Film Diary vol 6: Horror, Borzage, etc.

Featured image from StageFright.

I’ve been pretty busy and gotten way behind on this… this entry represents something like four months of Film Diary.  I watched a ton of horror movies, including all of Fulci except some of the early comedies, a complete Argento rewatch (still underway), and a full survey of one other director who I’ll leave as a surprise. I decided to break those out into separate posts. Here’s most of the other stuff I watched. I’m going to lead with horror because it’s that time of year.

Favorites (relative to the category) highlighted in bold.

Recent Horror

Not a lot of great news here. I thought highly of the first three, but the others range from half-decent to terrible.

Unsane (Soderbergh, 2018)

On the border between horror and thriller, and extremely effective. One of my favorites of the year so far. It does a great job building a terrifying feeling of confinement and powerlessness.

47 Meters Down (Roberts, 2017)

This Mandy Moore shark movie is very successful relative to its ambitions. It’s not quite as good as The Shallows, but it’s a total hoot. Forget everything you may happen to know about scuba diving and just roll with it. I literally screamed at one point. I mean I screamed an involuntary, high-pitched scream like a shark was actually about to eat me. It’s been a long time since a movie made me really and truly scream.

Hold the Dark (Saulnier, 2018)

Soooooooooo weird! Absolutely not what I was expecting on the basis of Netflix’s description. I like Saulnier’s other work so I gave it a shot, and this is definitely not the wolf-themed survival movie it was advertised as. This is the most Black Metal movie ever. People are taking about how Mandy is so metal. No way: Mandy is prog rock. Hold the Dark is metal. I dug it.

Beyond the Black Rainbow (Cosmatos, 2010), Mandy (Cosmatos, 2018)

I watched these as a double feature and thought they were pretty meh. This director makes glorified music videos. The storytelling is totally inept, which would be fine if these movies achieved something worthwhile in atmosphere and tone, but they really don’t. It’s all predictable and has been done much better before. Cage mostly repeats himself in Mandy, often crossing over into self-parody (though the vodka scene is great). For recent Cage movies, I’ll take Looking Glass or Mom and Dad over Mandy any day of the week.

A Quiet Place (Krasinski, 2018)

I completely hated this. It’s one of the worst horror movies of the decade. The exposition is literally done on a white board. The internal logic is broken: the creatures can hear a jar tip over from outside the house but they can’t hear a scared person breathing if they hide behind a desk? It’s not suspenseful because the rules are so unclear. The screenplay does a poor job extrapolating the horror possibilities of the premise and the climactic plot solution is very dissatisfying. All the acting is terrible, the creatures aren’t cool or scary, and the PG-13 gore is tepid and boring.

Hereditary (Aster, 2018)

This is a C-grade Paranormal Activity riff combined with a Polanski rip off and dressed up as a weighty grief drama. Toni Colette’s fully batshit performance elevates it, but there are a few serious missteps (especially some aspects of the climax) and it takes itself too seriously for how clichéd it is.

Revenge (Fargeat, 2017)

Stylistically slick rape-revenge movie, relatively light on the rape. It’s too slick for its own good, and really nothing new, but the final bloody showdown is impressive.

The Strangers: Prey at Night (Roberts, 2018)

A lot of people celebrate this for its retro 80’s sensibility, but it didn’t work for me. It’s way homage heavy, but mostly goes for really obvious nods (though I do appreciate the Christine love). My main problem with it is that it totally loses what made the first Strangers movie special: the surreal and terrifying breakdown in spatial logic, creative use of sound, relentless sense of confinement, and abstract rendering of the horror menace.  I prefer retro horror that actually embodies a retro form (like House of the Devil) rather than movies like this that just make lots of cheeky references.

Unfriended: Dark Web (Susco, 2018)

A sequel to Unfriended, the gimmick is that the entire movie takes place on a computer desktop. The form is really cool and I’m highly in favor of this sort of high concept horror, but the screenplay is too dumb even for me.

The First Purge (McMurray, 2018)

I liked this just fine. If you like the other Purge movies, then certainly go for it, but otherwise don’t go out of your way.

