Category Archives: Movie Marathons

Foreign May: Day 17 and 18

May 17th: Cria Cuervos

This movie is haunting me. You know how people say that a piece of music is “haunting” and they kind of mean that it’s morose, dark, and a little jarring? Cria Cuervos definitely embodies those moods, but it’s also haunting because I can’t stop thinking about it.

The film expresses my sentiments about the “evil child” genre perfectly, but it’s not quite a horror film. Nothing frightening happens, and yet its main character, Ana, is living in a death-obsessed world, believing she holds the power to off anyone she wants at any time. Rather than scaring her, she exercises this belief by putting what she thinks is poison in family members’ drinks. We think that children are so innocent, that they are more spiritual and trusting, that they have a larger capacity for love. But perhaps that innocence is more like a dangerous naivete. Childhood is almost as unknown to us as death. We only have the capacity to remember through our experience, so the trust and faith we had as children is lost to us now. Children can be an Other just as alien to us as…well, aliens. Or monsters or ghosts. Cria Cuervos narrates the views of a child obsessed with death, and attempts – rather successfully, I think – to recreate those naive memories.

In the end, when Ana discovers she isn’t in possession of a dangerous poison, we feel relieved. No child should have that kind of power. But, from the view of 8-year-old Ana, we also feel a little disappointed. This is the one thing she believes she has control of. How much control she really has over her violent actions is debatable, however, as the violence of the Franco regime is passed on from father to daughter. Her lack of understanding about herself is the most frightening thing of all.

May 18th: What Time is it There?

I’m loving these Taiwanese films! What Time is it There?, like Yi Yi, explores the loneliness of city life and how big life events (the death of a husband, first kiss, etc.) all end up being remembered alone. This one might be even better than Yi Yi because it has a cameo by Jean-Pierre Leaud, who still looks great.

Each shot of the film is cluttered and noisy, and yet the characters within those shots are still and silent. Though Paris and Taiwan seem to share little in common, both landscapes suffocate while simultaneously isolating. Each character is desperate to share something with someone else, but they all seem to fail. Whether they try through technology, spirituality and superstition, or love, in the end each character is still very much alone.

It’s a depressing concept, but kind of reassuring when you see multiple people suffering from the same sentiments. We’re alone physically, but psychically we’re all connected.

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Three Best Friends Triple Feature!!!: Vol. 7

‘Cause we’re the three best friends that anyone could have. We’re the three best friends that anyone could have.

The Attendees:

Scott

Aaron

Heather

Sam

Whitney

Theme: Films featuring a weapon of mass destruction.

The Blob
Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth
Starring Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut
1958, 82 min.
“Beware of the Blob!”

Synopsis: There’s not much to it. A meteor crashes to Earth carrying a horrible, man eating (not little cute dog eating, don’t worry)  parasite affectionately nicknamed “The Blob.” Steve McQueen and other inappropriately cast “teenagers” have to convince the town that this monster exists and that it’s out to absorb everything it touches!

Scared?:

Aaron: I think Steve McQueen is pretty good looking.
Whitney: He’s such a man’s man. I don’t know any girls that think he’s especially good looking, but every boy I know loves him.
Aaron: You don’t think Steve McQueen is that good looking?
Whitney: No.
Aaron: What about when he does that thing with his eyebrows?
Whitney: …No.
Aaron: What about with that haircut?
Whitney: It’s so square!
Aaron: I know! It’s awesome!

Scott: Is he supposed to be 40-years-old in this?
Aaron: No, he’s a teenager.

Sam: What year was this movie made?
Whitney: I don’t know. Back when they could say “spook.”
Sam: And “hang loose.”

Scott; This movie needs Scoobie Doo.

Aaron: I wish they played that song every time the blob was killing people.
Sam: They should make it a musical.
Aaron: And every time the blob finishes it says “Beware of the blog. Da doo da doo da doooodadoodoo.”

Aaron: The cops from the 50s thought everything was short circuits instead of monsters.

