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The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)
Breaking Bread with the Bakkers
Impressive performances from Jessica Chastain (Tammy Faye Bakker), Andrew Garfield (Jim Bakker), and Vincent D'Onofrio (Jerry Falwell). In terms of acting, the film is a tour de force. The story is an exploration of and attempt to explain and understand the motivations behind the actions of Tammy Faye Bakker and Jim Bakker. It is neither a hatchet job nor black comedy, and deserves credit for its humanity. It does have tragicomic aspects though. The film poster misrepresents the film as a sort of Behind the Candelabra (2013) essay in biopic. It isn't, and is less entertaining as a result. It is a good film however, about interesting people and the thought-provoking phenomenon of televangelism and the virtual terachurch that was their brainchild.
Better Call Saul (2015)
Chomping at the Bit and Being Cooled Out
Glacially slow story-telling across the entire series, with exquisite (we're talking exquisite) direction and photography, plus great music, great characters and great acting. As the characters were ushered to their starting stalls for the 'Breaking Bad' narrative to launch, consistency in characters' behavior seemed less than paramount. Lalo Salamanca's sluggish toying with Gus at Lavandería Brillante for example. Or Kim Wexler's abrupt leaving of Jimmy. The movement from prequel to 'Breaking Bad' to sequel was somewhat abrupt, and changed the tone, becoming rather forlorn and depressing. Nevertheless, an excellent show and an awesome achievement.
The Gray Man (2022)
Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas: each possess enough charisma and acting talent to carry a film. The directors, Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, we know for their contributions to the wonderful and much beloved TV series, 'Community'. The photography in this movie is first rate and the direction slick. A few good wisecracks here and there. There is a lot of talent on show here, and yet together this a rather awful, empty, film. I watched 'No Time to Die' recently and both films share a great deal, not least an incomprehensible plot, and gratuitous action sequences that seem to have been shoved into the film wantonly with and without lube.
Dune: Part One (2021)
Lawrence of Arrakis
A top rating because of Villeneuve's technical facility and aesthetic sense. Being easy to follow this film does okay in outlining the story, though it is not without its shortcomings. The most obvious is the soundtrack/music. Hans Zimmer's score is intrusive, noisy, and bombastic. It is hyperbolic and serves as unnecessary emotional signposting. I hope there is a version of the film without Zimmer's strident contribution or one where it is greatly, greatly reduced. Performances were good. Of the principal cast, the standout was Charlotte Rampling (Reverend Mother Mohiam). At the other end of the scale, Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Dr. Liet Kynes) was out of her depth, alas, so her character's death was a mercy. Zendaya has nice smile but we'll have to wait and see if she can act.
When Lynch stirred the pot back in the 80s, I tried to read the book, which was everywhere at the time, but it wasn't my cup of tea, and I didn't bother with Lynch's film version, as I hadn't liked The Heffalump Man.
'Dune', the book, was written in the afterglow of Lean's 'Lawrence of Arabia' and its extraordinary success. Paul Atriedes is clearly the godson of T. E. Lawrence.
The Northman (2022)
After Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction came the execrable Jackie Brown. After Eraserhead, Dune. So it is with Eggers The Northman. The Witch and The Lighthouse were great movies. The Northman misses the mark, from the awful quasi Old English to the accents. In Tropic Thunder, Kirk Lazarus advises Tugg Speedman, "Never go full retard." Likewise we may advise Alexander Skarsgård, "Never go full berserker." Too late, alas, and Skarsgård too will go home empty-handed.
Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
Dracula C.E. 1972
Surely a good candidate for one of the worst Dracula movies of all time. The music is excruciatingly bad, as is the dialogue, as is the story. Uninspired in a word. For the opening five minutes I hid behind the sofa because the groovy happening that was going down was so embarrassing. Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Michael Coles give it some class and keep the whole thing together. Just about. Of course, these days it would be Dracula C. E. 1972. Doesn't have the same ring does it?
