Cursed Mutant kids meet up and share a musical connection. Tomona was blinded by the magic sword that killed his father, and Inu-Oh was born a mutant due to a deal his serial killer father made with a magic mask. Stories of mutants and curses are usually good, and Yuasa’s animation is playful and unusual, especially when visualizing how blind Tomona “sees” the world through sounds. But then after a half hour it abruptly becomes a hard rock musical… returning to sum up the kids’ stories at the end, but too late. And while some directors will shoot the plot scenes normally then make the style come alive during musical numbers, Yuasa does the opposite. The whole hour of rock & roll theatrics is full of repeated shots and movements and angles, third-rate early-MTV stuff.
Drive My Car (2021, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)
A total acting study, enamored with its actors, and about acting. These are really fun to watch – I preferred Drive over Wheel, even though the former is too long.
My book report to Richard on the Murakami story: Published in 2014, I still don’t know if the lead character’s name Kafuku is a reference to Kafka (or Murakami’s 2002 novel Kafka on the Shore). The Chekhov play is in the original (but much LESS Chekhov). Driver Misaki’s mom died while driving drunk, not in a landslide, and Misaki’s character/personality isn’t really explored beyond her driving ability. Kafuku is telling the driver stories about the young actor Takatsuki who slept with his wife – this happened years earlier, so the driver never sees the actor in person – but some of the dialogue is the same. The biggest change: the Saab 900 is yellow in the book.
Our man Kafuku is Hidetoshi Nishijima, lead cop in Creepy… driver Toko Miura a minor player in Lesson of Evil… deadwife Oto is Reika Kirishima of Godzilla Final Wars, and both she and her husband have been in Murakami adaptations before. Actor Takatsuki is Masaki Okada – looked familiar but nope, in a recent Miike sequel and a Japanese remake of Cube. One guy in the play’s cast must be Filipino – a Lav Diaz regular, I’ve seen him in Norte.
Stage Fright (1987, Michele Soavi)
On the plus side, the psycho murdering an entire theater group trapped in a locked building is wearing a beautiful owl mask. On the minus, as noted by a letterboxd user this is “super limp [with] dogshit gore FX, awful sound mix, lame characters.” I also felt like it was holding back for a PG rating, feeling tame despite the chopped-off body parts. So, the worst of the four Soavi horrors, but also the earliest – and the climactic scene where the final girl is retrieving a key amidst the Owl’s murder tableau looked great.
A collaboration from the writers of Porno Holocaust and Ghosthouse (there’s your problem). Old Cop was Mickey Knox of the Roger Corman Frankenstein. The Brave Theater Director (who once throws an actress at the chainsaw-wielding killer to save himself) is David Brandon of Jubilee. The actor/dancer who was supposed to play the owl and the security guy who finally shoots the murderous fake owl had both played in City of the Living Dead, and final girl Barbara Cupisti would return as art restorationist of The Church.
Salome’s Last Dance (1988, Ken Russell)
Right after watching Henry V, here’s another play adapted into a movie in which the play is performed before an audience. In this case, the audience is Wilde himself, whose new Salome play has been banned so his favorite brothel treats him to a surprise performance of it. So the makeup and costumes and performances are all over the top, and every actor in this is worth at least ten of the Henry V actors. “What our production lacks in stagecraft we hope to make up in enthusiasm.”
Salome introduces herself to Wilde:
Ken Russell is what happens when a master of cinema technique is also a very silly goose. The great Glenda Jackson (Women in Love) played the queen, Stratford Johns (Lair of the White Worm) the king, Nickolas Grace (jerky guest in Sleepwalker) as Wilde, and John the Baptist was the proprietor of Black Museum. The lead actress, so good in this, never appeared in another film due to illness, but according to a Guardian article her health improved.
The Great Garrick (1937, James Whale)
A movie full of 1930’s big loud actors portraying 1750’s big loud actors trying to out-act each other. Brian Aherne (in both the 1950’s Titanic movie and a 1940’s movie with the same title as another Titanic movie) is Garrick, the “greatest” actor in Britain, off to France to work with the Comedie Francaise, but after a perceived insult they intercept him at an inn, pretending to be innkeepers and patrons, scripting a plot to make a fool of him. He’s onto their scheme and plays along, but Olivia de Havilland shows up unexpectedly and nobody knows what to do with her. Whale seems to excel at making horror movies that are secretly comedies, and when he makes a straight comedy here it’s not so amusing. The wikis say that Whale made an anti-nazi movie in 1937 that was neutered in re-editing by his nazi sympathizer bosses at Universal, so this wasn’t his year.
Television and Fashion Ads and Company, 2020
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:
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.
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.
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.
Footlight Parade (1933, Lloyd Bacon)
We watch classic musicals sometimes. I never thought a 1930’s backstage drama starring James Cagney as an obsessed showman, costarring with the entire Gold Diggers of 1933 cast, would turn out to be the elusive Perfect Film, but there ya go.
Insect (2018, Jan Svankmajer)
A theater group – not a very good one – is rehearsing the 1921 satire The Insect Play, but the guy playing Dung Beetle (Jirí Lábus, of a fascinating-sounding 1994 version of Amerika) keeps hallucinating insects (real and stop-motion) while learning his lines.
From the very beginning, Svankmajer and his crew appear onscreen, like the DVD extras have been cut into the feature. After a scene it’ll show the filming, the animation, direction, insect wrangling, sound effects (with constant scraping and clanking sounds plus the insect patter, they’re great throughout), or interview the actors about their dreams.
Fun movie, and only 93 minutes, a breeze to watch. To that point, it doesn’t seem like Svankmajer’s most consequential film, nor does it appear to be some kind of final statement on his career, unless I’m missing something about the Insect Play. Ungenerously, one could say choice of subject combined with the mechanics of behind-the-scenes production is the last word on his preference against humans and their messy realities. Jan: “I direct it like an animated film or puppet theater – short takes, minimal movement of the camera, stylized acting, no psychology, as if the actors had wires attached to the head and strings on the arms.”
Watching movies from last year’s Sundance and Rotterdam this week… this one premiered in Rotterdam’s Signatures section, playing with The Wandering Soap Opera, Lover for a Day, Mrs. Fang and Lek and the Dogs.
Madeline’s Madeline (2018, Josephine Decker)
The second movie I’ve seen this year with a sea turtle girl at the beach. The wikipedia version of this movie is a frustrated teen off her meds who finds a community in a weirdo theater troupe, but conflicts arise between the girl (Helena Howard) and her mom (Miranda July), spilling into her acting and vice versa, and this is encouraged past the point of comfort by theater director Molly Parker.
The experience of watching it is something different, with editing and camera focus and framing just all over the place. Butter on the Latch was similarly disorienting, but more energy here from characters and story drives the thing into a jittery madness which is extremely fun to watch.