Dead Ringers

Dead Ringers. David Cronenberg. 1988.

Oh, yeah, I was watching Cronenberg’s movies kinda chronologically, but then I went away on some holidays. We watched eXistenZ in a hotel somewhere, and I thought it was quite good. I mean, better than most Cronenberg movies, because I’ve been kinda disappointed with them in general.

But I vaguely remember this one as being quite spiffy, so let’s see.

Again, Cronenberg has cast somebody in the lead role that basically looks like Cronenberg himself. It’s like a mania with him.

I like this movie. It’s oddly structured: It starts off with a montage (kind of) and then we’re into the real plot of the movie while I thought we were still doing the montage. “Why is this bit with the actress going on so much longer than the other bits? Oh, has the movie started for real?” Like.

I didn’t remember much of the specifics, but the plot took me by surprise. I thought it was all body horror and fun, but it’s a very dramaish drama. Irons gets to do a lot of stuff, from jealous drug addict boyfriend to cold psycho (aided by playing two roles, of course).

According to imdb, it was a major flop. I guess audiences that expected another The Fly were disappointed.

I didn’t much like The Fly when rewatching it, but even I’m kinda disappointed. This movie does make a kind of emotional sense, but plot-wise it’s a bit of a mess. The “bad” brother seemingly just ignores the “good” brother falling apart. Which is just odd, because he’s their meal ticket, really.

But it’s a good movie. Could have been half an hour shorter.

Signs

Signs. M. Night Shyamalan. 2002.

I bought a three disc box set with Shyamalan movies. I pretty much knew what the first two were about (he can see dead people, he’s unbreakable); they’ve turned into cultural touch stones that everybody can reference without having watched them.

But I have no idea what this movie is about, which might be both positive and negative.

So I’m 15 minutes in now… and is the twist that Mel Gibson is an alien?

NO SPOILERS.

I’m an hour in now… is the twist going to be that he’s still unconscious after the accident that killed his wife?

NO SPOILERS!

I guess I’m saying that when watching an M. Night movie, I find myself less interested in what’s going on that what’s “really” going one.

This isn’t a good movie. Even if you believe that these people are hounded by aliens trying to break into their house, it could be a pretty scary scenario. But instead it’s tedious.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins. Stephen Frears. 2016.

Hm… why did I buy this, then? And on bluray no less. But just 2K.

Oh, right, it’s by Stephen Frears, and I remember him doing a good movie just like 30 years ago.

Oh, wow, I thought I was exaggerating, but I was understating it: I remember liking My Beautiful Laundrette in 1985, and then not liking Prick Up Your Ears in 1987, and since then I may not have seen any of his movies.

Weird but possibly true.

So now I’m curious: Is he any good at all?

I like Meryl Streep, but everybody does. Hugh Grant is likeable, of course, but not really like you know good.

I’m half an hour in, and it’s a somewhat odd movie. Of course, Florence Foster Jenkins is a figure of ridicule, and Streep sings wonderfully awful. But Frears has chosen to add a lot of pathos, making this veer between tragedy and comedy at the drop of the hat.

But it works. The funny bits are funny and the serious bits are touching. I’m dreading the inevitable third act when All The Drama has to happen, but I’m guessing it’s going to be enjoyable until then, and then the rest of the movie will be unbearable.

[time passes]

The structure of this movie is quite unusual, and there’s no third act per se. Instead it’s the second third that’s the boring bit, and then the last third is all the boring normal bits that were edited out of the first two parts.

Or did makemkv rip the bluray wrong? In any case, it’s kinda interesting, even if I don’t know whether it’s quite successful.

OH! IT WAS A MAKEMKV ERROR!

There’s two .mkv files here, and the second is longer and seems to be in a more… normal… order.

No now I don’t know how to rate this thing. The version I say, which was edited down by the makemkv program, to 1:30 was quite fun, but I saw most of it out of order, and missed half an hour?

Ripping errors should happen more often.

Looking for a Thrill

Looking for a Thrill. Braden King. 2005.

So this is a … documentary from Thrill Jockey? (That’s a record label.) I’ve had it for what seems like decades, but I’ve never watched it.