Sam: I know why you don’t find him attractive, Whitney!
Whitney: Why?
Sam: He’s not bald and he doesn’t have glasses like Larry David.
Scott: He’s older than you’d think, but not old enough.
Sam: Now he and Larry David are probably the same age.
Scott: Steve McQueen is a little bit too Aryan for her taste.
Sam: You don’t like Germans? …racist.

Scott: I like his “stupid parents” attitude.
Whitney: Yeah, you really shouldn’t be living at home anymore, McQueen.
Scott: “They live with me!”

Aaron: The Vampire and the Robot is the movie they’re watching?

Aaron: Oh! they opened it up for a global warming sequel!
Whitney; Well, I know they remade it and they are remaking it again next year.
Aaron: Why are they doing a remake when they can just make a sequel! There are so many good global warming jokes. … Oh man, I love global warming jokes.

Rambo III
Directed by Peter MacDonald
Starring Sylvester Fucking Stallone and some Middle Eastern dudes
1988, 102 min.
“Well I hate to admit it, but the truth is we’re getting soft.”
Scott: They just killed hundreds of people!

Synopsis: Rambo hates money and technology. He likes monasteries and Afghanistan. He kills a bunch of people. A bunch of people try to kill him. In other words: Rambo fixes the Middle East.

AAARRRRRRRGGGGGGG:

Aaron: Do you want to watch this in Survival Mode?
Whitney: No.
Scott: Is that where you can click and find out about the people.
Heather: No.
Aaron: Yeah! you can click and open up a portfolio on each person, like you’re in the military and you see their dossier!
All: No.
Aaron: So the answer’s no? That makes me so sad, you guys.
Heather: Didn’t you try to make us do this last time?
Aaron: Yeah, and when I watched the first Rambo I tried to get them to watch it in Survivor Mode and they said no, too.

Sam: So The Blob killed 40-50 people?
Aaron: The body count’s going to be higher in Rambo III, I garantee it.

Whitney: I’m trying to convince Scott to let me name our son Todd.
Heather: That’s a terrible name!
Aaron: Why not name him John Rambo?
Whitney: I’m for that. How about Todd Rambo?
Scott: John Rambo’s nerdier, fatter brother.

Aaron: They should just remake this movie but instead of “Russian soldiers,” they can say “American soldiers.” And it can star the Russian Rambo…Ivan…what’s his name from Rocky III.
Whitney: Drago. Dolph Lundgren.
Aaron: Yeah.

Sam: “Todd Rambo”?
Scott: “Have you met my brother John?”
Heather: “Or my brother Spencer?” I actually like the name Spencer, it’s just the dweebiest.
Scott: “My brother John’s such a dick!”

Aaron: Maybe they should make a Rambo IV about how Todd Rambo and John Rambo make amends after all these years. The military comes and asks them to do something, and they have to work together. Todd Rambo always had to compensate for his physique.
Scott: Because they did a Rambo IV and Stallone says that’s the last one, but the studio is going to do one without him. Perfect time for Todd.

Aaron: What do you guys like better, when Russians speak English with Russian accents, or when Sean Connery speaks Russian?

Heather: I like the inconsistency of his scar makeup. Like, right now it sticks out more.
Aaron: It’s because it’s hotter outside and it swells.
Scott: Eww!
Heather: And they paid attention to that when they were doing makeup.
Aaron: Yeah, so it’s more attention to detail than you thought. More than you could even imagine… But the important thing is, that I like to break my pretzel in half and put one on each side of my mouth then bite down, so I have pretzel dust lining each side of my teeth.
(We all try and find it strangely satisfying)
Aaron: I’m going to try it with two.
Whitney: Can you fit it all the way back there?
Aaron: Almost.
Scott: I’m going to try to crush them vertically.
Aaron: Like the Rancor!
Whitney: How can you open your mouth that far!!??
Sam: All the Woods have big mouths.
Heather: I want to try!
Whitney: Ow!
Heather: Ow! We have small mouths.
Aaron: I think I’d have to break it in half first. But, I want to do it like the Rancor!
Whitney: What’s a Rancor??
(Aaron shakes his head in disappointment.)
Scott: It’s with Jabba the Hut…
Whitney: Oh!
Scott: If you’re writing it down I’ll spell it for you.
Sam: I bet I can fit half a Mountain Dew can in my mouth.
Aaron: I bet you can’t.
(He can’t)
Aaron: I win.
Heather: That was a good third, though. So, way to go.
Aaron: A third doesn’t hold up in a court of law.

