Brutish Adam Driver and delicate Marion Cotillard get together and have a magical singing baby, to the consternation of accompanist Simon Helberg – and it’s all performed as an opera written by Sparks, who appear (along with the director and his daughter, the film’s dedicatee) with the cast in the great opening number. A good pick for my first movie back in theaters for over a year.

I read so many articles on this, and have gone back and forth about aspects of it, but it seems like a movie that’s gonna last. Bilge’s second Vulture article helped with the ending (which I didn’t love at the time), Sicinski’s analysis also useful (“even its flaws are kind of endearing”), and the GQ interview with Simon Helberg gives insight into Carax’s methods. And from the NY Times:

At first, Carax turned down the offer, not wanting the film’s fraught father-daughter relationship to confuse his own teenage daughter, Nastya, or invite speculation on the parallels between the film and his life, given his tendency to transform his male leads into proxies of himself. He reversed course, however, when she took a liking to songs Sparks had sent him, creating the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings.

How To with John Wilson (2020)
Painting with John (2021)

Two low-fi HBO shows made by very different auteur-Johns. Both shows seem like each episode is a new random doc segment of a John’s life, then in the final episode you realize they’ve taken you on a journey with purpose. This is my new favorite kind of show.

“I crashed seven drones.” Lurie’s playfulness extends to the filmmaking, where he shows a domestic scene then replays it with added laugh track. Unlike the fishing show in a couple major ways: no celebrity guests, and John can actually paint.

Wilson’s show loves visual puns and sidetracks following unusual characters. In an episode on improving memory, while looking for a Zagnut bar he meets a supermarket inventory system developer who is obsessed with the Mandela Effect (“I found the one place where the worse your memory was, the more people liked you”), then he stumbles into the West Side Story remake set (“for the rest of the week it was hard to tell who was a human and who was an actor”).

from How To Split The Check, which leads John to a sad referee convention:

wildlife from How To Make Small Talk:

The other John:


Central Park season 1 (2020)

Oh wow, a comedy musical with cast from Hamilton and Book of Mormon and Kimmy Schmidt and Veronica Mars… good characters and songs… would be the perfect show to watch with Katy except for its singleminded love of poop jokes. Doesn’t bother me, I’m waiting for season two.

Harassing owls:


The Venture Bros. season 1 (2004)

Show is more bizarre than I realized. The title characters are useless, all the drama happening around them, and it steals characters (the Six Million Dollar Man, the Fantastic Four) from other shows at will. Foetus music, a Lydia Lunch reference. Twist: the Venture Bros are killed in an Easy Rider season finale.

Creator Christopher McCulloch voices the Monarch and a Venture, and worked on the The Tick #1, while Tick #2 voices bodyguard Brock Samson. The other Venture is prolific anime voice actor Michael Sinterniklaas, and their dad is James Urbaniak, who shares my birthday and is from New Jersey, so we’re practically family.


Samurai Jack season 1 (2001)

Only after Primal came out did I belatedly realize I was stupid for never watching this. Demon sends samurai into an intergalactic future, what’s not to like. Wasn’t expecting the season to end with Aku telling fairy tales to kids, complete with a reference to The Shining.

Among many online concerts, i attended the quarantine edition of SF Sketchfest, which opened with a montage of famous comedians saying no to Sketchfest. Fred Armisen welcome, Reggie Watts theme song, Eugene Mirman using a flowby during intermission, Triumph vs. Weird Al. Highlights were Jon Hamm’s movie trivia, Kumail vs. Emily, and the Kids in the Hall.

Attempted to watch The Shivering Truth – really sweet puppet animation, shame it’s wasted on so many unfunny jokes. Adam Fuchs did the titles! Also walked out on stand-up specials by Yvonne Orji, Jenny Slate, Eric Andre and Tiffany Haddish. I stayed through A Steven Wright Special (1985)

Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life (2012) has some sweet puns and lots of editing humor.


Nathan Barley (2005)

“It’s bad to have a bad uncle.” Julian Barratt is a pathetic angry guy who works for terrible website Trashbat run by Barley. Dan and his sister Claire room with DJ Nathan Fielder, and all of them discover they’re no better than the dummies they’re mocking. Barley torments a young Ben Whishaw, and Richard Ayoade and Benedict Cumberbatch are hanging around. When all your characters are annoying it’s hard for the show not to end up annoying, but as an intersection of post-Brass Eye Chris Morris, pre-Newswipe Charlie Brooker, and mid-Mighty Boosh everyone else, I was gonna have to watch it.


