September 2018 Viewing Diary

Slacker (1990; d. Richard Linklater)
Did a little walk down Richard Linklater lane, starting at the top, and then going all the over the place chronologically. If you think about Linklater, and his extraordinary body of work – and you go back and watch Slacker, it’s – frankly -awe-inspiring how strong he started out, how he started out with a Joycean time-locale-obsessed non-story, with people talking, having experiences, moving on, moving past one another. This is a bold bold statement of a film. He’s not trying to please anyone, or using this as a “stepping stone” to larger budgets. This is not an ingratiating film. It’s challenging. It’s about all the things Linklater cares about, deeply. It’s not just a statement of purpose. It’s a deeply vulnerable act, saying “This is who I am. These are the things I think about. I haven’t come to any conclusions. But this is the human condition as I see it.”

Dazed and Confused (1993; d. Richard Linklater)
And so it is not surprising that his follow-up film will be equally as personal, a walk down his own memory lane (and many other people of that generation) … and not only THAT, but a film that people STILL quote from. It’s a classic. And two years later came Before Sunrise. And look where THAT two-person film has led us. And him. And he’s doing all of this out of Austin. On his own pace, his own time, and – most importantly – his own terms.

Waking Life (2001; d. Richard Linklater)
This movie … I saw it in the theatre when it came out, and it was so soon after September 11 – a month later – it was the first movie I saw after that terrible day. And what a movie to see. I will never forget that experience, sitting in the theatre, wounded, in a RAGE, still in a state of hypervigilance, cut off from what I knew as reality for all time, hurt, etc. and THIS was the movie I saw. I won’t say it healed me, but I felt like healing was POSSIBLE as I watched this extraordinary film. (And Alex Jones, of all people, has a cameo? Linklater’s comments about Jones are fascinating. Watching him take on national prominence has been totally surreal for Linklater.)

Destination Wedding (2018; d. Victor Levin)
The movie has some issues. It’s way over-written. I said to Allison after that I could SEE the words on the page, even though Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves are two talented actors. But they are fun to watch. And this movie has the most ludicrous sex scene I’ve seen in a long LONG while. (This month’s viewing diary contains TWO ludicrous sex scenes.) Played out in one long take, it was my favorite scene in the movie. Keanu Reeves manages to make his orgasm hilarious. Not to be tried by amateurs!

Tape (2001; d. Richard Linklater)
Another one from 2001, and another one I saw in the theatre. I haven’t seen it since. This was a script brought to Linklater by Ethan Hawke. So it’s slightly different than the others (although throughout his career Linklater has often directed things written by other people, or done projects either to generate money for his next film – and each time, he brings his own stamp). It’s a claustrophobic nightmare, this film, and although you can feel its stage origins at times – it’s quite wrenching, with three excellent performances from Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Robert Sean Leonard (never better, honestly). It’s also very timely – a complex look at “he said she said.”

Bad News Bears (2005; d. Richard Linklater)
A perfect “assignment” film for him. First up: it’s a baseball movie, and Linklater played baseball. Secondly: it’s a classic from the era which clearly informs a lot of his stuff. He doesn’t soft-pedal the story, and neither does Billy Bob Thornton. These kids are maniacs. And Sammi Kane Kraft who plays the young pitcher with a killer fastball … who died, tragically, in a car accident … she brings a level of verisimilitude to it, because she clearly can play. She was discovered on a baseball diamond in Los Angeles. It’s just so damn sad.

The Canterville Ghost (1944; d. Jules Dassin)
Charles Laughton stars as the ghost in this adaptation of the Oscar Wilde story. Wrote a thing on it, should be out this month.

The Aviator (2004; d. Martin Scorsese)
I love it. Was working on something which should come out in the next month or so. Needed a re-watch.

Boyhood (2014; d. Richard Linklater)
Wrote about it here. Not my favorite Linklater, but there’s much here I admire (the whole form of the project, and Linklater’s obsession with time passing and how he attempted to put that onscreen – the sheer level of determination it takes to pull off a movie like this). And Patricia Arquette’s performance. Plus that parade of husbands! They aren’t “villains”, not at the outset: they’re charming, they’re kind, etc. But then they’re revealed. This feels very very real to me.

School of Rock (2003; d. Richard Linklater)
I’ve probably seen this Linklater more than any other. I believe this film – like Groundhog Day – will be watched long after we are all dust. Boyhood’s fine, and it wins awards, and something like School of Rock doesn’t win awards. But it has staying power.

