Early Wenders muse Rüdiger Vogler drives past Richmond, gets to NYC and sells his car, then goes to Shea Stadium – I like this guy already. He’s a writer/photographer disowned by his editor for wandering the States and ignoring his story and deadlines, but he’s got enough cash to fly home. After he meets a woman and her daughter at the airport then the woman disappears, the movie sneakily adopts my least favorite movie plot of all (aimless adult gets stuck with precocious child), but somehow remains good. Robby Müller did nice work in Goalie, kills it here. Almost Kaurismäkian in its large-heartedness – rare that I watch a movie from the 1970s and think things were better back then. Rüdiger keeps behaving in a very relatable manner (he drops the girl at a police station and goes to a Chuck Berry concert).
Rüdiger on TV: “All these TV images come down to the same common, ugly message: a kind of vicious contempt. No image leaves you in peace. They all want something from you.”
Memorial screening for Friedkin. I thought about rewatching Bug, but should really check this out – I’d avoided it after deciding Wages of Fear couldn’t be topped. And maybe not, but nearly equaled. Same story of two trucks with redundant supplies of unstable dynamite heading for an oil-well fire over treacherous terrain, but this time the drivers are more desperate than ever, after an extended intro showing each of their criminal enterprises that led them to hide out in South America under fake names. 1970s Lead Character Roy Scheider drives with shady Francisco Rabal, and in the other truck is gentleman fraudster Bruno Cremer (a Brisseau star) and Jerusalem bomber Amidou (later in the Friedkin-indebted Ronin).
The great Filipe Furtado:
What for Clouzot is social need, for Friedkin is self-punishment. First world crimes reimagined in a third world purgatory, an amusement park of unforgiven nature. The beauty is that everything is translated in pure action … Francisco Rabal’s taciturn killer is the film’s heart and Bruno Cremer’s masochist banker it is clear-eyed soul.
A movie about slackers and fuckups, shot with usually-in-focus handheld with little dodges and zooms. The soundtrack is the most professional part – an Of Montreal song follows a Spoon song. The legacy is that this was a key mumblecore movie along with Mutual Appreciation – movies about difficult nobodies which are discussed more for their very low budgets than for any craft.
I didn’t hate the story, but started to hate codirector Mark as he finally loses his shit over the difficulties involved in buying and retrieving a puffy chair for his dad over the internet. Tagging along is his brother Rhett Wilkins, whose open and impulsive character nicely balances Mark’s. And Katie Aselton (recently of She Dies Tomorrow and Synchronic) as “the girl.” I dunno about mumblecore, but if She Dies Tomorrow was the end result then I’m happy to pay respects to its roots.
The movie ends up where all movies must: driving into Atlanta
Memorial screening for Charles Grodin and Yaphet Kotto, here playing a criminal banker and an FBI agent with his identity stolen, respectively. Robert De Niro is the bounty hunter returning Grodin from NY to LA. It’s a wacky crime comedy road movie, with the cops and the gangsters (led by Dennis Farina) and RdN’s rival hunter Marvin (John Ashton of Beverly Hills Cop) all after them, so it’s sufficiently incident-packed to be a hugely successful commercial hit. Throwing in a sad visit to RdN’s family, and morally letting the criminal off the hook at the end turns it into a solid 80’s classic (pretty sure I saw it in theaters on first release) and also a semi-remake of Remember The Night. Got tired of Marvin, didn’t buy that the criminal snipers would open fire on the cops, otherwise lives up to the legend.
Victor’s dad (Gary Farmer!) leaves, never comes back, dies a decade later. So sullen teenage Victor takes an interstate trip to see where he died, collect his ashes, meet dad’s girlfriend (Irene Bedard), that sort of thing. He is joined by an overenthusiastic nerdy neighbor Thomas, and they mostly ride by bus on the way down, and drive dad’s truck back.
References: Gary Farmer asks Victor who’s his favorite Indian, Victor repeatedly yells “Nobody“… and Thomas is said to be obsessed with Dances With Wolves, which featured Victor’s mom Tantoo Cardinal. A journey/road trip/family secrets drama that sometimes feels standard-issue, but has some standout technical moments (moving from the lead actors to their flashback-younger-selves without cutting, indicating that the past is always present) and an unusually strong ending, with Gary unforgiven and Victor dealing with a mess of emotions.
Simple, straightforward, obvious movie full of affable people, a pleasant diversion with some delicious-looking food but probably not even as great/interesting as something like Waitress.