Charlie Brooker had an early-quarantine special Antiviral Wipe, then the end-of-year Death to 2020. The highlight of both was the Barry Shitpeas quote on OUATIH: “Quentin Cappucino made a new version of that film he does.” The latter special featured some good fake celebrity commentators and websites.

Robert De Niro trying to pick up girls at a VJ Day party runs up on Liza Minnelli, whose first 20 lines in the movie are “no.” De Niro plays a guy with social problems, if you can believe that. It’s a talky hangout drama with some good character moments, gradually accumulating plot as their music careers develop.

The audition:

Then after an entire two-hour not-great movie, Liza’s husband is having a crisis because she’s more famous than him, and she stars in a play where her man runs off because he can’t bear being with a woman more famous than him… the movie finally, gloriously becoming the full-blown musical it had been hinting at, Liza’s glamour more interesting than De Niro’s aimless dissatisfaction. According to the wikis, the movie-within-the-movie was cut from the theatrical release version – no wonder it wasn’t commercially successful. And here I was stupidly wondering if it’s based on the real couple who wrote the titular classic song in the 1940’s/50’s, but the song was written for this movie.

Dick Miller, being the man:

Watched for the Mdou Moctar music, spent the runtime trying to remember Purple Rain. Mdou is new in a Niger town, takes on the local guitar king, but Mdou’s dad disapproves of his music and destroys his guitar. Can he impress the cute girl, find a new left-handed guitar in time for the big competition, and write a killer new song that’s even better than his previous song, which rival Morris Day Kader has stolen for his own band? Yes!

Halfway through Jeannette, little Lise aged-up to older Jeanne Voisin, and now due to a casting snafu, she’s aged back down to Lise for the battles and trial. It’s Jeannette Redux for the battles – all conversations in the desert, Joan “sings” a song in voiceover, her horse dances to a drumbeat then all the horsemen dance around her in a choreographed pattern. Mostly notable here is Lord de Rais who looks 18 with lion-hair.

Why does the king (Rohmer actor Fabrice Luchini), who everyone respects, act like such a sleazy scumlord and wear a juicer-hat?

The start of the trial is all talk, but livened up by the actors, especially church master Nic l’Oiseleur (below, right), a Quinquin-caliber performer. The church is an infinitely more gaudy setting than the Passion or the Bresson, and all the non-Joan actors are more interesting than those in the other films – shot mostly in close-up but it’s a large echoey room so they’re all shouting. It’s maybe a more eccentric movie than the first, and for the better… not a big fan of the vocal songs, but the instrumental music is just great.

The Staggering Girl (2019, Luca Guadagnino)

Luca’s follow-up to Suspiria Remake is… a fashion ad, and from the writer of The Current War, weirdly. I’ve watched other attempts at taking the fashion money and making a short film. This one lacks the nudity of the Carax and the creepy coolness of the Martel, and is overall not very interesting – but at least in this one I really noticed the clothes, so it arguably does its job better than the others. The Tsangari museum ad still beats ’em all.

Anyway, I barely remember this, but took some notes at least:

Julianne comes home with flowers to an empty apt, talks with Kyle on phone

The woman in yellow disappears

Nice whispery horror soundtrack

I think Kyle is Julianne’s painter mom’s assistant.

Now the woman who disappears is in pink.

Mia Goth with whoever plays Young Julianne:

Proper Julianne:


Original Cast Album: Company (1970, DA Pennebaker)

We watched this doc on Criterion because it’s newly available after being hard to see for years, and it’s talked-about online… but mostly because I wanted to do my homework for the next season of Documentary Now! Stephen Sondheim wrote some overcomplicated songs, he and the recording engineers fret over the performances, especially Elaine Stritch, who is saved till late night, then convinced to come back the next day and re-record.

We also watched a couple of shorts on Criterion… I think Michigan Avenue, and a jazz short, possibly A Rhapsody in Black and Blue, but I’d better not count those, since I can’t even recall for sure which ones they were.


Hamilton (2020)

It would’ve been cool to see this live, but our $480 tickets to see the touring company from the Fox balcony were refunded, and instead we watched the original cast up close in HD for free, and I’m not complaining. After all the Clipping I’ve been listening to, I’d hoped Daveed Diggs would be cooler as Lafayette… but then in the second half he’s super cool as Jefferson.


