High-Rise (2015, Ben Wheatley)

Loki moves into a class-stratified apartment building topped by The Architect Jeremy Irons, and it quickly goes to hell. There’s lots of drinking & smoking & cocaine & sex (with Baroness Sienna Miller) above, while the lower floors lose power and their composure. Belatedly the movie tries to tell us who is whose secret mistress or absentee father, but we’ve lost interest in personal details by that point. Not a dystopian-universe Snowpiercer thing like I expected from reading some Ballard stories – the world outside the apartment seems mostly unaffected.

I liked Pontypoolian Luke “Not Chris” Evans as pregnant Elisabeth Moss’s shithead-turned-documentarian husband. Some okay music choices too, like closing with The Fall’s Industrial Estate, and an upper-class chamber version of Abba’s S.O.S. (later, the sadsack Donnie Darko version doesn’t work as well)

Evans:

Tom Charity in Cinema Scope:

Seizing on the delightfully oxymoronic possibilities of an apocalyptic period film, Wheatley has retained the ’70s period trappings … Yet the movie feels of our time too, immediate, or perhaps imminent, a flash-forward (not backwards) to a present tense we already know in our bones: savage, chaotic, cannibalistic, and doomed. As Ballard puts it, it exists in “a future that had already taken place, and was now exhausted.”

Bridge of Spies (2015, Steven Spielberg)

Interesting and (obviously) expertly made and acted drama following U.S. lawyer Donovan hired to defend captured Russian spy Abel in American courts. He gets behind the job more than his bosses expected and is later talked into helping negotiate a trade: his client for an American spy the Russians captured, and possibly also for a student who found himself on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall.

I got mostly a Spielberg/Hanks flavor from it, but Sam Adams caught some good Coen Bros. screenplay moments:

Donovan’s first scene in Bridge of Spies shows him haggling with another lawyer over an insurance settlement – a strangely protracted exchange that bears the mark of the Coens’ habit of falling in love with their own dialogue. But the skirmish between them is linguistic as well as legal: Donovan’s opponent keeps referring to the driver of the car that crashed and injured five men as “your guy”, and Donovan keeps demurring: “We are talking about a guy who’s insured by my client. He’s not my guy.” The issue of whether Abel is or is not “his guy” is later raised in court, and it hangs over the rest of the movie. Is Donovan simply a lawyer doing his appointed duty, or has he actually begun to understand how the world looks from Abel’s point of view?

Now Playing: a Billy Wilder comedy set in West Berlin, the blacklist-busting Spartacus,
British horror with German director, and 1962 West German murder mystery based on British novel:

Appearances by Alan Alda and Amy Ryan. Mark Rylance won an oscar for playing the passive and unflappable captured spy, whose signature line whenever asked why he’s not worrying is “would it help?” Adam Nayman’s Cinema Scope writeup, which I’m too tired to type up here, gets to the bottom of some of my ambivalent feelings about the story and the cold war atmosphere.

X-Men 6: Apocalypse (2016, Bryan Singer)

At a time when movies are dominated by comics, Bryan Singer’s got a franchise all to himself. He directed parts 1 and 2, cowrote and produced part 4, directed parts 5 and 6… and had nothing to do with part 3. “At least we can all agree: the third one‘s always the worst,” says Jean Grey leaving a Return of the Jedi screening, establishing our mid-1980’s setting while letting us know Singer’s thoughts on the Brett Ratner entry. Soon after, Quicksilver tells someone that Magneto is his father, and I can’t tell if we’re still making Star Wars references.

Quicksilver:

Quicksilver and Nightcrawler in the same movie is a dream come true – every time they warp through time and space it’s thrilling. The Professor X vs. Magneto thing is old hat by now, nobody cares about Agent Rose Byrne, Beast is okay and Mystique is blah. Oscar Isaac appears as his unconscious self for ten seconds before becoming Apocalypse and ceasing to be Oscar Isaac completely – it’s either an immersive performance or a total waste of a promising young actor in a role that could’ve been played by a CG-enhanced mannequin. As always, the ending hinges on whether Magneto is truly evil or can be convinced to compromise.

Apocalypse and his Horsemen: Storm, Angel, and this lightsaber girl, the fourth horseman being Magneto, who becomes evil again out of rage when his perfect wife and kid are murdered by some doomed motherfuckers in Poland where he’s hiding out after whatever happened in part four.

Since I don’t rewatch the movies and the first one was nearly two decades ago, it’s hard to keep track of all the characters and timelines and paradoxes, but I assume the writers have this stuff taken care of, and the fact that Angel dies in 1984 but is back in part three (?) makes sense to someone. Also, I keep seeing Jubilee in the credits for X-Men movies – who the hell is Jubilee?

Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) is Young Jean Grey, seen here with Young Cyclops (Tye Sheridan of Mud) and Beast:

I notice Days of Future Past and this movie bringing back Stryker (Brian Cox’s character in part two) as a minor baddie, and I assume he’s the tie-in to the solo Wolverine films, none of which I’ve seen. And coincidentally, the week after watching this movie I saw a trailer for the third one of those, Logan, which looks awful.

