Celia’s beloved grandma just died, but she’s got the new neighbors next door to play with, and the eternal hope that she’ll get a pet rabbit. Unfortunately the neighbors are communists, and it’s Australia in the 1950’s during a myxomatosis outbreak (I’ve had the Radiohead song’s bassline in my head all week), so she’s constantly being warned against rabbits and commies.
Rabidly anti-commie dad (Nicholas Eadie of pre-fame Nicole Kidman miniseries Vietnam) chooses sides, and buys her a rabbit if she won’t play with the neighbors anymore, tells her they’re bad people. Cruelty abounds: the other kids hurt her rabbit, dad gets the neighbor fired. Her family’s cop friend John (Bill Zappa of The Road Warrior) straight-up kidnaps the rabbit, and after it dies in quarantine, Celia becomes the Joker. She shoots John to death while seeing visions of storybook monsters (major Heavenly Creatures parallels) and gets away with it, then fortunately doesn’t kill his daughter while staging mock gallows executions.
Not so harmless:
Celia was Rebecca Smart, who debuted in Dusan Makavejev’s The Coca-Cola Kid. Turner later directed Sam Neill and pre-fame Russell Crowe, and remade Teorema starring Sandra Bernhard in the Stamp role(!!)
Two great things happened at once: I activated Tom Waits Mode and was downtown long enough to visit Videodrome again. So I have rented two new-to-me Tom Waits movies, and one I haven’t seen in almost thirty years. Here’s one that nobody I know has seen, landing in between McDonagh’s In Bruges and Three Billboards. It’s the perfect connection between those two, with Colin from Bruges, Woody and Rockwell from Billboards, and all the bad behavior from those movies (violence, sexism) with some meta- distance (Farrell is a screenwriter named Marty, criticized for all his violence and sexism).
Michaels Pitt and Stuhlbarg are killed as a gag before I even recognized them. Christopher Walken kidnaps dogs for the reward money, with Rockwell’s help, has a sweet wife in hospital, and I don’t think he’s even a psychopath. Waits plays a bonus psycho, always carrying a white rabbit, eager to tell the screenwriter his story. He’s seeking his partner in crime from back in the 1970’s when they used to be serial killers of serial killers. Unfortunately, in the flashback where she leaves him after burning Zodiac alive, he’s played by a younger actor, but I think the rabbit makes up for Tom’s minimal screen time.
Dupieux’s third feature, made between Steak and Wrong Cops. The Mr. Oizo music is always a plus in these, and at first I thought it was excellent until anyone opened their mouth, and it became too self-conscious about its own wackiness. In the end, I think it’s his most watchable movie, even as it breaks all the rules of storytelling.
Cops led by Stephen Spinella of Ravenous plus a briefcase-toting accountant (Mr. Show’s Button Gwinnett) hand out binoculars to a group of spectators, who view the birth of the Scanners-powered killer tire, then all die from poisoned turkey – except for one veteran-looking wheelchair dude played by Wings Hauser (of Beastmaster II and Watchers III) who doesn’t eat.
Spinella and Button, showing that none of this is real:
Wings continues to observe the carnage for three days, and when the cops rig a dummy with explosives to trap the tire, he busts into their part of the movie to tell them it’s a stupid idea. “It’s not the end! He’s been reincarnated as a tricycle, c’mon!” The tricycle blows up Wings then continues with a growing tire army towards Hollywood.
The director is hilariously unpretentious in Cinema Scope: “Obviously there is no meaning … Obviously I made a movie about a living tire so I want to have fun.”
Yorgos has been refining his bold visual style from Alps to Lobster to Sacred Deer, but it’s hard to notice while you’re busy making sense of his oddball characters and dialogue. So now something amazing has happened, and he’s applied those bold visuals (now featuring more fisheye lens than I’ve ever seen in a movie theater) to someone else’s script, a period comedy about women in high court behaving badly. The result wipes the floor with last year’s The Death of Stalin. And YL’s actors have always been splendid, but it’s been hard to tell since they fall into an uncanny valley of almost-not-quite human behavior, so now that they’re playing recognizable humans with killer comic insult dialogue, they’re all getting award nominations.
Queen Olivia Colman’s best friend Rachel Weisz handles all the complex policy issues while the queen hides away in her rabbit room, and this is fine until Rachel’s cousin Emma Stone shows up and starts insinuating herself. These are all based on real people according to the wiki, though it doesn’t mention whether the real Queen had 17 pet rabbits representing all her miscarried children. Nicholas “Beast/Nux” Hoult plays a parliament member who tries to get Emma to spy for him, and maybe if I see him in a few more movies I’ll start to recognize him, but probably not. Premiered at Venice with Roma, Buster Scruggs, Suspiria and Vox Lux, and sold out Phipps on a Sunday matinee, which I thought was impressive until I realized Phipps got those gigantic lounge seats and now only 24 people can fit in their tiny theaters.
“I am like a Spanish Conquistador. Recently, I’ve learned of untold riches hidden deep in the Americas.”
A strange idea, obsessing over the “this is a true story” opening titles of Fargo, putting a degraded VHS tape of that movie into the hands of an already disconnected-from-reality Japanese woman whose hobby is treasure hunting, and setting her loose in Minnesota. However this movie, which opens with those same Fargo titles, is at least loosely based on a true story of a Japanese woman found dead outside Fargo.
Judging from the blu-ray alternate scenes, it seems the Zellners are inclined towards absurd comedy but dialed it down for the feature, so we’re left with a character study of a nearly mute, mostly unsympathetic (she rips off everyone she comes across) woman with a singleminded need to find something that we know doesn’t exist: the briefcase of money a wounded Steve Buscemi buried in the snow on a roadside twenty years earlier. Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim, Norwegian Wood) is engrossing to watch, and it’s fun to see the Minnesotans vainly try to culturally connect with Kumiko (asking at a Chinese restaurant if anyone can translate Japanese, giving her a copy of Shogun, offering her a ride to the Mall of America). I appreciated the concept and performances but wasn’t feeling it overall.
Bedtime for Bunzo:
This pet store had an owl, a parrot and a monkey, and the combination of their sounds stunned my two birds into silence:
Black Something (2016, Zellner Bros.)
Found on Filmstruck: the directors’ new homage to Malle’s Black Moon. A short burst of weirdness, and the first thing I tried to watch on that site, so I can’t tell if the barking dogs sound was out-of-sync on purpose or if this is gonna be a problem. A girl picks flower petals, centipedes wriggle, plants drip with goo, and frilly collar-wearing dogs attack a bear.