Cowboy Bebop (1998)

Firefly ripped this off quite a bit, eh? When it originally aired I thought this show wasn’t for me… in my defense, that might’ve been a knee-jerk stance from being surrounded by anime kids in college. Pretty excellent, our two main dudes accumulating shipmates, each with their own skills, competing for bounties, then finally the gang breaks up.

I’ve gotta see Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, which I’m just now learning about. The same team worked on Macross Plus, Samurai Champloo, Wolf’s Rain, and Space Dandy.


Fleabag season 1 (2016)

Really good, short series, based on a stand-up show that I tried to watch afterwards but it’s the same stories told in the same way, so I bailed after a half hour. Phoebe Waller-Bridge runs the guinea pig-themed cafe she co-owned with her late friend Boo, steals from her stepmother Olivia Colman, and torments her dad (Bill Paterson, who I just saw in Colin Burstead) and sister (Sian Clifford).


Superjail! season 3 (2012)

Opens in Ultrajail with the Warden as inmate, so I thought this season might end up having some kind of stakes, but nope, that was a one-off, then we’re back to the usual ultraviolence. This show is a LOT – I can’t even look directly at the screen the whole time or else my brain and eyes get overloaded, but it’s a good thing to half-watch while reading the news.


Rick & Morty season 4 (2020)

401: Akira, fascism, holograms, crystals that show you how you’ll die
402: Rick defends his private toilet from intruders, Jerry develops matchmaking app with an alien
403: R&M visit a heist convention, put a crew together, and pit Heistotron vs. Randotron
404: R gets M a dragon, Jerry has a talking cat
405: Morty interrupts a society of racist snakes causing time-travel chaos, Jerry floats
406: Narrative train!
407: Alien facehugger mind control
408: Vat of acid, Morty gets ability to save his place, vat of acid
409: “I fucked a planet”
410: star wars episode with an unexpected Don’t Look Now reference

Bonus: Samurai & Shogun anime short mashing up R&M with Lone Wolf & Cub.


A Touch of Cloth (2012)

Looking for something lightweight to watch, I found this TV movie cowritten by Charlie Brooker, and it was just the trick. All visual puns and word games delivered straight-faced, a la Police Squad or Airplane. It’s a cop mystery, and I think their boss (guy from The Hour) ends up being the culprit. Director Jim O’Hanlon did the Romola Garai/Jonny Lee Miller Emma. A few weeks later I made it a half hour into the second of three Cloth movies, but pulled the plug, only writing “oh noooo it’s all the same jokes.”


Lodge 49 season 1 (2018)

Ex-pool-guy Dud (Wyatt Russell from the fear-VR Black Mirror) and restaurant worker Liz (Sonya Cassidy of a bunch of UK miniseries) are in the dumps after their deeply-in-debt father apparently killed himself, until Dud finds a new sense of purpose at the local (also doomed by debt) Lynx lodge. I picked up this show after reading Vikram in Vulture, and loved about every minute of it. Dud sees signs everywhere, thinks everything is fate, and it’s never clear whether he’s delusional or on to something big – shades of Inherent Vice and Under the Silver Lake.

Lynxes:
Sovereign Protector Larry: Kenneth Welsh, a boss in Survival of the Dead, Windom Earle in Twin Peaks
Future S.P. and Dud’s reluctant mentor Ernie: Brent Jennings (Moneyball, The Serpent and the Rainbow)
Ernie’s secret squeeze Connie: professional mom Linda Emond (Ryan Gosling’s mom in Song to Song, Evan Rachel Wood’s mom in Across the Universe, Logan Lerman’s mom in Indignation)
Connie’s husband Scott: Eric Kramer, Little John in the Mel Brooks Robin Hood
New Age Blaise: David Pasquesi, Veep’s ex-husband

Notable non-Lynxes: Pawnbroker Burt… Brian Doyle-Murray as Ernie’s Boss… Bruce Campbell as Captain… Ernie’s coworker Beautiful Jeff… Dud’s depressed temp boss Gloria… Hot Librarian Emily… Liz’s fling “Corporate”… Surfer Alice… Fake Lodge agent Avery (lead singer of All-American Rejects)… and Real Lodge agent Jocelyn.


Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories season 2 (2017)

Piano salesman Eric’s boss Tim is obsessed with baklava.

Scratchoff gambler/mesmer Ray Wise steals Jorge Garcia’s wife Rhea Pearlman

The return of angelboy Scotty, featuring Bubbles

Very bad air traffic controller Will Forte takes a break, feat. Veep’s daughter and aww, Fred Willard

Gross dude gets a free trial workout at an auto-gym.

And T&E play lesbians Belle & Bonnie, whose adopted son is sold to a rich guy.


Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle (2016)

Alan goes to different parts of Britain to try to bring harmony to the people… something like that, anyway. I forget how he gets locked into a warehouse over a weekend, but I recall that the whole adventure was started after someone filmed him attempting an insult joke. “The footage went viral,” he tells us, while the screen says 150 views. This was after the great Partridge movie, between Mid Morning Matters and This Time.


Also watched an episode each of Sherman’s Showcase, Final Space,
Avenue 5, and The Last O.G., none of which seems essential.

We enjoyed the quarantine reunion special of Parks & Rec.

Katy and I checked out each other’s shows in which characters burst into song, but I didn’t love Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and she couldn’t stand Lipstick On Your Collar. We settled on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but now it’s been three months since episode one…

After reading reviews I decided to watch half of The Twilight Zone 2019 season 1. Nightmare at 30,000 Feet confirmed my worst fears: instead of a goblin on the flight, it’s a podcast. Fun to watch Adam Scott anyway, so I made it through, but then the next two episodes I tried opened with cops, and that’s not the kind of story I was looking for that particular week.

I blocked off late January for Rotterdance, and premiere screening Asako was fantastic, then Belmonte and Rojo were pretty whatever… so I’m looking at the remaining options for the following week… Monos, Happy as Lazzaro… movies I keep hearing are great but don’t look attractive like Private Life and The Souvenir… mass-murder fashion-thing Vox Lux… serious stuff by Loznitsa and Petra Costa… and La Flor is there on the list, the ridiculous outlier which obviously I’m not gonna watch because there isn’t time. So that’s what I watched.

Movie from Argentina, in multiple episodes, with multiple chapters, the whole thing cut into multiple parts which don’t align with the episodes (but do align with the chapters) – it’s complicated. The director helps lighten things up by introducing the project in a prologue, looking into camera without moving his mouth, narrating in voiceover, and drawing his diagram of the film’s structure which landed on the cover of Cinema Scope.


Episode 1

Proper b-movie length at 80 minutes, and shot on low-grade video. The audio sounds dry and dubbed, but looks to be in sync. Scientists receive shipment of an ancient mummy, have to babysit it after hours, but one girl (and a black cat) get mummy-cursed, so a psycho-transference specialist comes to help. “I’ll tell you more about it,” she says, as the movie suddenly cuts to episode 2. A Mac OS 9 skype window proves this movie has been in the works for a long time.

Elisa Carricajo = Marcela, lead scientist who is introduced on an awkward date before hectic work day
Laura Paredes = cool, efficient doctor Lucia
Valeria Correa = dazed, cursed, water-guzzling Yani
Pilar Gamboa = mummy-curse specialist Daniela

Dr. Elisa, Dr. Laura:

Mummy-whisperer Pilar:


Episode 2

Famous singer Victoria reminisces to her hair-streaked assistant Flavia about Vic’s rocky/successful recording career and personal life with lousy singer Ricky. Out of the blue, Flavia is in a scorpion cult with the secret of eternal youth, but cult leader Elisa Carricajo doesn’t seem to trust her. Andrea “Superbangs” Nigro, a rival singer, has a whole speech about storytelling and protagonists (it’s a monologue-heavy episode) and is present in the recording booth during the very good climactic Victoria song (but why? I spaced out for a while).

Singer Victoria = Pilar = mummy-curse specialist Daniela
Assistant/Confidante/Cultist Flavia = Laura = cool doctor Lucia
Superbangs singer Andrea Nigro = Valeria = cursed Yani
Scorpion cult leader = Elisa = lead scientist Marcela

Nigro:


Episode 3

Epic spy drama that starts out fun, tries to pivot to being mournful as everyone appears to be doomed, and takes long sidetracks into backstory. The four lead women are teammates in this one – briefly they were five, until their leader Agent 50 takes out the mole sent by a rival assassin collective led by “Mother.” Both team leaders report to Casterman, a spymaster ordered to kill off his own people. It’s like pulp Oliveira at times – it’s never comedy, but has a delightful heightened quality to it. Multiple narrators of different sexes with different viewpoints, and at one point (not even at an intermission), Llinás stops the episode to show off his storyboards.

