No real duds among these last ten films I’ve watched, but also no gigantic successes except for, perhaps, Only Yesterday which I found absolutely heartwarming, breezy, and humane as only Isao Takahata and Studio Ghibli do. White Fire got watched as it was most recently covered by the Arrow Video Podcast and while the movie is an absolute mess, a film that positions Andy Sidaris as an enlightened maestro in comparison, it is too erratic to be denied. Ralph Breaks the Internet was received poorly at its release but I have too much love for the first film and its characters to not be influenced by own goodwill (and by my love of Clive Barker’s “In the Hills, the Cities”). Finally, don’t sleep on the zombie movie Let Sleeping Corpses Lie like I did, and check out Images if you’re interested in seeing Robert Altman go rogue – Nicolas Roeg!
- Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (Jorge Grau, 1974)
- The Joke (Jaromil Jireš, 1969)
- White Fire (Jean-Marie Pallardy, 1984)
- Law and Order (Frederick Wiseman, 1969)
- Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1992)
- Only Yesterday (Isao Takahata, 1991)
- Ralph Breaks the Internet (Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, 2018)
- La otra (Roberto Gavaldón, 1946)
- Images (Robert Altman, 1972)
- The Yellow Handkerchief (Yoji Yamada, 1977)
During these last ten screenings, I also finished the Netflix series The Midnight Gospel which takes actual interviews conducted by comedian Duncan Trussell for his podcast The Duncan Trussell Family Hour and places them in a surreal, interdimensional context compliments of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward. The series centres around Clancy Gilroy, a “spacecaster” who lives on the “Chromatic Ribbon” and uses a “multiverse simulator” to interview residents of worlds as they near apocalyptic collapse. The interviews typically surround topics of mental health, spirituality, and mortality. Ward’s trippy-as-balls and often nightmarish animation runs in partial contrast to the polite and amiable discussions which oscillate between mindful contemplation and dorm room philosophizing. Personally, I enjoyed the series but managed my expectations until the final episode which delivered an absolute gut punch. For those attuned its very particular brand of slacker profundity, The Midnight Gospel is consistently imaginative and ends up being shockingly moving.
These last ten films I’ve screened leans heavily on the We Are One online film festival. Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet (a wacky Czech comedy featuring a famous American detective and a carnivorous plant), Tremble All You Want (a quirk-heavy Japanese rom-com about a neurotically shy young woman), and Epic of Everest (a silent document of the tragic 1924 Mount Everest expedition) were all very good, however Ulrike Ottinger’s Ticket of No Return woozily stands atop the digital heap. Subtitled “Portrait of a Female Drunkard,” Ottinger’s film offers an intoxicatingly experimental and oddly hilarious tale of a woman who travels to Berlin with plans to binge-drink out her final days. It shouldn’t be surprising to see Ticket of No Return make another appearance on MMC!
- Blood Machines (Seth Ickerman, 2019)
- The Telephone Book (Nelson Lyon, 1971)
- Onward (Dan Scanlon, 2020)
- Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet (Oldrich Lipský, 1978)
- Tremble All You Want (Akiko Ohku, 2017)
- The Epic of Everest (J.B.L. Noel, 1924)
- Ticket of No Return (Ulrike Ottinger, 1979)
- The Forest for the Trees (Maren Ade, 2003)
- Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2019)
- The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1987)
The remainder of these last ten films I’ve watched were enjoyable films that speak to very specific interests. Do you like cringing (A LOT)? Watch The Forest for the Trees! Do you miss your subscription to Metal Hurlant? Blood Machines is for you! Are you a fan of Criterion’s William Klein and Robert Downey Sr. Eclipse sets? Check out The Telephone Book! Do you like cyborgs, vampires, time travel, and a DIY spirit? The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo is your jam! Want to level up from Hiroyuki Imaishi’s Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, and Sex & Violence with Machspeed? Try on the neon-coloured epilepsy test that is Promare!
(And for the record, I quite enjoyed Onward but felt that it really missed an opportunity to provide a relatable perspective on metalheads and feature a Pixar-friendly metal soundtrack. Still lots of fun.)
Star Wars Day came and went during the screenings of these last ten films and MMC! celebrated with its Star Wars-adjacent favourite, The War of the Stars. MMC! also continues to work its way through its Tora-san Limited Edition Trunk Set, revisiting the exquisitely shot and lovingly uncharacteristic tenth film in the franchise, Tora-san’s Dream-Come-True. The remainder of these titles skews weird, with the trippy manime action-romance Space Adventure Cobra assuming the role of canonical MMC! favourite and MacGruber falling well short of its modern cult reputation.
