Posts

The Boy (2016)

Image
I mentioned to a digi-friend the other day that I'd watched this film, and he said he had too, but that the twist was obvious.

I get irrationally angry at people who think that that is an appropriate critique. It's a film. Of course it's obvious. What was he expecting? So I told him that if you want unexpected, your best bet is real life.

And then I thought about what made me upset. I enjoyed watching the film. I actually looked up the plot on Wikipedia so I knew what to expect. I like films better when they're spoiled for me. And while I understand that lots of people are not that way at all, I wonder if, when we complain that we saw something coming, what we mean is that the film bored us so much that our minds skittered ahead to fill in the blanks. For filmmakers, the ramifications of that possibility are that their burden is to keep the viewer's mind engaged in the present: interested in what is on screen rather than trying to create suspense with emptiness.

I …

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Image
Okay, this film has some serious drawbacks for many different kinds of fans. And the people involved in making it. It sees Henry Jones, Jr. older, facing the logical aftermath of one of his failed relationships, and allows a resolution satisfying to some of us in the aging fanbase. In that aspect, this film is well-grounded. As I am frequently a liberal buzz-kill for many a dudebro power-fantasy franchise, I liked it. I want to see more of that, and yes, Marion's character can change that much in the intervening years. I've changed more than that in the last three months.

Indiana Jones is dragged into his cold-war anti-russian shenanigans by a greaser and prep-school dropout (Shia LeBeouf, whose acting I do not dislike as much as the internet tells me I should), and goes continent hopping to the nostalgic sounds of your childhood. This film tones down the "native savages as interfering goons" trope, but is still marred by the three or four scenes of it that remain. …

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)

Image
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)

Image
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)

Image
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)

Image
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 …