Other Horror

Mountain of the Cannibal God (Martino, 1978); Cannibal Holocaust (Deodato, 1980); Cannibal Ferox (Lenzi, 1981)

These are three of the most significant entries in the Italian Jungle Exploitation subgenre. Mountain of the Cannibal God is pretty trashy, with a few extremely transgressive moments. Cannibal Holocaust is a masterpiece. It’s a masterpiece that I specifically recommend not watching unless you’ve seen a whole lot of horror movies and are highly desensitized. It will mess you right the hell up. It’s often claimed to be the most extreme horror movie ever made, and I think all things considered that’s probably accurate. It’s also the most brutal indictment of western civilization I’ve ever encountered. Cannibal Ferox is a relatively silly, campy, fun take on similar material. Be warned that all of these movies (and really all the other Italian Jungle movies from this period) contain unsimulated violence against animals. This is part of why there will probably never again be a movie as grotesque as Cannibal Holocaust: you just can’t get away with this kind of thing anymore.

The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)

No matter how many times I watch this, it still shocks me when the little girls says “Your mother sucks cocks in hell!”

Brain Damage (Henenlotter, 1988)

One of a kind, with fantastic practical effects and a dark sense of humor. There’s a monster, and the monster secretes hard drugs.

 A Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven, 1984)

I loved it as a kid (though it utterly terrified me), and I still love it today. I appreciate the surreal nightmare compositions now more than ever.

Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)

I hope I don’t ever let a whole year go by where I don’t watch Halloween. 90 minutes of total perfection.

StageFright (Soavi, 1987)

This is an excellent post-giallo Italian slasher movie with a great premise: the cast of a stage play about a murderer is locked in the theater with the actual murderer that the play is about! Stylistically on point.

Death Walks on High Heels (Ercoli, 1971); Death Walks at Midnight (Ercoli, 1972)

A couple of classic gialli starring Nieves Navarro. They are both very good. In the former, she plays an exotic dancer whose jewel thief father has recently been murdered. She’s stalked by criminals who think she has the latest batch of stolen diamonds. In the latter, she plays a model who witnesses a murder through the window across the street while she’s experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs. The ending is bonkers. Of the two, I prefer Death Walks at Midnight.

Blade (Norrington, 1998), Blade II (del Toro, 2002), Blade: Trinity (Goyer, 2004)

The Blade trilogy holds up well. Guillermo del Toro’s installment is clearly superior to the other two, but they are all great. The third one is underappreciated: it’s got very strong Parker Posey factor, not to mention Triple H.

Society (Yunza, 1989)

Beverly Hills cannibal orgy horror, with superb practical effects. Recommended

Spontaneous Combustion (Hooper, 1990)

Nuclear family goes nuclear. The Brad Dourif/Tobe Hooper combo is dreamy. The movie’s perhaps a little uneven but its high points are tremendous.

Crocodile (Hooper, 2000)

Not one of Tobe Hooper’s better movies, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. Certainly, it’s no Eaten Alive, but he clearly had fun with the direct-to-Cinemax creature feature aesthetic. It’s campy and fun.

The Nude Vampire (Rollin, 1970)

This is a good entry point into Jean Rollin’s Eurotrash artsy erotic vampire horror.

Dead & Buried (Sherman, 1981)

This is a largely neglected but very worthwhile example of the socio-political horror that flourished in the 70’s and 80’s. Great ending.

I Saw the Devil (Kim, 2010)

Brutal South Korean revenge horror.  I thought it was derivative, moralistic (not a quality I can easily tolerate in revenge horror), and way too long, but it has some solid brutality.

Ju-on: The Grudge (Shimizu, 2002)

You know, I actually think I like the American remake (by the same director) better. This is not my favorite subgenre of Japanese horror.

New Releases (other than horror)

First Reformed (Schrader, 2017)

I posted about this already, and yeah, I think it’s a masterpiece and easily the best film of the year.

Let the Sunshine In (Denis, 2017)

This one is very hard to talk about. She wasn’t trying to accomplish much here: she made this to kill time while a more expensive project was on hold. The movie feels half baked, but not in a bad way. It’s liberating. She’s not trying to make the greatest movie ever, she’s just running with some ideas. At the zoomed in level, the acting, writing, and direction are extraordinary, and I found myself just getting lost in the details. I love the film.

Upgrade (Whannell, 2018)

One of the best genre movies of the year. Black Mirror but good.

Ready Player One (Spielberg, 2018)

Forget the haters on this one. I’ve watched it three times and I find the thought of watching it again very appealing. This is master class pop movie-making.

Leave No Trace (Granik, 2018)

I hated it. I found the drama very underwhelming and all the nature photography reeked of city folk overly enamored with ferns. It felt like a big Instagram post about a New Yorker’s visit to Oregon. It even has an Instagram filter look to it. For me what this movie needed was a real conflict. Maybe a bounty hunter or a killer bear. The father-daughter PTSD shtick wasn’t enough to sustain this.

Skyscraper (Thurber, 2018)

The Rock only has one leg and the title is Skyscraper. It’s exactly what you’d expect. I certainly enjoyed it.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Howard, 2018)

It wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t good. I really don’t care, but I don’t regret watching it.

Blockers (Cannon, 2018)

Vastly better than I expected it to be. Downright hilarious. It’s a female-centric update of American Pie. What I most appreciate about it is that, like Broad City, it gives the female characters plenty of filthy dialogue.

Isle of Dogs (Anderson, 2018)

Meh. It’s got some good qualities but this might be Wes Anderson’s weakest movie. The Greta Gerwig stuff is completely tone deaf and terrible by any standard.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (Reed, 2018)

Pretty good. Certainly one of the better Marvel movies.

Kuro (Koyama, 2017)

Weird experimental movie where the relationship between narration and image is oblique. We are being told a story of the protagonist and her boyfriend taking care of an elderly man in Japan, but the images (which don’t get contextualized much) depict her taking care of her paraplegic boyfriend in the present. I liked it a lot.

Murder on the Orient Express (Branagh, 2017)

Godawful in every respect, but what I hate most about it is the shameful waste of Willem Dafoe.

Wulu (Coulibaly, 2016)

Scarface riff from Mali. It’s pretty non-descript and forgettable.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Bayona, 2018)

It’s too long and Bryce Dallas Howard is bad, but I do like some things about this: fun genre hopping, amazing Republican dinosaur auction scene.

The Death of Stalin (Iannucci, 2017)

I hated it. One would not expect that this material would be apt for a comedy, and it turns out it isn’t. Jeffery Tambor is godawful. Rupert Friend from Homeland as Vasily Stalin is the one shining light.

The Beguiled (Coppola, 2017)

Meh.

The Rider (Zhao, 2017)

Eh…. the acting is really good but otherwise I don’t care.

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (2018)

I read somewhere that the recent Bill Maher standup special represents comedy’s past while the Hannah Gadsby special represents its future, and I thought this was an intriguing claim so I tried to watch them both. I found the Bill Maher special unwatchable. It sucks. I did watch Nanette all the way through, and if this is the future of comedy then god help us all. I thought it was terrible. It’s more of a social justice TEDx Talk than a comedy routine. I felt like I was being manipulated: she dumps out so much emotional carnage that I’m a bad person if I don’t adopt an admiring attitude and fawn about how devastating it all is. I’m not going to play along with that. I thought it was terrible.

Frank Borzage

I’ve been meaning to dive into Borzage for about a decade, and I finally got around to it.

I ranked these:

14) Liliom (1930)

Sluggish early talkie.

13) Bad Girl (1931)

Eh, very grown up marriage drama with a focus on economic strain (like Man’s Castle in some ways, but not as good).  I didn’t particularly enjoy the leads.

12) Lazybones (1925)

This is an amazing indictment of the protestant work ethic until it turns super creepy (in a bad way).

11) A Farewell to Arms (1932)

Terrible as a Hemmingway adaptation, decent as a stand-alone romantic drama.

