A description of the opening scenes would sound like a scare headline about the callous drug-afflicted youth: Morvern’s boyfriend is dead in a doorway, she grabs cash from his pocket and goes out to meet a friend Lanna for a bar date. Morvern books a resort trip to Spain with the funeral money her man left on a bank card, puts her own name on the man’s finished novel and gets a publishing deal, ditches Lanna who admits having an affair with the man. Good character and movie, full of unexpected developments and images.
Samantha Morton is my age – I’ve seen her in Synecdoche and Cosmopolis, Mister Lonely and Minority Report, and it’s been a long while since Sweet and Lowdown and Jesus’ Son. So all of Ramsay’s movies are about death trauma? I first heard of her when Criterion released Ratcatcher twenty years ago, deciding I must watch it, but now I’ve seen all of her features except Ratcatcher – typical of my roundabout way of doing things.
Parallel Mothers (2021)
Ho-hum, another year, another exceptionally wonderful Almodóvar movie. Two hours with zero seconds of wasted time – this guy can just make a movie that’s about relationships, but actually about mistaken identity and mourning, but actually about mass murders in wartime. Shot digitally I’m guessing, has a sponsored-by-Apple feel.
Photographer Penelope Cruz and archaeologist Israel Elejalde:
Parallel mother Milena Smit:
The Human Voice (2020)
The least-talky version of this play ever produced, and maybe the shortest movie to ever play Phipps on its own. Absolute luxury mixed with staginess/artificiality.
The Apple sponsorship continues:
A corny white insurance agent, family man, workout nut, kinda racist, happily obnoxious to women and everyone else, wakes up Black one day. He freaks out, and his wife calls him a white supremacist while he focuses the blame on his sun lamp and tries to figure out how to whiten his skin again. I watched this on MLK Day, which I suppose might make me a bad person, but it’s good – a goofy but not stupid comedy (usually you get neither or both).
Lead actor Godfrey Cambridge had an excellent year, also starring in Cotton Comes to Harlem. When he goes out in public he’s hassled by cops (“He stole something – we don’t know what it is yet”). Finally his wife and boss and neighbors reject him, but he comes to terms with himself, starting his own business and plotting to lead the next Black revolution.
Post-La Flor digressive cinema! Young lovers are kept apart by a curse, trying to find their ways back to each other and to themselves… but then, why not instead follow some dogs who want to watch the World Cup, and isn’t all this just a distraction from larger global issues? Anyway, the main plot ends up with a documentary film screening allowing the romantic leads to see their true selves again. The movie’s somewhat slow and wandering, but the music (in all different styles, by the director’s brother) is fabulous and everything is sufficiently magical (I did close my eyes when the narrator said to).
From the Cinema Scope cover story, Koberidze’s filmmaking origin story is hilarious:
I came home one day and my mom told me she had seen a film by Guy Ritchie called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. She told me she liked it and her opinions have always been really important to me, so I watched it and it was the first time in my life when I realized that if this is good, than I can make something good too. It was like a switch went off in my mind. I wasn’t very impressed with the film, so I figured it couldn’t be too hard to make something like this.
Michael Sicinski on Patreon:
[The director/narrator’s] tendency to over-direct the viewer, combined with a relative indifference to the ramifications of the basic premise, suggest that Koberidze’s true concerns lay somewhere else … Koberidze makes use of the the flowing Rioni River and other physical features of his location, the Georgian town of Kutaisi. Still lives, portraits, and landscapes are the real stuff of What Do We See, and it is here that Koberidze excels.
A perfectly fine historical drama with some fab lighting and good faces (La Pointe Courte‘s Silvia Monfort). Coming between Beauty and the Beast and Orpheus, it lacks most of the sfx magic of those, but it’s so neglected I was half-expecting it to be lousy. I didn’t even have the correct title, knowing it as The Eagle Has Two Heads, while The Two-Headed Eagle makes more sense.
Monfort is the audience-surrogate newcomer to a castle where the widowed queen has shut herself away for ten years, and is about to hold a ball. Queen Edwige Feuillère (just off starring in a Dostoevsky adaptation) is surprised by a visitor at her window who looks exactly like King Jean Marais, and the bulk of the movie is psychological spy games between these two. She calls him “My Death” (which is very Cocteau) since he’s meant to be an assassin, the corrupt cops outside pretending to search for him. He is of course a poet, and she of course falls for him, in a dignified/suicidal way.
Police chief Jacques Varennes (La Poison) hides in a treehouse, and he and the queen run around giving everyone contradictory orders, until she gets to die with her king as she’s always dreamed (Marais taking a nice fall down the stairs).
The queen uses a room-sized model palace as a shooting gallery:
Tying this up before part four comes out. Neo’s in limbo, aptly represented as a train station, having passed out using his matrix-powers in the real world. Morpheus and Trinity and the Oracle’s protector Seraph (Collin Chou with WKW glasses) visit Lambert for some interminable dialogue, cutting a deal to rescue him. But the dummies should’ve known not to trust a character named Bane, who gets reverse-matrixed, possessed by Agent Smith, and blinds Neo with a power cable (he can still see).
