Saturday, August 5, 2017

Weekend Open Thread

I'm your boyfriend now!

Several of us are joining some of the team from Daily Dead at Flashback Weekend here in Chicago this weekend, so while we're appreciating the majesty of Adam Riske's Wishmaster ring, you all should talk about whatever you want. Have you seen anything good lately?

34 comments:

  1. Good weekend to all of you.

    It sounds like it will be a fun time at Flashback Weekend.

    I got around to watching a few films this week, but life became too distracting to reach my viewing goals. Hopefully I can catch up this weekend.

    PERVERSION STORY, or ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER (1969) - Directed by Lucio Fulci.

    The story of PERVERSION STORY concerns the events that follow the death of a doctor's young wife. When a large insurance policy turns up, the heat is turned up on the doctor. Is he guilty of murdering his wife? Twists ensue. The synopsis on IMDB stupidly gives the biggest twist away.

    This is not a bad effort from a younger Fulci. It has some nice cinematography, and the location shooting in San Francisco is more than pleasant to look at. I was reminded of VERTIGO in certain sequences. Ultimately, the film is dragged down by a plodding pace and a frustratingly contrived plot. The acting by the lead actors, with the exception of Marisa Mell, does not add much excitement to film.

    PERVERSION STORY would probably be most appreciated by those who are interested in the 1960s. The era's fashions are on full display. The decor of rooms can be fun to examine, as well. Maybe you want to see what San Francisco looked like circa 1969.

    The film also takes advantage of the breakdown in censorship to display a surprising amount of nudity- all female, of course - and show two lengthy love scenes. This was certainly the period when European genre cinema became more aggressive in presenting such content. Even New Hollywood films became more frank about sexuality and the human body. It seems like American mainstream cinema has pulled back from such openness since the 1980s.

    THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE (1971)- Average Eurohorror about a group of travelers finding lodging in an aristocratic manor where danger lurks. I was expecting more from it. The opening is strong, the cinematography is atmospheric, and Erika Blanc gives an entertaining performance as an alluring malignant spirit. The rest of the film really does not do anything I have not seen already in European horror films of the period.

    With the passing of Jeanne Moreau, I wanted to see a film of hers I was not familiar with. I started watching Orson Welles' CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, but the late hour and the Shakespearean dialogue temporarily defeated me. I will finish it later.

    If any of you are not familiar with Jeanne Moreau, ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (1958) is a great film to start with. She had such a long and varied career that one film can never fully encapsulate it.

    Yes, it was definitely a quiet week. More thinking about things than watching.

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    1. One more thought to add. This morning I watched the ending of RAMBO III on tv. Despite the ridiculous script and bad acting, I have come to appreciate the film through its production. The location shooting, sets, and staging of the combat scenes are impressive. Toward the beginning of the film there is a shot of Rambo and company going through a cave that amazes me. The explosions during the nighttime raid are a thrill to watch. I wish CGI could be that exciting. The final battle is a marvel of choreographing machines. As Soviet tanks and trucks pull out from behind rocks, a helicopter makes a quick turn and lands in front of the vehicles, cutting off the escape of Rambo and Trautman. Our heros are definitely doomed now!

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    2. Hope you're able to get back to watching more stuff in the coming week. At least you got some Fulci in, particularly one which isn't too readily available.

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    3. Ascenseur pour l’├ęchafaud id probably my favorite Malle film. Miles Davis' score is perfection. I actually found an original 10" pressing of it a long time ago. It's one of my favorite records in my collection.

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    4. The film's French title definititely sounds more poetic than the English one. Miles Davis' score perfectly fits the mood of ELEVATOR... I was able to see a short feature about the recording session for the it. Davis improvised everything on the spot.

      My favorite film from Louis Malle is probably LACOMBE LUCIEN (1974). The period of French occupation during WWII has long fascinated me. AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS (1987), a film set during the same time period, is a close second. Of the Malle films I have watched, BLACK MOON is the only one I have not liked.

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    5. You didn't like Black Moon?!!?!

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    6. And, yeah, Perversion Story seemed to be Fulci's attempt at a Vertigo remake mostly, only without any of the meatiness to the themes of obsession and abuse that Hitchcock developed. Devil's Nightmare was one of my first Euro Horrors, probably first watched around '99, and it didn't do much to endear the genre to me. Franco and Rollin have been much more successful in swaying me during the years since.

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    7. If the plot was not clunky and the acting from the leads so wooden, Perversion Story might at least be an entertaining film. At times it felt like a chore to watch, particularly at the conclusion.

      When I saw Black Moon, which was a couple of years ago, maybe I was not in the right frame of mind for it. The attempts at symbolism and the generally stylize presentation of the material fell flat, seeming pretentious. Hopefully I do sound too harsh. We all have different reactions to films. I just expected a little more from a Malle film.

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    8. Hopefully I do not sound too harsh. (A not so slight omission there.)

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  2. Had a little bit more time to watch stuff than I've had in recent weeks. A lot of it wasn't particularly notable, like Gordon the Pirate (1962) aka Rage of the Buccaneers and Italian-made Pirate movie starring Ricardo Montalban and Vincent Price. Aside from being subtitled, it's fairly standard for a Pirate movie and there's nothing remarkable about the action or either stars performance here.

    I also watched Dark Tower, which I wasn't looking forward to but I've read the books so I figured I'd at least give it a fair chance. It's a movie where so much compromise has clearly been made to make this thing and get it out there that it ended up being a movie that won't satisfy anyone. It's devoid of anything that would get people unfamiliar with the books invested in the characters or story, and for people who have read them it's just a ton of half-hearted nods to the source material that's only marginally more faithful or coherent than the Super Mario Bros. Movie. I could actually see that being a "good" double feature.

    Continuing my trip through the 1930's I watched through all 13 parts of the 1936 Flash Gordon serial (about 4 hours or so long), and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). The former was good low-budget effects fun. The latter is one of those movies that I'm not sure if I've ever watched all the way through or if it's just so ingrained in pop culture that I felt like I have.

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    1. You have stamina, Ross. The Flash Gordon serial was on Netflix at one time. I believe I only got through four segments before I gave up. All of the adventures of Flash Gordon and crew when they reached Mars seemed to blend together.

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    2. I think the second serial (from 1938) was the one where they go to Mars, but I've only seen the first one. Yeah, these things are very circular and repetitive though. There's a very rough world building attempt to it that I like though, even if the leader what are supposed to be the Lion people is just a scruffy looking guy with a huge beard, and the shark people are just regular guys with speedos and skull caps.

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  3. So what did you all think of Wind River? I for one, thought it was terrific.

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    1. I wish I could say. I really want to see it but it hasn't come around here yet. :-/

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  4. I saw Detroit yesterday. I thought it was really masterfully done, but so incredibly distressing. I know there is some mystery surrounding what all really happened, but if any bit of what is portrayed in the movie is true, it is extremely troubling.

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    1. I'm right there with you. Just got back from seeing it and damn, it really had my blood boiling. Bigelow is so good at taking big events and making them so damn intimate. I thought it might have gone on a little bit too long, but overall I'm really glad I saw, even if it did make me very angry.

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  5. Nowhere To Hide (1999): probably my 100th viewing. i love this movie. korean action at its best. full of great action scenes, good music, fun actors. there's a foot pursuit near the beginning like you've never seen before. it's genius in its simplicity. it might be hard to find, but if you can, watch it and share it.

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    1. Nice! I'd love to see this. Thanks for the recommendation.
      For a second I thought you were mentioning Nowhere to Run, and I was ready to gush about that, but I'm happier to hear about something new!

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    2. You're 100th viewing! Now I really got to see it.

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  6. This weekend will be spent mostly crying into my pillow knowing Xtro is playing on 35 at the New Bev and I won't be there

    Sorry for being negative something I never like to be but I'm sure you understand :(

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    1. The showing was sold out. Not easy for a midnight show. And they flew in the rare 35mm print from Australia just for the show. Mindblowen!

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  7. In the last few days, I've watched The Girl on the Train (which was pretty poor), Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes (not as bad as I remembered, but still pretty bad), Renny Harlin's Skiptrace (by-the-numbers and boring) and Carpenter's The Fog (easily the best of the bunch).

    Still a week of vacation to go before work starts, so I guess I'll spend it seeing everything that came out in theaters during my trip: Valerian, Atomic Blonde, The Dark Tower and It Comes at Night.

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  8. Body Snatchers (1993) was one of the films I recently checked out. A very different interpretation of the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" formula brought in by Abel Ferrara. Meg Tilly's "Where are you gonna go?" speech really hooked me in.

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  9. The Call (2013)
    Halle Berry stars as a burnt out 911 dispatch operator trying to amend for something in her past. She is trying to save Abigail Breslin who has been taken and is unfortunately not related to Liam Neeson. The first two thirds are mostly pretty good and felt like a cross between Cellular and Buried. But after that, not only does the third act go off the rails, it snorts the rails, empties your wallet and kicks your dog. This is not in a Crank 2 awesome sort of way, it's more in an everything that happens from this point forward shits on everything that happened leading up to it. As bad as the final third is, it is capped with a decent callback/punchline. Not redemption worthy, but it is what it is.

    Inglorious Bastards (1978)
    It was my first time seeing this, and I really enjoyed it. It's a little Dirty Dozen-ish, but not in a way that feels like too much of a rip-off. You've got Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson trying to lead a small crew of wartime convicts to freedom, having to avoid German forces as well as their own. It combines explosions by the ton with some comedy bits that approach slapstick level, but somehow most of it works. The Severin blu ray has a great making-of documentary with some pretty honest behind the scenes stuff (Svenson is quite the character). It should be noted that the Tarantino film is not a remake, he pretty much used only the title (spelled differently/incorrectly) and setting.

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  10. My friend is visiting at the moment, and I found out that she's never seen The Big Lebowski, so we watched The Bug Lebowski. That movie is almost perfect. I also made mad her watch Glow and she got me to watch Riverdale. So fare trade.

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  11. Riff-Raff (1991) and Raining Stones (1993), Ken Loach: excellent movies. i love the realist approach from Ken Loach's movies. too bad the Twilight Time blu-ray doesn't provide subtitles, because the accents are often hard to understand. still very worth it if you're into that sort of things

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  12. L'Avventura (1960): Oddly enough my first exposure to this film was JBs shitting on the classics column, which sorta put me off for a while ahaha Having finally seen it, I can't say I fully agree with JB although there are certain scenes that are so obvious or on the nose in how they express 'meaninglessness' that I can see where he's coming from (particularly egregious is a scene where someone uncovers an ancient vase). At the same time Scavarda's photography and the rhythmic pacing felt so effective to me as an overall package. Plus, I honestly think Monica Vitti's performance is one of my favourites ever, it's so layered and allows her to do so much.

    Also watched Symbol, a Japanese film from 2009 that was on Mubi. It's absolutely bonkers, I loved it. A guy wakes up in a blank, featureless room with only one phallic protrusion. He touches it and things go from there. It's a really funny film with a great, physical performance from the lead (also the director), which has a strong existentialist strain to it's comedy. Really great.

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    1. Watched L'Avventura for the first time the same day Rob did his column where he mentioned needing to see it himself, and decided that it was also a title for me to finally cross off my list. It really lost me as soon as they left the island. I read that this gets compared to La Dolce Vita often, and that makes sense to me, though in the case of that movie, I sympathized with the characters because it really felt like they were searching for some kind of meaning, whereas our characters here just went along with whichever way the wind blew them, being totally passive, and then acted confused that things didn't seem to amount to much. The Dolce group seem to be learning the hard lesson that their searching is fruitless, while the Avventura gang just lay inactive, cursing a world that doesn't give them exactly what they want.

      Hitoshi Matsumoto is a great, great director. His career seems to be following the same trajectory as Takeshi Kitano's, where after decades as a huge presence in mainstream Japanese comedy via the Downtown team, he's made strides towards real arthouse significance with Symbol, Big Man Japan, and especially the incredible R100. He's one of the people I'm most excited to see what the future holds for, because he's really truly unpredictable and inventive.

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    2. I agree with you, E.S.A.D.D. Antonioni, in his focus on portraying alienation and ennui, tends to foster the same feelings in the audience. Why should we care? The characters clearly do not. In my lone attempt to watch L'AVVENTURA, I did not get far into it. While my experience with RED DESERT was more favorable, I enjoyed it more for its aesthetics than the story or characters.

      Although BLOW-UP is a more accessible film, my favorite Antonioni work is L'ECLISSE. An interest in post-WWII Italy undoubtedly plays a part in this this, but there is also more a human factor at play in the film. The lead characters actually seem to care about something in life, even if that does not lead to meaningful connections or satisfaction.

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    3. I do feel like Red Desert seems to have a better reputation with the people who I more regularly read. I think the thing which kept L'Avventura alive for me is how dynamic it is from scene to scene, especially towards the end and especially in Vitti's performance. It just had a real restless energy for me there. I'm often a little bit afraid though that I am impressed by classic works because they are classic? I hope that didn't happen here but who knows ahaha I speak as an Antonioni neophyte too, I need to get to some of his other woks I will definitely track down L'eclisse Casual!

      And ESADD, I'm definitely going to have to look for his other films because I agree, the vision in Symbol was so distinct and awesome, really exciting stuff. Interesting what you say about his comedy career, I know the Japanese teacher at our school was a pretty big fan of him from there. I might try find some of that too!

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    4. Oo and this is probably really shallow and easy but I loved the Hitchcock references in L'Avventura. Cool how he sort of turned the Hitchcockian mystery into this unsolvable existential question. There's maybe something there?

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    5. Tristan, you bring up an interesting point about how to approach films that are regarded as classics. There can be pressure to perceive and immediately enjoy the aspects of a film that critics, academics, and fans exalt. Deep focus cinematography in CITIZEN KANE or alienation in Antonioni's films are examples that come to mind. In reality, appreciating the art of cinema and actually enjoying the viewing of a film can be separate experiences.

      Whatever you watch, whether it is a film regarded as trash or a work of art, it is usually best to come into a viewing with an open mind. Maybe a film will speak to you in a way that it does to others. You may also be completely put off by what others like in a film. Each of us responds in a subjective way. I do not believe anyone needs to feel guilty about not having the same opinion as others.

      Recently, I watched Vertigo for the first time. I admit to not being blown away by it, but I did appreciate the aesthetics of the visuals and the risks taken in the narrative. Perhaps I will rave about how wonderful it is after future watches. In the meantime, there are plenty of films to explore.

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  13. With the last of the Shaw Brothers films going off of Netflix shortly, I decided to watch THE 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN last night. This is a terrific martial arts film. I really appreciated that it skips around the typical revenge plot and ventures into presenting a little bit of the ethos of Buddhist teachings. So many kung fu films gloss over the fact that the Shaolin Temple was a religious institution. San Te is transformed as a person during his long period of training. While it does not seem like he lets go of his ego, he at least learns humility and respect for others. Chia-Hui Liu is mesmerizing to watch in the practice routines.

    Having watched a handful of these Shaw Brothers productions throughout this year, I find that I prefer the more fantastical films. THE KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM and MASKED AVENGERS entertained me a lot and had a pleasing theatrical, or artificial, aspect to them. An early film like COME DRINK WITH ME clearly shows the theatrical roots of the kung fu movie.

    I also got around to watching a music documentary. When I was a younger man, I was obsessed with listening to multiple genres of music. Now I tend to devote more time to these types of docs than I do to music.

    LAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI JUKES (2003) - The decline of the juke joint in actual numbers and as an institution in the African-American community of Mississippi is chronicled in this doc. There is plenty of footage of performances - perhaps too much for the film's own good- for a blues fan. While not the best music documentary I have seen (that honor would go to either MUSCLE SHOALS or STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN), it is worth a watch if you enjoy the blues.

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