10) Street Angel (1928)

I found this the least compelling of the Gaynor-Farrell romances. The use of the Fox sets is fantastic and some of the Murnau-influenced expressionist visuals are striking, but for me the narrative dragged.

9) Man’s Castle (1933)

Angry working class romance with Spencer Tracy. Good stuff.

8) Lucky Star (1929)

Very nice Gaynor-Farrell silent romance.

7) Strange Cargo (1940)

Extremely weird, religious Lifeboat meets Rescue Dawn with Joan Crawford. I dug it.

6) 7th Heaven (1927)

Dreamy silent romance with Gaynor and Farrell. Essential.

5) Desire (1936)

Very funny screwball comedy, in collaboration with Lubitsch. Gary Cooper plays a straight-laced American on vacation and Marlene Dietrich plays a con artist he gets entangled with. Fans of Howard Hawks’ Ball of Fire will enjoy this.

4) Mannequin (1937)

Excellent drama concerned with gender politics. Starring Joan Crawford and Spencer Tracy.

3) The Mortal Storm (1940)

Early anti-Nazi movie with Jimmy Stewart as a German who takes a stand at great peril. Very powerful stuff.

2) History is Made at Night (1937)

Wonderful gonzo romantic comedy. Ridiculous and joyous.

1) Moonrise (1948)

Dark sins-of-the-father swamp noir. I think it’s Borzage’s best film by a large margin.

Gance

J’accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), Napoleon (1927)

I watched through Gance’s three major silent epics. J’accuse is undeniably impressive but I didn’t find it as compelling overall and it dragged for stretches. It doesn’t have the same level of visionary grandeur as the other two, which are all time masterpieces. La Roue is the missing piece for understanding what Guy Maddin is up to, particularly in Careful. It’s one of the biggest, craziest movies I’ve ever seen, and I loved it. But nothing can top Napoleon, which is one of my favorite movies of the silent era. It’s technically over the top and unrepentantly heroic. He invented so many techniques for this movie that were way ahead of their time, and some were never repeated.

Straub/Huillet

Not Reconciled (1965), The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp (1968), En rachachant (1982)

I was imagining I was going to power through the rest of the Straub/Huillet filmography in a few months. Not even close. This stuff is remarkably difficult, but also very rewarding. I watched Not Reconciled six times, and I forced everyone at a full weekend aesthetics conference to watch it with me. Half of them hated it, half of the loved it. It’s an aggressively difficult movie that jumps forwards and backwards in time by decades without any signaling and introduces a huge cast of characters with almost zero exposition. It takes place over the course of 50 years but is less than an hour long. I think it’s absolutely stunning, and having taken the time to map it all out I can report that there is an almost entirely coherent interpretation available.

Resnais

Je t’aime, je t’aime (1968), Stavisky… (1974), My American Uncle (1980)

Je t’aime, je t’aime is the most Resnais movie ever. The classic Resnais theme is memory and identity. This movie imagines a sci fi scenario where a man who has just survived a suicide attempt is enlisted to test a time travel machine. He ends up unstuck in time, forced to relive bits and pieces of his memories in a chaotic way. The grim drama of the movie is generated from the fact that he’s suicidal: he was chosen for the experiment because he had already tried to kill himself and so the scientists felt alright about risking his life, but what worse torture could there be than having to relive the events that led up to his suicide attempt with the benefit of hindsight? It’s a great film, and clearly an influence on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Stavisky is a minor work about the Stavisky affair. I didn’t love it. My American Uncle is a very energetic film tracing the lives of multiple individuals within the framework of a scientific study applying a thesis about behavioral determinism to human beings. I really didn’t like the framing, because the scientific theory itself is so dumb, but the individual narratives are well-rendered and I liked the movie overall.

Taiwan

Taipei Story (Yang, 1985)

I’ve made New Taiwanese Cinema a staple of my movie diet the last year or so. Angela loves this stuff. Most of these movies manage to simultaneously succeed as human dramas and engage with the historical transformations that Taiwan underwent in the 20th century. Taipei Story is no exception. It feels like what it is: the first film by a great genius. It’s not as fully developed as his other work but it’s brilliant in its own way and full of quietly devastating acting performances.