Prospero's Books (1991)
Contemptible and Pretentious
Tableaux and color schemes are reminiscent of Gustav Moreau's 'Jupiter and Semele' (1895). It does not however serve the play on which it is based. The late John Simon called this film "contemptible and pretentious." Have to agree.
The Devil in Madame Dielman
Many scenes use one-point perspective a la Kubrick, and checkerboard floors to emphasize depth. The scenes especially in the kitchen are suggestive of Vermeer's domestic interiors. But maybe that's just me on a bit of a stretch.
Slice of life drama? If you want to use the term. It is a strange aesthetic to portray monotony by boring the pants off your audience. But 'portray' is perhaps the wrong word. It is a representation or a portrayal only insofar as it's a film. There is little mediation. A scene where she ascends to her floor in the elevator is given in real time? Why? The 'Odyssey' doesn't take 10 years to read.
The film would benefit from an extreme cut from its 3 hours and 22 minutes to something like 90 minutes to satisfy the connoisseurs. I would suggest more radical fast cutting, and the use of hip hop montage, to get the film down to a manageable short of 15 minutes or thereabouts. And then it would be fixed.
As a film it is an excruciating watch. I watched it over three legs. I was curious. But its inaction is depressing and vexing. To resolve this bout of nothing the writer/director Chantal Akerman stoops to melodrama. Kinda stupid. I find films like this very hard to rate. It is difficult to say anything new or astute about 'Jeanne Dielman.' Unbelievable as it sounds this film was well-received, and is, it seems, objectively significant in the history of cinema. It think it is awful. So a one.
The ultimate tragedy of the film is that everyone you see through its lens is trapped in the 1970s.
Poetic License has no Expiration Date, Alas
There's a ghastly scene in episode 3 (The Sweet Smell of Success), where Halston (Ewan McGregor) asks Adele (Vera Farmiga), a parfumier, to make a fragrance that brings together the smell of tobacco, orchids, and the jockstrap of his gay lover. Breathtakingly, Adele picks up the jockstrap not just to catch a whiff but virtually inhale it. Anything for her art it appears, a simulacrum of Vera's own position quite possibly. Amazingly this scene was purely the invention of the screen writers. Abuse of poetic license means I shall never be able to look at Vera again without thinking of those molecular-size jockstraps stuck to the mucosa of her olfactory glands. Is nothing sacred?
The Night Manager (2016)
Sugar Tax on the Entertainment Industry
Truly disappointing. The direction was on a par with 'East Enders'. With the exception of Tom Hollander, the acting was pretty lousy. Hugh Laurie's performance was, as has been said elsewhere, "fascinatingly bad". Tom Hiddleston seems to have settled for channeling a David Beckham frown when attempting to convey deep emotion (the New Bond). Aure Atika (Sophie) also deserves mention for the flatness of her performance. Elizabeth Debicki: love, have one of the makeup artists brush your hair. Peering out behind fluffy bangs was ludicrous, but not your choice to be sure. A wicked bowdlerization of the book, this saccharine crud is served up for a TV audience largely without taste, nous (intelligence, common sense, gumption), or the ability to face a modicum of reality. A sugar tax on the entertainment industry would be timely; morbid emotional obesity is a killer.
They Saved Hitler's Brain (1968)
An Extraordinary Evening in Mandoras
These films with gripping titles and arresting posters often fail to deliver. Think Troma's 'Surf Nazis Must Die!' or 'A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell'. This excursion is no different. It is disappointing at every level even at the molecular, perhaps even at the atomic. Yet, its train of images, fancies, thoughts, pass over the screen as if the viewer were asleep. The viewer is anyway lulled into an oneiric state. It is a hallucination perhaps, a waking dream, a vision, a prophecy, a nightmare. I have a soft spot for this superreal extravaganza. It is enthralling. It is a mercy, however, that we forget almost all our dreams upon waking. This property begs for a hard jackboot... I mean, re-boot.
Still Processing (2020)
Reciprocity and Scopophilia
Intense and profound short about the trauma of memory and the ongoing trauma of traumatic memory. This film is so intensely personal that the viewer is placed, whether one likes it or not, in the position of voyeur. This film should have stayed as a communication between Sophy Romvari, her siblings, and her parents, no-one else. The camera on Sophy Romvari viewing the photographs is a little like an online challenge. The photographs and films by the parents are the highlight.
From Dogmé to Dogville and back again
Dogville is a great film, almost. It is conceptually courageous in its use of an empty and stark soundstage. The ensemble cast is outstanding and the story harrowing and gripping.
Alas, the film goes on for a tad too long and the whole episode with James Caan, and the revelation that Grace (Nicole Kidman) is a powerful mobster's daughter, for the final 10 to 20 minutes, irreparably damages the film. This final chapter (the film is divided into a prologue and nine chapters) seems to have been sewn on with post-mortem baseball stitches.
Attempts to summarize the film's meaning, even by Trier himself - he said something to the effect that evil is everywhere - have been somewhat asinine. Trier, as is well known, plays to the Woke gallery, and his work since 'Dogville' has shown a steep decline.
Dogmé was the rather foolish filmmaking movement started in 1995 by Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. They produced a Manifesto (Dogmé 95 Manifesto), as if it were the 1930s. It was rather Brechtian in its anti-escapism, and aspirations to dramatic purity. This is to be applauded surely. Its principles were, arguably, however, much like the principals themselves, bourgeois-reactionary.
A closing remark. The adjective 'asinine' reminds us of Equus Asinus, the humble donkey. For 'Mandalay' (2005), a Trier film after 'Dogville,' while shooting on a sound stage, Trier apparently had a donkey slaughtered. The film's producer, Peter Aalbæk Jensen, insisted that the donkey was old and sick. Make of that what you will, but cruelty to animals is morally depraved and vicious.
Dogville is a great film, almost. Trier is not a good person, certainly.
This is a stab at setting up a horror franchise in the manner of 'Insidious' or 'The Conjuring' both of which were directed by director of the present offering, James Wan.
Writing is definitely not James' strong suit. The plot of 'Malignant' is feeble and nutty, so ludicrous as to be amusing, and indeed I found myself breathless with laughter at times watching this tripe. The pace is completely off and its tone is all over the place. The dialogue is drivel, "driveling being characteristic of children, idiots, and dotards." I was confused as to who the target audience was but not confused enough to ever want to be member of it.
The cast ticks the racial quotient boxes that have become so important these days. But the troupe cannot act. Not for toffee. The wig on the principal Maddie Hasson is inexcusable. Annabelle Wallis is a better actress than poor Maddie but is a charisma vacuum. Not that any of the other actors and actresses come off any better. Far from it.
The film references 'The Ring', 'The Shining', 'Hereditary', 'The Babadook' but does not rival any decent horror flick. Not by a long chalk. Talking of 'Hereditary'. There is a doll's house sequence that is really effective near the beginning of the film and we see a doll's house later in the movie, but alas these references come to nothing.
Look out for the scene of the estranged Mother falling through the ceiling. It is comedy gold. As is the scene in the drunk tank, or in today's parlance public inebriation center.
The high rating howsoever obtained may justify financial backing for the next film in the franchise. Brace yourself for 'Malignant 2.'
Kolskaya sverhglubokaya (2020)
It references 'Alien', 'Aliens', 'The Thing', 'Resident Evil' etc. It has production values on a par with 1970s 'Dr. Who' and 'Blake's Seven.' This is not a criticism, but having a poor story and script makes the telling grate. The version I watched was dubbed very badly and the (literal?) translation was frequently laughable. It has dialogue and scenes to make you smile, like the character Anya (Milena Radulovic) preening in a mirror as she takes a phone call. (Maybe I missed the point.) Things don't hot up until Anya strips down to her thundercrackers, but the excitement is short lived and the coda is stretched out to a painful extent. One of the worst films I've ever watched. Its current IMDB rating of 4.9 seems somewhat inflated.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
I watched the film alone sitting in a very comfortable airplane seat, in the middle of an empty 200+ seater cinema with an excellent sound system and a massive screen, so I wasn't distracted by folks leaving or falling asleep around me as some allegedly experience.
As evidenced by the mixed reviews here, the film has many qualities one can rave or rant about. The makers of this movie were gifted an interesting story and intriguing cityscape. As one would expect, the design and sound design are exceptional, as are the performances, though Robin Wright's diction doesn't gibe with a solecism like, "You done good...", or a colloquialism like "Attaboy..." In my view, Ryan Gosling is especially good, as is Sylvia Hoeks.
The premise of the story - that Rachael had the apparatus to conceive and give birth - comes far out of leftfield. The weakest points: the make believe that slavery is some sort of aberration in human affairs; and that we ought to aspire to be present at some sort of Zion-like rave with variously tattooed and pierced Social Justice Warriors (cinemas need receptacles for vomit like aircraft).
Overall, it is as wonderful as the original. The cityscapes are pretty special, and it has an enchanting atmosphere. A classic.
"Silent is the House - all are laid to sleep"
Pretty good gloss of the sisters and their political, social, and cultural environment. Several female no nonsense English academics make an appearance here. It will be a sadder world when this species disappears. The weakest link is Shahidha Bari, making up the diversity quotient. She extrapolates extravagantly from a butterfly to slavery in one fell swoop. She makes some other rather blinkered and laughably woeful comments on 'Jane Eyre,' specifically on the tumultuous events in the period of the novel's setting and publication without, amazingly, mentioning the 1832 Reform Act. Anyone with a knowledge of English history would highlight its importance. Of course, this is the 21st century and standards have fallen and are continuing to fall, especially in academia. This decline in standards is also reflected in the sketches depicting scenes from the novels and lives of the sisters. Eeek! Things have changed a lot in Yorkshire since the Bronte's flourished. These days the girls would be in danger of being groomed by an Asian gang. These days a Yorkshire stream runs yellow with turmeric.
Morvern Callar (2002)
As one would expect from the BBC, this movie is pants. The writer doesn't seem to know anything about anything. The music selection is as Barry Judd would say, "Very pussy!" And it seems the cameraman or the director just discovered depth of field. Stupid across the board. Samantha Morton is a helluva presence onscreen though. It has to be said. She saves this film, and makes it for no other reason watchable.
On a Plate without the Plate
Never much cared for the 1977 Argento original. Never saw its appeal though I watched it several times to prove myself wrong.
This film, a remake and re-imagining I suppose, goes on and on and on. And. On. You get to feel the full weight of its two and a half hours. It doesn't have an end because its story is confused and has no clear resolution.
To me it wanted to magisterially unify cultural, social, artistic, and political trends in the manner of Thomas Mann's 'Doctor Faustus.' Alas, film is not the best medium for that type of venture. More successfully its mood hearkens back to Zulawski's 'Possession' (1981) with which it shares a locale and its era, the latter simulated of course.
Of the dance: Dance is notoriously difficult to film well. And it isn't filmed well here. The director might have looked at films of Michael Clark's ballets for inspiration, some of which are mind-blowingly excellent.
Of the music: When not having a bad case of the bowies, Yorke succumbs to tubular bells. Then, sort of nothing.
What's the opposite of synergy?
El Topo (1970)
Romanticism A.D. 1970
Schopenhauer famously said that, "compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he, who is cruel to living creatures, cannot be a good man." I wonder what he'd think of cruelty to animals for film-making purposes, as we see in Jodorowsky's 'El Topo.'
Jodorowsky is not alone of course nor, of his works, is 'El Topo'. In Robert Bresson's 'Au hasard Balthazar' the eponymous donkey has a firecracker tied to its tail and lit. Through the donkey's distress, Bresson wanted to make a comment about Jesus or something. For a scene in 'Andrei Rublev,' Tarkovsky had a horse shot in the neck and rammed down a flight of steps. The horse was on its way to the knacker's yard anyway, Tarkovsky reasoned.
