I came in expecting Baby Driver Wright, not Hot Fuzz Wright, so wasn’t disappointed. BDW has minor plot issues that become exasperatingly major in the last half hour, but at least three absolutely dazzling scenes per movie – instead of musical car chases, here it’s Thomasin “Leave No Trace” McKenzie dreaming Anya Taylor-Joy’s nightlife fifty years earlier, the two actresses swapping places in reflective surfaces.

At least I liked it better than rogerebert.com did:

Amid colorful, surreal kaleidoscopic reflections, a gaggle of morbid apparitions appear to attack Ellie. These ghosts elicit few frights due to their indistinguishability, and how often Wright deploys them. The ever-shrinking boundaries between Ellie and Sandy might be intriguing if the two were more connected beyond having the same address in different decades.

Just saw Anya’s charismatic pimp Matt Smith as a social worker in His House. Diana “Emma Peel” Rigg is Thomasin’s landlord, aka Anya herself all grown up and murderous. Other swingin’ 60’s actors: Rita Tushingham (The Knack) as Thomasin’s mom and Terence Stamp as a guy who hangs around whom she suspects of being the Old Pimp but is really just a doomed ex-cop. Michael Ajao (Attack the Block) is Thomasin’s over-the-top helpful love interest.

Extremely convoluted and vaguely offensive, with more ideas per minute than anything else I’ve seen this year… which is to say that my high expectations set by Bodied have been met. Set in a high school where all the kids are obsessed with the 90’s. There’s a “gotta fled” reference.

After a false start, Riley is our loser main girl (Shanley Caswell seemed up-and-coming then followed this up with a David DeCoteau movie) who decides to hang herself in the school hallway and ends up fighting off an axe murderer in a princess crown cosplaying the horror sequel all the kids want to see, Cinderhella 2. She and Josh “Hunger Games” Hutcherson try to stay alive long enough to solve the mystery. There’s body swapping and time travel and alien abduction. Dumbfounded from Bodied downloads an illegal workprint of Cinderhella 3 seeking clues from the future. Shout out to Adrian Martin for listing this as one of the century’s greatest films.

Kahn:

Horror was the bait that we were dangling so we could flip all the genres around … One of the conceits of the movie was to put each of the characters in their own genre: one of them is in a sexcapade, one of them is in a horror movie, one of them is in Clueless. And then over the course of the movie they sort of start to peek over into each other’s genres. The only one who can’t see outside of his genre is Sander, who is a version of those Columbine guys. He has no backstory.

Anthony Mackie (currently having a superhero moment on TV) and his partner Jamie Dornan (Barb & Star) are New Orleans paramedics investigating a bad drug scene in a crazy long take. Mackie has an unusual brain tumor, dreams of flooding coffins, and as they discover a wave of deaths from the titular drug which lets you “experience time as it actually is” (?), Dornan’s teen daughter takes it and vanishes. Since Mackie is dying anyway and has a suspiciously coincidental pineal gland abnormality, he sets off trying to rescue his friend’s daughter from a series of pasts. “The past fucking sucks,” he accurately reports after every few-minutes-long jump back attempts to kill him. He even World-of-Tomorrows to the ancient tundra, very exciting. Things work out for the girl, if not for Mackie. More conventional than Benson & Moorhead’s other features, but as long as they keep making time-loop thrillers, I will keep watching them.

Our dudes go to the fair:

My notes include things like “Ives leads red team splinter group to recover algorithm,” which didn’t even make sense at the time, so I’m skipping the attempted plot summary of this cinematic Sator square. Branagh is an arms dealer helping execute attacks from the future, smuggling in reverse-kinetic objects and backwards-moving people. His abused wife is Debicki, the helpless woman only concerned for her child’s safety while the real men do all the work. Those men are serious spy-dude Washington and his chill buddy Pattinson. Bits of exposition via Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, and Martin Donovan! I took some advice and just watched the hell out of this (with subtitles) without insisting that it make any sense – though I guessed early on that anyone half-glimpsed in the first half of the movie would turn out to be our reversed heroes in the second half – and had a good time. It never stops talking utter nonsense for 150 minutes, and none of the action scenes were as impressive as expected. Michael Sicinski on Patreon: “But then again, I’ve never seen a building un-blow-up on the top, only to re-blow-up on the bottom. That was cool.”