Sam: He’s just doing this to impress the girl.
Witney: That’s why he does everything.
Heather: That’s not why he’s doing it. It’s just an added benefit.
Aaron: He needs to not wear his pants so high.
Heather: I like how he matches his denims!
Aaron: He gets some things from Todd. How to match his denims and wearing his pants too high.
Scott: And belly shirts. Todd’s known for his belly shirts.
Sam: Long curly hair.
Scott: And headbands. Todd’s big on headbands.
Aaron: Some things run in the family. Some things you can’t get away from. Oh man, I love this Todd Rambo stuff.

Aaron: Man, I love seeing Rambo on a horse. I really do.
Scott: Oh yeah. This movie didn’t get that seal of approval from…who are the people who protect animals? Not PETA…
Whitney: It didn’t?? No! What did they kill.
Scott: Horses.
Whitney: How?? That’s horrible.
Aaron; Maybe there’s someone just dumping boxes of horses. Off cliffs and stuff.

(Rambo says something about his friendships not lasting long.)
Scott: Which is the opposite of Todd Rambo who makes friends and they last forever.
Heather: They actually try to get rid of him.
Aaron: Yeah, he thinks he made friends, but they actually don’t really want him around.
Scott: “Hey, friends!”
Heather: “What are you doin’ this weekend?”
Aaron: It’s hard, too, because he can’t find anyone to go shopping for denim with him.
Heather: “Are these right?”
Aaron: The only one he can get to go with him is John, because it’s the only thing they have in common.
Scott: He really looks up to his brother. I like to think of Todd as the older brother.
Aaron: Me too.
Scott: His mom’s like “Now take care of your little brother, Todd.”

Aaron: Do you think Todd could be played by fat Val Kilmer?
Aaron: I love fat Val Kilmer. I think he’s way better looking than when he was thin Val Kilmer.
Heather: Ew. I don’t think so.
Whitney: He was never attractive.
Sam: What if he looked like Larry David?
Whitney: Well then, that would be great.
Sam: Ew.
Scott: Hear that? Your sexual attractions disgust our guests.

Aaron: He just pushed that spike through from the back, and it came out the front like the Blob.
Sam: Now he’s going to put black powder on it to seal it up!
All: OH!!
Aaron: (fist pumping) Rambo! Rambo!
All: (Fist pumping) Rambo! Rambo!
Heather: He just gauged his hip!!

Aaron: Do you think that’s one of those Cassio math watches? From Todd?
Scott: Todd’s like “You wear it silly!”
Aaron: He loves his brother, but…
Scott: We should make a web series about Todd Rambo.

Heather: Ha ha ha. Surprise, mother fucker!

Whitney: Wait! I have to hear the song.
Scott: Oh yeah. You love the Rambo songs. “I sang this in my school choir.”
(Whitney and Heather sing. Aaron shakes his head in disapproval.)
Whitney: You know this song! “The road is long…with many a winding turn…He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.” It’s about Todd!!!
Heather: We sang this in my seventh grade choir.
Whitney: So we both sang Rambo songs in our school choirs!

New Jack City
Directed by Mario Van Peebles
Starring Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Chris Rock, Judd Nelson, and Mario Van Peebles
1991, 97 min.
“We talkin’ ’bout accommidatin’ and consolidatin'”

Synopsis: Out of all the weapons of mass destruction we exploring in our triple feature, crack has the highest death count. Wesley Snipes doesn’t care. He just cares about that cash money. So he sets up an entire apartment building for the production and sale of crack, and it ends up getting a lot of people killed dead.

