Moontide (1942; d. Archie Mayo – and an uncredited Fritz Lang)
And John O’Hara wrote the screenplay. How I love this film. Ida Lupino plays a suicidal girl, rescued from the waves by Bobo (a to-die-for Jean Gabin). Bobo is a womanizer, clearly has a serious drinking problem, with black-outs, and perhaps he … murdered someone the night before? And doesn’t remember it? In the meantime, Ida Lupino rests up in his “live bait” shack, floating on the waves by the docks, and over the course of a couple of days … the two connect. Despite his flaws, Bobo is a loving and warm and friendly person. Thomas Mitchell (a favorite of mine) plays Bobo’s best friend, a terrible man completely threatened by the fact that Bobo has met a woman, that Bobo may be changing his ways. Mitchell’s character is clearly gay, and has those feelings towards Bobo, but, of course, can’t express it. Therefore he takes it out on Ida Lupino. Terrible. Claude Rains is awesome, as the witty knowing friend of both. But he is first seen in the film in a flop-house, post-shower, being whipped by Thomas Mitchell with a towel. Radical. The film features explosions of feeling and emotion. Lupino and Gabin are so wonderful together. There are great little charcter portraits: the rich guy with the boat who keeps breaking down. You think he’ll turn out to be a snooty heartless guy, but he’s not. He’s drawn to Bobo too. Clearly I love Moontide.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 20, “Angel Heart” (2015; d. Steve Boyum)
Part of my Season 10 re-watch, getting ready for Season 11. This is why I like to return to things before commenting on them. My first response was a sort of “Meh” although that closing scene brought me to tears (and still does). There is still a “Meh” quality to some of this (Castiel meets another terrible angel and what do they do when they confront one another? A fist-fight. Come ON guys.) But the episode packs a huge punch, with its picture of family, forgiveness. I love the scenes with Sam and Dean and Claire. Sam taking her under his wing as a hunter. Dean rolling his eyes and playing miniature golf. “Well-played,” his response to her Happy Gimore zinger.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 21, “Dark Dynasty” (2015; d. Robert Singer)
Devastating. Honestly, though, I didn’t buy the fact that Rowena bothered Charlie so much that she would go off to a motel, and then sit by an open window working in plain view. What, you can’t put headphones on, Charlie, to drown out Rowena? Plus Castiel’s helplessness at dealing with the Estrogen-Battle going on. These plot-points felt manipulative. Okay, so Charlie must die, how do we make that happen? and etc.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 22, “The Prisoner” (2015; d. Thomas J. Wright)
Charlie Aftermath. Dean as badass. Dean also strapped to a table. Not a big fan of the Stynes (and their Abercrombie & Fitch model similarity in looks). But of all the “let’s stand over our burning fallen comrade” scenes in the history of the series, this one was the most brutal. Like it a lot.
Gilda (1946; d. Charles Vidor)
It was a Rita Hayworth-Gilda heavy couple of months, because of my assignment from Criterion for their upcoming release of the film. It’s been so much fun, and I floundered around helplessly for 24 hours after I handed in my first draft, thinking, “What will I do will all my time now??” And then, BOOM, the next day, the Oscars gig. Ain’t life like that.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 23, “Brother’s Keeper” (2015; d. Phil Sgriccia)
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend.
Welcome to Me (2014; d. Shira Piven)
Brilliant. And, best of all, it stuck to its guns. It did not “redeem” the character, except in her own mind, which is pretty fragile and out of touch to begin with. Kristen Wiig’s Alice Kleig deserves to stand alongside other great portraits of anti-social delusional outcasts (Rupert Pupkin in King of Comedy the clearest example, but there are many others. I had seen and loved the trailer. It was the kind of trailer that raised hopes. And I remember thinking, “Oh, please, don’t let this movie cop out.” And it didn’t. The movie is really really funny, but also pitch-black depressing. Almost surreal. But also a very pointed social commentary. It’s on my Top 10 of 2015, thus far.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 19, “Folsom Prison Blues” (2007; d. Mike Rohl)
In preparation for my next re-cap. “Poor … giant … Tiny.”
