Nic Cage’s pig gets violently kidnapped and he recruits his truffle buyer Amir (Alex Wolff, the Rodrick-looking guy in Hereditary) on a search-and-rescue quest through nearby Portland. I knew so little about this movie going in because I didn’t want to discover whatever people are saying you should watch the movie without knowing. I assume it’s not the subterranean restaurateur fight club, but the fact that Cage plays a retired superchef who uses his eatery connections and cooking skills to track down the culprit, a sort of Ratatouille take on the John Wick template. But hot damn, there’s also a subterranean restaurateur fight club.
Cage is a local legend, a food philosopher-king, who just wants to be left alone with his pig friend in a shack in the woods. Amir’s dad Adam Arkin turns out to be a rival mushroom buyer and the pig thief, and the internet believes this to be stunt casting since Arkin once played an “off the grid, genius gourmet chef” on Northern Exposure. Sarnoski’s first feature, has too much handheld camerawork but not terrible. And the story comes together a little too neatly, that Cage gets answers by recreating a life-pivotal meal he once made for his helper’s pignapping father. These are small complaints about a delightful movie. I would’ve loved to show it to Katy, if not for the subterranean restaurateur fight club.
Cows, pigs, roosters in three farms in different countries. Terrific high-framerate steadicam, long takes, great lighting in their custom-built sty. I wondered how much of that was natural light, and remembered reading about the house in Turin Horse, which turned out an apt comparison, per the British Cinematographer article I read.
– baby pigs are born
– chickens interlude
– pigs growing up
– cows interlude
– pigs taken away from momma pig
And it’s almost a perfect movie, but for the cows, who do nothing except swat away flies (or more often, failing to swat away flies). You just can’t make cows interesting, though apparently Andrea Arnold will be the next to attempt it.
Maria flees her town and moves into a house in the woods along with two pigs that she transforms into children and names Pedro and Ana. I think they’re hiding from a wolf outside, and after they almost die in a house fire Pedro drinks honey and turns white, and Ana swallows a songbird and gets a golden voice, then Maria is rescued after they try eating her… I dunno, I was too busy marveling at the look of this thing.
Smeary, drippy painting inside a real (model?) house, with doorways and props. But painted scenes will overwhelm doors and props as if they weren’t there, then form free-standing stop-motion models within the room, 2D artworks interacting with 3D objects, the wall art constantly shifting and the models always making and unmaking themselves, styles of the characters changing. Rustling and rubbing sounds accompany all the visual shifting, wires and cellophane hold the models in place, and I think it’s all fluid transitions with no traditional editing.
I’d forgotten about the brief TV-footage framing story, but did wonder why Maria sometimes spoke German. Apparently this is a fairy-tale reference to a notorious German-led cult and Pinochet torture compound, active in Chile for decades.
During the research process, the filmmakers discovered that the German members of the community used to call their Chilean neighbors ‘schweine’. This led them to conceive of the two children in the story as piglets, and depict their progressive transformation into Aryan humans as an ironic joke aping the community’s racial ideology.
Walker has an interview with the directors, including some amazing production details, and their self-set rules for animation and sound design:
We had a literary script, with the dialogues of the film, a really simple storyboard, basically with one image per scene … Our day-to-day work was to find a way to connect one image with the other … The specific actions of each scene were improvised.
We hadn’t even seen a preview for this. A late-2018 animated Spider-man reboot movie sounded like the most skippable thing in the world, but it came out the same week as all the year-end lists, which kept awarding it the Best Animated Feature. Admittedly Ralph Breaks The Internet and Incredibles 2 both suffered from sequelitis, and The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl was too quirky to win awards, but I still didn’t expect some comic-book Spider-man re-reboot to show up and trounce the competition, so we went to see what the fuss was about.
The fuss: this movie is faithful to the comics to the point of emulating their printing quirks: the shading dots, the color layers slightly out of registration, making me feel like I’m supposed to be wearing 3D glasses whenever I pay too much attention to the edges. It’s a Peter Parker Spider-Man back-story re-boot but also extremely self-referential about being this, and contains multiple Parkers and reboots. No wonder it’s from one of the Lego Movie guys, but much wonder that it was allowed to be created on an obviously high budget and released in theaters during Peak Marvel Universe. We (highly) approve.