Word:

Aaron: Crack cocaine is a weapon of mass destruction. It’s a biological weapon.
Scott: Yep. You can thank the US Government.
Heather: Maybe.
Scott: But no. Really
Heather: Yeah really. There are two conspiracy theories I really believe and that’s one of them.

Heather: Does Mr. Cooper make a cameo in this movie??

Scott: I wish I was black in the 90s. Or back in the 90s.

Scott: This movie is like Clueless for crack dealers.
Whitney: What does that mean?
Scott: Just about a bunch of friends who are crack dealers, hanging out in a jeep. Driving around. A lot of crack. A  lot
of jeeps.
Heather: And that guy in the back is wearing the same hat as Dion’s boyfriend.

Heather: One thing that I miss about the 90s is hats with the brim-
Whitney: Yes! Flipped up! I was just thinking I want to bring that back!
Heather: It’s so cool.

Aaron: Is this Boyz to Men?
Heather: Or All 4 One?

Scott: I want to be the snow cone distributor outside New Jack City’s crack headquarters.

Whitney: What is Judd Nelson doing in a movie??
Heather: He’s so weird looking.
Whitney: Does he die?
Scott: I can’t tell you that.
Whitney: (groan)
Scott: It’s not early on, I can tell you that.

Scott: Ice-T is wearing a little too much mascara for my taste. A little too much eye liner.

Sam: Did you see that sign? “Crack Kills.”
Whitney: It seems like it kills…everyone in New York.
Aaron: Most of the people in this movie, if they don’t die in this movie, they’ll die in a year or so.
Whitney: I think this one has the most mass destruction, then.

Aaron: All I know is, these guys aren’t very good at going under cover and acting natural.

Whitney: That was a weird trial.
Sam: There were some weird laws back then.
Whitney: Back in the 90s?

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Foreign May: Day 15 and 16

Foreign May is more than halfway over! I’m actually a little sad about that. There are still a billion foreign films I want to watch, but when there are two of us trying to choose a movie, chances are we’re going to talk each other into watching Lethal Weapon 2 again instead of Revanche or something.

May 15th: Knife in the Water

See, look at that. How can that shot not be hiding a deeper meaning that I'm not smart enough to get?

I’m still reading about Polanski’s debut feature, but it’s been hard to find anything substantial in the more accessible reviews. Most people are writing about the DVD release, which means they get away with two sentence observations about the entire movie and a list of the features. I feel like I need to read some deeper analysis before I really comment on the movie because I may be missing something. It’s one of those movies that are so simple and uncontrived that I don’t trust my understanding. I loved the performances. I loved the slight build of tension when you put three people on a boat together with no where to escape. And I loved the suspicion that underlies every action and phrase. I was most impressed by the way Polanski increases the tension without the aid of eerie music or, even, behavior. The characters almost seem at ease with each other on the surface, but we feel their distrust in the silences between what they say. Each light of a match or play of a card feels sinister. And yet nothing very “sinister” ever happens. Sure, an affair isn’t ideal, but nothing nefarious ever takes place besides the potential betrayal of trust that no one has for each other in the first place.

To me, Knife in the Water seemed like a very accessible, straightforward film without any hidden Freudian undertones, and that’s where I’m getting hung up. There must be something more that I’m missing because this is Polanski and Polanski operates just under the surface. So I’ll get back to this one.

May 16th: Smiles of a Summer Night

Here’s another film that seems uncharacteristic of the director. But apparently, Bergman was going through some personal hard times and his producer told him that if this movie didn’t succeed financially he wouldn’t finance any more of the director’s films. As a result, Smiles of a Summer Night is far more accessible than any other Bergman I’ve seen, and while I love anything and everything this man has come up with, the humor of this movie was totally welcome.

The relationships are as complicated as a Shakespearian comedy and character development isn’t lost in all the twists and turns. Everyone is fairly likable and no one has deep-seated issues with God. The men are, of course, somewhat inefficient and impotent – not that they realize it – and the women must plot around male egos to get what they want. I have to go back to dog walking now, so just read Pauline Kael’s review for the Criterion disc.