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 21, “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1” (2007; d. Robert Singer)
Figured I’d move on to the end of Season 2, to get the trajectory of the whole seasonal Arc. Love these final episodes.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 22, “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
Kim Manners at his highest of high-baroque Beauty-ness. Some of the episode actually hurts to look at it’s so beautiful.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 1, “Magnificent Seven” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
On a roll!
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 2, “The Kids are All Right” (2007; d. Phil Sgriccia)
Welcome, Lisa, before she became, sadly, an Oompa Loompa. Dean’s behavior at the party, awkward and noticeable, knocking into trash cans, is some screwball shit. ALSO I love that for the entirety, except the last scene, Lisa’s entire vibe is, “What the hell are you doing here?” And it’s genuine. She’s busy now. She’s got her own life. Who is this guy with the Bedroom Eyes showing up all entitled 8 years later? I liked her immediately because of this. She felt real. And it’s important she feel real, due to everything that follows over the next seasons. You get the appeal. And it doesn’t have to do with hot sex. And that is very very interesting and illuminating.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 3, “Bad Day at Black Rock” (2007; d. Robert Singer)
I actually re-watched the original movie this month too! I love it so much, all that swaggering masculinity on display. It’s damn near pornographic. Or at least erotic. Men towering above the horizon. Men staring at each other across train tracks. Men glowering and gleaming like threatened peacocks. Good stuff. But the SPN episode is fun too and I adore Bela and will have much to say about her when the time comes. So far, the series had not featured a “femme fatale,” on the classic model of Barbara Stanwyck or Lana Turner or Gloria Grahame. Well, welcome Bela.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 5, “Bedtime Stories” (2007; d. Mike Rohl)
“I’m feeling dirty just thinking about it.” The entire Bela-Winchester relationship is extremely pleasing to me, since I grew up watching film noirs.
Saute ma ville (1968; d. Chantal Akerman)
Chantal Akerman died this month, and it’s a hard loss to wrap your head around. As I said elsewhere, if you read any Greatest Films of the 20th Century List and Jeanne Dielman isn’t on it: ignore the list, it’s no good. This is not just a matter of taste. This is about acknowledging the accomplishment of a 24-year-old director – younger than Welles when he did Citizen Kane, directing a film that completely changed film language. Perhaps only a young person could do that, could be so bold and confident. So it’s very upsetting that she is dead at 65. I went back and watched her first film, a 12-minute short called Saute Ma Ville (where she plays the lead character). It’s unforgettable. And it’s all there. She didn’t have to develop into a great artist. She just was one naturally. You can see Saute Ma Ville at the bottom of this post.
The Final Girls (2015; d. Todd Strauss-Schulson)
Reviewed for Rogerebert.com.
Outrage (1950; d. Ida Lupino)
An Ida Lupino-directed honest and raw film about rape and its PTSD aftermath. Ahead of its time. Insightful about what we now call “rape culture.” The entire film is on Youtube. It should be watched. Ida Lupino was a pioneer. Wrote about the film here.
The Killers (1946; d. Robert Siodmak)
A favorite noir, with a hotter-than-hot Burt Lancaster, and an even-hotter Ava Gardner. The film is a Russian nesting-doll. Flashbacks into flashbacks into flashbacks, told through varying perspectives, so that the point is, ultimately, lost. Does it matter “whodunit”? Who can figure anything out in such a dark and pessimistic world? Great film.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 6, “Red Sky at Morning” (2007; d. Cliff Bole)
I’ve said it before but I will reiterate, and I realize I am preaching to the choir!!: Yes, I know that the writing of this episode was dissed by the show itself in “Monster.” But I don’t care. I feel under no obligation to AGREE with anything anyone says, even if they work on the damn show. It is up to ME to decide whether or not I like something, or whether or not I think it works. I say this because people (no one here, but elsewhere) have a tendency to say stuff like this: “Remember, they themselves dissed the writing of this episode.” I see it on lots of fans’ Worst Of lists. Who knows, maybe these fans genuinely hate the episode, but it’s my contention that they feel the need to include it because the creators themselves made fun of it. “Remember … the writing staff made fun of it … so … ” Emanations from the writing staff or from Eric Kripke are not Holy Writ. Once something is out there in the world, it no longer BELONGS to Eric Kripke or the writing staff. It belongs to US. The same thing happens with Elvis’ movies. I love Elvis’ acting and I love his movies. Elvis hated the majority of the movies he was in and spoke about it at length. Nobody defends those movies. And it is my contention that the music writers who write about Elvis RESENT the movies for taking Elvis away from them, have ZERO idea how to analyze a good performance, AND have Elvis’ words in their head. “Well, he was really unhappy with doing them, therefore THAT must be the filter through which I see the Elvis films.” Really? I feel no loyalty to Elvis in that way. So I’ll write about an Elvis movie, and inevitably someone will show up and say “You know that Elvis hated all of his movies.” Again, my questions are: So? And Who Cares? I’m supposed to only agree with Elvis? I hate bananas, but I’m not gonna force them down my throat just because Elvis loved them. We have been given MINDS, so let’s use them. I don’t CARE what Eric Kripke said. I don’t CARE what the other writers said. I mean, it’s interesting (I guess), but I don’t feel pressured to AGREE with one single word of it. All of this is to say, I really enjoy “Red Sky at Morning,” its screwball-vibe, its dress-up sequence. The cemetery scene at the end is stupid, but please, there have been far FAR FAR worse episodes than “Red Sky at Morning”. And I could watch Bela go toe-to-toe with the Winchesters for hours on end. So THERE.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 7, “Fresh Blood” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
I miss Gordon.