Starting Over (1979; d. Alan J. Pakula)
Burt Reynolds said that this was one of the best movies he ever made. He referenced it constantly, in interviews, on the Carson show, everywhere else. He wanted to do more movies like this. It’s a terrific film. And Candice Bergen practically steals it with her ridiculous scene singing to him in the hotel room. You can’t even believe it’s happening. You also can’t believe Burt Reynolds keeps a straight face. He was a genius at that.

Lizzie (2018; d. Craig Macneill)
A lot of potential here. I was excited about it. But it just doesn’t really … go where it seems to want to go. It’s underwater, somehow, its energy slow and stately which, honestly, doesn’t make much sense, considering the subject matter. I reviewed for Ebert.

Bernie (2011; d. Richard Linklater)
So damn good. A real treat was when it screened at Ebertfest, and Linklater was there, and Jack Black called in, his voice booming through the theatre.

Cape Fear (1962; d. J. Lee Thompson)
If you really dig deeper into the implications of what’s going on … the whole thing is about sex, women in peril, because of their sex, women as sitting ducks for violent rapists … and Mitchum is completely unstoppable here – a force of evil who has to be put down, it’s the only way he will ever stop. Poor Gregory Peck. He can barely hold the screen.

Sharky’s Machine (1981; d. Burt Reynolds)
Reynolds was smart (as he usually was) to place himself in the midst of this large male ensemble. Great actors and friends.) But this is a film with a specific mood, atmosphere … and almost a Vertigo-ish sense of obsession … under-rated, although I hesitate to use the word. It’s a really good movie. And very well directed.

Boogie Nights (1997; d. Paul Thomas Anderson)
You can probably see where I’m going with this. I gave up the Linklater marathon (for now) and moved into Burt-Land.

The Longest Yard (1974; d. Robert Aldrich)
From the director of The Dirty Dozen and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? comes The Longest Yard. It’s filled with football, and it’s filled with Reynolds playing football. Filmed on location in an actual prison. Another smash hit for Reynolds, who was on a roll around this point. Superstar.

Best Friends (1982; d. Norman Jewison)
I’m not sure what’s to complain about. Maybe this was around the time when Reynolds started to lose his stardom but … this is a very good movie. The posters highlighted the two of them in the shower together but that’s kind of a misrepresentation. This is an adult movie about adults. It’s not a sex farce. They’re a well-established couple who also work together, and he’s like “I’m sick of living together, we should just get married” and she’s like “Uhm ….” It’s got him, Goldie Hawn, and multiple funny scenes, and a pleasing role-reversal (he wants marriage, she’s got cold feet). Reynolds was always good with strong female leads. The whole thing is very charming and puts him in a very real world, playing a real type of guy, not a solitary hero or whatever else. I’ve always liked this movie.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977; d. Hal Needham)
This was a gigantic hit – and rightly so – it’s STILL a hit. If you played this now in the movie theatre, people would flip out. But it was part of Reynolds’ string of movies involving car-racing south of the Mason Dixon line – where his audience kind of split off, and where he became such a superstar he started turning down serious roles (it’s legendary, the roles he turned down). Still, though. I love this movie.

Deliverance (1972; d. John Boorman)
The one that put Reynolds over the edge. Into something even beyond stardom. Into icon territory. And the proof is in the pudding. People still talk about this movie. (And, as Reynolds has pointed out, women understand the movie better than men do, they don’t need to be told/taught the world is dangerous, they already know.)

Nappily Ever After (2018; d. Haifaa al-Mansour)
I really liked this! On Netflix now! I reviewed for Ebert.

White Lightning (1973; d. Joseph Sargent)
Not sure I’ve actually seen this one before. I really liked it. Burt in his sweaty gorgeous Southern boy heyday. He plays a man named Gator McKlusky … because of course – and the film’s sequel (directed by Reynolds) is called Gator.

A Simple Favor (2018; d. Paul Feig)
Fantastic! Go see it! (While I was in Croatia, there were posters for it everywhere.) My review at Ebert.

Switching Channels (1988; d. Ted Kotcheff)
A remake of His Girl Friday/The Front Page, with Burt Reynolds as a cable news editor and Kathleen Turner as his star reporter. Apparently, Reynolds and Turner did not get along, and who knows what was going on there, but they actually have good chemistry and there are some moments that alllllllmost capture the slapstick of 1930s screwball. I saw this one in the theatre too.