The Terrorizers (Yang, 1986)

Now *this* is a damn movie. This is one of the best things I’ve seen in recent months. Multiple narratives are woven together through coincidence, as a way of examining the theme of globalization and its effect on Taiwan.

Dust in the Wind (Hou, 1986)

The third part of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s coming-of-age trilogy. As one would expect, it’s melancholy and lyrical, combining psychological nuance with a backdrop of socio-political transformation. It doesn’t stand out to me as a high point of Hou’s filmography but it’s very good.

Vive L’Amour (Tsai, 1994)

I completely loved this. It’s about three lonely people who intersect because of an empty apartment: two squatters and the real estate agent trying to rent it out. I think out of what I’ve seen this is my favorite Tsai film. It seamlessly moves between lurid psychosexual material and gut-punching emotional poignancy.

The River (Tsai, 1997)

Maximally depressing. Its surface theme is chronic pain, and it’s relentless about it. This movie ruined my day, but it was worth it. I think it’s great.

Pasolini

Accattone (1961), Mama Roma (1962), The Gospel According to Matthew (1964), Teorema (1968), Porcile [aka Pigsty] (1969)

I took a course on Pasolini when I was an undergrad but I never really cared too much for his work, aside from Salo. There was a Pasolini feature on Filmstruck so I decided to reconsider. I really loved The Gospel According to Matthew, which is a retelling of the Christ story that focuses on his activities as an agitator against the political and social order. I disliked Teorema, which doesn’t live up to its lyrical posture and is ultimately pretty trite. Accattone and Mama Roma are gritty works of social realism. As much as I love Anna Magnani, Accattone is easily the better of the two. I admire how abrasive Porcile is, and the Pierre Clémenti stuff is amazing, but I found it overall tedious.

Fred Astaire

Flying Down to Rio (1933), Roberta (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), Carefree (1938), Funny Face (1957)

I’ve been watching and rewatching Fred Astaire movies at a pretty steady clip this year, and it’s just endlessly delightful. The first couple listed are light on the Astaire song and dance and not all that strong (Roberta is much better than Flying Down to Rio), but the other four are pure joy.

Ozon

Sitcom (1998), Criminal Lovers (1999), Water Drops on Burning Rocks (2000), Double Lover (2017)

The only Ozon movies I had seen were Swimming Pool, Under the Sand, and Potiche. I had a very wrong idea of what Ozon is all about on the basis of those titles. I was never crazy about Swimming Pool, but Under the Sand is a potent drama and Potiche is a delightful feminist Demy homage with an excellent Catherine Deneuve performance. I had no idea, though, that Ozon is such an imp. These titles are all pretty damn lurid and boundary pushing. Sitcom really caught my attention: it’s like Teorema, but Terence Stamp is replaced by a pet rat. I liked it much, much better that Teorema. Double Lover is a Cronenberg-De Palma sort of thing, and it gives no fucks about making sense. Criminal Lovers is a Hansel and Gretel riff. Water Drops on Burning Rocks is based on an early Fassbender play.

Buñuel

Death in the Garden (1956). Simon of the Desert (1965), Tristana (1970), The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

I’ve seen the latter three (a long time ago) but not Death in the Garden. They all hold up really well but I particularly loved The Phantom of Liberty. It contains some of Buñuel’s most exhilarating and creative absurdities

Godard

Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company (1986), Oh, Woe is Me (1993)

I slowed down on Godard this installment but these were both extremely high quality. The former was previously thought to be lost and has only recently been recovered. It’s fairly alienating (as one would expect), but contains a brilliant comedic performance from Jean-Pierre Léaud. I think it’s great. The latter is a masterpiece. It’s one of Godard’s most beautiful films, with ethereal cinematography from the brilliant Caroline Champetier. It updates the myth of Alcmene and Amphitryon, wherein Zeus appeared to Alcmene disguised as her husband Amphitryon, resulting in her pregnancy with Heracles. In this version, the Amphitryon stand in is played by Gerard Depardieu.

