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Meta-blogging

I have been writing about my Netflix DVDs for several years. I keep my DVD account despite the convenience of streaming video because I seek out the strange and innocuous, and streaming video panders to the masses. It has been my personal experience that not everything life-changingly good is packaged as a blockbuster, and released in the last six months. Sometimes it comes in a little red envelope, and with a title nobody you know has ever heard.

Netflix is celebrating twenty years of shipping the silver screen to millions of people in little, red envelopes, and they have invited me (and many others, I'm sure) to earn rewards by writing about it. #ad
Well, as Talbot Mundy once wrote, "A teller of tales should tell them."

I started this blog because I wanted to keep a diary of all the wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) things I found to watch, because I wanted a place to rediscover the pieces of cinematography that have made their mark on my taste and psyche. I love writin…

The Loved One (1965)

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Robert Morse starred in this adaptation of a novel by Evelyn Waugh with a cast that included Jonathan Winters (in two roles), Milton Berle, James Coburn, John Gielgud, Tab Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Robert Morley, and Liberace. The female characters were more or less unknown, because bleaugh.

Meanwhile, THIS MOVIE IS WEIRD. And when I say weird, I'm not kidding. It's odd in that way that isn't quite odd enough. It's itchy, but not painful. This film had a solid budget, so it's not B-movie "we couldn't afford mainstream so we milked it," and nor was it a Blake Edwards "flamboyant for then, downtown for now." There's just something unnervingly off about this film, like something from Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected but woven through the whole thing, not just the murderous twist ending.

Maybe it reminds me a little of Doctor Strangelove (1964).

The story is about a truly terrible young English poet who appears in Hollywood to make a …

Lights Out (2016)

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SPOILER ALERT. ALL THE SPOILERS, ALL THE TIME.

I liked this film, not least for the lighting contrasts. I think that mysterious writing under black light is possibly a bit cliched at this point, but I still like it in horror movies. It does strange things to shadows, and this is a film where shadows matter.

The story revolves around a young adult living away from her mentally ill mother and her still-dependent younger brother. She must return to her home and the trauma there when the dark thing in the family home begins interfering with her brother's ability to function at school.

I wanted the dark thing to be a metaphor, like The Babadook (2014). I think dark things are meaningful. But the backstory was character-based rather than allegorical. Characters are this film's strong point. The boyfriend was not a tool, and not stupid. The female protagonist was in control, decisive and flawed. I think that all the humans were more or less sympathetic. I *spoiler immediately ahead*…

America's Most Haunted (2013)

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This horror/comedy about a fraudulent [aren't they all?] and unsuspecting ghost hunting team that is hired to expel a "real" ghost is in fact, one of the [intentionally] funniest haunted house films I have ever seen. I watched and rewatched it - totally unconcerned that easy answers were complicated by light-hearted carelessness rather than deliberate obfuscation that most horror films rely on as a stamp of their dedicated post-modernity in a subgenre that remains stubbornly twentieth-century.

The script is witty, the ending ironic, the ghosts just ever-so-slightly slapstick (with the occasional jump scare, because that sort of thing BELONGS in horror/comedy, and not in straight horror). It hits some very comedic notes with each of its anti-heroes as they confront a series of antagonists, living and dead.
Anyway, I made my roommates watch it, and they don't like horror. So they didn't like it. But I LOVE scary movies, and this is probably in my top ten favorites.…

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

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This film, the delicate and calmly paced Netflix poem, features more than one first-person voice-over introduction, a practice I often dislike. But in this case, although the script is possibly heavy-handed, it is not insipid. It gives the whole story a very literary tone that I enjoy. This tone continues as a significant character, Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss), was a novelist by trade before she came to need a hospice nurse (Lily, played by the stoic Ruth Wilson).

The muted tone continues dominating the film as its most significant feature. With little color, little noise, it aptly captures Lily's own experience nearly alone in a haunted house as she slowly experiences the deaths that she has come to live with, to come closer to understanding what that means, what those deaths were. And as she learns, so do we.

It is an experience. Like a perfectly prepared meal, it is not designed to be inhaled. If you like quickly-paced adventure/slashers, this will not satisfy you. It is a film …

The Bye Bye Man (2017)

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*contains spoilers* *this blog ALWAYS contains spoilers*

This movie wishes it were The Babadook (2014). The mysterious figure that haunts anyone who knows his name. . . But the Babadook was a symbol of depression (or homosexuality, if you read it like many a tumblrite), and that's just too. . . surreal for Stacy Title, director, or Jonathan Penner, who wrote the screenplay, (and whose names are a bit on-the-nose, really). Emotional logic is still logic.

I think the strongest thing this movie has going for it is the postmodern resistance against making sense of things. We never hear any explanation for the coins or the train imagery or the finger scratches in the stone. I mean, Elliot, the main character, asks, but Mrs. Redmon (Faye Dunaway) either never answers, or we don't hear it through Elliot's hallucinations. And the film consistently insists that the murder perpetrators "aren't mad," which is a nice gesture for those of us forced to protest the stigma a…

The Darkest Hour (2011)

This apocalyptic science fiction/alien invasion film begins with three Americans, a tall woman with an Australian accent, and a Swede with a bad goatee who are nearly the only survivors of an invasion of Moscow. [sarcastic sidenote: Because clearly the Moscvich wouldn't have a clue where to hide.]

The tone is muted and reminds me of earlier Asylum productions, which it resembles in dialogue as well, though Asylum films are less predictable. This film had brighter colors and much higher production values than Asylum films, and some of the imagery was remarkably picturesque. The aliens were frightening in a rather sanitized way, and even unique.

The plot required little science, which all seemed to be a variation on an ancient theme: [spoilers immediately ahead]

Aliens invade, all the token people of color die (even the English-speaking ones), the surviving white people discover the alien weakness and band together - developing sexual or romantic tension -, and the film ends with t…