• BurgundySuit

    Year of the Month Update (from an idea by Elizabeth Lerner)!

    Here’s some things you can write up for March:

    And here’s our schedule so far:
    NO DATE: Wallflower: The Royal Tenenbaums
    NO DATE: Wallflower: Strange Little Girls
    NO DATE: Son of Griff: The Man Who Wasn’t There

    March 12th: Joseph Finn: Not Another Teen Movie!
    March 13th: The Narrator: Reveal
    March 15th: Conor Malcolm Crockford: Heist
    March 16th: Jacob Thomas Klemmer: Millenium Actress
    March 20th: ZoeZ: The Others
    March 21st: Clytie: Fast Food Nation
    March 22nd: John Bruni: Southern Rock Opera
    March 23rd: Ice Cream Planet: Mulholland Dr.
    March 24th: Balthazar Bee: Jason X
    March 25th: Ruck Cohlchez: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    March 27th: ZoeZ: The Birthday of the World and Other Stories
    March 29th: BurgundySuit: Chartbusting!
    March 30th: Miller: Monkeybone

    And April’s gonna we’re gonna look at an extra niiice year:

    NO DATE: Gillianren: Paul Rudd
    NO DATE: Jacob Thomas Klemmer: My Night at Maud’s
    NO DATE: Joseph Finn: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

    April 30th: BurgundySuit: Chartbusting!

    • The Narrator

      I’m gonna ask for one more extension on mine, I can get it to you on the 19th.

    • John Bruni

      I’ll do The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin on April 19th.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      Hmm, I can’t promise I can do an article in April with my new job, but I’m sure there are a lot of albums that I’d be interested in writing about. Let’s have a look-see.

      • John Bruni

        There are a ridiculous amount of great records that year: Let It Bleed, Nashville Skyline, Hot Buttered Soul, Dusty in Memphis, Kick Out the Jams . . .

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          Let It Bleed would be my most likely candidate, or maybe The Velvet Underground or The Band’s self-titled albums.

    • Son of Griff

      I’ll take ARMY OF SHADOWS. I’ll get the date to you later.

  • Irish Eyes Of A Gnu Generation

    I have seen their names in the credits of dozens of movies, but I never thought to do any research on them. Maybe the reason that you can’t find much info on them is because many years ago they witnessed a crime and to keep them safe they were given new names and new occupations as Hollywood casting directors. Jane Jenkins is actually Lisa Lipshitz and Janet Hirshenson is Julia Horowitz.

  • Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Episodes Twenty, Twenty-One, and Twenty-Two
      “If there’s any solace to this, it’s knowing you will die along with me.”

      “Seems he knocked my nervous system out of whack, so I can’t feel the pain. There it is. Ooooowwwwwwwwww.”

      “That sounds like a duck. But this far out in space? That doesn’t make any sense.”
      “Oh no! That sounds like Krillin!”

      “Actually Dad, you contract rabies when you’re bitten by an animal with the disease.”
      “Silly Gohan! Animals don’t eat people, people eat animals. Silly Gohan.”

      “Sir, he left you the moment after you gave him the powerup.”

      “You see, I recently acquired what you people refer to as ‘Dragon Balls’, but I’m having trouble getting them to do what I want.”
      “Did you try working the shaft?”
      “He’s asking how to use the Dragon Balls.”
      “Yes, Lord Guru.”
      “GOOD WORK, NAIL.”

      It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Season Twelve, Episode One, “The Gang Turns Black”
      What are the rules – oh god, I’m singing again.”

      “Guess that’s one thing we got in common, huh kid? Unless he knows his dad. Shoot, that was racist.”

      I love this as a wacky opening episode, I love this as a half-assed musical, I love it as topical humour about an important subject, I love Scott Bakula’s cameo, I love boiling denim and banging whores.

      It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Season Twelve, Episode Two, “The Gang Goes To A Water Park
      “AIDS! Everybody out!”

      “Wow. That’s a disappointing glimpse into your future.”