Star Wars Prequel Trilogy

I revisited this, and my opinions were quite different this time around. I used to be a little bit of a Phantom Menace apologist. I’m done with that; I thought Jake Lloyd was just unbearable as Anakin. I liked the other two MUCH better this time. They are about a slow, insidious transition from democracy to fascism, and they are very effective at revealing how such a transition can be achieved by almost entirely well-meaning agents. Who proposes special executive powers to the senate after the Star Wars equivalent of the Reichstag fire? Jar Jar Binks. Who activates the clone army? Yoda.  I used to be bothered by the acting from Christenson and Portman, but I actually liked it this time. I think it helped to have just watched all those Borzage movies: the acting style here is closer to an early talkie than a typical adventure epic, and I enjoyed the effect. I also appreciated how uncompromisingly dark the third prequel is. There are certainly some problems, such as the wasted opportunity of Mace Windu, but overall I’ll take Lucas’ sometimes misguided attempts to be a visionary over Disney’s fan service. I would say I now like the second and third prequels better than all of the Disney movies except The Last Jedi.

Miyazaki

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), Kiki’s Delivery Service  (1989), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Angela hadn’t seen any of these Miyazaki movies so we’ve been watching them all. I doubt anyone needs me to tell them how good they are. Howl’s Moving Castle especially improved for me on this rewatch. I bought all the new blu-ray releases, and many of them are essential purchases, because the subtitles are terrible on the Disney releases. Instead of actually translating the Japanese dialogue, they just use the transcript of the English dubbed track. If you’ve ever compared the English dubbing to the Japanese dialogue, the English versions are totally different and change the meaning of the movies in a noxious way. The only way to watch these movies is in Japanese with proper subtitles (so avoid the Disney releases!).

Double Feature: Crises of executive authority

Advise & Consent (Preminger, 1962), Seven Days in May (Frankenheimer, 1964)

Advise and Consent turned out to be absolutely perfect viewing for the Kavanaugh affair (I didn’t intend this, but it worked out—the Kavanaugh shit hit the fan like a week after I watched this). Lyndsey Graham does a pretty good Charles Laughton, but Kavanaugh is no Henry Fonda. Seven Days in May is a real potboiler, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Frankenheimer or political thrillers.

John Ford Comedies

The Whole Town’s Talking (1933), Steamboat Round the Bend (1935)

These are both very good. The former has Edward G. Robinson playing an escaped murderer and his law-abiding doppelgänger. It’s a hoot. The latter, starring Will Rogers, is very bizarre, featuring a traveling wax museum and the world’s slowest boat race. It deal frankly with issues of class and race while maintaining a comedic tone. Worthwhile for anyone interested in Ford.

Fritz Lang

The Wandering Image (1920), Four Around a Woman (1921), While the City Sleeps (1956)

The first two are very early fragments and not particularly interesting except to Lang completists. The latter is an acrid journalism satire and one of Lang’s better late works. It’s an antecedent to Nightcrawler.

Miscellaneous

Gold Diggers of 1933 (LeRoy, 1933)

Amazing and hilarious pre-code musical. I watched it two or three times as stress relief. It puts a huge smile on my face every time.

Choose Me (Rudolph, 1984)

Still intending to watch through Rudolph’s whole body of work but Angela isn’t into it so it’s hard to find the time. I think Choose Me is one of the best movies of the 80’s. It’s another entry in the “Keith Carradine rolls into town and fucks everyone” genre, and it creates an incredibly vivid world of neon signs and smoky bars, bathed in pink and purple. Barfly borrowed quite a lot from this.

Excalibur (Boorman, 1981)

I love it. I don’t know if I had ever seen it sober before. All the totally on the nose Wagner is what really puts it over the top.

Election 2 [aka Triad Election] (To, 2006)

Revisited this favorite. It’s wonderful.

2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)

Saw this in Imax sitting in the front row and it melted my face.

His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940); Monkey Business (Hawks 1952)

Revisited these wonderful Howard Hawks comedies and it made me very happy.