'El Topo' is cited as the first cult film of the 1970s. It was championed by John Lennon no less. Though Lennon's plausibility as an arbiter of taste has to be called into question. (Y'know, Yoko.) But the film is garbage, a fever dream of bits and pieces picked up here and there. For example, the man holding the lamp in the daylight, a nod to Diogenes of Sinope... It's a carnival of all gods and myths, as was once said.
The film's look is a fusion of 'A Fistful of Dollars' and Pasolini's 'Oedipus Rex' and this is the most interesting aspect of the film. Maybe if it were viewed in the ambience of the 1960s, and through the LSD-colored spectacles of same, we'd somehow see it as meaningful. Just as nowadays, the woke lens allows the woke to see profundity in the most abject nonsense.
I don't have a crystal balls or indeed a crystal ball but I feel the destiny of Jodorowsky awaits a number of present-day cult filmmakers. For some it will happen when they lie a-moldering in the grave. Not that they'll care, of course. "The race is not to the swift..." etc. They will rest (in peace) on their laurels.
Alejandro Jodorowsky has said, and this quote can be found here on the IMDB, "Most directors make films with their eyes. I make films with my balls." In support of his claim I'll add that his films certainly give off the stench of fetid underwear. Especially under those leather pants. Ugh.
The Edge (1997)
The Business of the Wilderness
Taciturn billionaire, Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins), accompanies a troupe on a photo shoot to the 'wilderness.' Fresh succulent supermodel Mickey Morse (Elle Macpherson), his wife, seems to be pretty chummy with the equally youngish photographer Robert Green (Alec Baldwin)-both tuned into a frequency that suggests they may have done it, will do it-or may in fact be doing it! Green the photographer comes across as sordid and cynical-a person with hidden shallows: MTV material. But so does Mickey.
Well-dressed Charles Morse is also a mine of useless information, but we are made mindful of the fact that he seems painfully aware of the difference between declarative knowledge (knowing stuff), and procedural knowledge (being able to do things)... but we don't know why this might be significant. The age difference between husband and wife is underscored when Charles falls victim to a pretty outrageous practical joke.
This is the first part of the film. The direction, photography, and acting are all first rate. The dialogue is okay but clearly functional. Then, on some feeble pretext, Hopkins and Baldwin, with another character, Stephen (Harold Perrineau), making up the racial quota, fly out somewhere to crash into a lake.
This is the second and final part of the part of the film. The three characters are in the backwoods, and there is a Bear (played by Bart the Bear). How are they going to survive, eh?
After Perrineau's character is used as sound boarding by Hopkins and Baldwin you just know he's not going to make it. Sure enough, Bart upstages Perrineau's Stephen something rotten. The film goes swiftly, up mountain, through valley, and down hill from then on. Not to give anything away there is an incident, and Hopkins and Baldwin look like two mislaid extras from 'One Million Years B. C.,' but blink and you've missed it.
The sub-plot is Hopkins growing awareness of Baldwin's love/lust for his wife, and the likelihood that Green is out to kill him, despite his billions. (It's so unfair.) Baldwin suggests that being rich is a big disadvantage when it comes to love. (There wasn't a dry pair of underwear in the house.) Hopkins's mine of useless information becomes part means by which they can survive, but more than that even, is his all-American, get-up-and-go-and-bust-your-hump work ethic, that saves the day.
The film's dialogue is pretty flimsy (filmsy?) in the second part and despite good performances from both Baldwin and Hopkins it is a pleasantly drear affair. I expected some sort of solidarity to develop between them, by which Elle Macpherson would be ostracized by both, or some sort of rumination on the nature of knowledge, man in the universe-that sort of thing. Instead, the two leads veer off to explore a situation that is not consistent with their characters and which does not convince-and so the film gasps and splutters out.
