There’s a lot of good stuff amongst the last 10 movies I’ve watched but I’m going to take a moment to stump for the byNWR site. So far, I’ve watched two of the three films included in the site’s first volume and they are weirdly fascinating in the trashiest of senses. Both films declare themselves by very odd ellipses. The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds commences with a barely depicted infiltration of bootlegging operation and then quickly sidesteps into dreamy psychodrama of Southern hospitality gone terribly wrong; while Hot Thrills and Warm Chills centres around an unseen heist but prefers sleazy sex scenes and topless belly dancers on the one hand and period Mardi Gras footage on the other. It could all seem rather icky except byNWR takes it very seriously, providing a bounty of other content that unpacks the secret histories of these rare films and explores their odd themes through complimentary works. byNWR is for Criterion admirers waiting for more John Waters, Arrow Video fans of Spider Baby and Pit Stop, and devotees of Something Weird Video. And did I mention that it’s all free?
- Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady (Neal Brennan, 2017)
- Hot Thrills and Warm Chills (Dale Berry, 1967)
- Demons (Lamberto Bava, 1985)
- LA 92 (T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay, 2017)
- Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)
- Doom Asylum (Richard Friedman, 1987)
- The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds (Bert Williams, 1965)
- White, White Storks (Ali Khamraev, 1966)
- Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1970)
- Beyond the Black Rainbow (Panos Cosmatos, 2010)
To be honest, I’m feeling pretty guilty about the lack of activity here at MMC! but things are swamped right now here (moving and merging homes takes a lot of effort!) and I am working on a series of posts that marks the return of imagined Eclipse sets to the blog – MME! baby! Look for those posts coming up in the next week or so (hopefully).
With a lot of discs in storage, we’re left watching things on demand or working through some TV series we’ve been neglecting. Shout out to Gravity Falls (Alex Hirsch, 2012-2016), which has proven to be just the smart, fun, quirky show we’ve needed right now. If you’re like us and you’ve missed this series but love Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Steven Universe, Over the Garden Wall, and The Amazing World of Gumball, then Gravity Falls should be you’re next screening.
These last ten films I’ve watched are a fun collection of titles. I actively avoid most of Wonder Boys‘ cast but still love that film. O Brother remains a perfect case of fans getting a film ahead the critics and takes on added resonance in the current political landscape. Watching Zach Galifianakis recite Burt Reynolds lines in The Campaign is stupendous, seeing Snoop Dogg cover one of my favourite hip hop tracks in Old School is magical, and every moment of Sam Rockwell in Gentlemen Broncos is proof of divine power at work in our daily lives.
- Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson, 2000)
- Aventurera (Aberto Gout, 1950)
- The Campaign (Jay Roach, 2012)
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2000)
- Old School (Todd Phillips, 2003)
- Red Rock West (John Dahl, 1993)
- Gentlemen Broncos (Jared Hess, 2009)
- Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands (Atsushi Yamatoya, 1967)
- Mad Monster Party? (Jules Bass, 1967)
- A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton, 1988)
Yet for as unusual a film as was Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands (think a Suzuki-esque, free-jazz hitman film with problematic, Wakamatsu-like erotica), the real winner for cinematic wildness was Aventurera, a Mexican melodrama/film noir/musical/revenge film starring Cuban rumba queen Ninón Sevilla. Anyone looking for impossible musical numbers, chiaroscuro, mute henchmen, infidelity, fallen women, ping-pong, back-stabbing, and fruit-inspired stage costumes should run to see this and free me of my periodic use of italics for emphasis!
The last ten movies I’ve watched nod strongly toward Australia (Body Melt, Hollywood Burn, Terror Nullius, Toni Collette in Hereditary) and found footage (the Soda_Jerk films again and The Green Fog). It’s a good batch of titles with The Green Fog (a clever and hilarious take on Hitchcock’s Vertigo), Hereditary (family trauma and arch performances in a disturbingly manipulated world), and Terror Nullius (a tale of political revenge told through Australian film with the stridency of a student newspaper – in a good way) all finding places on my best of 2018 list.
- The King of Jazz (John Murray Anderson, 1930)
- Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
- The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970)
- The Green Fog (Guy Maddin, Galen Johnson, and Evan Johnson, 2017)
- Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1978)
- Have a Nice Day (Liu Jian, 2017)
- Body Melt (Philip Brophy, 1993)
- Hollywood Burn (Soda_Jerk, 2006)
- Terror Nullius (Soda_Jerk, 2018)
- Paddington 2 (Paul King, 2017)
I was lucky enough to see The Green Fog with Guy Maddin and the Johnson brothers. Here are my favourite observations from the Q&A:
- None of the filmmakers re-watched Vertigo to prepare for its re-making. “We’ve all seen it a bunch of times right?”;
- The Johnsons became so enamoured with the TV series The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977) and Hotel (1983-1988) that The Green Fog started to become an effort in not using footage from the shows;
- As a Douglas Sirk fan, Maddin was happy to feature Rock Hudson in McMillan & Wife and wanted to avoid creating any kind of queer commentary by his appearance;
- The film was commissioned by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Despite being asked to produce a 45-minute work (in an extremely short amount of time!) and actually submitting a 63-minute film, the initially completed version was over 80 minutes long. The filmmakers cut 20 minutes of people sitting at dinner tables not talking to each (a situation that makes up a sizeable portion of the 63-minute final cut) as they thought audiences would not be able to stand the extended joke. (Personally, I hope this longer cut somehow gets circulated should The Green Fog reach hard media);
- Midway through The Green Fog is an extended sequence of Chuck Norris looking sad in various settings. The footage came from the film An Eye for an Eye (Steve Carver, 1981) and Maddin remarked that Norris achieves a “Bressonian expressionlessness” in the footage;
- Animation and Canadian cinema scholar Gene Walz remarked that The Green Fog reveals how easy and repetitive much of filmmaking is. “Get a shot of a car driving by. Then one of it rounding a corner. Now going down a hill.”