Casterman:

Commie-trained mute spy Theresa = Pilar
La Niña, daughter of a legendary soldier = Valeria
La 301, globetrotting assassin = Laura
Agent 50, Ukranian super-spy = Elisa

The promo shot… from L-R: 50, 301, Niña, Dreyfuss, Theresa:

My favorite scene, kidnapped Dreyfuss in the cosmos:


Episode 4

After all that narrative drama, this episode is aggressively messing with us. The actresses play “the actresses,” undistinguished and ignored. Llinás introduces them to new producer Violeta in a studio scene of choreographed arguments, then he ditches his production, taking a mobile crew to film trees in bloom with relaxing string music, stopping frequently to write in his notebook. I think it’s a parody of the pretentious filmmaker who has lost his focus/inspiration.

Halfway through, the focus changes, as paranormal investigator Gatto arrives at the site of a mysterious incident, finding the filmmakers’ car high in a tree, the camera and sound crew raving mad, and Llinás missing, having left behind his journals. Gatto calls the La Flor script notes “a load of crap,” gets mixed up with some residents of a psychiatric colony, and follows the director’s tracks through a series of used book stores, as Llinás searches for an old copy of Casanova with a deleted chapter. This all sounds like nonsense, but it comes together beautifully by the end, after seeming like a waste of time for a good while.

“He never refers to any of them in particular, as if the four were a single thing:”


Episode 5

“In episode five, the girls don’t appear… at the time we thought it was interesting.” I think it’s the same Guy de Maupassant story that Jean Renoir filmed in the 1930’s. A couple of cool dudes with fake mustaches give horse rides to a whitesuit man and his son, when they’re derailed by a couple of picnicking women, who pair off with the mustache men after whitesuit rides away. This is all capped with an air show, and is a lovely diversion after the long previous section.


Episode 6

Heavy organ music and intertitles – the four stars are reunited, but blurred as if shot from behind a dirty screen. Aha, it’s filmed using a camera obscura, a pre-camera device which throws a reverse image through a pinhole. Supposedly the women have escaped from unseen savages and are dodging a giant steampunk insect before returning to their homes. Partially nude and without closeups, they’re finally indistinguishable.

Essential reading: Nick Pinkerton for Reverse Shot and Jordan Cronk’s Cinema Scope feature.

“It’s after the end of the world / Don’t you know that yet?”

Sun Ra finds a new planet, decides to bring over some Black people. He appears in the 1940’s as stage pianist “Sunny Ray,” playing futuristic jazz piano to the annoyance of the patrons (the Back to the Future of its time). Some sort of interdimensional devil finds him, and challenges him to card games in the middle of the desert.

Somehow I thought this movie was a concert/rock doc, but it’s not a doc of any sort. Ra ends up in present-day California and observes all kinds of dickish behavior. He is kidnapped by NASA agents, who tie him up and torture him by playing him “Dixie” in headphones, until he’s rescued by young men who were earlier arguing about whether Sun Ra was selling out by releasing his music on LPs. There’s a sidetrack where the (white/racist) NASA guys beat up some prostitutes, a running joke where the devil-man has two naked women and his crony gets excited only to be kicked out so the devil can have both women for himself, and at the end, one of the young men sacrifices himself to save Sun Ra from an assassin, then all the decent(ish) Black people are raptured away to Ra’s planet before Earth explodes.

The youth of today:

The wikis say Ra made his own edit, 20 minutes shorter, cutting out the blaxploition stuff, which would probably be for the best. No info on the director… cowriter Josh Smith’s other credit is a G-rated family movie about a kid’s baby seal. Devil-man (Ashley Clark called him a “megapimp”) is Ray Johnson, who showed up 15 years later in a previously unheard-of TV version of The Bourne Identity, and his hanger-on is Chris Brooks, who played both Hieronymus Bosch and Jesus Christ in his short career. But that’s all if you believe IMDB credits, which are often bunk. I see a John and a Chris, a Johnson and a Smith – these are all generic pseudonyms, since this movie was clearly made by aliens from the future.