The Fugitive Kind (Lumet, 1960)

I had never seen this before. Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani go absolutely apeshit on some Tennessee Williams.

Big Wednesday  (Milius, 1978)

The most John Milius of all John Milius movies?

My Brother’s Wedding (Burnett, 1983)

It’s rough around the edges but I think this gritty, low-budget family drama is truly great.

Ride in the Whirlwind (Hellman, 1966)

Excellent existential western, though not as good as The Shooting.

The Draughtsman’s Contract (Greenaway, 1982), The Pillow Book (Greenaway, 1996)

I like Peter Greenaway but I don’t love him. I think The Pillow Book is one of his better movies.

Macao (N. Ray and Sternberg, 1952)

Forgettable noir, not really up to the standard one would expect from either director who worked on it.

The Last Unicorn (Bass and Rankin Jr., 1982)

A favorite when I was a kid, it holds up really well! The America soundtrack is pretty amazing.

Asparagus (Pitt, 1979)

Excellent experimental animation full of phalluses.

Blow-Up (Antonioni, 1966)

I revisited this for the sake of its connection with The Terrorizers. I think it’s good, but lower-tier Antonioni.

Casino Royale (Campbell, 2006)

Every time I revisit this I like it less. I now think it is one of the worst Bond movies. Certainly Craig is the worst Bond, and his only good Bond movie is Spectre.

The Magic Sun (Niblock, 1966)

Experimental Sun Ra shit. Enjoyed it.

Kino Eye (Vertov, 1924)

Not as appealing as Man with a Movie Camera.

Ballet Méchanique (Léger and Murphy, 1924)

Fantastic little Dadaist short. Highly recommended.

Night Movies (Penn, 1975)

Top-tier Gene Hackman Florida-LA noir. I didn’t remember it very well and it was a blast to revisit.

The Reluctant Debutante (Minnelli, 1958)

This was one of the only Minnelli movies I hadn’t seen. I skipped it when I was doing my big watch-through because I found the beginning very abrasive with all the shrill British accents. Once the main conflict gets going and the shrill British people become the villains it’s very good. I’m glad I went back and watched it.

Them! (Douglas, 1954)

Eh, it’s not as cool as a movie about giant ants should be.

Barcelona (Stillman, 1994)

There are no comedies this smart anymore, not even by Whit Stillman.

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1&2 (Condon, 2011 and 2012)

I am a Twilight fan. Mostly it’s ironic but I think these last two are genuinely good. The first one is amazing pregnancy horror. The second one is campier but the brutality of the first version of the ending is awesome.

Role Models (Wain, 2008)

One of the best modern comedies. Angela hadn’t seen it so I made her watch it. It holds up beautifully.

The Red Shoes (Powell and Pressburger, 1948)

I’m not a huge P and P fan (I think my favorite movie from the whole constellation is Powell’s Peeping Tom), but this is one of their better movies. There’s too much low key backstage drama for me. I prefer the hothouse melodramas of Vincente Minnelli.

The Decline of Western Civilization (Spheeris, 1981)

Interesting documentary about the LA punk scene. I had no idea how racist a lot of that scene was.

Everyone Says I Love You (Allen, 1996)

The Tim Roth-Drew Barrymore stuff is great. I hadn’t seen this in many years, and overall it holds up well.

All That Heaven Allows (Sirk 1955)

Nick Stang had us watch this at the same aesthetics conference where I made everyone watch Not Reconciled. His pick was a lot more of a crowd-pleaser. I’ve loved this movie for most of my life, but I still prefer Written on the Wind.

Shopping (Paul W.S. Anderson, 1994)

Good, not great. I like Paul W.S. Anderson (certainly a lot better than the other Paul Anderson!), but I prefer his less British stuff.

Liza (Ferreri, 1972)

I like the premise: Marcello Mastroianni lives alone on an island with his dog. Catherine Deneuve rolls in and kills the dog and then tries to replace it by wearing a dog collar and crawling around on all fours and whatnot. But the execution is weak. I don’t know how a movie with this premise manages to be boring.

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