Movie is about 60% boring, and keeps trying to make us care about new characters, particularly the enthusiastic young Clayton Watson, a Neo fan who steps up during the climactic battle. But the Wachowskis are also good at creating touching human moments on the flimsiest of background and evidence. Carrie-Anne dies in a crash, and Neo gets the central AI to agree to reset the world if Neo can defeat the now thousands of Agent Smiths, which he does by simply absorbing them then exploding.
In 2003 we watched this, wanting it to rule, but it kinda sucked. In 2021, I am a serious auteurist cinephile who understands the unique artistry of the Wachowskis, rewatching with a corrected mindset, wanting it to rule, but it kinda sucks. The action certainly moves like a twice-as-big upgrade to the original, but the digital effects and music picks say otherwise.
Keanu dreams an extreme-bullet-time moto-leather-splosion intro, then he’s back with Larry, who always uses three words when one would suffice. Jada Pinkett Smith is a bigwig in a red coat. Humans live in caves, led by Harry Lennix, and worship Neo and Morpheus. Neo has hot sex with Trinity, then has to battle Oracle’s agent Serif before he’s allowed to visit her – those two are said to be programs, not human. At this point, Neo battles a playground full of Agent Smiths, who have been duplicating themselves.
There are too many new characters, and it’s very talky, but somehow Lambert Wilson and his wife Monica Bellucci are important – she opens a secret door behind a bookcase and shoots a guard with a silver bullet, then the albino twins turn into medusa-haired ghosts. The crazy car chase with the twins is just as crazy as I remember it, and Neo isn’t even there. This is all a quest to save the Keymaster, who all but admits he’s an NPC. Keymaster leads Neo to The Architect, who is of course a genteel bearded white man (c’mon Wachowskis). GW Bush appears when he says the phrase “varying grotesqueries.” “It was all another system of control” is very Adam Curtis. There’s talk of performing a full system reset, saving a few people after Zion is destroyed, but we’re distracted by the death and resurrection of Trinity. Chad Stahelski and Leigh Whannel both in the credits.
My WFH setup:
What I do at work:
Think I like this more now than I did when it came out. It was Phantom Menace Spring, and I wasn’t sure I enjoyed big-budget sci-fi spectacle anymore. Now I’m older and stupider, with fewer pretensions and hang-ups, and prefer a good flashy story over nonsense like this.
Opening noir scene is great. The Matrix 4 trailer is pounding white rabbit references into our heads, and I see those were present from the beginning. Neo’s side gig is selling $2k minidiscs to cyberpunks, and in straight life he’s Thomas Anderson… Thom Andersen… is that anything? It’s a verbose movie, and there’s a religious feel to the dialogue after he meets Trinity at a White Zombie nightclub. Forgot that it’s AI tech using humans as batteries, not aliens. The reflections in this are so good – in glasses, doorknobs, etc.
We know the five leads (Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, Agent Smith, and turncoat Joe Pantoliano), who else was on the team? The main guy in the ship is Tank: Marcus “son of Tommy” Chong, of a Mario Van Peebles movie. His brother Dozer (killed with a cheesy energy weapon) is Anthony Ray Parker, of Dead Air, a movie about a radio DJ on the air during a zombie invasion, from the year after Pontypool. Very blonde badass Switch was Belinda McClory. Apoc, I dunno who he is, I’m just upset it wasn’t spelled Epoch. Matt “Mouse” Doran died almost immediately but has the most impressive filmography, in a Lucas and a Malick, also a gangster Macbeth. The Oracle was Gloria Foster, who did respectable work throughout the 60’s. And Keanu’s stunt double went on to direct John Wick.
I saw James Wan’s Saw and a few sequels, then slept on his sequel-spawning follow-ups for whatever reason, maybe the same sense of “anything popular can’t be good” that made me skip the Final Destination series. This one is inventive and completely loopy – and seems to invite sequels, though our hero is gonna get hella locked up after slaughtering an entire police station.
A research hospital in 1993 has a patient who drinks electricity and broadcasts its thoughts over radio. Then present-day Maddie has an abusive husband who conks her head against the wall and is later killed by unseen forces – the same forces that start hunting down the scientists from the opening scene, and tie up some random tour guide in an attic, all of which Maddie sees happening in a psychic daze. Maddie’s sister (of God Bless America) investigates dark family secrets while detective Shaw (of A Bread Factory) tries to help and detective Sasstalk (of She Hate Me) doesn’t help at all.
L-R: Shaw, Sasstalk, Sister, Maddie:
If you hadn’t used the movie title to piece it all together (I hadn’t), Maddie’s half-absorbed conjoined twin was awakened by the head injury and is taking over her body to do murders (and that’s their mom in the attic). I guess the twin’s radio-control mind-power gives it incredible fighting skills in her body (this is an upgrade to Upgrade).
The names in this movie’s cast are more upsetting than the horror creature. Maddie’s real name is Annabelle, and starred in Annabelle (but not as Annabelle) while Maddie’s sister’s real name is Maddie, and the dead husband played Mike Love in Love & Mercy.