      I love that you can spin an entire Always Sunny plot out of a single sentence like that – reminds me of a dream I once had of the Gang going to a flower market. Watching grown actors interact with kids is always great fun because it seems to create an extra layer of play over the whole thing – Dennis’ Paper Moon thing is more obvious, pulling a rare moment of sympathy out of him (great detail that he not only rolls with Abby’s Fake Cop Dad routine, but also uses it to dominate the security guard), but it’s also present in Mac and Dee’s plot, where they learn the names of the kids stuck on them and develop a rapport (“These kids think it’s hilarious!”). I had an idea for Ruck’s Always Sunny In Farmington twitter until I realised it would only work putting Shield dialogue over Sunny (“It tastes like piss to me!”). Funniest moment in the episode is Frank irritably clarifying he doesn’t have the gay AIDs.

      It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Season Twelve, Episode Four, “Wolf Cola: A Public Relations Nightmare”
      “You’re gonna be puking on your dick in no time.”

      “Now, objectify yourself and humanise me.”

      An excellent satire of both the outrage cycle and misogyny. It’s always great to see Dennis get exasperated with the Gang and successfully shut them up, only to trip over his own words and end up looking even worse. It’s also hilarious that Mac and Charlie would fail their way into success (and then fail their way into failure).

      The Sopranos, Season Three, Episode Five, “Another Toothpick”
      “You choose this life, you get certain responsibilities.”

      “More fuckin’ stairs.”

      That’s one hell of an OH SHIT reveal in the first scene there. I’ve been working on this idea that writing literature means first setting yourself a bunch of rules – things that Do Not Happen. Talleyrand Life has become easier to write now that I recognise a bunch of the rules I’d had since the start – no psychic powers, no aliens – and rolling into them. Mad Men establishes a bunch of rules, then rips them all out at once in season four. And here, The Sopranos breaks a major rule – that Tony and Melfi are alone together in therapy – and gets a major kick of energy out of it. What I learn about Tony from this is that one of the things he gets out of therapy is a judgement-free place to say whatever’s on his mind. Therapy lets him acknowledge and interrogate his feelings before deciding how to act upon them. I get the same thing out of a journal.

      After talking about Tony’s compassion, he has a moment of it this episode with a cop he screws over. Much like Don Draper, he tries to solve this problem with money; unlike Don Draper, his money is much more obviously tainted. In nicer news, Tony and Janice have a Sibling Conversation, which is always nice.

      Artie is being emotionally destroyed by his connection to the Soprano family, and I have to admit, this is a fun way to convey their toxic nature.

      We get a little bit of Ralphie, this time some awareness that he lacks even Tony’s sense of compassion and propriety.

      Expanding on the Sopranos reminding me of my family, Junior is really starting to remind me of my grandfather.

      Christopher Outfit:
      Ownage: Sal owns Ryan for no good reason. Bobby goes to get him back but kills his friend first, and has to work to kill him.
      Biggest Laugh: I was in tears of laughter the whole opening scene. “You’re both very angry.” / “Yeah, you must have been the top of your fucking class.”
      Interesting Todd Notes: To a real degree, Charmaine is one of the show’s less subtle reminders that the audience shouldn’t be having fun, a part of its passive-aggressive relationship to its own success, but as a character, she works more often than not. I believe this to be less fun that actual consequences. But I also have to chew on that whole line of thought further. To a real degree, life is about the same basic cycles perpetuating themselves over and over again. I would agree, but a) I think fiction must be a lot more varied than real life (I’m working my way through Cowboy Bebop again, seeing it as variations on the same idea, and it’s definitely “alive AND lifelike”) and b) my life, certainly, is a lot mroe varied than this show.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Chrissie’s suit as Artie threatens him is as I remember pretty nice. Oh, Artie.

        Even Charlie is alarmed by Mac’s behavior with the women. “I’m sorry, my friend has some…issues with women, we’ll just…”

      • Artie is an interesting character. He’s Tony’s only friend (term used loosely) that isn’t in the mob, and he provides some interesting contrast. But there’s one late ep where his story arc ends by playing into the morality aspect of the show – he’s faced with a choice, and he is judged for it. I think it worked on the terms of the show, but it’s more limited that strict dramatic choice & consequences.

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        I had an idea for Ruck’s Always Sunny In Farmington twitter until I realised it would only work putting Shield dialogue over Sunny (“It tastes like piss to me!”).