No Man of Her Own (1950; d. Mitchell Leisen)
A beautiful and disturbing film (the film was remade, in more of a comedic vein, years later into While You Were Sleeping). Barbara Stanwyck plays an unwed mother who ends up being taken in by the family of their son (who had abandoned her). But she’s not who they think she is. And she can’t bring herself to come clean, because this is the first family she’s ever had. And she doesn’t want to leave. But the past, as always, comes roaring back to haunt her. I love this film, and I love the exteriors too. Snowy nights, ice-crusted roads, abandoned train stations, dark dark and gloomy. Great acting.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 1, “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” (2015; d. Robert Singer)
The amorality of Darkness was pleasing to me. A force of nature. And nature is feminine. Camille Paglia would be pleased.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 10, “Dream a Little Dream Of Me” (2008; d. Steve Boyum)
In my Top 10 episodes in the entire series.
The Quiet Man (1952; d. John Ford)
Coincidentally, along with the Criterion Gilda assignment and the Lifetime Achievement Oscar assignment, I had another assignment this past month: a huge essay about John Wayne in The Quiet Man. I say coincidentally only because Maureen O’Hara just died, and this was her most famous role. So I watched the movie about three times this month, so I could study Wayne’s performance more closely. That essay won’t be available for a bit, but I did talk about the chemistry between Wayne and O’Hara – and, in particular, Wayne’s open sexuality in the film – here.
Pacific Rim (2013; d. Guillermo del Toro)
A re-watch in preparation for Crimson Peak, which I was assigned to review. I love Pacific Rim.
Youtube: Hours and hours of the Jodi Arias trial. I completely missed that entire thing the first time around because I was too busy having a crack-up and going into medically-induced recovery. My, what I missed. I’m obsessed. My obsession is almost purely behavioral in nature. This woman fascinates me. And her first police interrogation (you know, the one where she does a handstand, puts pieces of paper down her pants, and sings a couple of songs when left alone in the room) is now taught in police academies and behavioral-science units across the land, because of just how revealing it is. Listen, I had one of the busiest two months in recent memory. Well, maybe preparing for my short film earlier this year rivaled it, but in that one, at least I wasn’t in CHARGE. So I needed to let off steam somehow. And to me … watching Jodi Arias lie with every breath … accomplished that.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 14, “Long Distance Call” (2008; d. Robert Singer)
Once I started going into Season 3, I had fun jumping around. I like the psychological tailspin Dean goes into. It’s so transparent (what a shock). I also like Sam trying to keep the boat steady. Plus Dean’s thumbs-up bonding with the telephone guy on porn.
The Quiet Man (1952; d. John Ford)
Crimson Peak (2015; d. Guillermo Del Toro)
I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955; d. John Sturges)
I wrote about this above. The masculinity on display … Robert Ryan. Lee Marvin. Ernest Borgnine. Spencer Tracy. The strange “Village of the Damned” way the men of the town look at Spencer Tracy when he gets off that train. The purpose of the film is to grapple with what was done to Japanese-Americans during the course of the second World War. It’s a socially conscious film, perhaps a bit heavy-handed – but sometimes cultural sins need to be treated with a heavy hand. Spencer Tracy is the moral center of the film, carrying with him natural authority, so the impact of his humanism is enormous. It says: “What was done to our fellow citizens was wrong.”
