This has been a relatively lean month for viewing, as I finally started work on “Cinema Penitentiary, Part Two (1981-1996¬),” and have completed the first 10,000 pages, so a good deal of what I have seen this month is from the early eighties. I started this blog at the beginning of the year to raise the profile of “Cinema Penitentiary,” recently published with Smashwords, where you can read the first forty pages for free, and then, if you want more, can purchase the entire eBook for $1.99.
Other news is that I have dissolved my company Peruvian Films, after completing 70 short ethnographic films, including the feature length “Twilight of the Dogs”, some of which can be found on YouTube under billwhite51 playlist
The new company is Second Unit Films, and the first offering is a rock video
Enough carny barking. This is what I saw in April:
1. Escape from New York, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
2. Cat People
3. Terms of Endearment
4. About Alex, Song of the Sea
5. Legend of Hell House, Two Evil Eyes, Tender Mercies
7. Oblomov, The Magician
8. Lost River, Jason Becker Not Dead Yet
9. Shoot the Moon, Horror on Snape Island
10. Factory Girl, A Case of You
12. Just Like a Woman
14. Shadow of a Doubt
15. Beyond the Lights, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
16. Diva, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Days of Heaven
17 Desperately Seeking Susan, Mordecai, About Last Night, A Countess from Hong Kong
18. Soldier in the Rain, Premium Rush
19. A Thousand Times Good Night
21. The Roommates, Alive
22. Electricity, Altman, Hardly Working
23. Unconditional Love, Love Rosie
25. 13 Sins, Electric Boogaloo, Drive In Movie Moments
26. Duke of Burgundy, Twisted Nerve, Face of Another
27. Colors, Fool for Love, Out of Africa
28. Lola, Streetwise, Night of the Following Day
29. Pixote, Skin Trade, Child’s Play
30. I Am Twenty
Regarding the few current films on the list that have not been previously reviewed here:
“About Alex” is a poor remake of “The Big Chill,” so much so that at one point a character says, ” I feel like we are all characters in an eighties’ movie.” Actually, the characters in “About Alex” are much more pleasant than the selfish, sex-crazed yuppies of “The Big Chill,” but the movie is a haphazard bore. Every element of “The Big Chill” was engagingly revolting. The callous editing exacerbated the sickening script, and the gross physicality of the actors displayed a devolved species. The people in “About Alex” appear and behave in a manner that is comprehensibly human, but there is not an interesting character in the bunch.
“Song of the Sea” was one of the nominees for best animated feature that few people had the opportunity to see before the votes were in. Not quite in a class with “Ponyo,” it is nevertheless a sweet and engaging fantasy about half-human sea creatures, with a strong motherhood subtext. I would place it as a runner-up to “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” which should have received the Oscar, but also was suppressed by lack of distribution, clearing the way for Disney’s hopelessly mediocre “Big Hero 6” to steal the statuette.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is even worse than last year’s pseudo-hipster vampire mash. “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Both pictures are half-assed attempts to re-invent the vampire genre.
“A Thousand Times Good Night” is almost a good movie, but can’t keep its head above its soap-opera heart. Juliette Binoche does her valiant best as the estimable war photographer who tries to abandon her career for her family. The script, however, is her second greatest enemy. Her first is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the actor playing her husband who keeps hijacking her into his soap-opera bubble that floats the whole enterprise down dumb-dumb river into the forgotten sea.
The best of this month’s movies about movies is “Drive-In Movie Memories,” a concise history of the drive-in theatres that gives equal time and attention to all aspects of both the theaters and their product. “Electric Boogaloo” offers a schizophrenic overview of the Cannon Film Group, one minute extolling Golan-Globus as the favorite producers of several world-class directors, and the next slagging them off as schlockmeisters. The coverage of the films is spotty, with undue time given quick action knock-offs, then skipping over more relevant titles with one shot of four posters. The first part of “Altman” in enlightening in terms of the director’s television beginnings and first experiences making feature films, but them gives insufficient coverage to his important films, while whining about the poor reception given his lesser efforts. He deserves a more comprehensive accounting.
The most one can say for “13 Sins” is that it is a real horror movie, not one of those ‘found footage’ abominations. Though professionally made, the 13 sins are about 8 too many, as the predictability of the protagonist’s descent into madness leaves us pretty bored with the whole deal. It’s not bad though, and boasts a few good scenes, which is more than can be said about most of what passes for horror these days, namely a group of not-quite-friends who lumber around in caves and catacombs with drug-store video-cameras, filming each other getting scared but hardly ever putting the zoom on a monster.
“Skin Trade” made me long for “Taken 3.” If you think the nearly 60 year-old Dolph Lundgren can kick the shit out of world champion kickboxer Tony Jaa, who is twenty years his junior, then this is your movie. Lundgren, who is so creaky that he probably had trouble waking to the set from his trailer, manages to kill almost everybody in the movie
‘The Duke of Burgundy” is unique among S/M movies in that it does not overplay the sexual element of the relationship. Neither does it define and contain the relationship within S/M parameters. The film attempts to integrate various aspects of the role-playing into a realistic depiction of an unusual relationship between two women. “The Duke of Burgundy” exists in a universe far removed from both the pornographic exhibitions and political allegories of the S/M genre. It is a well-acted love story in a world where the ultimate betrayal is to polish another woman’s boots.