Some uncomfortable politics as usual, bringing up Auschwitz yet again, and having a middle-eastern villain watching American news footage of 1980’s decadence and decrying our false idols and weak leaders. Also Professor X’s chamber where he can spy on the thoughts of anyone in the world hasn’t aged so well. Better to focus on the series’ overall focus on acceptance of difference, but even that has taken a back seat to the action scenes since part two.

ParaNorman (2012, Laika)

Finally watched this Laika movie. I love love loved the look, beautiful stop-motion with ghostly effects. A total visual triumph, and I wish we’d caught it in theaters. Didn’t expect the screenplay to suck, though. Overall story is fine, weird kid in town can see ghosts, has to use his powers to save the town from a vindictive witch, but most of the plot points and dialogue were boring and obvious, led by a veritable who-cares of voice acting. Maybe it’s just because we watched it on Halloween (Katy’s sole SHOCKtober film) and treaters interrupted the movie every five minutes so I couldn’t get sucked into its particular atmosphere.

The cast:

The crew:

HyperNormalisation (2016, Adam Curtis)

“His favorite band was the Electric Light Orchestra. But now, he was president.”

Fascinating story of Muammar Qadaffi, history lessons combined with Tarkovsky and De Palma clips. Not as fanciful with the stock footage as earlier docs since Curtis has real news footage for most of his story now. Been pondering the movie title in different contexts. Might have to watch this again a few times.

Stormy Weather (1943, Andrew Stone)

Episodic musical with odd framing story, Bill receiving mail and having to convince an assembled crowd of kids that he used to be a big time musician and dancer who rolled with Cab Calloway and Lena Horne and Fats Waller. In flashbacks, Bill starts in the army band then bounces to different locations, accumulating famous friends starting with Lena (wearing a series of magnificent hats). We kept hoping the movie wasn’t setting them up as a romantic couple since Bill is forty years older, but it didn’t really have romance (or story, or dialogue, or acting) on its mind – just a string of increasingly great musical numbers from an all-black cast culminating in the most outrageous Nicholas Brothers routine.

Stone was oscar-nominated a decade later for a Doris Day comedy thriller. Most of his movies star the whitiest white people and are now obscure. Neither Bill “Bojangles” Robinson nor Fats would live past the 1940’s, but Lena and Cab and the Nicholas Brothers lived another 50+ years, hopefully long enough to win every award and accolade.

Fats:

Lena smiles so hard I’m surprised she didn’t hurt herself:

These two MUST have hurt themselves:

Miss Hokusai (2015, Keiichi Hara)

The famous painter Hokusai and his daughter O-Ei work in the same house, sometimes finishing each other’s works. She likes a dreamy guy, but some doofus guy likes her. She has a blind sister whom Hokusai never visits, and the sister takes up about half the movie. A few moments of grace (the paintings coming to life, blind girl making snow angels, geisha whose head escapes at night) enliven an ordinary story that opens awkwardly with out-of-place guitar rock then limps along to the end after the blind girl dies. Katy says the advertisements were misleading, implying that O-Ei would break free from her dad’s shadow and find her own style.

Lemonade (2016, Beyoncé)

This is more a collection of music videos broken up by vignettes (words by Somali poet Warsan Shire) than a feature film or any sort of documentary. After the Nick Cave movie I thought perhaps I’d watch this and Frank Ocean’s Endless, the three 2016 albums which were released as movies, but the Ocean is still a store-exclusive (for future study: Let England Shake, Centipede Hz and Beyoncé’s previous album).

Pray You Catch Me:

Hold Up:

Sorry:


But oh, what music videos – some of the best photography and movement and costume/makeup design of the year, illustrating the greatest concept album of the year.

Daddy Lessons:

Love Drought:

Forward (Michael Brown and his mother):


Cinematographers include Malik Sayeed (He Got Game, Clockers), Reed Morano (Vinyl, Kill Your Darlings) and Khalik Allah (Field Niggas), and codirectors include Kahlil Joeseph (The Reflektor Tapes) and Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go).

Formation:

Night Moves (2013, Kelly Reichardt)

Reichardt’s darkest movie, thematically and visually. Extremist environmentalist Jesse Eisenberg blows up a dam along with Dakota Fanning (providing the funds) and Peter Sarsgaard (handy with explosives), killing a camper with the ensuing flood. Days later, Dakota is freaking out from guilt, so Jesse murders her, then flees into the anonymous suburbs.

A. Stoehr:

They’re young, sensitive, brooding, idealistic — not tortured, exactly, but stung by the feeling that they have to do something and totally destroyed by the something they end up doing.

V. Rizov:

The middle-aged suburban guy selling his fishing vessel couldn’t be more innocuous in his personal manner, but we see his neighborhood through Josh’s angry eyes: the backyard waterfall is a clear misallocation of resources, the golf on TV the final insult … The way Contagion forced viewers to see every surface as a potential viral breeding ground rather than an neutral object, Night Moves makes it easier to view the everyday world’s physical components through perpetually, justifiably aggrieved environmentalist eyes.

Night Moves has a hint of a repeatedly disenchanted activist’s understandable bubbling-under stridency while adding to Reichardt’s gallery of would-be liberal American citizens navigating a hostile landscape already shaped and perhaps permanently ruined by those who came before.

Reichardt:

What should anybody be doing right now? No answer was discovered in the making of the film for that question.