The End (1978; d. Burt Reynolds)
What a crazy movie. Dom Deluise at his maniac best. Reynolds and Dom Deluise? Come on. Plus – as I mentioned up thread – the MOST ludicrous sex scene in perhaps all time. Even more ludicrous, is Reynolds saying to Sally Field afterwards, “Did you come?” I burst out laughing.

Striptease (1996; d. Andrew Bergman)
Unfortunately, someone forgot to inform Demi Moore that she was actually in a comedy. Everyone ELSE got the memo: Robert Patrick, the other strippers, everyone. You know who got it the most? Burt Reynolds. He knew what movie he was in. He knew what was required. Demi Moore seemed to believe she was in a piercing and socially relevant melodrama. It’s a very bad performance. Sorry, Demi.

Who Am I? (2017; d. Margaret Karlsson-Kociuba & Waldemar Kociuba)
I saw this in a little beautiful theatre hidden in the walls of Emperor Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia. I’ll write about the experience eventually. It was the only time I could go to the theatre, and there was a free showing of this half-hour film by a Polish husband-wife team, about searching for meaning/identity/essence. It was a packed house, not a tourist event, and it is – hands down – the most amazing movie theatre I’ve ever been to.

Supernatural, Season 6, episode 12 “Like a Virgin” (2011; d. Philip Sgriccia)
I like this episode, in general, but this scene just gets more and more important the more I think about the series and the character as a whole. I mean, this is the crux of the matter, isn’t it, the “problem with Dean”.

Supernatural, Season 6, episode 13 “Unforgiven” (2011; d. David Barrett)
David Barrett only directed the one episode. I wonder why. It’s a fine episode, and it takes place in Rhode Island, and I am happy about Sam having standup-sex in a public bathroom.

Supernatural, Season 6, episode 12 “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning” (2011; d. Jeannot Szwarc)
This episode gets better and better each time I see it. The first time, I think I was mostly blown away by that final scene between Dean and Ben, which – BOLD – remains unresolved! They don’t hug it out! But then I started to see all the other elements: the brief glimpse we get of Sam and Dean being normal brothers, as opposed to traumatized obsessive monster-hunters. Sam telling Dean to call Lisa back, sending Dean off to deal with his relationship, Sam being like “I got this, go have a life.” When does THAT happen? And look what happens when Dean DOES go off and have a life? Ouch. The scene between Dean and Lisa is also phenomenal, really well-written – a LOT of care given into Lisa’s language, who she is, she’s a real person, not just some prop in Dean’s life. And Dean sitting at the counter, opening a beer … he doesn’t “read the room.” It’s one of those little details about the character I love. And then, after all THAT, is the fact that the entire style is 1980s-movie, with the monstage, the electronic music, even some of the angles, you’re like “Wait. This isn’t Supernatural.” No, and it’s not supposed to be. It’s a callback to Mannequin, and the cheesy – and yet effective – devices in vogue back then. Perfect, considering that the real point of this episode is the break with Lisa and Ben.

Death of Stalin (2017; d. Armando Iannucci)
Wow, it’s been a long time since I have laughed this hard at a movie. It’s pure absurdity. But it’s also horrifying, because it’s about Stalin. Great performances by a murderer’s-row of talent. Rupert Friend is HILARIOUS. But then there’s Michael Palin, Steve Buscemi … ALL of them. I absolutely LOVE this movie. See it. (Airbrushing Jeffrey Tambor out of the poster is too ironic to even discuss, in a promotion for a movie about Stalin, known for airbrushing his enemies out of photographs. The whole credits sequence shows Stalin’s airbrushing handiwork, so I don’t think it’s a particularly good look to take Tambor out. I realize I’m probably in the minority and I’m okay with that.) You can’t even believe they pulled off this movie, a really deft highwire-act, comedy backgrounded with horror.

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8 Responses to September 2018 Viewing Diary

  1. I have a close friend who is really squeamish about violence (in life and on screen). She had never watched Cape Fear because she was about ten when it came out and it was one of those movies she was warned to stay away from. One afternoon about fifteen years ago, the remake came on TV, on some channel where they didn’t have to cut anything. She thought she would give it a try and got trough it okay. The original happened to come on next as part of a double bill so she thought “Oh, I can watch this now. How bad can it be?”

    She didn’t make it half-way through. And no power on earth is going to convince her to give it another try.

    • sheila says:

      Oh wow, that’s a great story.

      I agree – the first Cape Fear is just brutal. Mitchum, from the jump, is so frightening – he won’t be stopped. and because he’s Mitchum, you BELIEVE it.