Favreau’s smallest film in over a decade, but probably didn’t feel small since he was writer/director/producer/star/cook. Although it might’ve been ghostwritten by Twitter. His movie star friends come along – Avengers Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. play his restaurant hostess and ex-wife’s ex-husband. Sofia Vergara (vengeful brothel mistress of Machete Kills) is the still-friendly ex-wife, Dustin Hoffman the chef’s boss, Oliver Platt the restaurant critic who sends Favreau on a road-trip journey of self-discovery, starting from scratch and remembering what he loved about cooking (alongside longtime assistant John Leguizamo) and reconnecting with his favorite regional dishes and his 10-year-old son and ex-wife and finally making up with the critic (but not with Dustin Hoffman) and opening his own place and getting remarried.
Steve Coogan’s possibly-ex-girlfriend is in the States, so he gets fellow TV comic Rob Brydon to join him for a would-be-romantic road trip to high-end northern England restaurants. Along the way, Steve makes anxious calls to his girl, to his agent (an American cable series is offered, with a seven-year commitment) and to his ex-wife and son. Rob’s only phone usage is for a nightly phone-sex appointment with his wife. Steve fusses over his career, wonders why he’s not the star he considers himself to be, and constantly puts down and one-ups Rob.
The fun of the six-episode series (which I watched since the movie version isn’t out yet) is in the often hilarious, somewhat bitter but always ultimately comic conversations between Steve and Rob, plus the great scenery and food. The movie aspires to more, though, and it’s more successful with its portrayal of a complicated friendship than with the time given to Steve’s personal and professional unhappiness. Each episode ends with him sighing heavily after an unpleasant phone call, looking unhappily into the distance, trying to make himself look younger in the mirror, and imitating Rob’s TV characters which he derides in public. I get the intent, to make Coogan a deep, sad character, but it comes off as repetitive and slightly self-indulgent. Brydon is given less depth, just a satisfied family man who loves doing the celebrity impressions that made his TV career. Coogan has a point that Rob gets annoying in large doses, but Rob confidently holds his own against Steve’s constant jabs.
The AV Club reviewers liked the film version in general, had some complaints I can’t disagree with. N. Murray: “While I liked the movie, there’s no reason why this couldn’t have been something I loved.” S. Tobias: “The choices [Winterbottom] makes in the editing room (and perhaps on set, too) seem off here … there are scenes that are allowed to go on too long or repeat a scene earlier in the film.”
Slant: “Its wry pricking of supercilious egos suggests a more self-aware version of Sideways.”
A long, strange trip. Well, not that strange compared to other Japanese movies I’ve seen, but didn’t go in any direction I expected. The beginning (which I’ve watched before) shows a hijacker killing off hostages before getting taken out by the police, leaving only the bus driver (the great Kôji Yakusho, who himself played a kidnapper in Tokyo Sonata) and two kids alive. Now we’ve got over three hours left to follow these three depressed individuals as they do nothing much. Oh, and it’s all b/w sepia-toned, which I thought was supposed to correlate to the survivors’ sense of distance from the world around them, the current moment already seeming like a faded postcard, confirmed when it turns to color as the girl lightens up in the final scene.
Anyway, after the incident bus driver Makoto is disappearing for months at a time and working low-ambition jobs, while the children (Kozue and her older brother Naoki) are on their own after one parent leaves and the other dies… so Makoto moves in with them, soon joined by the kids’ older cousin Akihiko (Yôichirô Saitô of The Mourning Forest) on summer break from classes. Nothing happens, so Makoto buys a bus and the four tour the countryside where nothing continues to happen. Except young women are getting murdered wherever they go. Makoto is suspected, but he catches Naoki red-handed and turns him in. Akihiko, pretty much the only one of them who ever says anything, says that past traumas always cause people to contemplate murder (a dubious theory), but he makes M. angry and gets kicked out of the bus. Cathartic ending, Kozue speaking for the first time in ages, turn to color, etc.
Weird, the young girl Aoi Miyazaki seems to play the same character in Aoyama’s Sad Vacation, as do a couple other actors. After watching this and the director’s made-for-TV Mike Yokohama flick, I don’t think I’ll be renting Sad Vacation in a big hurry. Got nothing against long, slow, monochrome movies about sad people (hello, Bela Tarr), but Aoyama’s particular sad people aren’t doing it for me.