Blue Gardenia (1953; d. Fritz Lang)
It was a film noir heavy month. I love the films of Fritz Lang and Blue Gardenia is so excellent! Anne Baxter is so good as the telephone operator, in love with a guy stationed in Korea, who rejects her by mail, and in her devastation ends up going out with Raymond Burr for a night. He gets her way WAY too drunk, and there’s an altercation at his apartment. She has no memory of what happened. But Raymond Burr ended up dead. A gigantic “man”-hunt starts for the murderer. Richard Conte plays a hot-shot journalist who begins his own investigation, trying to track down the “blue gardenia,” as the unknown murderess is called. (Black Dahlia? Hm.) She’s called that because she was last seen at a club called The Blue Gardenia, AND Nat King Cole performs that song IN the film, just to drive the point home. Richard Conte feels he must reach the “blue gardenia” before the cops do, that if he tells her side of the story before she’s arrested, she’ll have a better shot. (Richard Conte, by the way, has a pretty thankless part here, although he’s wonderful. Probably most well-known for The Godfather, Conte was great in noirs too, particularly The Big Combo in which – radical for its day – it suggested that his character was going down on his girlfriend. Good for him. And her.)
They Live By Night (1948; d. Nicholas Ray)
What a great film. And so influential. Young film-makers nowadays may think that they’re imitating Bonnie and Clyde, but Bonnie and Clyde itself was an imitation of They Live By Night. It is a film that has 100 children and 1000 grandchildren.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 2, “Form and Void” (2015; d. Philip Sgriccia)
Night of the Hunter. That’s all I care about. As ridiculous as it sounds, I felt personally validated by that. I’m insane.
Room (2015; d. Lenny Abrahamson)
I keep meaning to write about this extraordinary film. I started a review, but had to put it aside because of other deadlines. Harrowing. Great acting. Best not to say too much more, and I would avoid reviews before seeing it. This is a must-see, people. It’s one of the best films of the year.
Suffragette (2015; d. Sarah Gavron)
No good. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013; Jean-Marc Vallée)
There’s a piece I want to write eventually about straight people playing transgender characters. I know it’s been done everywhere else but I still want to write about it. I just don’t have time right now, but figured I’d start my research. Check it off the list.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 15, “Time is On My Side” (2008; d. Charles Beeson).
What a messed UP episode. And here’s Rufus. That scene between him and Dean is a masterpiece, a chess-playing make-your-move-keep-your-poker-face masterpiece. I love that although Dean is the one facing death, the episode is really about Sam’s desperation. He’d have to be desperate to think that Frankenstein over there would be a valid option for his brother. But to me it’s painfully beautiful, that he cares that much about saving his brother that he’d go to this length. Also, I like it when Sam carries damsels-in-distress in his arms. It’s hot and appealing. I’m retro. Guilty as charged. PLUS the Bela sub-plot coming to a close (and I, for one, am bummed.) It’s nasty. Because you can see what happened to her in her childhood to make her who she was. And Dean had actually guessed it, if you recall. He clocked it. (Which also connects her to the classic femme fatale. Dissertations have been written about what is REALLY going on with the femme fatale’s sexuality. Because she is only seen through the eyes of men, she appears to be a voracious spider-woman, manipulative and brutal. Which she IS. But there have been other theories, having to do with sexuality and what happens to it when it has been brutalized. These are broad points, and of course there are exceptions, but that’s what I think of when I think of Bela. And Dean Winchester may not have read any dissertations on the sexuality of the femme fatale – but he looks at her, and hates her, but he also recognizes that aspect of her. Takes one to know one.) I, for one, miss Bela. But LOVED how her arc closed itself out. Because of course. Of course that’s how a “Bela” happens in the world of Supernatural. And of course both Dean and Sam would have seething contradictory love/hate fight/fuck responses to her. That’s what a femme fatale does. For her own reasons, reasons which she will never ever share. Her secrets go with her to her grave.