What is that? What is that? A smile?? Bergman...what?

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Foreign May: Day 13 and 14

May 13th: Last Year at Marienbad

Not impressed. Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour seemed heartfelt and romantic. Marienbad was pretentious and the kind of movie that tries to make you feel stupid if you don’t like it. Were I feel a film critic in 1961, I might try to pretend to understand and like a movie like this because it’s obtuse and foreign. Now, watching Marienbad is like watching a SNL parody. It’s the cliche of what foreign film. It’s why the general public thinks they hate all foreign movies. Yes, it looks amazing. The harsh shadows and costuming are perfect for the setting. The statuesque movements of the players are intriguing and all, but its meaning is lost in all the bullshit.

May 14th: M. Hulot’s Holiday

Now here’s what I like to see. Mr. Bean in France. The original Mr. Bean. Monsieur Bean original. I still like Mon Oncle a little more: it’s a little more polished and even more charming. No one films children quite like Tati. His portrayal of them is always very honest and natural, just letting them be themselves on camera. It makes even me like kids.

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Foreign May: Day 10, 11, and 12

May 10th: Summer Hours

Besides Juliette Binoche, who I always adore, my favorite thing about Summer Hours was the lack of conflict. Three siblings are trying to decide how to divide up their recently deceased mother’s art collection. Some of it has to be donated – tax reasons – some of it has to be sold, some people want to keep some things, others want to keep everything just the way it is. There is a potential for overblown arguments – bringing up horrible memories from the past that explain who exactly everyone is and why they think the way they do – but the film never goes there. Instead, we get a tiny little movie about memories and how they’re passed on through objects. Where do the memories go when the objects are no longer there? Is it really possible to keep someone’s memory alive when all of their material possessions are lost? How might oral history contribute? How are the pieces we walk quickly by in museums embedded with outside meaning and can they retain that meaning?

May 11th: A Tale of Two Sisters

Today I was telling Scott how I like my horror either smart or dumb but not in between. A Tale of Two Sisters was somewhere in between. It sure was psychologically thrilling, but takes some cheap turns (as only movies that start in an asylum can) and ends up in a flashback that is disturbing but cliche. Asian horror is hard for me. There’s lots of this:

And not enough this:

May 11th: The Lives of Others

It’s hard to think of what to say about this film. Besides a poorly placed freeze frame at the end of an otherwise serious political thriller, I can find nothing to complain about. I think the most accurate term would be “tight.” This movie was tight. Every hair on every head seemed perfectly placed and thought through. I loved the lead actor Ulrich Muhe (aka: Kevin Spacey) who never made what seemed like a fairly typical Orwellian government man seem cliche. His character spends most of the film listening to headphones, and yet his full character arc is clear.

Unlike Summer Hours, this movie isn’t quiet at all, and yet most scenes consist of intimate bedroom conversations listened to by the government. I think this tense stillness is what makes The Lives of Others so thrilling whereas explosions and murder desensitize us in other films.

May 12th: The Battle of Algiers

I’m trying to keep these reviews short since I watched a lot over the past couple days. Almost all the movies we’ve watched so far have been excellent, but this one just seems over the top amazing. That’s right. You will rarely hear me say that word (I hope), but The Battle of Algiers is amazing. Brian already wrote about it here.

May 12th: My Neighbor Totoro

I’ve seen this movie three times now. The first was at my weirdo younger cousins’ house. They didn’t have TV in their house (weirdos) so they had a bunch of weirdo movies, and this was one of them. Animation always kind of weirded me out as a kid, and this one was really over the top (weird). Then I watched it about 10 years later and realized how magical and warm and fuzzy it is. This viewing was no different. But make sure to watch Totoro in the original Japanese. The voice work of the little girls is miles above the Fannings’ in the Disney version.

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Foreign May: Day 7, 8, and 9

May 7th: Belle de Jour

I’ve always been skeptical when it comes to Bunuel. His films are so often a chore to watch and think through, and then, sometimes, after you’ve put in the effort, you realize you’ve probably learned nothing at all because this guy’s just above you. That’s how I usually feel at least. Not so, Belle de Jour. I love love loved this movie. It’s accessible yet deep and thought-provoking. There are just enough departures from traditional linear narrative. And Catherine Deneuve is so sexy.