        That’s okay, we will be running some reverse-mashups on special occasions. I’ve already made one I’m trying to save for the right time!

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        That one-two-three run (“Old Lady House” being the third) at the beginning of Sunny season 12 was a pretty solid sign to me that they still could bring their A-game. I like “Wolf Cola” but it’s not quite up to that level. (The highlight of the year for me, of course, was “Hero or Hate Crime?”)

        “The Gang Goes to a Water Park” might have felt like the most classic Sunny episode to me. (I suppose “The Gang Tends Bar” certainly qualifies, just based on the name, but again, it doesn’t click quite as well for me.)

        “You doing an AIDS thing?”
        “Yeah. You doing a fake daughter thing?”
        “Cool, cool. All right, see ya.”

        • Drunk Napoleon

          I was actually surprised looking forward at the whole season just how solid the season was. I would also rate “Water Park” above “Wolf Cola”, but I’d mean something different about it – aside from the former’s much simpler premise giving it more energy, it’s another case of “this show’s B is another show’s A”.

    • Star Trek: The Ultimate Computer – The show’s attempt to address the effects of automation on the work force isn’t entirely well thought through, and even a bit clumsy. But it’s still an entertaining hour that gives us a fairly introspective Kirk, addresses the fact that maybe machines and not men should be exploring space, and brings us a pre-Blackula William Marshall as Dr. Daystrom. Given the level of mediocrity and worse Trek had sunk to by this point, this one is positively refreshing.

      Black Lightning: Equinox: The Book of Fate – These titles are really ponderous. Thankfully, this one was otherwise fairly good, though a ton of stuff happens and the main plot of “Anissa has powers, too” is not given room to breath. And then the status quo is upset entirely (though in a way that seems too familiar to Arrow fans). And then something really weird happens. I like this show, I like the cast, I like that it’s ambitious. But it seems to lurch a lot, and I wonder if it will get too byzantine for its own good.

      More Monk – He interacts with a chimp, and has a date (but not with the chimp). The former episode is most memorable for Stottlemeyer’s scene with the chimp, the latter for Monk having a rare moment where he seems to have fun being a detective and former cop. There’s never much to say about this show, but I suspect I could probably find something about it if I wanted to.

      Bonus: My visiting father in law was watching Ghostbusters, and my wife noticed for the first time that when Peter is telling the hotel manager their rates, Egon is very subtly signaling Peter with those rates. It’s true that you can always find something new in a movie, even one you’ve seen a hundred times.

      • Glorbes

        Ultimate Computer is a decent episode. That other captain is such a massive prick. Also, Marshall really gets a lot out of that performance.

      • Miller

        These Black Lightning titles sound like the ones from Police Squad!, but serious.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Lots going on at work and I’m stressed so I’ll go into more detail tomorrow about everything I watched. Did watch Corporate and thought it was the best episode of the season, partly by exploring the alternate lives the Hampton DeVille employees lead outside work and really pushing how the misery of Hampton DeVille is a systemic one – even the wretched employees of the cowboy restaurant wear body cameras, and its horribly funny. Matt’s admission that all he does pretty much every day is write emails hit way, way too fucking hard for me (I gotta quit this job).

      Best part: Weekend John, from his consumption of milk to his utter patheticness in wrangling these guys into spending his birthday with them.

    • lgauge

      The Day After: Goes a bit more easy on the pans and zooms than the previous Hong I saw, but still very much a work by the same director. Simple but not simplistic; a series of conversations that never quite go where they’re expected to, a camera that tries to cover and uncover small details, a structure that puts to the fore the non-linearity of time and memory as it relates to lived experiences. It’s really funny and finds a Rohmerian sympathy (which is to say fairly critical, but not unforgiving) for a guy who keeps screwing up his personal life. He seems to find a kind of peace at the end, one both selfless and selfish, but how reliable is his telling of it and has he changed as a person at all really? Kim Min-hee is wonderful, but that almost goes without saying.

