Cinema, 2023: Picks & Pans

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Cinema, 2023: Picks & Pans

jan 6, 3:24 pm

First film of the new year is "He Dreams of Giants", a documentary about one of my heroes, Terry Gilliam.

The movie shows him at his best and worst, always beset by doubts, yet deeply in love with what he does.

Insightful look at a brilliant artistic maverick.

jan 14, 12:11 pm

>2 mejix: Love his review of Pan's Labyrinth. Also found some things to add to my watchlist, thanks

jan 14, 1:43 pm

"The Banshees in Inisherin" last night.

Wonderful film, lived up to all the hype.

This will make my top ten list next year (which reminds me, I still have to post my 2022 roster).

jan 14, 7:12 pm

>3 SandraArdnas:
I agree.
A good take on Le cercle rouge too.

jan 15, 7:04 am

>2 mejix: A good list, although I prefer Les demoiselles de Rochfort to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and Black Narcissus to Colonel Blimp.

Redigerat: jan 16, 1:26 am

>6 iansales:
I'm afraid I haven't seen any of those. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Looks like this Top 10 thing is a regular feature at Criterion. There's a link to other interesting lists by filmmakers and actors at the bottom of the page. (Though not all their reviews are as interesting as Ishiguro's.)

jan 16, 4:32 am

>2 mejix: What a great list of films. I am glad that Ishiguro chose Ozu whose films I love. I believe Tokyo Story to be a masterpiece. In a noisy, fractured world the stillness of Ozu always comforts me.

jan 16, 2:00 pm

Saw the documentary on Kurt Vonnegut, "Unstuck in Time", and was initially impressed but then the director, Robert Weide, began to impose himself more and more into the film, reducing the focus on his subject.

Bizarre aesthetic decision, to say the least--but the live footage of Vonnegut was worth the annoyance. Funny, funny man.

jan 16, 2:50 pm

>9 CliffBurns: Oh, have to check that out somehow. Can never get enough of Vonnegut.

jan 16, 7:06 pm

>8 Maura49: Tokyo Story is brilliant. Haven't seen it in ages but yeah, a classic.

Redigerat: jan 17, 8:00 am

From Vanity Fair, the 26 most anticipated movies for 2023. Another Scorsese coming up, among the usual blockbuster suspects. Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon feels like ideal casting to me.

jan 29, 10:49 am

Saw the latest version of "All Quiet on the Western Front" on Netflix.

Impressive, disturbing, realistic.

The only thing marring it is the soundtrack, this strange, kind of modernist dissonance that I didn't think worked at all.

Otherwise, highly recommended.

feb 1, 1:41 am

>10 SandraArdnas: yep, same here. Will have to find that one. I have not seen much live footage of Vonnegut.

feb 1, 11:36 am

Saw Ben Wheatley's "In the Earth" last night. Don't think it got North American release but I found it as a rental on YouTube.

An hallucinatory environmental horror movie (how's that for a mouthful?).

This is Wheatley back on track after a couple of creative misfires and wrong turns. Reminiscent in some ways of another film he did, "A Field in England", but this latest is more coherent and creepy.


feb 3, 11:58 am

"Crimes of the Future" last night, directed by David Cronenberg.

Haven't liked his films in years and avoided watching this one but my wife was away, had an evening to myself so what the hell.

Better than I expected--the script is at least 25 years old so you have to wonder if it would have made more of an impact if it had been made back then.

Weird and grotesque, with good performances, but when Cronenberg writes his own scripts the result can be rather tuneless at times.

Still, a huge improvement over some of the stuff he's done in the 21st century.

feb 3, 12:26 pm

>4 CliffBurns: I second this, great movie. I'm surprised it's up for an Oscar because I my tastes and the Oscar nominations rarely overlap.

Redigerat: feb 6, 11:29 am

"Late Quartet" tonight, with a stellar cast, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener & Christopher Walken.

Story of a famous quartet of musicians on the verge of collapsing because of internal quarrels and illness.

Well-acted by everyone involved, though a little cold at its core.

feb 7, 11:05 pm

Roger Michel's "The Duke" tonight.

Hard to hate a movie featuring Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent.

They had great chemistry, but the movie's a bit too "feel-goody" for my black-hearted tastes.

feb 8, 11:39 pm

"Downsizing", directed by Alexander Payne.

Normally I avoid Matt Damon movies like rattlesnakes but this is Alexander Payne, after all, so I had to give it a shot.

Glad I did. This movie was not a big success when it was released, partially because it's smarter than most film-goers and also because it dares to be downbeat. Marketed as a satire and I think it lives up to that billing.

Schmalzy ending, unfortunately, but pretty damn good up 'til then.

feb 9, 11:03 pm

Karel Zeman's "Journey to the Beginning of Time".

Mix of live action and animation, classic Czech cinema from the 1950s.

Ray Harryhausen fans will be intrigued.

feb 22, 10:42 am

Watched Marcel Carne's ""Les Enfants du Paradis" ("Children of Paradise") last night and was reminded of the power of cinema when it's in the hands of visionaries and artists.

Nowadays films are so vapid and overblown--"Children of Paradise" is long, but never overlong, brilliantly designed and crafted, great script...I was in awe from beginning to end.


Essential viewing for serious film buffs.

Highly recommended.

mar 8, 11:27 pm

"Fire in the Sky" tonight, cult alien abduction film from the 1980s.

Surprisingly good in terms of acting and cinematography. I expected it to be far more schlocky.

Quite impressive.

mar 9, 1:55 pm

Mayhem starring Steven Yeun as a lawyer who is fired just before his large law office is quarantined because of a virus that turns people very violent. A dark comedy showing on Tubi.
Hello, My Name is Doris starring Sally Field as a quirky elderly woman who has taken care of an ailing mother her whole life, never getting a chance to live for herself. Mom dies and Doris is suddenly infatuated with a much younger man at work. Recommended.

mar 22, 6:13 pm

Watched "Tar" last night--at first wasn't impressed but the movie grew on us. Did some reading up on it afterward, picked up a few things we missed.

A ghost story, of sorts, a chilling portrait of a manipulative, controlling personality and, yes, predator.

Not for all tastes but if you're feeling adventurous and have 2 1/2 hours to spare....

mar 28, 7:22 pm

Revisited two old faves: Kwaidan by Kobayashi, and Ikiru by Kurosawa.

I remembered Kwaidan as being gorgeous visually and it did not disappoint. I had completely forgotten the last story about an unfinished manuscript. What a great last sequence. Incredibly poetic.

Ikiru. What can I say? I didn't expect to be as moved as the first time but I was. Maybe the movie gains power as the viewer gets older. Yes is heavy handed and sometimes what Kurosawa is saying to 1950's Japanese audiences about civil service is not that interesting, but how beautiful it still is. Like a fable. And then Takashi Shimura sings that haunting song while the snow falls. Loved it.

apr 2, 11:32 am

"See How They Run", rather tepid whodunit some dubbed "'a British 'Knives Out'".

It wasn't.

Redigerat: apr 2, 2:20 pm

Summit of the Gods on Netflix is a 2021 adaptation of a Japanese manga about rock climbing in Mt. Everest. The drawings are gorgeous and the first half of the movie is entertaining. Then the story looses propulsion and a 95 minute movie ends up feeling like a 150 movie.

Rewatched Ghost in the Shell from 1995. The story feels unresolved or maybe the movie is too smart for me. I still love that universe though. Would gladly watch it again.

apr 4, 3:35 pm

Been watching Adam Curtis's Can't Get You Out of My Head. Not convinced by all of his argument, but it's fascinating stuff and he draws some compelling connections.

apr 4, 7:47 pm

I love Curtis' stuff--he hurls about a whole lotta speculation and footage and tries to somehow drag it all together into a grand, unifying theory.

Not always successfully, I agree.

Good interview with John Sayles from a few years back--he has some smart advice for budding film-makers:

apr 5, 12:50 am

Watched "The Square", Palm D'Or winner from 2017, directed by Ruben Ostland.

Brilliant--insightful look at the society, how we require an art installation to provide a "safe space", because such things cannot exist in an indifferent world.

This one will be on my "Year's Best" list.

maj 9, 12:10 pm

"Mad God", the stop-motion animated film Phil Tippett spent three decades of his life making.

Amazing. Stunning. Add your superlative here _______________.

THIS is what cinema is all about. A vision of a brutal hellscape, not a frame wasted. Original and unrelenting.

One of the great film experiences of my life.

Redigerat: maj 28, 2:17 am

Bill Hader is a big movie person and in this interview he gets a chance to talk about his movie past. Made me like him even more.

jun 20, 12:24 pm

Finally got around to watching "Apollo 10 1/2", written and directed by Richard Linklater.