I’m going to bring up A History of Violence again because the discussion of female desire in Belle de Jour reminded me of the sex scenes with Maria Bello in the Cronenberg movie. It’s such a touchy, controversial subject because we assume that women who enjoy violent sex have something inherently wrong with them, brought about, more than likely, by a patriarchal system. I don’t know about where these desires come from – and, I think, neither does Bunuel – but they’re there and they’re used as a form of control. So fascinating.

May 8th: I’m Not Scared

I tried to keep my expectations low on this one, but it was hard. The story of a little boy whose parents have kidnapped another child and put him in a well. Terrifying! And the concept continues to frighten me, but the film only had a couple frightening moments. Of course, it’s not supposed to be a horror movie, or even a thriller, really, more like just a tense drama. But after the initial scares, I was pumped up for horror, or at least…strangeness. And the movie doesn’t deliver that unconventionality. Everything just seemed very bland by the end.

May 9th: The Class

Scott makes me watch a lot of ghetto high school movies – which is fine, because he’s seen his fair share of comic book adaptations. Damn theses! – so I was all geared up for the same old same old with this new French release. But the public high school François Bégaudeau teaches at isn’t really ghetto at all, more like typical. And Bégaudeau, playing himself, brings a level of realism to the film that someone like, say, Morgan Freeman, doesn’t. Because this experience was so close to my high school experience, I felt a deep connection to the students. And then, as a teacher, I felt a connection (and sympathy) with Bégaudeau.

I like that the film doesn’t make any arguments on how to fix the education system, merely points out the problems and leaves them as problems. Because there aren’t any of those “savior” teachers in this school – just like more schools – and everyone has flaws. With thousands of brilliant minds trying to figure out what to do with education, this movie doesn’t claim to have all the answers.

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Foreign May: Day 6

May 6th: Masculin, féminin

I’ve seen this Godard film many times – probably more than any of his others – but I think I am just now beginning to understand it. My problem, initially, was that I took the characters too seriously. That seems to be a result of my age, which I shared with Leaud and Goya on my initial viewings. They seemed to me, at the time, to be serious youth, interested in politics and sex and what it means to their generation specifically. I don’t think I was wrong in the interpretations of their psyches, but I was totally wrong as far as character interpretation goes.

I kept trying to come up with a political/social message to the film that must be embodied in such random, banal scenes. But I think Jean-Pierre Gorin has a good point (on the Criterion DVD) when he says that the film is sans judgement (see what I did there? I used the French! Clever me!) – that there isn’t a political message Godard is trying to get across, but that the film acts as an almost cinema-vérité representation of youth. This is the French generation just coming of age after the Algiers war and before May ’68, who has to decide how they are going to be defined. And it seems like commercialism (pop music, coca-cola, cars, etc) is going to be a large contributor.

Gorin also points out Godard’s desire to create an essay, much like Montaigne, who uses quotes every few sentences and then tries to dissect them. Which, I think, is a great way to look at all the references in Masculin, féminin to popular culture. Godard doesn’t seem to be trying to tie them all into a general argument, rather just point them out and make a case of his own, visually, that contradicts/supports the reference.

I think the best part of the film is how annoying, but also romantic, young people can be. They act as conduits of bigger, more important ideas, but, in the end, they seem mostly interested in sex and rock and roll. It seems like their desires (for violence or sex or other more carnal things) force them into the positions they will stand by as they grow older. Madeline is flippant about her pregnancy throughout the film until the end, when she’s forced to make a decision, and that realization (coming in the last frame of the film) seems like it will move her into adulthood, defining who she is. All of the kids in the movie try to make conscious efforts to define themselves, but it is this accident that forces her to finally take things seriously.

I’m still thinking about this one. I’m sure it will take many more viewings – like all Godard movies. Exhausting – to finally “get it.”

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