      The Silence: Visually stunning, but opaque to a degree where I found no real (emotional or intellectual) entry point. In many ways this struck me as a dry run for Persona and in that comparison this just doesn’t come off too well. I don’t really have any specific complaints about the film, certainly opaqueness is in the eye of the beholder and for both myself and others can be a feature at least as often as its a bug. I just couldn’t really get on its wavelength, none of the film’s ideas (to the extent that I did get what was being communicated) were very interesting to me and the rest of the film is kind of a lethargic continental New Wave scenario. I enjoyed the gorgeous lighting and depth compositions, the usual inventive framings of the human face and the great performances, but overall this is another slight disappointment among my recent Bergman viewings. I wonder if the film would have made more sense to me and/or been more enjoyable if I had seen the other two films in the so-called Faith Trilogy (and if anyone wants to pitch in about what this film has to do with faith, please go ahead) first, but as is often the case I’m at the mercy of my local repertory cinema here, who seem to have little regard for chronology.

      Scenes From A Marriage (extended TV version): For such a lengthy work I don’t have too much to say. You have two great actors working with a terrifically written script. Where everything is essentially on the surface, but where both the emotions and convictions on display make for a moving (and at times hilarious) portrait of a troubled relationship. Of course, just because everything is laid out in plain sight doesn’t mean there aren’t other things going on. Despite feeling true to a given situation, Bergman seems to take on the remaining flaws of heterosexual relationship institutions in a post-liberalized world. From the comfort of 45 years later, there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here (certainly it seems Bergman didn’t find much need for doing anything interesting visually, except for the ending credits of each episode), but I still liked this a lot for what it is. The extended length works to the film/miniseries’ advantage both in terms of the additional scrutiny afforded to the relationship itself and to each character within the many wonderful lengthy scenes of sparring and in terms of giving the relationship a real, novel-like arc.

      Let the Corpses Tan: Simply atrocious.

      Someone really needs to tell these two directors to fucking chill. This is a careless cinema, endless flinging every stylistic tic they can think of at the screen every half second to see what percentage of the shit might stick (or should I say stink?). Is this what we get in a post-“post” world? Where instead of watching exploitation cinema and making one’s own pastiche, people just watch exploitation pastiches before making their own? Even that might have been vaguely palatable if this hadn’t been such a cocaine-infused cacophony of pseudo-stylistic crap. Say what you will about Tarantino and Rodriguez, at least there’s an argument to be had (and in the case of Tarantino, possibly an interesting one). They at least try to operate like actual filmmakers, with a sense of how much is too much, with some vague notion of taste. I guess it’s hard to make an exploitation pastiche without also exploiting some women’s bodies and we can all rest safely (with bad tastes in our mouths) that no progress (quite the opposite really) was made here. Like a thousand monkeys with a thousand cameras, a few inevitable nice visual ideas come about here, but they disappear quickly again and are easily drowned out by the next wave of try-hard, edge-lord “style”. If director’s jail was a literal concept, this movie qualifies for a life sentence.

      Excavator: A repetitive and somewhat unconvincing structural conceit slowly gives way to a spiral of justified rage, at the end ringing loudly (if hollowly) across the highest and most prestigious of rooms. The trauma of soldiers is not new territory for cinema, but the trauma induced by having been made a villain by the changing tides of history is certainly fertile ground for a thorny treatise on who’s really responsible and how much gets swept under the rug. Not a singular achievement by any stretch, but the righteous power the film eventually finds cannot be denied, nor can the issues it brings forth be dismissed very easily.

      Yol – The Full Version: An at times fascinating portrait into a culture rarely seen much by an international audience, yet it seems split too many ways without cohering into a powerful whole. Maybe this is a personal thing, but I rarely find that movies split across more than 2 or 3 storylines work out all that well. Unless there are very rigid parallels and clear ideas about a more holistic purpose, what you end up with tends to be fragments of potentially interesting stories, ones that needed more time and more details. Here our point of view is split between 6 prisoners on leave from prison, returning to lives that are nowhere near uncomplicated.