Supernatural, Season 3, episode 16, “No Rest for the Wicket” (2008; d. Kim Manners)
Creepy Child Alert! I honestly didn’t need TWO close-ups of the nanny’s face covered in flies. And THE most upsetting final scene in the entire series. Watching it you realize, yet again, how much the show lost when Hell became comprehensible, a place, populated by Power-Point-wielding minions.
Sensation Hunters (1933; d. Charles Vidor)
This was also part of my Gilda project. Familiarizing myself with the sheer scope of director Charles Vidor’s career. Not known for one particular style or genre, he’s mostly associated with musicals (having directed popular Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly films. Plus the 1955 Love Me or Leave Me, featuring tour de force performances from both Doris Day and James Cagney. Cagney was nominated for an Oscar). Sensation Hunters is a Pre-Code. So what does that mean? It features many scenes of women in their underwear. Bare legs. It’s frank about sex, about alcoholism, about how showgirls (or strippers/burlesque artists) can descend into a life of prostitution. Walter Brennan shows up as a stuttering waiter, surrounded by the floozy “headmistress” of showgirls/prostitution, all as the gals get undressed in the room together, sipping from flasks, sometimes getting into fist fights. You know, this kind of raw unvarnished reality (reality in some circles, anyway) would vanish completely once the Code came down.
Gallipoli (1981; d. Peter Weir)
That final shot. I saw this in a movie theatre and there was a collective gasp of total sorrow, a group “Oh NO.” Grueling. Beautifully shot. (Great special features too, interviews with everyone).
A Question of Love (1978; d. Jerry Thorpe)
Part of my Gena Rowlands-Lifetime-Achievement-Oscar gig. Rowlands is so associated with her husband’s films that it’s important to move them out of the way to see the rest of the career (which is still going on). She did some very important and radical TV movies in the 70s and 80s, the most famous one being An Early Frost, about AIDS (10 years before Philadelphia), a gorgeous film where she co-stars as Bette Davis’ daughter called Strangers, and then this, a film about a lesbian mother fighting for custody of her son. I wrote about it here.
Supernatural Season 11, Episode 3, “The Bad Seed” (2015; d. Jensen Ackles)
Pretty funny to see this right on the heels of the murderous Lilith-child at the end of Season 3. Nothing creepier than a cute small child in a dress apparently. While the entire episode was exposition, Ackles has grown so much as a director (although he started really strong). There are really cool angles, great murky colors, and a sensitivity to working with females (child and grown) that shows in the performances. He cared about how those two were framed, about how to present them: both mysterious and explicit. Season 11 so far is all about women. To mis-quote Coleridge, Women women everywhere and not a drop to drink.
Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (2014; d. Joe Berlinger)
Love Joe Berlinger’s films and my family is from Boston, I’ve got cousins who live in “Southie” (Whitey’s stomping grounds), so he was a boogey-man from our childhood. IRONICALLY, I happened to be in Santa Monica on the day he was busted there. I still can’t believe it. I’m in the apartment in Santa Monica, and I see the news … that Whitey Bulger had been found – and it was literally 2 blocks from where I was staying. So Maria and I set out to see what we could see. She said into her phone, asking Siri: “Whitey Bulger’s apartment” which made her look like an FBI officer undercover. We got to the apartment and it was a madhouse. The poor residents in the building had put up a hand-written sign on the front door: “PEOPLE ACTUALLY LIVE HERE.” It was just a weird thing, to have this Boston Myth for decades suddenly be busted within walking distance of where I was staying all the way across the country. Anyway, it’s a really good documentary.
Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979; d. Millton Katselas)
Gena Rowlands Oscar-piece Part II. This was a movie that Rowlands did with Bette Davis, in Bette Davis’ awesome Late-Renaissance period in TV movies. It’s almost too pleasurable to tolerate: watching these two actresses play scenes together. And the whole thing is just them. They play an estranged mother and daughter. It’s amazing. Whole thing is on Youtube, in 10 parts.
The Martian (2015; d. Ridley Scott)
Loved it! I reviewed it here.
Islands in the Sky (1953; d. William A. Wellman).
