’s face will get Black Hole Sunned. The song Ice Ice Baby is being used for mind control, the movie New Jack City sparks riots (the rioters simply chanting “new jack city!”)… even this movie has multiple titles. The whole vibe is cool and unusual, chase scenes through empty Hollywood streets in the middle of the night with 1991 movie posters photoshopped onto the billboards, cheap direct-to-video effects combined with creative production design and an indecipherable story. I’ve long been tempted to rent Packard’s Reflections of Evil, which sounds similarly demented (but is very, very long); there’s also the 1982-set sci-fi feature Foxfur, the hour-long SpaceDisco One, and the twenty minute fake-trailer Dawn of an Evil Millennium, and I should watch all of these – even if they’re “bad,” they’re also exactly the kinds of movies I always aspired to make.

Rewatched this in less-than-optimal conditions (not on my fucking telephone, at least), but I’ve seen it so many times already. It’s hard to watch without the fan theories I read online in 2002 popping into my head… can’t let the mystery of it all wash over me when my mind keeps fitting the pieces into a puzzle. Granted, the theories work pretty well. And each scene is fantastic whether it makes narrative sense or not.

Classic Hollywood: landlady Coco is Ann Miller of Kiss Me Kate and On The Town, and the ranting woman wandering the apartment halls is Lee Grant of Detective Story and Shampoo. Betty’s new friend at the airport is Mary’s mom in Eraserhead. Since this came out I’ve seen Naomi Watts in a few things (none of them very good except Eastern Promises), Laura Harring in nothing, and Justin Theroux in Wanderlust and Charlie’s Angels 2. Most upsetting is when Patrick Fischler, the scared guy in the diner, shows up in a movie or TV show, as he does more regularly than his Mulholland costars.

Learned from the interview extras: Lynch says the title Mulholland Dr. was originally for a cancelled Twin Peaks spinoff, and The Cowboy is wearing Tom Mix’s original clothes.

2500th post!

Wasn’t planning it this way, but I guess my viewing of Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers, and last year’s SHOCKtober screening of the 1956 original (and I suppose The Invasion) were all prelude to this wonderful Alamo screening of the best Body Snatchers movie. It loses the 1950’s prudishness, ramps up the energy and paranoia (and humor, when Jeff Goldblum is onscreen) and lands on an even bleaker ending than the original tried to imply. It could almost be a sequel instead of a remake – the 1956 ends (not counting the dumb framing story) with Kevin McCarthy screaming on the highway, unheeded, and early in this version McCarthy appears on a city street yelling “We’re in danger – you’re next!” just before getting killed.

“A disquieting paranoid thriller informed by the conspiracy theories of the period and the jaded cynicism that followed the death of the counterculture movement,” per Adam Cook.

Donald Sutherland is our new McCarthy, a San Francisco health department investigator and the boss of Elizabeth (Brooke Adams: The Dead Zone, Shock Waves). Donald likes Liz but she’s married to Art Hindle (lead dude in The Brood), who is the first to be invaded – not counting their psychiatrist guru friend Leonard Nimoy, who was probably a pod from the start. While uncovering the plot and figuring out what to do about it, they huddle with friends Goldblum and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright, in The Birds as a teen, later Alien and Witches of Eastwick).

The Shaun of the Dead trick of pretending to be a zombie and walking among the others seems to work, until Donald and Liz get shocked by something and scream. Donald spotted a pod next to a homeless dude (and his dog) and kicked it – a few scenes later the dog is walking around with the dude’s face. As in the original, Liz is only left alone for a few minutes when she falls asleep and gets replaced, melting in Donald’s hands as her pod version rises up, telling him to join them.

Screenplay by W.D. Richter, later director of Buckaroo Banzai with Goldblum. Fun angles and shadowplay, and perfectly balanced tone of terror and action – no wonder a couple movies later Kaufman’s The Right Stuff got eight oscar nominations. Sutherland was later in the quite bad Puppet Masters, in which Earth is invaded by mind-controlling alien parasites, and McCarthy would reprise his role yet again in Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

Film Quarterly:

Visually, the movies couldn’t differ more. Siegel’s unadorned black-and-white has yielded to Kaufman’s lyrical color, tilts, handheld shots, and high key lighting. Michael Chapman’s photography is both lustrous and penumbral, with deep shadows and crowded, mobile frames. Annexing the genre’s salient mood of engulfing dread, he has made the new Body Snatchers a film noir in color.

“Can’t talk – some peace protestors are trying to kill me.”

Kinda silly and obvious as a thriller, but well acted and assembled so you enjoy the ride at least. And man does Ewan McGregor ever blow it, when he finally gets evidence that the prime minister’s wife Rosemary Cross has been pulling the strings all along as an undercover CIA agent, what does he do? He tells her that he knows. He tells her! So she has him killed, end of movie. It’s too bad I watched Dollhouse before this, because I saw her as a schemer all along.

Mouseover to see McGregor’s reaction to the PM’s memoirs:
image

McGregor is taking over the PM’s memoirs from the previous ghost writer who died mysteriously last week on the ferry to PM Pierce Brosnan’s U.S. island hideaway. All is quiet until allegations of torture and other war crimes come out and the press mobs the island, and during the distraction McGregor starts digging up the dirt his predecessor had left clues about. Kim Cattrall is the PM’s assistant, Tom Wilkinson a friend/rival/neighbor, and Eli Wallach an old man who feeds Ewan clues.

This film’s attention to detail is impressive – they’ve noted how the news tends to misspell basic words:

NYTimes:

It would be easy to overstate the appeal of The Ghost Writer just as, I imagine, it will be easy for some to dismiss it. But the pleasures of a well-directed movie should never be underestimated. The image of Mr. Brosnan abruptly leaning toward the camera like a man possessed is worth a dozen Oscar-nominated performances. And the way, when Lang chats with the Ghost — his arms and legs open, a drink in hand, as if he were hitting on a woman — shows how an actor and his director can sum up an entire personality with a single pose.