“In case you’re wondering I’m essentially an infinite me.”

They finally did it. I haven’t rewatched the originals since their premieres, but all essential backstory is dutifully repeated here. I love that in all their possible messed-up futures, Bill and Ted are still together – it’s never even dreamed that they wouldn’t be together. Their daughters Billie and Thea, traveling through time collecting famous musicians like in the first movie, are clearly being set up as the actual chosen-ones who will play the song that heals all of time and space – so clearly that the actual reveal is less of a “whoa” and more of a “yeah finally” – but maybe this was designed to distract us from the movie’s real twist, that the perfect song Bill & Ted spend all movie (and half their lives) looking for doesn’t exist. It doesn’t matter what they play, as long as they all play it together. This… should not have made me cry… and I’m not saying it did… but it’s been a heavy year, huh?

From the original writers and the director of Galaxy Quest. Thea is from Three Billboards, Billie from Action Point, Kristen Schaal replacing Rufus (who appears briefly as a hologram), and they’ve got the original Death. NoHo Hank from Barry plays a robot assassin, and I love this guy in everything. Brittany Runs a Marathon star Jillian Bell is couples therapist for Bill & Ted and their princesses (who have been recast to be younger: Erinn Hayes of Childrens Hospital, and Jayma Mays of American Made). Kid Cudi is most excellent as himself.

World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime (2020, Don Hertzfeldt)

Hertzfeldt comes up with his biggest horror yet: embedded-HUD popup ads. A future Emily backup clone contacts a past David and sends him on a disfiguring journey to retrieve secret messages about the clandestine between-time assassinations of various Davids by other Davids. It’s twisty! And excellent, and full of more wonderful quotes, and I’ll be watching these forever.


Stump the Guesser (2020, Maddin/Johnson/Johnson)

The Odenkirk-looking Guesser (The Editor from The Editor) is renowned for his abilities, but when he runs out of guessing milk, things go bad and his guessing license is revoked. But during this time he falls in love with his long-lost sister, spends some time scientifically disproving theories of heredity in order to marry her, but things go badly at the end when he has to guess which door she’s behind. Some fun leaps of logic and distorted visuals here, but I wasn’t feeling it as much as other Maddin films.


Accounting for some other things watched recently… The Mads from MST3K have been doing monthly live shows. I checked out Glen or Glenda, a movie that’s so busy explaining itself that it never gets to the movie, and told Neil:

That was… really fun. That’s the most I’ve enjoyed a MST3K-related thing since the end of the sci-fi channel years. I don’t know if it’s because of their obvious affection for the material, or if I’m just in the right mood. I’d never seen the feature either – shame on me, after digging the Tim Burton version for 25 years now (oh you just tried to watch it, is it cringey now? Is it Johnny Depp’s fault?) and the Mads nailed it in their intro when they said this movie has everything, but it also has nothing.

Next was The Tingler, which I already just barely remember (also explainy, features Vincent Price)… then the truly baffling, tensionless version of The Most Dangerous Game called Walk The Dark Street. I think the guy from The Rifleman played the baddie. Then some shorts I should track and name, but am not gonna.


Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas is her stand-up comedy special to follow Nanette, which was the special to end stand-up comedy, and yet she pulls off the follow-up by creating another perfectly-constructed show and this time being breathtakingly funny. That sounds like a cliche, but I had to pause the show to catch my breath.

And Katy and I watched something called Australia: Land of Parrots, which is everything you’d dream it would be, and I should just play it on a loop.

This stupid year is trying to kill my blog, but it still lives.

Movie follows tantrummy four-year-old boy Kun, voiced very unconvincingly by an 18-year-old girl, as he gradually learns simple lessons. He resents his new sister Mirai until she visits from the future and shows him scenes from their family history. He becomes the family dog, goes on a motorcycle ride with his post-WWII grandpa, flies around with the swallows, and gets Christmas Caroled into being nicer to his baby sister. I never got over Kun’s voice – maybe the English version is better.