At the end we are left with the impression that society functions according to the concept of survival of the fittest. It is only biological that Hopkins should be a billionaire, and that both the libertine and the bro from the hood, when weighed, would be found wanting, wretchedly so. Do we find out why he seems painfully aware of the different types of knowledge? Not really, except whatever he was doing in the boardroom and the bedroom fits in perfectly well with the wilderness too. He has the edge: three cheers for social Darwinism.
A closing remark. In Shakespeare, as the reader is no doubt aware, edge, the noun, means sexual desire in a man, being related to a point, as of a sword, and thus with especial reference to erection.
Hamlet. I could interpret between you and your love, if I could see the puppets dallying.
Ophelia. You are keen, my lord, you are keen.
Hamlet. It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.
Ophelia. Still better, and worse.
Maybe it's relevant.
On the outskirts of the fallen Spanish Empire
On the outskirts of the fallen and largely forgotten Spanish Empire angst-ridden and po-faced Ema, manipulative and deceitful, contrives an evil plan to advance for herself solipsistic illusions of permanence and continuity. Desultory nods toward fire and water as elemental forces driving this story are an attempt to hoodwink the viewer into believing there is a metaphoric superstructure holding this nonsense together. In lieu of dialogue, the actors stare at each other very solemnly and nod occasionally. Dance is dialed in to tease the viewer into believing the inability to engage in speech is an aesthetic choice rather than the failing of the writers. The dancing is, other than the opening number against images of the sun, silly and embarrassing. The music, reggaeton, is, perhaps aptly, characteristic of the genre being both misogynistic and sadistic. Santiago Cabrera, Cristobel Rios, captain of the La Sirena from the appalling Picard series, makes an appearance. Valparaíso looked nice as did Paula Luchsinger. Obviously the writers made it up as they went along much like the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Somewhere along the line the Chilean gene pool seems to have bottle-necked.
Scum Manifesto (1976)
P.I.G.s (Politically Involved Girlies).
Delphine Seyrig sits opposite Carole Roussopoulos with a television physically between them. Seyrig translates passages from the S. C. U. M Manifesto and Roussopoulos types them up. That's it. We are to understand that the television is an 'eye' on the world, its screen a chorus to the spoken text of the manifesto. This is trite nonsense of course. The film is neither entertaining nor interesting.
The book Seyrig is translating from is S. C. U. M. (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto. It is a proto-woke text penned by the demented Valerie Solanas. The title of the film bowdlerizes the original title, and there are in fact S. C. U. M. deniers. The text is interesting but Valerie was unable to take a step back and review her work objectively, or gain any insight into what she was doing. She went full throttle, shot Andy Warhol, and ended up (poor cow) in an Institute for the Criminally Insane.
Some folks think Valerie is great. These are, according to Andy Warhol, PIGs (Politically Involved Girlies).
Friends: The Reunion (2021)
Cringe-worthy and Embarrassing
Really enjoyed the show as much as I disliked this reunion. First the women: Jennifer Aniston is the star, albeit leathery these days. Courtney Cox appears to be transitioning into an early hominid. Lisa Kudrow, the most beautiful, seems also the most decent. Beautiful is as beautiful does, I suppose. The men: Matt LeBlanc seems a decent chap. Matthew Perry, God love him, seems a wreck. David Schwimmer should go easy on the cosmetic procedures, and perhaps ought to have a check-up on his liver. He is definitely yellowish.
This was an unnecessary reunion for the fans though maybe Perry, and Schwimmer need the cash? Cringe-worthy and embarrassing.
Of the 'guest stars': James Corden: cordon bleu or Corden bleurgh! You decide.
Cara Delevingne: her maternal grandmother Janie Sheffield was lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. It doesn't hurt that Joan Collins is also her godmother. These are glorious expedients should talent evade you.
Malala Yousafzai? David Beckham? Kit? Lady Gaga? Why?
Knives Out (2019)
In the Back
Thinly-veiled allegory of how the US will be subsumed by the Hispanosphere due to the corruption and intransigence of the WASPs who created it. Ryan thinks this is great.