Wonderful film and brilliant evocation of the era.

Currently streaming on Netflix, don't miss it, it's absolutely delightful.

jun 20, 12:57 pm

I watched "THX-1136" starring Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasance. Directed by George Lucas and I think it was his first major film. A rigid dystopian society that bans affection, individuality and gender, where everyone is under constant watch from video cameras and the slightest variation in behavior is punished. A very good cast.

jun 20, 2:07 pm

A dark, pessimistic film and I'm a big fan too. A cold, brutal depiction of a possible future we pray won't come to pass. There's an older version and a newer one, the latter boasting some "enhancement" of special FX.

jun 20, 3:31 pm

Somehow never found my way around to watching "Moonstruck" starring Cher and Nicholas Cage until this past weekend. Not the run-of-the-mill romance I'd always dismissed it as, actually some very good insights into love and marriage.

Redigerat: jun 20, 3:39 pm

>33 CliffBurns:, if I dedicated thirty years of my life to something, that's the reaction I'd be hoping for. Wow that's commitment.

Phil Tippet really came across in a recent SFX behind-the-scenes about ILM that I watched on Disney+, wish I could remember the name of it now. He suffered from something like OCD which was bad for him but wonderful for the original Star Wars films he worked on where he would make the most minute adjustments to models for each shot. And it worked as therapy, he might have lost his marbles without something like that to focus on. Unfortunately CGI largely spelled the end of that sort of thing, which explains why he dived into this.

jun 20, 7:32 pm

>40 Cecrow: Hope you get the opportunity to see "Mad God". It might still be streaming on Shudder.

It's truly one of a kind. Masterful and, yes, mad.

Redigerat: jun 20, 10:27 pm

Speaking generally, can we not be idiots and recognise that banning gender-based discrimination is not the same thing as "banning gender"? What the fuck would the latter even be...

jun 20, 11:21 pm

If you're referring to my comments about the movie I saw, why don't you see the movie for yourself to see what I was talking about before leaving such rude questions. Seems like someone who isn't an idiot would do that.

jun 21, 4:31 am

>42 LolaWalser:, in THX1138, everyone wears the same white track suit and is shaved bald. Although I suspect I could still guess as soon as someone spoke, if not sooner.

Redigerat: jun 27, 12:04 am

>38 CliffBurns: Wasn’t the earlier version of THX-1136 what he turned in as a film class project? Yep, a good flick.

jun 27, 1:49 am

>45 DugsBooks: I think Lucas touched up the special effects for the original theatrical version of "THX-1138" AFTER his "Star Wars" success (just as he later "augmented" the effects in the first "Star Wars" film, to its detriment, I believe).

Yeah, there was an earlier film class version of "THX", I saw a bit of it once; definitely ambitious and stylish...for a student film.

jul 12, 10:53 am

Finally got a chance to see De Sica's "Umberto D".

Not as brilliant as "Bicycle Thieves", more overtly sentimental, but still an impressive film.

jul 13, 11:05 am

Last night, Kelly Reichardt's indie effort "Old Joy".

A buddy film, subtle and low-key; no huge incidents or high drama, but nonetheless engaging.

Redigerat: jul 18, 12:15 am

Wes Anderson geeks out about movies at Konbini

Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film (a series mentioned in the interview)

jul 19, 11:37 am

Ruben Ostlund's "Triangle of Sadness".

Great cinema.

Worthy of its Palm D'Or. Had a fun discussion afterward, debating the points it was making on culture and class.

That's three fine films in a row for Ostlund: "Force Majeure", "The Square" and "Triangle of Darkness".

Right now, along with Yorgos Lanthimos, he's among my favorite contemporary directors.

jul 19, 12:21 pm

"Bestsellers" starring Michael Caine as an author who hasn't published in 40 years and Aubrey Plaza as the heir to a publishing house who demands he fulfill his contract. Quiet dramedy but worth the time if only for Caine's performance.

aug 11, 11:32 am

Good piece on "Sorcerer", one of the great films of the 1970s, maligned when it was first released:

aug 11, 7:10 pm

"Oppenhiemer" was worth the admission. Only it's sad to me that people can't just hash things out (talk) onscreen anymore without obnoxious noise or rapid editing getting in the way to keep the kiddies' attention.

Redigerat: aug 13, 3:52 pm

>53 Cecrow: I liked "Oppenheimer", although I found it quite cold. Better history than cinema, methinks.

Good performances and cinematography but the entire venture seemed...detached.

Redigerat: aug 14, 3:18 pm

>53 Cecrow: >54 CliffBurns: I read an article critical of "Oppenhiemer" which explained they missed a good chance to explain all the Native Americans and poorer people who lived in the "deserted" nearby and downwind areas of the project. I understand there are lawsuits ongoing about the open air tests effects on people.

I still want to see the film however.

Redigerat: aug 18, 9:32 pm

Had 3 hrs to kill downtown and ended up seeing "Oppenheimer." All the things I don't like about biopics extended for 3hrs. Super crammed. Every detail in the book must be included. Little space for dramatic development. No effort to understand. No effort to build a careful plot. You are supposed to feel instant gravitas in the first 5 minutes. First time at the theater since before the pandemic though. That felt great.

aug 20, 12:36 pm

Watched "Sisu" last night, an extremely violent Finnish film about an ex-war hero who terrorizes a squad of German soldiers during the latter stages of World War II.

Well-photographed but this was just a rejigged "Rambo" film, the central character practically superhuman in his ability to survive any challenge or injury.

Quite unbelievable and very, very nasty in places.

sep 4, 2:12 am

"Divorce, Italian Style", a much over-rated Criterion film that wasn't particularly funny or engrossing (despite its hype).


Redigerat: sep 4, 10:32 pm

>58 CliffBurns: I remember the hype around the movie & I think it was shown on TV in the late 1960’s but I remember nothing about the flick except the bombastic “high energy “ advertisements that flooded the tube. I think Marcello Mastroianni, the lead, had a reputation as a real ladies man at the time.

Wiki (looked up Mastroianni’s name) said it was “Italy’s first comedy” - strange .

sep 4, 10:57 pm

The film just didn't click with us. For a comedy, it barely provoked a wry chuckle.

Marcello is charming, as always, but the film is obvious, the leads lack chemistry and it turned out to be a rather tame, sexless sex romp.

Barely elicited a shrug as the end credits rolled.

sep 11, 11:21 am

"Three Thousand Years of Longing" last night.

Diverting, but entirely too unbelievable for my tastes--a fairy tale, from beginning to end.

I was a big fan of George Miller's "The Road Warrior" but he hasn't done much of interest to me since then.

sep 11, 12:12 pm

>61 CliffBurns: I saw it this weekend too. Loved it. I need to find a genii.

sep 11, 2:32 pm

>62 varielle: I love Tilda Swinton, regardless of the movie.

Just not my sort of film.

sep 14, 12:47 am

Tonight it was "Moonage Daydream", the surreal, hallucinogenic documentary of David Bowie, directed by Brett Morgen.

Mind-blowing and, really, the perfect way to encapsulate a career that defied convention and fused many musical and aesthetic approaches. Bowie the chameleon ever on display...but his family and loves barely mentioned. This is all about Bowie the artist...Bowie the man remains more enigmatic and unknowable (and all the more intriguing because of that).

Highly recommended. I'll take this over a shitty biopic any day.

sep 25, 11:42 am

"Barbarian Invasions" by the great Canadian director Denys Arcand.

Wanted to like it more but found some aspects way over the top and unbelievable, despite the tragic story at the heart of the film.

Three and a half stars out of five.

sep 25, 11:58 am

Over the last few weeks:
"Zeroville" starring James Franco, has an experimental feel, sometimes surreal. About a man who sees his first movie ever in 1969 and becomes obsessed with moviemaking, and especially one bad actress.
"Post Mortem", a Hungarian horror set just after WWI. The acting is top notch, the CGI effects are fifty/fifty but the practical effects are very good.
"Warm Bodies", which I hadn't seen in years. Still a fun reinvention of Romeo and Juliet.

sep 26, 12:11 am

"Jimmy's Hall", directed by the great Ken Loach.

Set in the early 1930s, title character returns home to Ireland, tries to re-open a dance hall/community center but finds himself thwarted by the local Catholic clergy and wealthy landowners.

A bit too much Irish jigging for my tastes and the politics are a tad complex for outsiders, but well-acted and gripping, a good night of entertainment.

sep 30, 11:31 am

"High and Low", a 1963 crime film by Kurosawa.

Fascinating to see a movie by the master that isn't a costume/period piece.

Gritty, surprisingly tough. A scene takes place on a street of addicts that was like watching an early zombie film.