  2. gina in alabama says:

    I am glad to finally have gotten to see The Death of Stalin, I read reviews when it first appeared in Europe and it was on my list for the longest time. I didnt know whether to laugh or be ill at times, there was this group of “lads” in the beginning, doing the same old schtick that dancing bears did, to make the pack leader laugh at old jokes, and once the leader was dead they turned on each other. Chilling. Because that’s how life is. I liked the use of vernacular to indicate that these men weren’t from nobility, they were not from the traditional ruling classes speaking in Received Pronunciation, they were street toughs and they didn’t get where they were (Packard limos in Soviet Russia) by being sweet, kind or reasonable. The brass knuckles were never far away. Steve Buscemi was a fine Khrushchev showing what a fixer he was, but I liked Bob Hoskins’ Khrushchev in Enemy at the Gates as well if not more, for one thing Hoskins had the physical bulk (anyone who grew up in the Sixties remembers that bulk and menace, only lightly concealed by the grin). I am glad I got to see The Death of Stalin finally, maybe a few more identifying titles as main characters were introduced would be helpful for those not well versed in Soviet history. (Beria, what a nightmare of horror he was!)

    • sheila says:

      // there was this group of “lads” in the beginning, doing the same old schtick that dancing bears did, to make the pack leader laugh at old jokes, and once the leader was dead they turned on each other. Chilling. //

      Gina, yes! I know!! There are all these stories about how Stalin wouldn’t “let them” go to bed – he wouldn’t even have to say it – they just all knew they had to stay up with him as long as he was awake, and jump through all these hoops to keep him entertained. It’s really gross. and yes – so empty. No camaraderie, just fear, and jostling for position next to this monster.

      // I liked the use of vernacular to indicate that these men weren’t from nobility, they were not from the traditional ruling classes speaking in Received Pronunciation, they were street toughs and they didn’t get where they were (Packard limos in Soviet Russia) by being sweet, kind or reasonable. //

      I really really love this observation.

      // maybe a few more identifying titles as main characters were introduced would be helpful for those not well versed in Soviet history. //

      Yes, I agree with this.

      Beria. I know. He got what he deserved.

      I need to see Enemy at the Gates again! I saw that one in the movie theatre and I mainly remember the sex scene, which I remember thinking was fantastic. No swelling music, not romantic at all (if I’m remembering right) – but really intense. I’ll watch it again!

  3. Nicola says:

    I just watched a really sweet Burt Reynolds film at work called “Cop and a Half”. Made all the difference after reading all your great words on him watching this. Definitely noticed a whole lot more from the performance. AND he was playing my favourite type of grumpy guy role. Really reminded me of Cary Grant.

    • sheila says:

      Nicola – I think I saw that one but I have no memory of it. I will rectify that! I love those “grumpy guy” roles too!! He and Cary Grant were very good friends – I am sure some of that Grant-style rubbed off on him.

  4. mutecypher says:

    Saw A Simple Favor last weekend. I completely agree, it was really, really good! Anna and Blake were just great. And Henry was believable in his thankless role as the feckless guy (not an insult to the actor) who is in the dark about his wife’s past, and yet not especially surprised by what she does. Sean and Emily’s son was also good – both boys were.

    I haven’t seen any of the Pitch Perfect movies, but I loved Anna in Up In The Air – I need to see more things she’s in. And Blake, she was just perfect. Do you have any favorites of her’s besides The Shallows?

    • sheila says:

      so glad you saw it!! Weirdly, my friend and I did two movies yesterday – first A Star is Born – and then A Simple Favor – which I had seen but wanted her to see. It was a great day.

      I mean, I think Blake Lively has had to choose very carefully – she’s blonde and beautiful but … a dime a dozen, basically. I didn’t take her seriously and there was no reason to take her seriously – not at first. When she showed up in The Town in a small role – and she KILLED IT -I was like, “Oh. Okay. I need to start paying attention to her.”

      The Shallows was another one – I mean, she’s basically the only thing in that movie. She’s in a bikini on a rock fighting a shark. and you’re IN. IT.

      I think she has been very smart in choosing projects. and A Simple Favor shows her true talents – the full scope of them – the double role aspect of the role – (no spoilers) – she is just ON TOP of it and like I said in my review, in my opinion you have to go back to Julie Christie to really get what realm she’s working in here. Also, she seemed like she was having so much fun! Unleashed!!

      It was even better on second viewing since I didn’t have to worry figuring out the plot. It’s so good!

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