What a fantastic John Wayne movie. Filmed out in the Sierra Nevadas (a stand-in for the Arctic Circle), it’s about an Army Transport Plane that runs out of fuel and has to make an emergency landing in the middle of an ice field. They are beyond radio contact. Nobody died in the landing, but the temperature is 40 below, they have limited rations, and nothing lives up there in the cold white. The situation is immediately dire. Back on the Base, through snatches of radio messages and radar, the other guys try to put together the general area where the plane went down, and go out on a series of dangerous search-and-rescue missions. It’s a Robinson Crusoe story. A battle to survive. Survival has as much to do with psychological strength as physical. The flying sequences, done with actual Douglas C-47s, swooping over ice fields, have to be seen to be believed. GREAT aviation movie.
Black Widow (1954; d. Nunnally Johnson).
I love the sick sexuality in the film: we’re in the 1950s now, a far more repressed age than the 30s or 40s. WWII gave women more power, made them more visible as individuals. The GIs returned home and the culture snapped shut, with a “Well, THAT’S all over now, thank goodness” feeling. Elvis has yet to blow the roof off. But that sexual stuff is still in operation. Van Heflin plays a guy happily married to Gene Tierney. They’ve had some problems, but they overcame them. They both work in the theatre. Van Heflin is producing a hit show starring Ginger Rogers (she gives first a hilarious performance and then a truly touching performance). He feels sorry for a young writer who is looking for a “way in” to the business and befriends her and tries to help her out. Big mistake. BIG mistake.
The Killer Speaks, Season 1, Episode 1 “Ice Cold: Levi King” (2013; d. Marshall Johnson)
Okay, so sue me, I got sucked into this A&E series on Netflix and watched them all. Or as many as I could. This is a version of what my friend Allison and I call “Blood Everywhere” shows, because in each episode, someone inevitably says, “There was blood … EVERYWHERE.” Not that there are good murders, but this one was completely senseless.
The Killer Speaks, Season 1, Episode 2 “Mad Maks: Maksim Gelman” (2013; d. Marshall Johnson)
I was in New York when “Mad Maks” went on his rampage. I’m pretty hardened by now, and I watched planes fly into the World Trade Center, so I’m not easily spooked. But Mad Maks got to me. I remember subways being shut down because he was hiding out on them. He was completely out of control. And he shows zero remorse. In the interview in this episode, he still seems completely frightening and I hope he never sees the light of day again.
The Killer Speaks, Season 1, Episode 4, “Twisted Love: Dena Riley” (2013; d. Marshall Johnson)
Losers. Throw away the key.
The Killer Speaks, Season 1, Episode 5, “Payback: Earl Forrest” (2013; d. Marshall Johnson)
Earl Forrest, who seems like a nice guy actually, does not feel guilt about killing his best friend of 30 years. He maintains from prison: “None of this would have happened if she had just done what she said she would do.” Again: throw away the key. This guy still doesn’t get it.
James White (2015; d. Josh Mond)
An incredible film. I wrote about it here. If you are sick of tentpole-blockbusters, if you want to support smaller more intimate stories, independent film in general, then it’s almost a civic duty to support a film like James White. (Same with Room.)
Another Woman (1988; d. Woody Allen)
One of Gena Rowlands’ best performances. She hadn’t wanted to accept the part because it was being filmed in New York and her husband was dying. But John Cassavetes urged her to do it. She went. She has said that the separation was incredibly painful. In this film, she plays a character unlike anything she has ever played before or since. If you only saw Another Woman, you would assume that Gena Rowlands had made her name playing chilly reserved intellectuals. Like, that’s how good she is. Surrounded by powerhouse actors, who have memorable scenes (Sandy Dennis has one, and Betty Buckley has one: a 5 minute scene of acting so intense you want to look away from it), Rowlands’ character is a woman out of touch with her feelings, so much that when the depths are plumbed … her entire edifice starts to crumble. She has no stability anymore. And Gene Hackman is so so sexy.