This is basically a bunch of people talking at the camera about music with choppy glitchy editing. It’s kinda charming.

The concept is… talking about the first or the most important music experience they had?

Some of the stories are fun and some er not. It’s generally enjoyable, but kinda messy.

A complication is that the DVD ripped in a weird way: It ended up like a gazillion five-to-ten minute scenes, some repeating, so I may not have seen all the scenes.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her. Ned Benson. 2013.

So this is the second (or perhaps the other) movie in this diptych.

This is a very different movie than Colon Him. It’s got, like, better actors. I mean, Isabelle Huppert, Viola Davis, William Hurt… It’s also got a different look, with more reds instead of blues, and… basically a storyline that would be somewhat incomprehensible if you hadn’t seen Colon Him first.

I like it!

Anyway! This movie reminded me of one of the saddest thing about small budget movies: They can’t afford to use real music, so when they have a key scene that requires music, they use a track from Now That’s Kinda Something That Sounds Like An 80s Hit But Totally Isn’t, So It’s Cheap vol 97. But I love that they found the money to do the Cat Powers cover song at least. It was a perfect moment.

I think this movie started off really strong. We don’t quite know what’s going on and it’s all very fresh and it’s all orange instead of blue as in the Colon Him movie and I kinda liked this more than that movie.

But then it flounders. It’s like they don’t quite know what to do with it. I can totally see why Weinstein wanted to cut together the interesting bits (and the better performances) from this movie with the more straightforward storyline from Colon Him.

The Rashomon scenes are fun but aren’t really that interesting.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him

WTF!? Shoes on… IN BED!?

Such set design.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him. Ned Benson. 2013.

Well, this is an odd movie… movies… I bought the BluRay of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and there’s three movies on this disc. The first one is The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, which is an edited-together version of the movies called colon Him and colon Her, insisted upon by Harvey Weinstein.

So I’m watching the two other movies.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I definitely wasn’t expecting a movie where Bill Hader plays a chef.

But it’s mostly about Professor X (or is it Cyclops? I can never remember who plays what in the X-Men movies now) and his wife who leaves him. I’m guessing the next movie is going to be like the opposite (i.e., Jessica Chastain leaving Professor X).

It’s a good movie! There’s nothing here that annoys me. I like the silence of the scenes and the cold colour scheme. Chastain is great, of course, and the rest of the actors are OK, even Bill Hader.

I think you could kinda object to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing that Chastain could be seen to embody… but it doesn’t quite follow the typical blueprint for that. It’s much weirder and more interesting.

I really liked this movie. Love all the shots of Manhattan streets. Let’s see what the next one’s like.

Rope

Rope. Alfred Hitchcock. 1948.

I started watching this on the plane from San Francisco, but I didn’t finish it.

Let’s watch the last half.

I really like Hitchcock, of course, but while watching this on the plane, I was kinda… er… bored? Is that the word? Bored? Is it?

I think it is. The movie seemed to me more like a sophomoric exercise than a… movie? Perhaps the problem is the less than riveting performances by the two murderers?

I know, I know, blah blah no cuts blah blah. But it’s just a showcase for scenery chewing, and watching the last half of the movie doesn’t convince me otherwise.

Perhaps the documentary footage on this bluray will be enlightening.

The screenwriter explains the problems translating the original play into American:

The trouble was, when you translated the English dialogue, it became very homosexual. Unintentionally.

Or…

Oh, right! The Stewart part was supposed to be done by Cary Grant! That would have made more sense. But Grant turned it down because of obvious reasons.

Oh oh oh! The writer didn’t write the scene with the initial murder! So the tension in the movie would be whether there was a body in that damned chest or not! That sounds like a much better movie!

Let the Sunshine In

Let the Sunshine In. Claire Denis. 2017.

Hey! Denis! It’s a movie by my favourite living director! Sort of. I mean, I really liked Beau Travail and… the other movies, but I’ve been really disappointed by a couple of her most recent movies, like that gruesome vampire/cannibal movie she did er probably ten years ago.

After watching about ten minutes of this, I’m starting to wish this was about a vampire, because it seems to be about a woman with the shittiest boyfriend ever and I wish she’d just kill him? And I’m shocked (SHOCKED!) that Denis is doing the stunning woman/dumpy guy thing. I thought that was like over. There are good-looking men. They exist. Some of them are actors.

