Saturday, March 20, 2021

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Good weekend to everyone. With my thoughts more distracted by life than usual this week, settling down to a movie was not the easiest thing to do. It is too much of a habit to give up, though. Like many of you, I have a tendency to revisit films in that frame of mind.

    HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) – After listening to a discussion about Hammer Studios, I was in the mood to watch one its productions. HORROR is not new to me, but it has been a while since I last saw it. Really enjoyed it. It is a classy production that pushes the envelope. Even by today’s standards, the violence of Lucy’s staking remains startling. Christopher Lee’s physical performance as Dracula stands out in the history of the character; his Dracula is simultaneously repulsive and seductive. Undeniably a classic of the genre.

    MA VIE DE COURGETTE/ MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI (2016) – This Swiss-French stop-motion production about orphans is also a re-watch. By turning off the subtitles. I learned that my French is very rusty. While I can follow along with a news program without many problems, conversational speech is much tougher to comprehend. As for the film, there is much to appreciate on a technical level. The amount of work that goes into even a few seconds of the film is impressive. Though the story has the potential to be a complete downer, there is a sense of hope that permeates the film. The children are resilient beings.

    I probably devoted more time to looking at blu-rays than watching things this week. The Severin Christopher Lee box set should be shipped to me in time for Junesploitation. I added some Junesploitation worthy titles (Just Before Dawn) with that. I went through the Kino Lorber sale but have not decided on whether to get anything from that. Lastly, for a few dollars I picked up Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning on DVD. I have not seen any of Scott Adkins’ movies.

  2. I finally caught up with SOUND OF METAL and my goodness, I know Boseman is the favorite right now but if you want to lay down $5 on an Ahmed upset, I don't think you'd be insane.

  3. Thursday afternoon at two different movie theaters in Gotham, first screening of the day for each, and both times I was the only patron in attendance. Maybe my movie selections had something to do with it? ;-)

    Lu Yang's A WRITER'S ODYSSEY (2021) is a Chinese action/fantasy blockbuster whose main fault is telegraphing plot twists and character reveals that are later treated as big reveals. Guan Ning (Lei Jiayin) is a father that has spent six years searching for his missing daughter, and is offered a chance to find her when an eccentric billionaire (Yu Hewei) offers to trade her life for that of a novelist (Dong Zijian) about to complete his work. Narrative alternates between Guan Ning's Korean-like plight and the fictitious fantasy world of the novel, where a sentient armor with an eyeball becomes a sidekick to a young warrior trying to slay a big bad. There's also an "X-Men"-style subplot about people with special abilities (of which Guan is part of) that is tertiary at best... until it comes back strong toward the end. "A Writer's Odyssey" nails its last two scenes (I was balling!) and does the 'parallel stories presenting a unified backstory' thing better than most, but it's no Aranofsky's "Fountain." Worth a look.

    Peter Antonijević’s DARA OF JASENOVAC (2021) is a Serbian World War II Holocaust drama that people without context or knowledge about the Serbo-Croatian conflict could mistake for a historically accurate record. Given the perpetual animosity between Serbs and Croats, though, the depiction of Croatian Nazi collaborators as blood-thirsty savages (military women and Catholic nuns are particularly cruel) while the Serb peasants are borderline saints feels like contemporary nationalist propaganda despite the historical setting. Technically "Dara" s is a well-made film with the typical Holocaust tropes (sadistic wardens, random acts of cruelty, camp prisoners turning on each other to survive one more day, etc.) of an awards bait contender, which explains why Serbia submitted this for international Oscar consideration. And despite the lead (10-year old Dara Ilić) testing audience patience with her passive behavior and refusal to heed the call, acting is strong across the board. You've seen this horror movie before, though, and except for a cinematic trick to show audiences who lived/died involving an afterlife train compartment (which also made me cry) "Dara of Jasenovac" isn't worth seeking unless your cruelty tolerance is sky high. Recommended with strong reservations.

    Also watched Walter Hill's 48 HOURS (1982, Amazon Prime) for the first time in decades. Man, this feels like a dinosaur of a genre that has never stopped topping itself. For an Eddie Murphy comedy vehicle there's very little humor or Eddie in it (takes almost 30 minutes for Murphy to show up), allowing Walter Hill to establish a gritty tone that almost overwhelms the humor. Even when you're eventually laughing (the redneck bar scene, Nick Nolte and Eddie trading barbs, the black captain from "Last Action Hero" blowing up, etc.) thoughts of George Floyd, #BLM, #MeToo and political correctness constantly bring down the fun. Bechdel Test? Don't make Annette O'Toole cry! :-P The action scenes look lame (badly-staged subway shootout) and stick out now (bus/car chase looks primitive), but since Walter Hill made characters the focus of the story it doesn't matter. Most fun of rewatching "48 Hours" was seeing the names of all the Hollywood filmmakers (composer James Horner, producer Joel Silver, all the screenwriters, etc.) and on-screen talent ("Warriors" cast reunion between James Remar and David Patrick Kelly) using this flick as a stepping stone toward bigger and better things. Worth seeing if you haven't watched it in a while.

    1. Being the only person in a theater can be a fun experience. When I went to see Once Upon A Time Upon A Time in Hollywood during a weekday afternoon, I was the only person in the room. It felt like a special showing only for me. It is hard to believe that was almost two years ago now.

      Many films from that early 1980s period show their age like that. I remember watching a slasher at the Mahoning Drive-In one night and thinking, "Man, these movies go back four decades now." They are what they are, regardless of faults and strengths.

  4. THE ODD COUPLE (1968)
    I love when movies can guarantee laughs like this. But Felix is like the worst person. Would definitely kick out.

    This has Carol Burnett, Walter Matthau, John Stamos and Teri Polo in it. I'd never seen John Stamos in anything outside a few Full House clips before so I was kind of excited. I wondered if he was "just pretty" but he wasn't just pretty, he was kind of charismatic and a good actor.

    LITTLE WOMEN (2019)
    Yikes. Here is part of a review by Aloma Rodriguez on that articulates my thoughts better than I can: "The worst thing about the film is that it sometimes seems like a rather long advertisement for the benefits of sisterhood, a product placement of feminism."

    I felt like the Gillian Armstrong 1994 interpretation of this story was made by a woman for relate to and enjoy ourselves. I feel like this version is made by Greta Gerwig as like a window for others to look in and observe girls as some odd creatures. WOW, we are not all "prissy"! WOW, we don't all want to get married! No way! WOW, we like making money and are not good people all the time! Just hit me with a bat over the head already Greta Gerwig!

    I watched the scenes with Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst in them after just to comfort myself. Those girls were having fun.

  5. Hello all! Hope everyone's having a good weekend.

    I'm currently rewatching Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which feels like the most middling Star Trek movie. It's not bugnuts like I, it's not undeniably great like II or IV, and it's not terrible like V.

    Disney's 1950 Treasure Island and 2002's Treasure Planet is kinda a fun double bill. Fun fact: the former stars Robert Newton, who came up with that iconic, exaggerated West Country accent which became the default pirate accent.

    Still slowly continuing my project of watching all 38 Godzilla movies, this week was number 11, Destroy All Monsters (1968). A nonsensical plot written as an excuse to bring a dozen different rubber suit monsters together. So basically a perfect movie!

    And yesterday I rewatched Moana, which is called Vaiana here and in many other European countries (owing to a trademark dispute apparently). It's a little bizarre, the characters' mouth movements match the dialogue perfectly, except when anyone says the main character's name.

    1. Who said cinema has to make sense to be fun, Mikko?

      One of these days I will get around to watching the Star Trek films.