Second movie I watched this week where the lead girl is told at the end to not look back. Some obvious parallels with other Ghibli movies – the romantic lead boy who transforms into a flying creature to work for/against wickedness (Howl’s Moving Castle), living dust sprites (My Neighbor Totoro), the lead girl nervous because she’s moving to a new house in the country, kooky/friendly old folks, villains who are maybe not so evil really, and fantastical beasts galore – like a Ghibli’s Greatest Hits thrown into a giant bathhouse. The greatest.
Wacky creature-buddy movie that gets dark fast and stays that way, with some bizarre character choices and a variety of clashing tones. I never got on board with the unreal look of the superpigs or the horrible overacting of Jake Gyllenhaal, and it’s the second time in a year that I’ve wondered why Tilda Swinton needed to be playing identical twins. Enjoyable movie when it focuses on the lead girl and her dumbfounding meetings with Paul Dano’s Animal Liberation Front (was ALF supposed to be a joke, or did nobody tell Bong about the cat-eating comedy connection?), and the mixture of Korean and English languages works well, including a good mistranslation plot point. I guess most importantly, the emotional heart of the thing, Mija and Okja rescuing a baby from the superpig death camp, is extremely strong.
Some points that are applicable to these times we live in: the company led by Two Tildas is tricking the public into eating genetically modified superpigs by claiming they’re “all natural” (and the public mightn’t care much either way, cuz they taste so good). The company is using city police as a private security force to brutally beat the law-breaking but nonviolent activists. And we get the plot device where the good guys expose the corporation’s misdeeds by broadcasting their hidden-camera recordings to the horrified public at the end, but in this movie it’s not clear that it makes any difference – the company changes leadership from one looney CEO to another, and the superpig-slaughtering machinery continues uninterrupted.
Cowriter Jon Ronson made Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, is British, so I suppose he might also have been unaware of Alf.
I guess it’s about two people with traumatic pasts who try to track down where their lives went wrong – but as I could tell from the trailer, it’s hard to say exactly what it’s about. One thing I wasn’t expecting: it opens with Swanberg/Wingard regular Amy Seimetz being kidnapped and force-fed a mind-control worm by a patient abductor who takes her home and gets her to sign over all her home equity, which he cashes and disappears.
In her shabby new life working at a signage shop, Amy is relentlessly courted by divorced ex-junkie Shane (our writer/director/etc) who tries to help her come to terms with her life. He has his own identity problems – she tells him stories and he fashions them into his own memories and tries to re-tell them to her. During the mutual-paranoid-freakout scene in a bathtub the movie started to remind me of Bug.
Elsewhere in the world, a pig farmer is somehow involved with the worm-brainwashed abductees and possibly the harvesting of new mind-control worms. Also he seems to be a sound recordist. Amy pieces together enough details to discover his farm and kill him, upon which they find documents on all the other kidnappees, and invite them all to the pig farm.
And I haven’t even mentioned these guys:
The above is a silly description of an entrancing movie.
This was a long time coming after Carruth’s great Primer.
Co-edited by David Lowery, whose Ain’t Them Bodies Saints made waves the same year.
Cinema Scope has an excellent interview with Carruth:
From a writing perspective, I don’t want these people to wake up and have a normal resolution. That’s impossible for me because that means that I understand all of this and have a morality lesson to explain to the audience. And I don’t. All I have is an exploration. So the characters can resolve their story in their own way, but that doesn’t stop the exploration for me.
Christina Ricci is a horribly deformed girl with a pig nose. That’s the premise, anyway… maybe I’m a pervert, but I thought Ricci still looks extremely cute, even with the pig nose. Katy says that might be the point. Movie has got me all confused about myself and my image of women!
That guy who is in everything yet I can’t ever remember him because he looks and acts completely unremarkable (not Shia The Beouf, that other guy) stars as a loser gambler who gets to know Penelope before he sees the nose, and so learns to love her for her true self. But originally he was hired by Peter Dinklage to spy on Penelope, and when she finds out, misunderstandings ensue! As Penelope’s parents, Catherine O’Hara and Richard E. “How To Get Ahead In Advertising” Grant have nothing much to do, but it’s nice to see them. Inexplicably shelved for a couple years before its video release, this is a harmless Reese Witherspoon-produced chick flick with very Pushing Daisies-looking production values and plenty of Peter Dinklage being his adorable self (with an eyepatch!). If there was a Retarded Ratings Scale just for chick flicks and kids movies, this would score pretty high.
Producer Reese lends her star power to the beleaguered flick. Note that is a mask.
Here’s without the mask:
ALWAYS nice to see the smiling face of Nick Frost: