Can’t figure out why this was made – straightforward haunted-house murder story with predictable twists, feeling at times like a remake of The Devil’s Backbone minus the evocative wartime setting. One character sees ghosts that lead her to the truth behind some murders, ghosts have similar look to the earlier film, phantom blood emanating from cracked-china holes in their translucent faces. But it’s undeniably a beautiful film, sumptuously designed with gorgeous candlelight and shadows and snowy mist, falling leaves, costumes, big creepy crumbling house, and so on. Nice iris-out effects complete the period look. Definitely good to see Guillermo returning to his gothic-horror roots – an enjoyable film to soak in, leaving me satisfied without that post-Martian malaise.

Mia Wasikowska has become a fave of scary/creepy movies (Stoker, The Double), plays a bookish New Yorker with rich dad Jim Beaver (TV’s Deadwood and Supernatural). Incestuous baron siblings Loki (Mia’s Only Lovers Left Alive costar) and Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter, Interstellar) are in town raising funds for their clay-excavation machine. Loki marries Mia and takes her home to England where she discovers he does this a lot, and the bodies/ghosts of his previous rich-girl wives are buried in red clay pools in the basement. Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam is Mia’s friend from home who comes to her rescue. Did I mention that Jessica Chastain is an axe murderer? That’s something you don’t expect.

Another talky, low-budget incest drama. Sallitt’s style is closer to Lena Dunham’s in Tiny Furniture (or a more naturalistic Wes Anderson) than to the indie dramas I’ve watched lately by Azazel Jacobs and Alex Ross Perry. The dialogue is well written and hilarious, and the image is super clean. And unlike the Jacobs and Perry movies, this one is fully engrossing, with a terrific lead performance.

Jackie is in love with her brother Matthew, who is leaving for college soon. She talks with her brother, with her mom (who is somewhat vacant and removed, has a mysterious past), with her therapist – there’s a lot of talking, and no music. She has sex with some hat-wearing dude at school who seems to barely care about her after her brother tells her about his girlfriend Yolanda (whom Jackie grudgingly likes). Jackie calls her desire “the unmentionable act,” never quite saying the title.

D.S. taken out-of-context from a Gorilla interview:

To me, movies are photographs and are therefore about the outside of things, surfaces that we can’t see past. .. I think I’m just trying to increase the sum total of mystery in the world, trying to hit the viewer with some fact that conveys forcibly how little access we have to people’s inner lives.

Amazing: Sallitt might turn this into a trilogy, though he’s not optimistic about finding the funding to make part three, so maybe not. Guess I didn’t realize how much I loved the movie until I read that news and couldn’t make myself stop smiling.

C. Marsh:

But what’s perhaps most striking about the film is that, despite being narrated in reflective voice-over by Jackie and more or less totally confined to her point of view, she remains something of a mystery throughout, seemingly unknowable no matter how close to her the movie encourages us become. This isn’t a failure of the film — as Sallitt describes her himself, Jackie is designed to be “fundamentally an unsolvable puzzle” despite being “wrapped in layers of plausible-looking psychology.”

JR (Carmen Altman, whose twitter reveals that she’s a stand-up comedian, and that yes she’s the daughter of Robert Altman but not THAT Robert Altman) has just broken up with her professor/boyfriend and enlists her brother (writer/director/star Perry) to help her pick up some stuff from her apartment. I think they go from Pennsylvania to Boston – something like that – annoying the hell out of each other the whole way, berating each other’s lives and careers (he writes copy for focus group presentations, she is an aspiring news anchor). He has a Michael Cera voice with a relentless rapid-fire delivery, eventually gets in a minor fight with her Henry Chunklet-looking ex and helps carry her two measly cardboard boxes away. Then they have sex in their hotel room.

Shot in grainy black-and-white with no particular style besides “cheap indie”. Katy seemed to find it exasperating, says she saw the incest bit coming since the beginning. The dialogue is mostly funny, but otherwise I’m not sure why this is getting much attention – maybe funny dialogue is enough.

M. Sicinski

We soon begin to recognize the real pain these two are carrying around. Their pathologies, the film argues, are unique; those all around them are crushingly typical. By the end of The Color Wheel, J.R. and Colin are somewhere well beyond the reach of cultural or cinematic domestication, as is the film itself.

but later:

Alex’s films are designed to be hard to like. They are about people and scenarios and environments that are deeply offputting, about humor-in-inverted-commas that makes you feel a bit unclean. Part of what I find deeply intriguing about The Color Wheel is that for so much of the first half of the film, I want to get away from it.

Perry had author Philip Roth in mind.

People say you can’t make an honest film from one of Roth’s novels because it would be nothing but people talking, characters who only live inside their own heads, followed by unforgivable and reprehensible sex. Which is basically exactly what The Color Wheel turned out to be. … I think cynicism is sorely lacking from independent films. There is an edge that is missing, which confuses me because most of us are making films with no stakes. You can get away with anything when you raise your own budget as a passion project so I’m not sure why people seem unwilling to push things in a more aggressive direction.

Netflix Streaming has got a bunch more movies I would never pay to rent, but which I might watch for free if I was sick or something. I’m sick today, so here goes.

Prince of Persia (2010, Mike Newell)
I see ropes and swords and Lord of the Rings fire-sculptures, and holy crap is that Ben Kingsley?? Donnie Darko has a fake british accent, and he just let his girlfriend fall into the pit of hell before unleashing a crazy amount of ‘splosions and triggering a muted montage of flashback snippets. Then Donnie, who long ago became less cool than his big sister Maggie Darko, discovers that the movie was just a dream he saw in the handle of his magic dagger. All I remember from the video game is that your little man had a more human-like gait than was usual for video games, and it was incredibly hard to avoid falling into pits. As I type this, Donnie is telling a beardy fellow to “listen to your heart.” So it’s safe to say the movie isn’t much like the game, except when the girl fell into that pit.

The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009, Grant Heslov)
“Larry’s dead,” are the first words I hear… guess I won’t be seeing Kevin Spacey. Still holding out hope for Stephen Root, though. Oh wait, there’s Spacey now, wtf. Directed by an actor who played “guy in big suit” in Bug. There’s an LSD prank then all the army base’s goats and prisoners are set free. I’m not detecting much comedy in this comedy, so I guess it got dark and turned into a drama halfway through. Jeff Bridges and George Clooney escape in a chopper, Ewan provides poignant, anti-corporate-media voiceover, and it ends on a dud of a joke. Glad I didn’t sit through the rest of this.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009, Niels Oplev)
A pierced punk rock girl (a “rebellious computer hacker” according to the Netflix description) talking with her mama seems sad. Later, some blond woman is talking about being raped by her dad, cue spazzy flashback with bland music. Punk girl visits hospitalized boyfriend, drops off secret financial records, he writes an article causing a mogul to commit suicide, and punk girl steals a lot of money and escapes to a tropical paradise. Whole thing seems anticlimactic and unengaging. But I guess if The Da Vinci Code can be a huge success, so can this. Still, at least Da Vinci had a big ending (the codex is shattered! Amelie is Jesus’s daughter!) to justify all the dreary exposition. This one wasn’t even exciting enough for me to check out the last ten minutes of the sequels.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009, Nishimura & Tomomatsu)
Dubbing!! The fakest CGI ever. Oh, this is one of those direct-to-video Japanese teen movies full of awful music where everyone wears school uniforms. It’s not even as good as Tokyo Gore Police (they share a director). “When you gave me that chocolate, I had no idea how you really felt about me” should not be one of the final lines of a movie with this title. Oh, and Vampire Girl decisively wins.

Factotum (2005, Bent Hamer)
Hooray, Lili Taylor! Long takes + poorly furnished rooms = gritty realism. Poor Charlie Bukowski is having money issues and lady issues. Matt Dillon gets life advice from “Old Black Man” (according to the credits) in the unemployment office, finally gets one of his stories published. I don’t find Dillon’s poetic voiceover very compelling. From the dude who made Kitchen Stories.

Ondine (2009, Neil Jordan)
She is telling fisherman Colin Farrell that she’s not a magical water creature, but just a girl who almost drowned while escaping from something or other. Uh oh, some fellows with pistols and strong accents. What is happening? Colin and the girl live, are getting married at the end. Jordan made a bunch of movies that always look somewhat intriguing but not quite essential.

The Day The Earth Stopped (2008, C. Thomas Howell)
If you start watching a movie ten minutes before the closing credits, the hero and villain are always in the middle of some revelatory exposition scene. All movies are the same. Should you really entrust the remake rights of The Day The Earth Stood Still to one of the teen actors from Red Dawn? Earth starts shaking (I’d hardly say it is standing still) and sepia-toned CGI versions of major world monuments (and a ferris wheel) are falling rapidly towards the camera. I was excited that Judd Nelson is in this, but I’d gotten him confused with Judge Reinhold – who is Judd Nelson? There is yelling and guns and terrible camerawork, then something really stupid happens and I guess the aliens don’t destroy Earth. Shame.

2012 (2009, Roland Emmerich)
Here’s a movie that isn’t afraid to let the world end, or to cast Oliver Platt! I don’t see world monuments crumbling, just a big Titanicky iceberg adventure (Roland must’ve had some ice left over from The Day After Tomorrow) with people yelling and swimming through tunnels to close or open portals and machinery. Oh, surviving mankind lives on arks now, and Africa turns out to be the future, or the home of the our civilization or something.

Salt (2010, Phillip Noyce)
Another movie with a third-billed Chiwetel Ejiofor, and more awful camerawork – only this time it’s awful in a big-budget extreme-cutting sense, not the give-an-idiot-a-camera awfulness of The Day The Earth Stopped. Ooh, the president is down. A. Jolie, handcuffed in FBI custody, still manages to kill Liev Schreiber, whoever he is. The backstory exposition comes a couple minutes late in this movie, then noble Chiwetel lets Jolie escape to kill again. From the writer of Equilibrium (and Ultraviolet, yuck) and director of Rabbit Proof Fence (and Sliver).

Red Dragon (2002, Brett Ratner)
Emily Watson is in a super intense burning-house scene, then a big fake explosion knocks down Ed Norton. This movie marked the end of my needing to see everything Norton was in (Keeping the Faith and The Score had already lowered expectations). Ed’s in the William Petersen role (WP’s on a cop show now). After he and Raiff Fiennes shoot each other to death, we see ol’ Hopkins (in the Brian Cox role) writing letters, and oh Ed isn’t dead actually, and it ends with a cheese-headed transition into an early scene from Silence of the Lambs. Doesn’t look bad, really, but as with all Ratner movies it is not to be taken seriously.

“We, the Futori family, are the oldest family on the island. In recent years, our transgressions have caused trouble on the island, therefore, I now promise the gods that the Futori family will never go out to sea, and I will keep Nekichi in shackles. We will topple the rock and restore the paddy fields of the gods. Once we have made good our promises, please let us associate with the islanders again, please let us go out to sea again, and please let us participate in the Dongama Festival.”

What island? A primitive place, owned by Japan but left largely untouched until now, when industry is trying to creep in. What rock? The massive one desposited on the fields behind the Futoris’ house by a tidal wave. What transgressions? Nekichi slept with his own daughter because her husband wouldn’t, impregnated her, and even worse as far as the islanders are concerned, he was caught fishing with dynamite.

Nekichi with his father:

I actually lost track of how everybody was related – I know, an unforgivable crime in a family/incest film such as this. But I think I figured it out again. Grandpa Futori has two children, the chained Nekichi (Rentaro Mikuni, lead actor in the first segment of Kwaidan) and island priestess Uma (Yasuko Matsui, who runs the inn of In the Realm of the Senses).

Uma and Kametaro:

Nekichi’s father might also be his grandfather, and Nek’s two kids are the straightforward Kametaro (Choichiro Kawarazaki of Kurosawa’s Rhapsody In August) and retarded Toriko (Hideko Okiyama of Kurosawa’s Dodes’ka-den)

Things look up for the family when Ryu from the local sugar factory (Yoshi Kato of Double Suicide) hires Kametaro as assistant to a visiting engineer. But the engineer falls to the same fate as previous engineers, getting caught up in island life and derailed by sabotage (perpetuated in part by Nekichi, who slips out of his chains regularly). He also gets himself into an affair with daughter Toriko, whose heart is eventually broken when the engineer is sent away and replaced by a team that finally gets the work done.

Toriko makes a dream appearance before Kametaro’s train:

Nekichi, meanwhile, is having an affair with his own sister. They murder Ryu and escape by boat during the festival. Kametaro has finally been allowed to join, which means he must also join the search party that rows out to sea, bludgeoning his father to death and leaving his aunt tied to the mast.

What plot description and screenshots can’t convey is how awesome is this movie, a real masterpiece. It just maybe feels a tiny bit long at three hours, but comes together so well at the end, and is lovely to watch. Peppered with closeups of wildlife, like a more grotesque version of the Thin Red Line cutaways (or more relevantly, a less rampantly indulgent version of A Tale of Africa)

G. Kenny:

Every shot in Imamura’s film (which was lensed by Masao Tochizawa) is a feast of often-golden light. The film is set on the sun-drenched fictional island of Kurage (actually Okinawa, of which the fictional construct is merely a thinly disguised version), and the light here functions as a character, as does the water and all the other natural elements that surround the characters. The film’s narrative is nearly three hours of quintessentially Imamurian insanity, wryness, wisdom and acute anthropological observation.

Our narrator/storyteller:

J. Sharp:

By all accounts, Imamura found himself similarly seduced during the production process, embracing island life with a verve that saw the original shooting schedule expand from six to eighteen months, and the budget snowball accordingly. The film’s resulting commercial flop saw Imamura retreat from fiction filmmaking into television documentary for almost ten years, while the studio that financed it, Nikkatsu, migrated away from such ambitious projects to the low-cost/high-impact world of sex film production with the launch of its Roman Porno line in 1971.

The thin line that exists between man and beast remained a salient point of Imamura’s worldview throughout his career, notably in The Insect Woman, his first collaboration with the surrealist scriptwriter Keiji Hasebe … but seldom has man’s precarious position in the natural order of things been so scintillatingly evoked as here.

Nic Cage goes to jail. Twice.


Harry Dean is a lovestruck sucker, gets killed by three characters who are far more prominent in the deleted scenes: Quiet Dropshadow (Jerry Horne in Twin Peaks), talky, over-friendly Reggie (black islander Calvin Lockhart, who played “Biggie Smalls” in Sidney Poitier film Let’s Do It Again, which I must see sometime), and creeeepy cane-walkin’ woman Juana Durango (Grace Zabriskie, even creepier in Inland Empire, also Laura Palmer’s mom). Álex de la Iglesia made some sort of a sequel featuring these three characters called Perdita Durango or Dance With The Devil. I guess it’s not really a sequel, but both films are based on novels by Barry Gifford, who also cowrote Lost Highway and Hotel Room.


Lynch has plenty of contenders for Creepiest Character In Film History – there’s Robert Blake in Lost Highway, Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet… my personal pick is Willem Dafoe in Wild At Heart.


Crispin Glover also gets a bigger part in the outtakes, including the scene below where he’s almost discovered by our heroes working at a gas station. I can’t remember if the revelation that he impregnated cousin Laura Dern when they were younger was in the movie or not… I’m thinking it’s from the outtakes too.


“How many stars you think are up there, baby?”
“There’s a couple.”

Oops, I watched this for SHOCKtober, but forgot to find out if it’s actually a horror movie. I sure wouldn’t call it horror, but IMDB does, so I was fooled.

Great rainy-night high-contrast b/w photography, two girls digging a hole, loser guy comes along with a film-noir voiceover and passes out in their car. A girl turns to camera and says: “Night in the garden… the burial of our chauffeur.” Nice opening.

The dying hand of Mr. Sling:

Plot is simple – Singapore Sling is searching for Laura, arrives at the house of a mother/daughter where he is captured and killed (his presence causes the destruction of the two women as well). Three-time Greek Film Festival winner (including for this film) Nikolaidis throws us the most twisted stuff he can come up with: rape and incenst, vomit and piss, drowning and electrocution. Is the daughter really Laura, or is Laura dead? Who is Singapore Sling? These are questions that don’t get answered (nor asked).

Daughter with Father (uncredited):

Movie takes its sweet time getting nothing done, immersed in its own silver-noir atmosphere and perverted logic. The light, dreamy music sings a song about Laura once, but usually we just hear the sound of wind blowing. Most dialogue is in english, but the mother will sometimes look into camera and speak french, and S.S. will do the same and speak greek. I liked the movie when it wasn’t trying to gross me out… worth watching for the gonzo nympho acting of the daughter alone. Would like to check out more of the director’s work – it seems he died a year ago with eleven completed features.

Mother (left, dying) with Daughter:

Nonstop talking for ninety minutes! Nonstop talking for ninety minutes! Nonstop talking for ninety minutes! If someone pauses to take a breath, they quickly cut to someone else so the talking won’t stop!

For some reason I listened to the commentary for a while. Paul and Penn are very proud of their interviewee picks and of their independent filmmaker status. Big Hollywood never would’ve dreamed of filming The Aristocrats!

I guess it was good to see some of my favorite people hang out and talk about The Joke and each other and performing and everything. Jon Stewart, Drew Carey, Richard Lewis, Sarah Silverman, Bill Maher and Rip Taylor were all in there. I didn’t realize how much of a big deal they were gonna make about Gilbert Gottfried doing The Joke a couple weeks after 9/11/01. It’s the dramatic climax of a movie that had no drama or story up to that point, and while it’s true that humor was in a sorry state for those few weeks and it’s true that Gilbert is hilarious, they overblow the whole thing.

Anyway I didn’t mean to write so much because this was hardly even a movie, but here are some fun screenshots I took where you can see the cameraman in something reflective:



Opens with ineffectual dad bedding his whore daughter while she takes photos, and only heads downhill from there. Son is bullied by kids who break family’s windows and shoot fireworks. Son beats his mom constantly. Daughter is mostly absent, and dad is former TV reporter who has lost all respect. Visitor Q is young man who smiles, busts family members in head with large rock, and moves in without asking. Soon, wife is lactating gallons, husband murders then rapes co-worker (and kills a bully or two), and a happy ending has both kids and dad drinking from mom.

So… what’s happening here? Unrespectable dad, druggie mom, tyrant spoiled son and unsupervised promiscuous daughter all need a rock to the head to force ’em to function as a family unit again? Surely it’s a horrid commentary on modern Japan in some way. Enjoyable Miike movie at any rate. One of his most extreme, and probably lowest budget (video made-for-tv look throughout). No special effects to speak of, except mom’s watergun breasts.

Visitor Q