Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Deliverance II

Film: Rituals
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

“Fish out of water” films are a real thing, and they are an odd little sub-category of horror and horror-tangential films. Probably the most famous of them is Deliverance, but it would be a mistake to think that Deliverance clones like Southern Comfort aren’t in some way a response to that film. Even The Descent has some connection—put city folk in the wilderness and, essentially, see what happens. The Hills Have Eyes, Cabin Fever, and even movies like The Naked Prey, Straw Dogs, and Wake in Fright have some connection to the subgenre. Stuck right in the middle of these, almost exactly between Deliverance and Southern Comfort is Rituals, which was also released under the much more B-movie title The Creeper.

Rituals is very clearly a film that wants to be Deliverance. In fact, it is essentially a Canadian version of that film with a lot less star power, since our main star is Hal Holbrook, and that’s about all we’ll get for major players of the time. We have a group of doctors who knew each other in med school who get together for a yearly trip, the planning of which rotates between the people in the group. This time, the planning was done by D.J. (Gary Reineke), and the trip is a fishing/camping/hiking vacation in northern Ontario. Along for the trip are Harry (Hal Holbrook), Mitzi (Lawrence Dane), D.J.’s brother Martin (Robin Gammell) and Abel (Ken James).

Sunday, February 19, 2023

I'm Going to Graceland

Film: Elvis
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

This year’s Razzie nominations were interesting. While we frequently see a lot of famous names in mix, it’s not often that we see this many high-profile names in the mix. Tom Hanks has been nominated for both Worst Actor and Worst Supporting Actor for films from 2022, in the second case for Elvis, which also happens to be nominated for Best Picture. It’s an interesting situation, because it’s hard to overlook Tom Hanks in Elvis since, as Colonel Tom Parker, he narrates the story.

I have to admit that I went into this with a great deal of trepidation, not because it was about Elvis Presley (Austin Butler), about whom I am pretty ambivalent. It’s the length. Critic Mark Kermode, in his epic takedown of Sex and the City 2 commented that in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick took us from the birth of the human species to the birth of the next species in 2 hours and 29 minutes, while SatC 2 is 2 hours and 26 minutes and goes essentially nowhere. Elvis is 2 hours and 39 minutes.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Roe v. Wade

Film: Happening (L’événement)
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

It seems that I have been challenging myself a lot with movies lately. Happening, known as < I>L’événement in the original French is very much a punishing movie. It’s also one that is incredibly important right now, at least in the U.S. It’s a movie that doesn’t pull any punches, so I’m not going to pull any, either. This is a movie about abortion, and it’s a successful one specifically because no matter which side of that debate you fall on, this is a movie that is going to upset you.

You should also be prepared for a surprising amount of nudity. You might expect some because of the subject, but there’s a lot of full frontal nudity in this as well as a sequence where we watch one of the friends of the main character masturbate with a pillow. Be prepared for this if you’re going to watch—you’ll see a lot of nude young women standing in line waiting to get into a communal shower.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Soon, Germany Will Be Empty

Film: All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen nichts Neues)
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

There seems to be no end to movies about war. There are, of course, films that depict war as something glorious, as a thing to be, if not encouraged at least welcomed. Certainly, there are those that depict war as something to be sought after as well. And then there are those films that show war as something terrible and a hell unto itself. Films like Come and See, Paths of Glory, and Das Boot depict war as senseless, endless brutality and a desperate hope to avoid death. The original All Quiet on the Western Front remains one of the greatest anti-war statements in history. To that we can add the 2022 German reimagining of the same name, also know by its German title of Im Westen nichts Neues (which means “Nothing new in the west” if my German hasn’t failed me).

This is, in fact, the third version of this story that I have seen. The first I saw was the 1979 made-for-TV re-imagining starring Richard Thomas, which is very much the weakest of the three. The 1930 film won Best Picture, of course, and as mentioned is still an extremely powerful film. And then there is this latest version, which holds nothing back on the true horror of trench warfare.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Dora Milaje

Film: The Woman King
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

So I’m never shy about my opinions regarding the Oscars, especially when it comes to the inherent racism and sexism involved in them. I’ve done a deeper dive on that, something I hope to use someday, but movies like The Woman King are a demonstration of just how big that problem really is. Sure, this is my opinion and it would be easy to rationalize a different opinion, just as it would be easy to say what I think is a rationalization of a short. However, it’s my firm conviction that if The Woman King had been the story of a group of white women (like, say, Women Talking), I would be including this on one or more of my various Oscar lists. But, it’s about African women, and here we are.

This isn’t to denigrate Women Talking, which I have not seen. It’s to suggest that just as the Oscars tend to be more favorable to movies about men, they’re more favorable to movies about white people. Before you start hitting me with examples, know that I don’t really want to hear them. Sure, Moonlight exists as a Best Picture winner. So does Green Book, and the white guy was nominated for Best Actor in that one.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Australia Has No Second Amendment

Film: Nitram
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

Whenever there is a mass shooting in the U.S., it is inevitable that someone will bring up Australia and the absence of such events there. It’s because, we are told, that a number of years ago there was a terrible mass shooting, and laws were soon changed to prevent this sort of firearm access. About three dozen people were killed in Port Arthur and another nearly two dozen wounded on April 28, 1996, by Martin Bryant, currently serving 35 life sentences and 1600+ years without possibility of parole. Nitram is that story, after a fashion.

Nitram (Caleb Landry Jones) is a intellectually disabled young man living with his patents in Port Arthur, Australia. He seems to have almost no ability to control any of his urges. He lights off fireworks, annoys the neighbors, and causes trouble. He’s also prone to grabbing the steering wheel of cars when someone else is driving. His father (Anthony LaPaglia) struggles to keep the peace in the home between Nitram and his mother (Judy Davis). Nitram has strange demands and is unable to separate the idea of what he wants from it not being necessary.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Robbery, Assault and Battery

Film: Emily the Criminal
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

There’s something about Aubrey Plaza that rubs me the wrong way. There’s a smugness to a lot of her performances, a sense that she feels too good for the material, a sort of calculated ennui, or a sense that she’s in on the joke in a way that no one else is. Because of that, I have to work my way up to watching her in anything. I’m wondering now, though, if this isn’t a function of some of the roles she has played, because it’s very much not the case with Emily the Criminal.

We’re going to immediately be sympathetic to Emily (Plaza) because she is drowning in debt. We discover that she has massive student loans that she struggles to pay off because of a felony conviction. Unable to get good paying work, she works as an independent contractor delivering catering to offices and the like. One of her coworkers gives her a contact for an opportunity to make $200 in an hour, albeit in a way that is not close to above board.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Marsh Girl

Film: Where the Crawdads Sing
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

When award season comes around, there are always those movies that are surprising in the lack of nominations they accrue. That’s very much the case with Where the Crawdads Sing, a film that got a great deal of acclaim that then vanished when awards time came. It’s a more than competently made film, a solid story with a good pedigree, and beautifully directed. It seems like it should have been a natural choice, and yet here we are.

While Where the Crawdads Sing starts with a dead body, it’s a movie that is going to invite immediate comparisons to Nell. Our main character, Kya (Jojo Regina as a child and then Daisy Edgar-Jones for the bulk of the film) lives out in the marshes of North Carolina with her family, headed by her abusive father (Garret Dillahunt). One day, her mother wanders off, and over time, all of her siblings wander away as well. Eventually, her abusive father wander off as well, leaving Kya on her own at the age of seven.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, January 2023 Part 2

I've done a little re-arranging, adding a new page here for movies that aren't on any list but that I've watched because they were recommended. I'm still working on that and it should be finished soon. I've got so many recommendations for the last few years that it felt like I needed a separate page for them. This only applies to full reviews, not the ones I've posted on recaps like this one. Anyway, here are the last few I picked up in January.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, January 2023 Part 1

I said last month that I was going to try to put more reviews up and watch more movies, and I think I've done that so far. In fact, I caught up with so many movies in January that I can't fit all of the names in the labels section, forcing me to split this post in two. There will be another chunk of movies tomorrow. It honestly feels right and good to feel back in the saddle here and watching movies again. There were a few dark months last year, but I feel like I'm back in a lot of respects. Tune in tomorrow for some additional catch-ups.