Back in theaters for this one. I love going into Wes movies with absurdly high expectations, because he always meets them. I’ll read the hater critics some other time – maybe they were looking for something more than an endless parade of favorite actors and impeccable production design, but I wasn’t. Much of the movie is in 4:3 black and white, and either my screening was over-matted or the titles appear at the extreme top and bottom of frame.

Bookending segments in the newspaper office, with editor Bill Murray alive in the first piece and dead in the second. Bicycle tour through the town of Ennui by Owen Wilson. Story 1 is relayed by Tilda Swinton, involving art dealer Adrien Brody patronizing imprisoned painter Benicio del Toro whose guard/model is Léa Seydoux (they get some actual French people in here sometime). I was least involved in the middle piece, about faux-May’68 student revolutionary Timothée Chalamet’s affair with reporter Frances McDormand. Then Jeffrey Wright is reporting on celebrated police chef Steve “Mike Yanagita” Park, who helps foil a plot by Edward Norton to kidnap chief Mathieu Amalric’s son.

Michael Sicinski (Patreon) also liked the Benicio story best:

By contrast, Anderson’s snotty riff on May ’68, “Revisions to a Manifesto,” succumbs to the director’s worst comedic instincts, essentially declaring that political desire is nothing more than sublimated horniness … The final segment, “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” sort of splits the difference, although it is elevated considerably by a fine performance from Jeffrey Wright, channeling James Baldwin as a melancholy ex-pat uncomfortable with his journalistic distance. The story itself is mostly just a riff on The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s portrait of courtly civility as a bulwark against anarchy. But it’s Wright’s representation of honest inquiry, and humanistic curiosity, that makes it far less silly than it should be.

Watched again a month later, with Katy this time.

“You know how insulted I am by mediocrity.” Timely quarantine movie about Shirley Jackson not leaving her house for months… come to think of it, The Invisible Man also had a bit about Moss not leaving the house.

Rose and Fred (stars of Assassination Nation and Indignation) take live-in jobs assisting Myth & Folklore professor Michael Stuhlbarg and his reclusive wife, celebrated author Shirley Jackson. Shirley is writer’s-blocked until she takes interest in a local missing girl. Rose becomes the girl and starts Persona-ing Shirley, who begins to return to work.

Great music (by Tamar-kali, who also did The Assistant), bass and piano with choir. Good actors, obviously, otherwise it’s less my thing than her other movies, pretty traditional screenplay plus dream sequences.

Elisabeth Moss escapes her abusive guy and holes up with A Wrinkle in Time star Storm Reid and her cop dad (Aldis Hodge, the condemned in Clemency). The good news is the abusive guy is soon reported dead, but the bad news is he’s an “optics genius” and is actually just invisibly stalking her, after faking death with the help of his shitty brother. The first body appears at the 1hr 12min mark – that’s a minute longer than the entire original movie, in which the I.M. killed dozens. Eventually, I.M.2020 starts killing cops (and Moss’s sister), after working to discredit and destroy Moss – but not kill her, since she’s pregnant. She returns to their ultra-modern rich-tech-movie-guy house, finds that after the genius’s “death” someone covered all his equipment in giant plastic sheets but left their dog untended, grabs the backup suit and becomes The Invisible Woman. Skimming letterboxd reviews, it seems I wasn’t the only one reminded of Gone Girl (thinking of the Neil Patrick Harris scenes).

Elisabeth Moss plays Becky, a wreck of an alt-rock star in five real-time extended scenes. First, she and bassist Agyness Deyn and drummer Gayle Rankin encore the final show of their tour with “Another Girl Another Planet” – a live show with suspiciously antiseptic studio sound. I did not expect them to go straight backstage into a voodoo ceremony with suddenly oppressive sound design, all rumbling and scratching, nor for Matthew Crawley to show up as Becky’s baby-daddy. Can’t say I recognized Amber Heard (The Ward) as a pop star who offers them some opening dates, nor Eric Stoltz (The Fly II) as their manager. Anyway, the point of this segment is that Becky is an utter mess, dangerous to herself and everyone around her.

They’ve been unproductive for months in a studio (engineered by Notes on an Appearance star Keith Poulson) when a young band intrudes on their turf (Valerian star Cara Delevingne, Xan from Kimmy Schmidt, Ashley Benson of Spring Breakers). Becky wants the new kids to play their song, and again, the music in this movie sounds too perfect, then the doomed grinding soundscape returns. I didn’t quite buy the performances and the mayhem in first part, but by second part it’s real, and I’m reminded that the opening paragraph of the Rachel Handler interview that got me to watch this movie called it “excruciating.”

In the middle part, omg they are opening for the kids… well, they’re not, since Becky destroys everything and has a big public meltdown before they can play a set, focusing rage on her mom Virginia Madsen (whose fortieth birthday was 9/11/01)

Recovery alone in a Last Days-reminiscent house, visited by her ex and their kid with Agyness. Becky still seems a bit crazy, but in a gentle way, and she’s off the drugs and drinking tea, so that’s something. She plays a Bryan Adams song for her daughter, then a good new song for Agyness, which I guess was written by Alicia Bognanno of Nashville band Bully.

Of course, the comeback show. It’s just a label celebration, probably an industry event at the same medium-sized club as section 3, co-performing with the kids and the pop star, and it goes off without a hitch despite everyone getting nervous when Becky makes a comment about “the very end” then goes missing for a spell.