      Besides the unfulfilling narrative aspect of this split, there’s another strange split in the film that kind of muddles whatever thematic points the writer seems to have been going for. Taking place during an authoritarian and fraught period in Turkish history one might have expected some more teeth in the film’s criticisms. Sure, the state, as represented by over-zealous soldiers searching and detaining people, don’t come off looking so great, but the specific life situations of the six main characters are all of their own and their own culture’s making. They are prisoners, but not political ones. Most, maybe all of them, have actually committed the crimes they have been imprisoned for. The prison they are in might not be such a great place, but they are actually given leave to see their families. It’s not a great system they are in, but hardly something truly bad. So as a criticism of Turkey at the time, it seems a bit limp. On the other hand the film has a pretty damning depiction of the patriarchal structures and importance of honor within Kurdish, Islamic culture. The one’s who are suffering the most are not really the main characters, but their wives and brides to be. Yet one gets the sense that this is still meant as a kind of defense of Kurdish culture against countries that would rather they not exist as independent people. The message seems a little too muddled to me. For all the film’s “epic” qualities, it’s very unclear what it’s all for.

      I Am Not a Witch: Wonderfully conjures the absurd and tragic consequences of an external western modernity clashing with the old superstitions of witches in (in this case) Zambia. With people who are supposed to represent the “enlightened” forces of the government simply abusing the situation for personal, capitalistic gain, unwillingly helped out by clueless white tourists. It’s all a big mess of a self-perpetuating system, one which, as so often tragically happens, primarily affects women. In the film’s most telling sequence, a largely female TV studio audience (made up, presumably, of more urban citizens free of the worst rural superstitions) looks on in horror as the main character is paraded on stage like some kind of show animal. And yet the effect of this seems to be nothing. The forces perpetuating the system are too strong, the victims too weakened. Eventually the absurdity is gone and only tragedy remains.

      • I like The Silence, but it’s definitely the least-interesting of Bergman’s “God” trilogy. Some of this is just because it suffers in comparison to Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light, both of which manage to twist their chamber drama trappings into something profoundly metaphysical (The Silence struggles to do this). But also, I think the chamber drama itself in The Silence seems more contrived and less interesting. It doesn’t help that it’s so… well, silent. Bergman is great with imagery, but actually staging non-dialogue-driven scenes in interesting and dramatic ways is something that seems to come less naturally to him.

        • I think Bergman’s biggest strength is his writing more than his directing, and his largely silent movie is a chore to sit through. I barely even remember it.

          • Yeah, his background in the stage is very, very apparent throughout his work, mostly in its shortcomings.

          • lgauge

            I see a lot versions of this sentiment and I just can’t agree with it. There are just so many counter-examples. I’m starting to wonder if it’s not more something along the lines of him sometimes not being bothered. The visual qualities, or perhaps more appropriately ambitions, vary a lot in his work, but not in a way that gives me reason to suspect he was somehow stuck in a theatrical mindset. Even going beyond dialogue scenes, there are so many examples of interesting framing, expressive use of lighting, visual tableux (in both 2 and 3 dimensions) and certainly there’s the editing. And you can’t give all the credit to his collaborators either, because the good happens with many of them and sometimes the less interesting happens with a collaborator who has worked on one or more films with much better qualities in the area in question.

            There just seems to be something a little less clear cut going on.

          • I don’t mean that he’s “stuck” in a theatrical mindset–I just think it’s what he defaults to when he’s not actively working to evoke the cinematic idiom. Because I definitely agree–there are a ton of examples of his work being extremely cinematic.

      • The Ploughman

        And just like that, my enthusiasm for Let the Corpses Tan! has dissipated.

        • lgauge

          Seems like a lot of people like or even love it, but I … don’t.

      • John Bruni

        “Real adolescent, fashionable pessimism.
        I mean, the silence. God’s silence.
        OK, OK, OK. I mean, I loved it when I was
        at Radcliffe, but, all right, you outgrow it.”

        Just kidding: The Silence is another one of Bergman’s jabs at bourgeois morality, and it’s particularly moving in its afterimages of historical trauma.

      • Miller

        “If directors’ jail was a literal concept, this movie qualifies for a life sentence.”

        Code blue! Burn unit, to The Solute immediately!

      • Irish Eyes Of A Gnu Generation

        I encourage you to watch more bad movies, your reactions are very entertaining to read.

    • Glorbes

      I watched The Lost Weekend (1945). It felt wrong that I started watching the movie while drinking beer.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        I was watching Wait Until Dark and I absolutely craved beer while watching it because the beer just looked so good in the movie.

      • Babalugats

        … so I switched to scotch

    • No movies, but my friends & I did compete in my old high school’s trivia tournament fundraiser for their quiz bowl team. We won the inaugural tournament last year and defended our title this year. I celebrated by jumping on our table, taunting our biggest rival (a team of former teachers of ours), and drinking Scotch straight from the bottle. Good times.

      • The Ploughman

        It is what every teacher dreams for their students: that they will build upon and surpass their mentor’s own knowledge while drunkenly taunting them.

    • The Ploughman

      Ghostbusters (1984) – Entertaining, but I also feel a bit more comfortable than my (limited) defense of the new version. The original is a great example of a comedy that doesn’t get lost in the effects and, of course, is an original. It moves with purpose and that may be one of the key differences. The modern improv-style comedy on display in the remake has more than few detractors, but there’s plenty of improv tolerated in the 80s edition, usually in the form of a final line tossed out by Murray.

      This is technically the third time I’ve seen the movie but it’s been probably a couple decades since the last viewing (the first time was a while ago – I saw it at a drive-in from the back of my parents’ AMC Pacer). What I hadn’t remembered was degree to which the movie was handed over to Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, to a degree that unbalances the movie. This might have been a wise decision – Akroyd’s performance is terrible and Reitman is great but effectively an entertaining means to exposition. If only they had found room for a fourth Ghostbuster to even things out, because Venkman is funny as hell, but it’s best to moderate the doses before they start to get icky.

      Sigourney Weaver is the greatest, however, and the remake has no answer for her.

      MST3K: The Return: Cry Wilderness – This was a very strange movie. I’m almost fully acclimated to the change in voices. I had the problem others have mentioned of having difficulty discerning Vaughn and Ray in the theater, but I think part of that has to do with Ray’s delivery being more like I’d expect from a bot character than the host. All three are jumping in like they’ve just been called on in an improv circle, but if the lines are sometimes a little rapid-fire for my taste, there’s enough that land to keep me laughing. Yount’s Crow is pretty much ready to go out of the box and Vaughn’s Servo is the biggest change in voice but he has the same playful range as Murphy that makes him perfect for the part.

      • Glorbes

        Weaver is, indeed, awesome in Ghostbusters.

      • Miller

        Murray as improvising wild card, adding in flavor, feels different than allowing multiple people (who are skilled at improv, don’t get me wrong) to shape the scene. I should rewatch, though, I keep hearing how bad Ackroyd is and my main recollection is just that he’s very weird in that general Ackroyd way, sort of robotic.

        • Babalugats

          Yeah, there’s a difference between having a comedy script, and then if your actors improve the jokes on set, rolling with it. And having a dramatic script, and expecting your actors to generate nearly every joke in the movie on the spot, and suffering constant tonal shifts as you go back and forth from blocks of exposition and extended riffs (shot flatly because they were all unplanned).

          • The Ploughman

            Yeah, this. I started making a point in typing this up and forgot to finish the thought. The improvs in the original are asides and flourishes. Even if they’re fundamentally extraneous and hit-and-miss (generally hit) as far as funny, they don’t interfere with the flow of the story. The remake’s improvs, I will argue, have the same funny-to-non ratio, but they’re rooted in the meat of the scenes, so the flow of the story gets affected by them. It’s making a cake layer out of frosting versus frosting the layer.

        • Glorbes

          I like Aykroyd’s performance. I think Ray is just a weird, uptight kid who’s really intelligent and sincere.

      • Irish Eyes Of A Gnu Generation

        “If only they had found room for a fourth Ghostbuster…”

        Ernie Hudson reads that and a single tear rolls down his cheek.

        • The Ploughman

          My goal was not to make Ernie Hudson cry, but to make us all cry for Ernie Hudson.

    • Jake Gittes

      The Florida Project, second viewing – got to see it on the big screen and loved it even more this time. No longer ambivalent about the ending, which really worked when I knew it was coming, although the most powerful scene is still the final meal in the hotel, especially the cut from Moonee babbling about whatever comes into her head to Hallee just looking at her – the entire film is a build-up for that simple shot-reverse shot, and it’s an absolute gut punch. This time I was more conscious of Baker’s direction, specifically the construction of both narrative and tone, which, beneath the seemingly chaotic and freewheeling surface, is really tightly controlled, even schematic – and it works beautifully, both because it’s perfectly balanced out by the naturalistic dialogue and acting, and because what he has to say is so right-on. I hope this isn’t the last time Dafoe has played Jesus, because there may be no one better at it than him.

      The Incredible Shrinking Man – my first dip into big-screen 1950s American sci-fi, and I’m glad there was Richard Matheson’s name right there in the opening credits, because it was enough to point my expectations into a clearer direction. Wastes precisely zero time setting things up – we need more movies where a major plot point is actually left offscreen entirely, only to be quickly recalled by the characters like “Oh yeah, shit, that happened” – before taking things into guessable but still potent dramatic territory where the perfect ’50s American male can’t deal with what’s happening to him and becomes gloomy and tyrannical. Even then, I couldn’t have expected the third act, where things turn downright primal – the protagonist now forced to procure food and battle prehistoric beasts using improvised tools – and I was knocked out by the ending, which successfully dares to make a leap into the transcendent. Wish it were lighter on voiceover, which too often flatly describes feelings and actions that are clear anyway, and that third act grows just a bit repetitive before it gets to the end, but otherwise I was really impressed with this. Nicely acted, too, and the transitions are seamless – the stakes and the dangers always clear.

      X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes – my second trip to Roger Corman-land following Dementia 13, with which this was incidentally released as a double feature. Ray Milland is more committed to this than most actors probably would have been in his place, which everyone benefits from (Don Rickles is also on hand in a straightforward dramatic part, playing a great asshole); the tone briefly gets out of hand sometimes – there’s one seriously goofy death scene, and those moments where the main character sees everyone naked, but the camera can oh-so-naughtily show nothing but backs and ankles, must have played better before New Hollywood – but on the whole it’s a compelling tale of a scientist undone by his all-too-human weaknesses. Not as gripping as The Incredible Shrinking Man, but, as with that film, the ending comes out of left field and I won’t soon forget it.

      • Glorbes

        This was the first movie I saw with Ray Milland. Let’s just say I have been working backwards through his filmography.

        • Jake Gittes

          The only other role I’ve seen him in is The Major and the Minor, and he’s indispensable when it comes to selling the premise there too.

          • Glorbes

            Well, I just watched his most iconic role (The Lost Weekend) and I also really liked him in Ministry of Fear.

      • John Bruni

        In a just world, Dafoe should have won an Oscar. It’s not just that he holds the film together; he does it in such a non-showy way. That’s acting.

        • pico

          I know it was a tight field, but I think the Oscar it most deserved was direction. The level of difficulty was off the charts (for all the reasons @JakeGittes:disqus discusses above), plus working with improvising children, avoiding condescension, avoiding exploitation, avoiding sentimentality, and somehow maintaining this loose vibe against a tightly controlled vision. I’m still in awe of what Baker pulled off.

    • A Talking Banana!?!

      Last Flag Flying (2017)- Certainly the least of Linklater’s current stellar run, but still plenty to like about it. A bit too low-key for it’s own good, but the acting is mostly great (except for Cranston, oddly; for some reason after Breaking Bad he decided he had to act as broadly as possible).

      Darkest Hour (2017) – Hot take: This is actually a pretty good movie. I don’t even think it’s the worst of the best picture nominees.

      Batman & Robin (1997) – Even hotter take: While a pretty bad movie, this is not the disasterpiece a lot of people make it out to be. It’s at least (slightly) better than Batman Forever.

      • Jake Gittes

        I wouldn’t say Darkest Hour is particularly good but I still enjoyed it more than both movies Best Picture eventually came down to. Would have been nice to see Ben Mendelsohn nominated, he’s low-key terrific.

      • Miller

        I’m a Batman Forever defender in general – what can I say, I like manic Carrey – but even beyond that, I found Batman and Robin to be literally unwatchable in its garishness, like Baz Luhrmann lost what formal chops he has and just became Guy Fieri.

      • I actually thought Last Flag Flying was excellent (though I agree that Cranston is weirdly bad in it). To me, it captured perfectly the complicated relationship with the military that I see in my veteran friends.

      • There were moments in Batman & Robin where Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze hit the mix of camp and pathos that’s like great EC comic books. I could almost believe it was intentional.

    • Miller

      My brother’s wedding – after a lead-up of unpleasant drama drawn out to tedious lengths (all extraneous to the wedding and the couple themselves, who are great), a rousing conclusion. Unfortunately marred, however, by a tacked-on epilogue of feeling like a pig shat in one’s head.

      • The Ploughman

        Hopefully not one of those things that’s just setting up for a sequel.

    • Delmars Whiskers

      Chicago–Touring production of the long-running revival, thankfully free of the stunt casting that has plagued this show in recent years. I’d seen it before, but not since the movie was released, and it was a nice reminder of just how little the filmmakers had to work with–it tells its story as a series of vaudeville acts, and there’s very little to build a conventional movie around. In any event, a terrific show, and the cast was incredible.

      Conan The Destroyer–Perfect basic cable entertainment. Obviously less ambitious than Milius’ original, and with a lower budget, but with a cast including Grace Jones, Mako and Tracey Walter, plus cinematography by Jack Cardiff, it’s a whole lot more fun.

      Footloose–Possibly the most 80s movie ever made. Kevin Bacon’s dance double gives a fine performance.

    • The Narrator

      The Limey: Surprise, it’s still a masterpiece.

      Six Shooter: Martin McDonagh’s debut short film, and the source of his only Oscar to date (thank god that’s still true after last weekend). I do wonder if I would have liked this more before the Three Billboards kerfuffle, because this would be a convincing case against McDonagh by the people who think he’s only good at mean-spirited button-pushing. But this builds to a sick punchline that’s worth the price of admission, and Brendan Gleeson is, surprise, a good actor.

      Running Scared: A rock-solid buddy cop comedy, highlighted by the top-notch chemistry between Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal and Peter Hyams’ direction and cinematography, which go above and beyond the visual expectations for an 80s comedy (Hyams does not believe in lighting as brightly and blandly as possible so the jokes are clear).

      Blank Check with Griffin and David, Running Scared: This episode is a How Did This Get Made crossover, with Paul Scheer joining to talk about Running Scared. He provides an interesting twist on the normal dynamic, with him contextualizing through detailed analysis of the buddy-cop genre (his point about how Scared behaves like a sequel to a buddy-cop movie is brilliant), as opposed to Griffin and David contextualizing through star personas and authorial stamp. It’s a really fun episode, and it also taught me about the conspiracy surrounding the death of Scared‘s screenwriter Gary Devore, which sounds like the plot of a Chinatown sequel (Devore disappeared, and was found dead a year later in his car in the California aqueduct, with both hands missing; there’s a conspiracy he was killed by the U.S. government over a script about the invasion of Panama).

      Saturday Night Live: Sterling K. Brown is by far the best host of the season thus far, throwing himself into even the dumbest sketches with aplomb. And his aggressive commitment leads to two of the most delirious sketches in recent memory, one involving him championing Shrek as the greatest film of all time and the other involving him enthusiastically singing Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me”.

      • Jake Gittes

        I did find Six Shooter kind of obnoxious but at least it’s a short and, yeah, Gleeson makes it go down relatively easy. Looking back, it’s weird how In Bruges, which I loved, seems more and more like a fluke.

        • I’ve a friend who says McDonagh is his favorite writer/director, and I just want to ask just how many w/d does he actually know?

      • Although it’s been eclipsed by The Fugitive in the Workmanlike Action Films for a Worker’s City genre, Running Scared is indeed rock-solid. Hyams was a director(-cinematographer) who never tried to be more than a craftsman and so became a damn good one–the final shootout, done as nothing more than a large-scale shot/reverse-shot (with the neat touch that the two sides are on different horizontal planes), is a quick masterpiece of compressed action poetry.

  • Glorbes

    Is it kosher for me to post a link to a piece I wrote on The Avocado? I would have posted it here, but I don’t have access.

  • The Ploughman

    Is there any position in film whose contribution is less recognized in movies than the casting director? Do they get named on the ensemble SAG award at least?

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      One of the only ones I can think of is Andrea Romano because her picks for every DCAU series were SO great (Mark Hamill, Dana Delaney, Richard Moll, Kevin “Fucking” Conroy, etc.)