But let’s continue watching! Less typing! Denis!

[time passes]

OK, I WAS WRONG.

The movie is nothing like I wrote, annoyed, after the first five minutes. It’s brilliant.

It’s a kinda free-flowing, not very plot-heavy, associative movie. It’s mostly about… Binoche being amazing on the screen, and the cinematography being riveting. I mean, that’s it. It’s a magnetic viewing experience.

Some of the conversations seem aimless, but you feel that it all kinda makes sense. It does, however, start flagging about sixty minutes in, when it gets obvious that there’s no structure here, and nothing is really going to change in any way.

But then there’s the last scene, which I am unreasonably exited about! OK, I have to do something that I hate to do: Actually mention plot! Eww!

Binoche visits a… sooth sayer or something… played by GĂ©rard Depardieu, for his only bit in the movie… and he says stuff… AND THEN THE TITLES START RUNNING! WHILE HE”S TALKING!

I know it’s not reasonable to be excited about something like that, but while watching it, it just felt so right. The entire Depardieu/Binoche scene seems totally improvised, and Binoche looks like she wants to crack up but then keeps it together, and it’s magic. With the titles.

I know, I can’t explain, but that little thing kinda echoes the best scene in movie history, that last scene in Beau Travail. It just seems like the inexplicably correct thing to end the movie with.

This is not a perfect movie, but it’s brilliant.

Replicas

Replicas. Jeffrey Nachmanoff. 2018.

Hey! I haven’t seen a proper movie in a while.

Jamie Zawinski summed this up as:

Replicas: Oh Keanu. Why. Things were going so well. Why. Why. Why did you make this.

So I had to see it.

It’s about Keanu, doing his best to play a scientist transferring dead brains to artificial bodies. And then his wife dies. Guess what Keanu tries to do!

It’s not a good movie.

I briefly wondered whether this was a zero-budget movie, all made from plywood and good will, but it can’t be: There’s some expensive-looking computer graphics, and, well, there’s Keanu. And according to imdb, it cost $30M to make, which just seems… unlikely. There’s hours and hours of this movie happening inside small static sets with a small cast, and it’s hard to see where they spent that money.

Unless it’s all on those computer graphics. And Keanu.

I guess… from one point of view, the plot kinda makes sense. I mean, saving the family and all. But keeping it all a secret from them is deeply creepy and doomed to fail, so it’s… a bit… WTF.

Everything about this movie is just a bit skeezy. I mean, even the details. So many “manager” apps. And I want that on my phone: Make the rest seem a bit out of focus when I get a message.

I did finish this movie, but it was a hard slog. There’s like no redeeming qualities: The cinematography is… there, the acting is bad, the story is ridiculous, there’s no humour, the twists are obvious.

The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp

The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp. Michael Powell. 1943.

So the question being posited here is, I guess: How do you make a lighthearted farce while simultaneously making a propaganda piece about the army? The solution is pretty ingenious: Make the framing story be about a contemporary army exercise, and have the main section of the movie be about the generals’ antics in previous wars.

I want to like this. It plays into all myths about Britishness: Everybody acts as if they are Jungian archetypes. It tries so hard to be amiable and silly, poking fun at everything it depicts. But it doesn’t work for me. Everything moves so slowly. The repartee is ponderous instead of zipping.

I understand what it’s made to do, and it’s quite likely that this is just the thing to keep the British spirits up in 1943, which also explains the length of the thing: A proper night out.

Hmmm… Oh! The gummint didn’t like the movie, because there are some sympathetic German characters in it. And:

The film provoked an extremist pamphlet, The Shame and Disgrace of Colonel Blimp, by “right-wing sociologists E. W. and M. M. Robson”, members of the obscure Sidneyan Society, which proclaimed it “A highly elaborate, flashy, flabby and costly film, the most disgraceful production that has ever emanated from a British film studio.”

Wow. Well, that makes me like it more. Hm… and the last half, which is barely funny at all, is really good. And when we get back to the framing story, that’s suddenly brilliant.