The dialogue in this movie is just okay (except when flashy drug dealer Roger Guenveur Smith is described as having “a life expectancy of about half an hour”) until Jeff Goldblum gets a hold of it – this is my second movie this month that he’s rescued. Larry Fishburne is undercover, takes over the late Roger’s job and teams up with lawyer Goldblum, who gets off on the power and money. “Being a cop was never this easy.” An extremely cynical movie and as great as Hoodlum. Be careful who you pretend to be, etc. LVP Glynn Turman in an opening scene with its own weird tone. Surprising to hear Snoop Dogg in 1992.

The boys:

Pam Grier’s cop friend William Elliott (of mutant rabbit horror Night of the Lepus) gets beaten half to death for not selling out to the drug lords, who are secretly supporting the senate campaign of Pam’s boyfriend Booker Bradshaw (of missing link comedy Skullduggery). Pam is flaming mad, goes on a revenge campaign against drug boss King George (Robert DoQui, the only decent all-human cop of RoboCop).

Sig Haig gets involved, there’s a one-eyed assassin, I dunno, felt much like Foxy Brown, Pam’s charisma being wasted on a crappy movie. This was a random 1973 pick – here’s hoping Black Caesar is better.

Katy and I enjoyed some oscar-nominated docs the week of the awards. This is a structurally satisfying doc about Nan Goldin’s life and art and activism through three health epidemics: the mental health crisis that took her sister, AIDS which took many of her friends, and her own opioid addiction, for which she seeks revenge through public protests to convince museums to refuse Sackler drug money.

Matthew Eng for Reverse Shot:

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed retains the impassioned clarity of Poitras’s style while enlisting its primary subject as its co-author. Goldin provides illuminating, clarifying, and always candid commentary on the many chapters of her life in one-on-one interviews with Poitras, conducted on weekends during COVID, included here under the agreement that Goldin would have final say over which of her words were included in the finished film. (She also served as a music consultant on the film, compiling an eclectic playlist that ranges from The Velvet Underground and A Taste of Honey to Lucinda Williams and The Facts of Life’s Charlotte Rae, singing the Brechtian ballad that inspired the title of Goldin’s landmark exhibition, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.) A great deal of Poitras’s film is fittingly composed of Goldin’s work, presented to the audience in the photographer’s preferred format: the slideshow, which has long been the crux of Goldin’s practice. It is a simple yet immensely effective device—its clicks evince a pleasing tactility—that lets Goldin’s photography speak for itself and enhances the attention-seizing potency of her portraiture with its stark staging, electric colors, and magnetic characters.

Won the top prize at Venice against all the big oscar dramas (Tár, Banshees, The Whale), the arthouse faves (No Bears, Saint Omer) and the would-be contenders (Bones & All, Blonde, Bardo, White Noise). This took three editors: Amy Foote (The Work), Joe Bini (Grizzly Man), Brian Kates (Killing Them Softly). We skipping Risk, not in any hurry to catch up with it, so it felt like Poitras was gone for nearly a decade.

It’s taking a while to get through SHOCKtober writeups, ain’t it?
Here’s the rest of the Guillermo del Toro series.


Pickman’s Model (Keith Thomas)

Handsome Christian-Bale-ish lead guy Ben Barnes (of a Dorian Gray movie) is intrigued when older Crispin Glover joins his art class, drawing unspeakable horrors in cemeteries and saying stuff like “suffering is living.” Years later, Ben is still hanging around drawing rooms boring people about the values of modern art, visits the insistent Crispin’s studio, discovers the guy didn’t have a wild imagination but was realistically drawing the beasties emerging from the well-to-hell in his basement.

Keith Thomas? Hardly a master of horror, he made this year’s Firestarter remake (Filipe review: “very uninspired product… cheap and ugly looking.”) Here he makes every actor look foolish, and overdoes the sound design, though the subtle motion in the drawings was neat.


The Viewing (Panos Cosmatos)

I knew who directed this one as soon as the Oneohtrix music kicked in. Four TV talk-show guests are invited to rich Peter Weller’s new age bunker: music producer Eric Andre, alien astrophysicist Charlyne Yi, novelist Steve Agee, and ESP expert Michael Therriault (of a recent Chucky movie). Sofia Boutella is there somehow, and a henchman from Books of Blood. They enjoy their host’s special whiskey, magic joint, cocaine and fairy dust, and sinister alien meteorite… then some of them melt or explode, and the rest fight for their lives to escape. Fuckin’ cool.


Dreams in the Witch-House (Catherine Hardwicke)

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that I’m tagging these posts “Masters of Horror,” because really, what’s the difference between the two series? This is a special crossover episode, since we saw Stuart Gordon’s version of the same Lovecraft story in 2006. That was the end of practical effects creativity, and though the 2006 rat-person wasn’t brilliant work, it’s miles better than the lazy bullshit computer-rat in this version.

But I get ahead of myself – first Rupert Weasley grows up caring about ghosts after seeing his sister die, works at a brokedown spiritualist society, checks into a house where a woman who claimed dimensional travel once lived. There he has sleep paralysis and is visited by a cool witch and the aforementioned bullshit rat. Second episode this week about otherworldly paintings, as Rupert is warned the witch will kill him by sunrise, and this proves to be true, but I think he manages to resurrect his sister in exchange. Some good cursing, at least.

I was not hoping to be reminded of The Blazing World:


The Murmuring (Jennifer Kent)

As someone who rarely goes a day without singing “Murmuration Song” to my birds, a story about a bird-watching couple would be right up my alley. The pair (Essie “Babadook” Davis and Andrew “Walking Dead” Lincoln) are haunted by the ghost of their past (their kid died) and also by literal mother/son ghosts, with increasingly intense visits (not Jennifer Kent with a parental trauma movie). They’ve brought portable recording equipment to an island (reminiscent of Fire of Love) to study sandpipers when Essie starts sidetracking into ghost drama. It’s my first shocktober in our new old house, and all the stories seem determined to tell us that old houses are full of harmful vibes.

Schanelec movies suffer by reminding me of Zürcher movies just enough to make me wish I was watching those instead. This one isn’t as entrancing as it means to be, but slightly, seductively baffling. Down-and-out druggie couple starts out busking “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” before Kenneth is called home, his mom ailing in hospital, dad asking him to use his drug connections to find morphine for her. This first couple is last seen laying down on the earth, separately. Many years later a cop is leaving her husband, he rents his own place, and the time periods are mashing up in a non-obvious way.

Blake Williams in Cinema Scope:

… an amorphous, exceedingly enigmatic trance film masquerading as a puzzle film. Puzzles fit together; this does not … These temporal leaps we’re taken through … become equal to every other narrative element. … Time, then, beyond language, becomes the decisive medium that negotiates and complicates characters’ emotional relations to one another, and Schanelec’s avoidance of distinguishing between “now” and “then” insures that the impact of every loss, every ruptured relationship, is held in an eternal suspension.

On Letterboxd: “Virginia Woolf” by Robyn Hitchcock

It’s only been half a year since I’ve watched a Johnnie To movie, but Throw Down left a lasting impression and this one flipped a switch and set me frantically into Johnnie To Mode. About 25 lead actors here, 19 of whom I’ve never seen before, in a complex duplicitous undercover plot, and it’s all still thrilling and comprehensible.

Police Captain Honglei Sun (star of A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop) and undercover cop Yi Huang bust a busload of drug mules, and while they’re dropping their loads, injured methmaster Louis Koo is fleeing the warehouse explosion that killed his family. Koo is busted, and facing the death penalty he cooperates. Most of the movie is their duplicitous dealings, intercepting meetings between drug traffickers who’d never met in person, pretending to be the one guy, then the other guy, the highlight of this being a laughing dealer named Haha. After the offscreen deaths in the prologue explosions, no shots are fired in the first hour of a movie called Drug War… then all of a sudden, very many shots are fired, as docile collaborator Koo violently switches sides. Raid on a drug factory run by deaf-mutes goes bad, Suet “Fatso” Lam turns out to be the mastermind. Don’t think I’ve quite seen an undercover cop movie with this trajectory before.

Koo:

Cops:

Fatso:

I am in my forties, so when am I gonna start making up my own mind about movies? Here’s a doomed-young-love-addiction story that looks and sounds unappealing, like not really my sort of thing, and it makes the year-end lists and I think oh that’s a good movie I should watch, but low priority, and then the sequel is announced for Cannes and suddenly I need to watch it right away, but it turns out somewhat unappealing, like not really my sort of thing. And then a week after I watch it, reviews are coming in for the sequel, a working-through-grief story that looks and sounds unappealing, and I am almost definitely gonna see it.

Me watching The Souvenir II next year:

I do appreciate watching cinema in which characters argue over what is cinema, and also hearing The Fall in a movie. Tilda Swinton’s daughter is charmingly Tilda-Swinton’s-daughter-like, and her mom plays her mom – a lovely moment where she sleeps over and cries with her unhappy daughter. I didn’t get the post-it trail to a car bomb, but maybe that was a typical British activity in the 80’s. Honor’s heroin boy (Tom Burke, just played Welles in Mank) once steals her stuff, then gets her to apologize for being mad about it after some vague excuse that he’s keeping civilization safe, so maybe he bombs cars for the queen. Richard Ayoade MVP.

Anthony Mackie (currently having a superhero moment on TV) and his partner Jamie Dornan (Barb & Star) are New Orleans paramedics investigating a bad drug scene in a crazy long take. Mackie has an unusual brain tumor, dreams of flooding coffins, and as they discover a wave of deaths from the titular drug which lets you “experience time as it actually is” (?), Dornan’s teen daughter takes it and vanishes. Since Mackie is dying anyway and has a suspiciously coincidental pineal gland abnormality, he sets off trying to rescue his friend’s daughter from a series of pasts. “The past fucking sucks,” he accurately reports after every few-minutes-long jump back attempts to kill him. He even World-of-Tomorrows to the ancient tundra, very exciting. Things work out for the girl, if not for Mackie. More conventional than Benson & Moorhead’s other features, but as long as they keep making time-loop thrillers, I will keep watching them.

Our dudes go to the fair:

Portrait of a NYC clinic that sticks pins in your ears to treat stress and addiction. Through interview and archive footage it delves into the history of how Black Panthers and other associated groups studied Chinese acupuncture and brought it back to help their community, then keeps returning from the archives to the present-day clinic and its patients. The founding leader was Mutulu Shakur (below) – I’m behind on the ol’ blog, no surprise, and now we’re watching the new Adam Curtis movie, following the story of Afeni Shakur, so really covering Tupac’s roots this year. The fatal armed car robbery that gets Mutulu imprisoned for life came out of nowhere in this story, and it’s not interested in explaining much about acupuncture itself, more of a history lesson and community portrait.