- Tora-san’s Dream-Come-True (Yoji Yamada, 1972)
- The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused (George Lucas/The Man Behind the Mask, 1977/2010)
- Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (Johan Grimonprez, 1997)
- Getting Any? (Takeshi Kitano, 1994)
- Monsters, Inc. (Pete Docter, 2001)
- Destry Rides Again (George Marshall, 1939)
- Space Adventure Cobra (Osamu Dezaki, 1982)
- The Battle Wizard (Pao Hsueh-Li, 1977)
- MacGruber (Jorma Taccone, 2010)
- Poison for the Fairies (Carlos Enrique Taboada, 1984)
Shout-outs as well to MMC!’s ongoing project to explore various television series like the sweetly peculiar Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, the morosely peculiar Baskets, the aggressively peculiar Sentosha: Battle Wheels, and the Biblically peculiar Dekalog! No flipping!
MMC! is now free from the task of catching up with the films of 2019 and it’s once again all about finding great movies, no matter their release date. Hospital and The Blue Sky Maiden stand out as the best watches of these last ten films, but attention must be given to the unlikely double bill of Ken Russell’s Women in Love and Jake Szymanski’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates as they are essentially the same film: two men, two women, strained romance, a sister getting married, an unhappy father, two men fighting, nudity, jealousy, an unappreciated dance performance, a woman among a herd of animals, an outing in a mountainous landscape, Jurassic Park, coal mines, ATVs. It’s all there.
- The Wind (Victor Sjöström, 1928)
- Tora-san, the Good Samaritan (Yoji Yamada, 1971)
- My Breakfast with Blassie (Johnny Legend, 1983)
- The Blue Sky Maiden (Yasuzo Masumura, 1957)
- The Dog Who Stopped the War (André Melançon, 1984)
- The Club (Bruce Beresford, 1980)
- Women in Love (Ken Russell, 1969)
- Enamorada (Emilio Fernández, 1946)
- Hospital (Frederick Wiseman, 1970)
- Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (Jake Szymanski, 2016)
And, yes, MMC! is watching Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode, 2020) but is too busy watching episodes of The Almost Impossible Gameshow on Amazon Prime to finish it. We’ll get there yet.
MMC! continues to catch up with the best films of 2019 in anticipation of the Film Comment Readers’ Poll. This year, the magazine is giving away a copy of its September-October issue signed by Parasite director Bong Joon-ho. Entries are due by March 31, so be sure to submit your ballot!
- Avengement (Jesse V. Johnson, 2019)
- The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata, 2013)
- Les Misérables (Ladj Ly, 2019)
- La Belle Époque (Nicolas Bedos, 2019)
- The Two Popes (Fernando Meirelles, 2019)
- The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, 2019)
- Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001)
- Superexpress (Yasuzô Masumura, 1964)
- Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019)
- Tora-san’s Grand Scheme (Shun’ichi Kobayashi, 1970)
Two under-the-radar titles deserve shout-outs. First, La Belle Époque, about a disillusioned cartoonist in his 60s who revisits his youth and his one great love through a service that reconstructs historical eras for its clients. Bedos’ film evokes The Truman Show and Synecdoche, New York, plus a bit of The Parent Trap thrown in, and offers a charmingly wistful take on art, nostalgia, and romance. Second is Superexpress, an entry to Daiei’s “Black” series which featured bleakly cynical stories of industrial conspiracies and shady business-dealings. Superexpress offers a story about a corrupt land deal and presents Masumura’s characteristically crowded, claustrophobic, and oppressive frames. Does anyone know where I can find a comprehensive list for the “Black” series?
MMC! is currently caught in the doldrums of February screenings. As per usual, late December through February means trying to catch up with 2019 releases in an effort to round out sundry “Best of” lists. The effect of watching so many films based more on timing than interest (and inevitably finding most undeserving of their accrued regard) is to grow weary of screenings altogether and to otherwise skirt towards the periphery of respectability. Perhaps this also helps explain the interminable delay in MMC!’s first proposal of 2020.
- Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää, 2019)
- Eastern Condors (Sammo Hung, 1987)
- Tora-San’s Cherished Mother (Yoji Yamada, 1969)
- High Life (Clair Denis, 2018)
- The Art of Self-Defense (Riley Stearns, 2019)
- Kaiju Mono (Minoru Kawasaki, 2016)
- An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (Jim Hosking, 2018)
- Crawl (Alexandre Aja, 2019)
- Bumblebee (Travis Knight, 2018)
- The Golden Glove (Fatih Akin, 2019)
While these last ten films lack anything truly revelatory or any unqualified favourites, they are frequently audacious, strange, and captivating in their individuality. There are some ugly ducklings here that I found particularly fascinating (The Golden Glove, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, and Dogs Don’t Wear Pants) and I have a solid elementary school-aged opinion that Kaiju Mono and Bumblebee are quality watches. Please, take these screenings and get weird.