Now I’ve seen all of the 2018 animated feature oscar nominees – the worthy winner, an all-time fave, two disappointing sequels, and… this. We’re following Hosoda’s career but seeing diminishing returns.

Cool train station agent, tho:

Final movie watched in the 2010’s. I rewatched Orpheus near the beginning of the decade, and it took me this long to get to the next one. Meant to watch the trilogy closer together, then go through the Lucien Clergue book, but instead it took 15 years and I don’t have the book handy, think it’s in storage. I did find The Eagle Has Two Heads and The Human Voice and The Difficulty of Being, the last of which was written in 1957, so has no wisdom about the making of this film. But like this film, the 1957 book seems very precious and big-headed about the magic powers of Jean’s great poetry.

A semi-sequel, opening with a clip from the end of Orpheus with the dialogue silenced, Jean ends up stepping inside his own film and interacting with his characters Princess Maria Casares and her accomplice Heurtebise. They’ve put Jean on trial for something or other, and this conversation eats up 25 minutes of an 80-minute movie, erasing the memory of the beautiful silence of the opening scene with constant chatter. The underworld actors look terrific at all times, at least. Jean puts himself in the position of being defensive about his art – when you are this explicit about the nature and intent of poetry, it ceases to be poetic. When he first entered the world of his previous film, I thought this is some Beaches of Agnes / Simon Cinema stuff, but this centerpiece trial feels more like an Orpheus DVD extra.

Before the trial, a bewigged time-traveling Jean visits a professor at four times in his life: as a schoolboy (Jean-Pierre Leaud! This played Cannes exactly a year after The 400 Blows), as a baby and a dying old man, and finally the active doctor he’s seeking. He follows a horse-headed man, rediscovers his Orphic character Cégeste, then to the trial, where he gives the best line to another character: “He is a poet, which makes him indispensable, though I don’t know what for.” I liked the lack of set dressing, shooting in an undressed studio and against ancient/timeless walls covered in modern graffiti. Into a Kafkaesque underworld ruled by Yul Brynner, where Jean is javelinned to death then reborn.

From Cocteau’s essay reprinted for the Criterion discs, it seems he intended Orpheus to be the narrative centerpiece between two less-narrative films. And more than those other two, this one was filmed on intuition:

Often, while making the film, I understood so little of what I was producing that I was tempted to call it absurd and to cut it out. At those times, I forced myself to condemn my own judgment and to tell myself that if the film wanted it that way to begin with, it must have had its reasons, or that reason had nothing to do with it.

The essay has one thing in common with The Difficulty of Being: shitting on French audiences, “where every member of an individualistic crowd puts up an instinctive resistance to what is offered him,” for not appreciating poetry and fantasy in cinema. Shot by Roland Pontoizeau, a Resnais associate who’d worked on Le chant du Styrène – the DP of Orpheus was off working with Melville and Rohmer.

Kazuko (Tomoyo Harada, later narrator of the 1997 version) has known flower-obsessed Kazuo (Ryôichi Takayanagi of a couple other Obayashi films) since childhood. They’ve always been close, and once drank each other’s blood after a broken mirror incident. So she confides in him after passing out in a science lab and waking up with the barely-controlled ability to jump back in time, saving people from tragedies she’s seen occur from falling roofs and zooming bikes.

But it turns out these two met just recently, and Kazuo is a time traveler from the year 2660, collecting plants from the past for scientific research since the future world is barren, and he has psychically manipulated people into believing they’re friends with him, stealing Kazuko’s memories of her childhood friend Goro (Toshinori Omi, star of gender-swap comedy I Are You, You Am Me). The movie plays all this straight, just 1980’s teen drama to the point that even 1980’s-teen-drama-loving Katy, who loves the animated version, got bored and wandered off, but there’s some fun crazy stop-motion towards the end as she hurtles through time.