“Exasperating” is another word for this movie – I mostly liked it, but the Vulture interview is better. Yes, Perry has made some cool movies, and the cinematography is by Sean Price Williams (Good Time) and editing by Robert Greene (Bisbee ’17) and they are superheroes, but mostly I want to hang out with the sound designer and whoever made the fake CD artwork over the closing credits.

On one hand, we’ve got the wacky misadventures of a failing museum administrator (Claes Bang), but the movie wanders about, exploring different sides of its themes of altruism, trust and honesty. Essentially, Claes fails the test of the Square completely and repeatedly, while the severe compositions give us Michael Haneke flashbacks and the light vocal music tells us not to take Claes’s plight too seriously.

Also, Elisabeth Moss makes a phone call while a monkey paints its face red, and guest artist Dominic West (among others) gets roughed up by an overcommitted performance artist. Matt Lynch: “This works more than it doesn’t mostly because it’s very funny and feels spontaneous even though it’s almost absurdly schematic and can’t stop bluntly explaining itself.”

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)


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.”

Catherine (Elisabeth Moss of Top of the Lake and Listen Up Philip) and Virginia (Katherine Waterston, the troubled ex in Inherent Vice) spend a week at Virginia’s lake house to bond while Cath is recovering from a breakup. They’re shitty friends though, and the presence of neighbor Rich (Patrick Fugit, main rock groupie kid in Almost Famous) makes Cath crazy – although she doesn’t seem to need much outside help to go crazy. The movie flashes back to the previous summer when they were joined by Cath’s ex James (Kentucker Audley of Christmas Again).

Great atmosphere, shot by Perry’s usual DP Sean Price Williams and edited by Robert “Actress” Greene, and the actors are fun to watch even if their characters are unbearable. More enjoyable on a moment-to-moment basis than Listen Up Philip, I suppose, without the sharp power of that one’s ending. Cameo by Kate Lyn Sheil towards the end.

M. D’Angelo called it Random Creepy Affectation: The Movie.

J. Cronk in Cinema Scope:

At once a character study in the guise of a psychosexual thriller and a parable of friendship filtered through a prism of horror tropes, the film is, perhaps more significantly, a harrowing depiction of depression and the debilitating effects of hereditary paralysis. … Like a lot of Perry’s characters, these women are almost comically mean-spirited as they verbally disarm the opposing party with exceptional eloquence. “One of the worst tendencies of human nature is to assume the best of one another,” Virginia matter-of-factly states in the film’s centrepiece sequence, an unbroken six-minute shot which subtly interrogates each woman as they painfully detail instances of past romance and betrayal, effectively encapsulating Perry’s entire worldview in one bravura gesture.

“I hope this will be good for us… but especially for me.”

Watched during Sundance Week! During Sundance 2015, I managed to watch three movies from Sundance 2014. There are lots of movies from last year that I mean to catch up with, and this seems as good a scheme as any.

Seems like a hard movie to enjoy, a non-comedy with a total asshole lead character (played by Jason Schwartzman, a puppy dog with a severe hairstyle). But the movie only occasionally seems to sympathize with him, and it takes sidetracks into the lives of the people he knows: his long-time girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss, star of Top of the Lake and Mad Men), his novelist mentor Ike (Jonathan Pryce), and that novelist’s daughter Melanie (new Marvel superhero Krysten Ritter). After the finale, which is particularly harsh towards Philip, allaying my fears that the movie expected me to care about a terrible person’s sense of well-being, I decided maybe Perry set out to make a movie centered on the selfish prick who shows up in minor roles in other movies, usually to make the sympathetic lead characters look good in comparison or to motivate some kind of action on their part. Philip and Ike become friends but can’t seem to motivate each other, because they’re both the selfish prick.

“I want you to contextualize my sadness.”

I didn’t much enjoy Perry’s The Color Wheel, and don’t care for his handheld camera work (although it seemed better here, in color), but can’t ignore a critical mass of critical acclaim – don’t want to sleep on a masterpiece. This wasn’t, but it’s got good acting and some hilarious/horrible moments, like Philip’s response to a student asking for a recommendation: “Here’s a piece of paper with some staples in it. Wish I could be of more help.” Casting Jason Schwartzman and making a movie about white middle-class sadsacks and father issues, decorated with 1970’s book jackets and omniscient narration, Perry might want to hang with Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson.

Josephine de la Baume, lead vampire of Kiss of the Damned, plays Philip’s fellow English teacher, who poisons the department against him. The Color Wheel’s Kate Lyn Sheil played one of Philip’s exes, and Eric Bogosian (Joe McCarthy stand-in of Witch Hunt) narrated. Edited by Robert Greene, who made a splash last year with his own Actress.

“Tonite only”, that’d be Friday the 13th, Sept. 2013.

My favorite prickly response to the movie comes from M. D’Angelo, who finds the narrator’s grammatical errors and misuse of words “entirely typical of [Perry’s] approach to filmmaking in general. Everything here feels like the work of someone inexpertly trying to synthesize challenging elements of books he’s read and movies he’s seen… which is what ambitious young artists do, to be sure, but they’re generally not celebrated this fervently until after they exit the blatant juvenilia phase.”

A.R.P. on not making “calling card films” to get hired in Hollywood:

There is an ineffable “do not hire” quality to Listen Up Philip, apparently, that shows experienced manufacturers of entertainment that whomever made this film is most likely hard to work with.