The monos are a bunch of commando kids entrusted by a larger organization with the care of kidnapped English native speaker “La Doctora” (Julianne Nicholson of Blonde). The monos are armed, with military training, but they’re also horny fuckup kids, who immediately/accidentally kill the cow they’ve borrowed from the townsfolk, and repeatedly let the Doctora escape. She kills one of them, one suicides, one manages to escape. Movie opens promisingly with a blindfolded soccer game and some Beau Travail moves, and stays watchable throughout, even if it never really goes anywhere. The music is nuts, in a good way, from Under the Skin composer Mica Levi. A Sundance premiere, which makes sense, since it reminded me (but in a kinda good way?) of Mayday.

There is nothing like wordless low-light cave exploration video to put me to sleep, so despite the 93 minute runtime this took a few attempts.

It’s certainly Frammartino-ish, re-enacting a 1961 spelunking expedition but without any explanatory dialogue, and giving equal weight to the kids playing ball and the solitary death of a shepherd on the surface. Lovely ending, the last explorer in camp drawing a map of the cave hears ghost echoes of the dead old man calling his animals as the fog rolls in.

I was supposed to go out and see Nightmare Alley, the first of a wave of Christmas-week movies, but the 3pm show was filling up and I didn’t want to be around other humans, so watched this on the TV instead. Obvs, I liked it.

1925 Montana, gentle friendly rancher Jesse Plemons weds sad widow Kirsten Dunst who has bookish son Kodi Smit-McPhee (Young Nightcrawler in the last X-Men), and they all move in with Jesse’s alpha-bully brother Benedict Cumberbatch. Seems like it’s all going in an unpleasant direction, but as BC begins to soften, the kid calmly plots revenge on Benedict for driving Kirsten to drink.

Sophie Monks Kaufman in LWL:

Campion is a master of intertwining character and plot, so that a revelation of one nudges the other along. In this, her first film explicitly centring male psychology after a career of female character studies, she makes observations about masculinity and power that defy classification. She has blown these subjects wide open and we can but stand still and try to catch the fragments as they rain down.

Cows, pigs, roosters in three farms in different countries. Terrific high-framerate steadicam, long takes, great lighting in their custom-built sty. I wondered how much of that was natural light, and remembered reading about the house in Turin Horse, which turned out an apt comparison, per the British Cinematographer article I read.

Structurally it’s:
– baby pigs are born
– chickens interlude
– pigs growing up
– cows interlude
– pigs taken away from momma pig

And it’s almost a perfect movie, but for the cows, who do nothing except swat away flies (or more often, failing to swat away flies). You just can’t make cows interesting, though apparently Andrea Arnold will be the next to attempt it.

Never Like the First Time (2006, Jonas Odell)

First-time sex stories. The participants seem youngish until the last guy tells a story set in the 1920’s. He and the first guy tell joyous stories of satisfaction, while for the women in the middle it was either disappointing or traumatic. The animation is a confusing mix of 2D photos and images composited into a 3D environment. Shared Golden Bears in Berlin that year with Sandra Hüller, Michael Winterbottom, and Andrzej Wajda. Ten years later Odell made a short called I Was a Winner, presumably not a reference to his Berlin prize, a short doc about video gamers as told by their game avatars, which sounds better than the new Rodney Ascher.


The Tale of How (2006, The Blackheart Gang)

Extremely trippy story involving tentacle creatures and seagulls with teeth – a musical, set to an elaborate song, one suicide pact short of a Decemberists number. A South African movie, it doesn’t appear the Gang has remained in the movie business, except the composer with the great name of Markus Wormstorm. From the same omnibus as the previous film, but somehow I only found these two of the nine.


Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936, Dave Fleischer)

Sindbad is just Bluto, lording over an isle of monsters and calling himself a most extraordinary fellow (is that from a Harold Lloyd film?). Highlights: each sailor introduces himself with his own theme song, and Wimpy tries to catch a duck with a meat grinder. There were a million Popeye shorts, so why is this one famous? Lost the oscar to The Country Cousin, not a great year.


Quimby The Mouse (2009, Chris Ware)

Quimby is a domestic abuser who marries a severed head, makes it cry until sea levels rise, then uses it as bait to catch sea fishes, all set to a jaunty Andrew Bird song. Fun!


Invention of Love (2010, Andrey Shushkov)

Beautiful shadow animation. Boy takes Girl to the steampunk towers where all plants and animals are machine replicants, and when she gets sick, he replicates her.


Rowing Across the Atlantic (1978, Jean-Francois Laguionie)

Young adventurers attempt to cross the ocean in a rowboat, witness the Titanic sinking, fight and hallucinate and live their whole lives together on the boat. Some unexpected imagery, really nice. Laguionie made a couple of features last decade РI hear good things. This won best-short awards at the C̩sars (which also honored D̩gustation maison) and at Cannes (which gave prizes to The Tree of Wooden Clogs, The Shout, and A Doonesbury Special).


At the Ends of the World (1999, Konstantin Bronzit)

Delicate balance of comings and goings in a house perched on a mountaintop. Single-take until post-credits when disaster has relocated the house to a valley. Zagreb is a big fest for animated shorts, eh? This won its category, and The Old Man and the Sea took another.


Fist Fight (1964, Robert Breer)

His most full-of-things film that i can recall, flickering edits of clippings and photos and drawings, musique concrète soundtrack involving bird sounds. Mice, cigar tricks, and eye-bending patterns. Proper figure animation, some Klahr-ish stuff, some Rejected paper manipulation – every technique Breer had at his disposal, like an itunes library of animation with their frames set on shuffle. Internet says it’s autobiographical, and Stockhausen-related.


What Goes Up… (2003, Robert Breer)

Rotoscope-looking Jeff Scher-ish animation with flickering photograph injections. I attended a Breer program at Anthology Film Archives in the early 2000s, later discovered Scher, then Jodie Mack, and now I’ve forgotten all the original Breers. They are short and delightful and I should be watching them on the regular.