The Fifth Estate: Russell Williams Confession (2010)
Along with Jodi Arias, I became mildly obsessed with Russell Williams this month as well. I remember that whole thing going down of course, but had actually never watched the famous confession in full. This is a TV episode, talking to police investigators about what was going on in that room, what police officers can learn, Russell Williams’ behavioral “tells.” The entire confession is on Youtube. I realize that I am 5 years late to this party, so I assume that most everyone in North America has already seen the damn thing and I am just discovering its dark fascination.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 4, “Baby” (2015; d. Thomas J. Wright)
I actually found this so pleasurable that 1. I almost couldn’t get through it in one sitting and 2. I don’t want to talk about it. Not yet. A magical and powerful episode. The Impala as God. Watching over them always. Taken for granted, and loved. But not perceived as powerful as it might be. Filmed from the perspective of the Impala. Plus, loved the detail that it was through two random women – Piper, and the joy-riding valet-parker and her friend – that Dean was saved. Twice. Hairpin. Penny. Objects as Talismans. Expectation: that either women would turn out to be a demon, a monster. That car-valet careening away from the parking lot would be driving the Impala right to Crowley (for example). Or something. That Piper would be seducing Sam as some manipulative demon move. But no. Women in this episode were living their own lives, having a blast, doing their thing, not obsessed by The Darkness, but out to have a good time. And they leave things behind. Objects as talismanic as the Legos stuck in the grate. Objects that can save. Like I said: Women women everywhere and not enough to drink. Here I am talking about the episode. I don’t know what it is. It made me feel tender, and it’s not a particularly familiar feeling, so I’ve had to hole up with myself over it. I love that tenderness! Supernatural withholds its tenderness and softness, one of the main strengths of the series. This was masterfully done, from conception to completion. Life and the Universe through the Impala’s watchful eyes.
Our Times (2002; d. Rakhshān Bani E’temād).
Very strange coincidence, but Jessie just showed up this morning in the thread on dissident Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s Taxi), discussing another Iranian film called Tales, directed by the great Rakhshān Bani E’temād. I haven’t seen that one, but I did JUST see this past week her documentary about the raucous 2001 elections in Iran, Our Times. Bani E’temād is one of the preeminent film-makers in Iran, and definitely its most famous female filmmaker. Our Times is an on-the-ground portrayal of the youth organizers, politically rallying around the reform ticket, as exemplified by Khatami. It was the eighth Presidential election in Iran’s history, and really the first time that the youth got involved like they did. It also was the first election where almost half of the candidates for President were women. Some of them were just college students, but they put their names on a ticket, to make a statement. They want reform for women. They want economic reform, so that women can be financially independent. These brave women (and girls, some of them) agreed to be interviewed. One young college student talks about her decision to “run”, even though she knew she would never be elected. When her parents are asked what THEY think about the whole thing, her father jokes that they now refer to her as “Madame President.” “Madame President, could you wash the dishes?” There’s a tragic feeling in the film because we all know what happened in the following decade, the brutal bloody crackdown of 2009, etc. But it’s a powerful film about the political process.
Poison (1991; d. Todd Haynes)
I’m assigned to review Carol and could not be happier about it. I love the Patricia Highsmith novel on which it is based. So, to review, I’m going back to watch his filmography. It’s hard to believe Poison is a debut. It’s so bold, so great-looking, so audacious. It was controversial then (shots of penises, rough gay sex, etc. The whole thing is based on the works of Jean Genet), and it could still be controversial now, I suppose. A brilliant film, and very tough to take.
The Visitor (2007; d. Tom McCarthy)
I am also assigned to review Spotlight, opening this coming Friday, so I thought I should go back and re-watch The Visitor, also directed by Tom McCarthy. Sorry, though, I cannot watch The Cobbler. Richard Jenkins is so great. The film is very upsetting. The one shot of the blurry American flag at the airport was a bit obvious. We get it, we get it. Enough already. But excellent acting.
Call Me Marianna (2015; d. Karolina Bielawska)
A gorgeous film about “Marianna”, who was born Wotjek (a man) and is now going through the sex change process. She has to choose between her family and her true identity. She wants to have both. She begs to have both. Part documentary, part drama. It’s beautiful. It’s playing this week at MoMA and I’m running the QA afterwards, and interviewing the director, so I need to bone up on it. Very good film.
Magic Mike (2012; d. Steven Soderbergh)
What can I say, I can’t get enough. Went back and re-watched the first one, after the frenzy of the sequel earlier this spring. It’s a very good film, although it’s played in a minor-key as opposed to the C-major version of the sequel. Beautiful. And GORGEOUS and moving final shot as the camera pulls away from the two figures at the table. And wait for it … wait for it … it’s not over yet … don’t turn away because right before it goes to black …
Farewell, October. You were NUTS.