My wife isn't into police procedurals (it's based on a novel by Ed McBain) but despite it's length--140 minutes--I found it quite gripping.

okt 5, 11:51 pm

Saw "Creator" at the theater tonight (Sherron was out of town) and found it disappointing.

If you've seen the trailer, as I did a few months ago, you know everything about the movie and what you don't know you figure out about halfway through.

Nothing really new or interesting here...except in this near future tale the Americans are the heavies, the Asians and A.I. having combined forces.

When will SF cinema serve up something we haven't seen before, something that doesn't pander to the "Star Wars"/action movie crowd?

Redigerat: okt 12, 12:06 am

Loved the new Wes Anderson's shorts based on Roald Dahl's stories: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Swan, The Ratcatcher and Poison. The shorts all have Anderson's trademarks but they also show an evolution. The source material is severe and doesn't allow for much sweetness. Also there is a bit of experimentation by Anderson, not always successful but always very very interesting. The acting is all around excellent but Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes in particular are both absolutely brilliant.

okt 12, 9:54 am

>69 CliffBurns:, you might give "Star Wars: Andor" a chance, if you're so inclined. Requires Disney+, however.

okt 12, 12:44 pm

>71 Cecrow: Sorry, can't abide the "Star Wars" franchise (or the new "Star Trek") so unlikely to see that one. Loved the first movie when I was 14 and if they'd killed off Darth Vader at the end, it would've been a near-perfect piece of entertainment.

Like most SF cinema these days: too many special effects, too little characterization and original story-telling. Where's that "sensawunda" I seek?

I'll take "2001" and "Aniara" instead.

okt 13, 12:42 am

"Lambert and Stamp", a documentary about the two inexperienced managers who were crucial to the success of The Who.

Only mildly interesting, even for a fan. Sad how money and success can drive a close knit group apart and lead to acrimony and more money to the lawyers.

okt 16, 12:02 am

"Voyagers", a science fiction film written and directed by Neil Burger.

Nothing terribly new or interesting--"Lord of the Flies" in outer space.

"Aniara" explored similar territory far more effectively.

okt 16, 9:35 am

>74 CliffBurns: I saw Voyagers after I picked up a cheap DVD in the supermarket. All I'd say was that it was better than I expected, though I wasn't expecting much.

okt 16, 1:01 pm

Ditto, Robert. Absolutely true. As predictable and familiar as an old, well-worn pair of loafers.

nov 5, 11:06 pm

"Archipelago", a slow-moving, atmospheric family drama by Scorsese favorite Joanna Hogg.

Not everyone's cup of tea, reminded me of a Bergman film. Long, static shots, lots of nature sounds on foley track.

A curio, for sure, but well-acted.

nov 17, 12:41 am

"The House of the Devil", indie horror film from 2008.

Only so-so--a few jolts but it strained my credulity.

nov 17, 10:15 pm

"Meeting Gorbachev"--directed by Andre Singer and Werner Herzog.

Hagiography, Herzog and Co. trying to preserve Gorbachev's reputation, the man himself frail and doddering, 87 years old and cognitively impaired, struggling to formulate cogent responses. Herzog is sympathetic, almost fawning.

Werner's least enjoyable doc, superficial and biased and just not that interesting.

nov 25, 1:09 pm

"Dragonwyck", a 1946 Gothic starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price. This is my current favorite of Price's.

nov 27, 11:41 pm

Asteroid City by Wes Anderson. Experiment in narrative structure. Interesting but to my mind unsuccessful. Good to see Wes Anderson pushing himself and trying new things. Glad I didn't have to pay for this one though. Gorgeous imagery and some very good performances in a lost cause.

nov 28, 3:22 pm

"The Greatest Show Never Made" is a new three part doc on Prime about a Big Brother-type British show in 2002. The producer hired a director, camera operator, and auditioned contestants, choosing 30 people who were required to walk away from their lives for a year to compete for a prize of one hundred thousand pounds. But it turned out that there was no money and no tv contract.

Igår, 1:24 pm

Ballad of Narayama by Keisuke Kinoshita. I couldn't quite get into the plot. Looking at some of the reviews it seems that I am not the only one left baffled. But the film was made almost exclusively in studio sets with very deliberate artifice, which I love. Gorgeous colors and compositions. Specially the night scenes, mostly dark green and magenta, with torches dancing around. Quite beautiful. Surprised that I couldn't find a good example online. Must've been a spectacle on the big screen.