Slice-of-life stuff, a grab bag of childhood memories. Not as egregious as Apollo 10.5, and with better music. The daughter Troy gradually becomes the lead character, things amp up cinematically when she stays with family in Virginia and Spike smooshes the aspect ratio as hard as Troy’s aunt’s dog gets smooshed in the sleeper sofa – and then amp up emotionally when mom Alfre Woodard dies after a very short (screentime-wise) illness.

Zelda Harris didn’t win her Young Artists Award category, but she was up against Kate Winslet and Natalie Portman, and they were all trounced by Anna Chlumsky anyway.

Some of the most daredevil action ever filmed, with the all-time flimsiest setup (the cops say drug smuggling is out of hand, requiring some kind of “super cop,” so Jackie Chan is called in). Maggie is left behind to be annoying alone, while Jackie springs a criminal from prison to gain his trust, then Michelle Yeoh pretends to be Jackie’s sister and saves their asses when they get busted while undercover. It’s a 1992 action movie, which means there are bazookas, and really too many things get blown up. But damn, Yeoh jumps a motorcycle onto a moving train.

The Realist (2013)

Intense flicker film, Ken Jacobs style. I think they’re stills, flickering between two perspectives not very far apart, like wearing 3D glasses and opening just one eye, then just the other. All mannequins, sometimes telling a male-gaze story, more often just taking in the scenery. Looks like unstaged setups at first, guy wandering into the mall with a camera, but gets increasingly posed – mannequins in a gallery against suit-fabric backgrounds… hands floating in a swimming pool. If I’m not reading too much narrative into it, seems to follow a sharp-dressed man leaving his modeling gig and hitting the gray city, dreaming wistfully of all the colors in the world, and getting hit by a truck and going to mannequin heaven.

Nicely synched to orchestral music (it figures that the one time I approve of an a/g film soundtrack it turns out to come from a Tzadik album). As with the timelapse movies, getting good stills from this is impossible, since the best bits occur between the frames, joined by the flicker edits. This would’ve been a lot of flicker to see in a theater – even on my laptop a couple of shots made my stomach flip. He thanks Lewis Klahr, yep. The artist describes it as a “doomed love story,” says the film is named after a 1950’s stereo camera. Michael Sicinski wrote about this in Mubi, comparing it to the only Kubelka film I’ve (barely) seen.

The neighbors definitely think he’s a murderer if they saw him filming this in the yard:

Traces 1-5 (2012)

More flicker photography with alternating frames of different halves of a photograph. This time instead of beautiful music, we get helicoptering static, the sound of the photos overlapping onto the optical soundtrack. Usually I’m against punishing a/g soundtracks but in this movie, without the the interest of the mannequins and bright fabrics, he’s filming rocks and leaves and sidewalks, so “hearing” the images is the most engaging part. Not the same work as Traces/Legacy (2015), which Sicinski also wrote about… this won an award at the Ann Arbor Fest, which I am only just discovering is an experimental fest with online screenings in March.

Speechless (2008)

The flickeriest, most melty-abstract one yet, and it’s built around extreme closeups of vulvas (taken from medical viewmaster slides!), edited against other textures (beach grass <> pubic hair), the music a pleasant drone.

Noema (1998)

Looped shots of people and camera changing position in porn films, the moments between the action, with a lock-groove score… then a montage of scene-change pillow shots with the sound of an event audience. The artist: “the repetitive and curious iterations of movement become furtive searches for meaning within their own blandness.”

A darker remake of High Sierra; all the characters here are worse, corrupt and quicker to turn on each other. Virginia Mayo very good, always looks like she has secret access to a well-equipped powder room in the dusty abandoned church where they’re hiding out, and bolder than Ida Lupino, gets killed along with Joel “Bogie” McCrea when he runs into the high sierras (err, the rockies).

Doctor Henry Hull is recast here as the girl’s dad, and Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) doesn’t just turn Joel down, she tries to turn him in for the reward money. Joel isn’t released from jail – he’s sprung by “the old man” who pairs him with two assholes for a train robbery. Tough guy Reno (Destination Moon star John Archer) and smart guy Duke (James Mitchell, also in Joel’s Stars in My Crown) get themselves hanged, and I think the traitor cop gets shot. All different dialogue, and just as good.

L-R: smart guy, tough guy, Mayo

Bogart plays a jewel thief with a heart of gold? Bronze, maybe. It was when he said they might as well shoot the dog that I knew he’d die at the end. The girl whose surgery he buys doesn’t love him. His client dies, the ex-cop working with them turns. Ida barely in the movie. Babe and Red are Bogie’s younger conspirators, Mendoza the inside man, all chumps. Real prolonged ending, the hopeless escape into the mountains followed by helpless Ida. Writing and actors all great, except for doctor Henry Hull (of The Return of Frank James and Werewolf of London).

David Ehrlich: “mostly astonished by the speed with which Raoul Walsh gets things going… hurry up and wait, with some of the quickest fades in film history, a breakneck pace to let Earle self-destruct in slow-motion.” Dave Kehr says Raoul is the least intellectual of the Ford-Hawksians and makes a good case for watching more Walsh films immediately.

Top-billed Ida… Bogart wasn’t yet a star:

Dog as bad luck charm:

Two Youths Helpless:

Wanda lives in a tore-up coal town, arrives late to her own divorce and says he should take the kids, then she’s told she is too slow to work at the clothing factory. She sleeps with the first dude who buys her a rolling rock, but he ditches her. Falls asleep at the movies and gets robbed. Then semi-competent thief Mr. Dennis comes around and she becomes his getaway driver. Dennis wants a big score, so kidnaps a bank manager and gets killed in the ensuing heist – the Criterion cover art is her outside the bank among the onlookers before drifting away alone.

Amy Taubin for Criterion:

Loden said that Wanda and the other films she was trying to make (including a screen adaptation of Kate Chopin’s protofeminist novel The Awakening, whose protagonist, like Wanda, walks out on her husband and children) were psychological studies set in a specific milieu. Among her influences, she counted cinema verité, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, and films by Andy Warhol. She wanted fiction films to be more like documentaries.

When asked about Wanda, Loden often responded that she used to be just like her: “Until I was thirty, I had no identity of my own.” … It’s something that we don’t expect when we watch movies — the fusion between an actor and a fictional character — because it so seldom happens. And when it does, the actor, more likely than not, is a “nonprofessional.” But Loden was an experienced actor — and no longer without an identity of her own — when she took on Wanda, a character she had created out of her memories of not being present to the world or to herself.

Not the second coming of lightweight studio comedy as claimed, but pretty good. Jon Hamm is less annoying than he seems from that one weird promo photo everyone is running. This fits into Poker Face Premiere Month nicely since Fletch isn’t a detective, but a journalist who keeps getting mixed up in investigations. The girl who looks like April Ludgate on the poster is Chilean Lorenza Izzo, an Eli Roth regular – suspiciously second-billed then barely in the movie. Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden “Griz” Mayeri are investigating the dead girl in Fletch’s apartment while he’s investigating the kidnapping of his girlfriend’s dad and some stolen paintings that Kyle MacLachlan is mixed up with. I appreciated the Caldor reference.

It’s a squishy film, because there are dreams and visions, unexplained (inexplicable?) actions and motivations – and that’s probably the point, that memory is imperfect or that her dad is unknowable. 95% young Sophie on a lazy beach vacation with divorced/troubled dad Paul Mescal (Normal People) and 5% older Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) in her apartment.

RW Knight: “No answers, because life isn’t solvable like that; things just happen, meaning accrues … What’s important is feeling adrift, a prisoner of time collapsing.”

Preston: “One wonders what the film is building up to – violence? disappointment? just cringe in general? – but its trump card is that the girl is so accepting, or not exactly accepting but too caught up in surveying the world around her … to engage in the usual third-act histrionics; all she really wants is a dad, which he’s able to supply intermittently, a low-stakes reserve that’s very touching.”

My first Borzage in a while. Jean Arthur is leaving her rich boatbuilder husband Colin Clive (Dr. Frankenstein himself), so he pays a dude to visit her room and, ahem, “forcibly seduce” her. Charles Boyer interferes, knocking the guy down, then an enraged Clive murders the dude just to pin the crime on Boyer.

That’s all the first few minutes – bulk of the movie is Jean and Charles falling in love over fine food and dancing, palling around with over-exhuberant chef Cesar (Leo “Pancho” Carrillo), on the run until the husband takes her hostage again.

This was released to theaters two months before the Hindenburg exploded, so it wasn’t meant to be foreboding. But we all remember the Titanic, don’t we folks – when Jean flees on Clive’s own ship to testify for Boyer, Clive orders the ship to go ever faster through icy waters until it smashes into icebergs. He writes a confession letter and shoots himself, but joke’s on the big dramatic baby because the passengers survive.

Dan Callahan for Criterion:

In other Borzage movies, the lovers are often threatened by war or poverty, but here they are threatened by the madness of one powerful and relentless man … This is one of the key love stories of the thirties and of all time because it refuses to follow rules and gathers up as many moods and genres as it can before it’s too late.