Welcome back to “10 on the 10th,” a quick snapshot of my viewing habits by way of the last ten films I’ve screened (and a shameless theft of the recurring item in Film Comment magazine). I missed last month due to my attendance at the Chattanooga Film Festival but we’re back on track now!
- The Castle of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1979)
- Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog, 2007)
- Lowlife (Ryan Prows, 2017)
- Raising Arizona (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1987)
- Jane (Brett Morgen, 2017)
- Borg vs McEnroe (Janus Metz Pedersen, 2017)
- Tsukiji Wonderland (Naotaro Endo, 2016)
- The Third Murder (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017)
- Andre the Giant (Jason Hehir, 2018)
- The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, 2013)
These last ten films I’ve watched skew toward recent titles due to some lengthy air travel. I must admit that while Borg vs McEnroe is not a great film, I did find myself rather taken in by it, and Tsukiji Wonderland, a documentary about daily life at Tokyo’s massive fish market, pleasantly scratched my Japanophilia and gastronomic itches – recommended for fans of Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb, 2011) and Ramen Heads (Koki Shigeno, 2017). Further foodie shout-outs to Viceland as I’ve lately been watching a fair amount of Fuck, That’s Delicious with Action Bronson and It’s Suppertime with Matty Matheson (plus the non-culinary film series, The Vice Guide to Film)!
Is it just me or does “suppertime” look really odd typed out?
If you’d have asked me ahead of time which two films of these last 10 films I’ve watched would deserve mention here, I would not have picked Ken Rodgers’ The Two Bills or Corrado Farina’s They Have Changed Their Faces, but here we are anyways.
- Voice Without a Shadow (Seijun Suzuki, 1958)
- The Two Bills (Ken Rodgers, 2018)
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh, 2017)
- Duel at Yagyu Valley (Eisuke Takizawa, 1945)
- Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2017)
- Masterminds (Jared Hess, 2016)
- Festival (Murray Lerner, 1967)
- They Have Changed Their Faces (Corrado Farina, 1971)
- Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future (Peter Rosen, 2016)
- The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat (Michael Dorsey, 2014)
I must admit that I was beginning to believe that the long format 30 for 30 documentary had lost its lustre. I still thought that the short films had vitality and the capacity to transcend what had become the 30 for 30 house style and I believed that the podcasts were effectively standing on their own. This was in large part due to the greater apparent freedom in the shorts and the pods to select less popular but more interesting topics. The Two Bills was a welcome relief from my feelings that 30 for 30 had peaked with O.J.: Made in America and was now just running on feel good/bad war stories that were actually little more than recitals of facts. Ken Rodgers’ documentary explores the relationship between NFL coaches Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick and it is a fascinating look at the non-game day world of sport and of the sometimes harsh business of professional football. It is also an intriguing view on the collaborative/competitive existence of men eager in their professional and personal lives to avoid “distractions.” The Two Bills poses questions it often struggles to answer, but reveals more fascinating things in the process.
Corrado Farina’s They Have Changed Their Faces transplants Jonathan Harker’s visit to Castle Dracula to modern day Italy and employs a metaphorically Marxist approach to vampirism. Giuliano Esperanti is a mid-level employee in a car company who is brought to the owner’s mansion and offered control of the business. The owner, Adolfo Celi as “Giovanni Nosferatu” (no kidding), is not what he seems and is exactly what you expect, and the film is even weirder. Roaming packs of Fiats guard the estate, radio ads play in the mansion as specific products are used, and Francesca Modigliani provides some gialli skin as a topless hitchhiker. Worth a look if expectations are modest and curiosity for something unusual is high.
The last ten films I’ve watched hit me where I live, although often in unusual ways. My Journey Through French Cinema is la cataire for French cinephiles – bring on Volume 2! Hype! reminds me of everything I loved about mid-’90s rock and why I still wince at hearing Nirvana covers. Call Me by Your Name was bucolic and sensual, Scum of the Earth! earns its reputation as cinema’s first “roughie,” and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is a single-set pressure cooker of love and obsession, pleas and rebukes, victims and victimizers, and doms and subs. Perhaps most memorable was My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, which plays like Wes Anderson’s trippy remake of The Poseidon Adventure replacing the boat for a high school and its passengers with teenaged Peanuts characters.
- Scum of the Earth! (Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1963)
- Operation Lipstick (Umetsugu Inoue, 1969)
- The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972)
- Tales of Masked Men (Carlos Ávila, 2012)
- Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)
- Elegant Beast (Yuzo Kawashima, 1962)
- My Journey Through French Cinema (Bertrand Tavernier, 2016)
- Hype! (Doug Pray, 1996)
- My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (Dash Shaw, 2016)
- Tributes: Pulse (Bill Morrison, 2011)
I watched Tributes: Pulse in anticipation of seeing Bill Morrison speak at my local cinematheque about Dawson City: Frozen Time. Morrison provided various observations: