Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

01 June 2020

The Karate Kid Part II (1986)

Listen, The Karate Kid Part II is extremely predictable at every turn, but, for all that, this is a fairly enjoyable orientalist fantasy. Pat Morita is excellent as always, and Yuji Okumoto makes for a very, very good looking villain. It is also pretty funny to see all of these Japanese-American Angeleno actors playing Japanese characters who allegedly barely speak English.

P.S. I didn't realize just how young Ralph Macchio looks in these movies. He is a baby child!

31 May 2020

In a Lonely Place (1950)

This script is dynamite. It's actually just brilliant. Bogart and Grahame are fucking fantastic. No... everyone's good. This is an extraordinary film. It's absolutely excellent from start to finish. It's clearly a kind of riff on Greek tragedy, and one can easily see why this movie is such an important inspiration for the Safdie Brothers. I streamed it on Criterion on a channel of films that have been inspirational for the Safdies. Totally tracks.

But man this thing is good. The script is just so nuanced and well done. In a Lonely Place toys with its audience, effectively turning us into Gloria Grahame, so that we worry along with her. It's a great, great movie.

Show Me Love (1998)

Come through, Swedish lesbian coming-of-age romantic comedy! This is the gay high school movie I needed in gay high school! And it came out when I was just out of high school. This one even has a happy ending. Highly recommended.

In the U.S. Fucking Åmål was called Show Me Love when it was released in 1999. The original title is not about fucking anyone but is an expletive referring to the terrible town in which the young people in this film live. They hate it there and they're constantly saying "fucking Åmål". When my friends and I first heard it in the film we laughed our heads off. I chose this film as my selection one week for the unseen movie club just based on the fact that I knew it was a gay film I hadn't seen. It was a great choice. It's a really delightful movie.

You can find a copy of it here at the Cave of Forgotten Films website.

28 May 2020

El Norte (1983)

Gregory Nava's El Norte is really sad and pulls absolutely no punches. Young farmworkers laboring under slavery conditions in Guatemala travel to the United States in hope of a better life.

To be honest, El Norte is rough. It's stunning that this movie is talking about anti-Latino racism in 1984. And this movie is smart about race and about labor in California. El Norte is an impressive feature.

26 May 2020

I Married a Witch (1942)

I Married a Witch is a delightfully fun film by René Clair that he made in Hollywood with Fredric March, Veronica Lake, and Cecil Kellaway in the main roles. It's wickedly, laugh-out-loud funny with a whimsical score, and a great script. I had a great time. I also think this would make an amazing musical. Someone should write this!

The Deadly Affair (1967)

Decided to watch another British spy movie scored by Quincy Jones, since I liked A Dandy in Aspic so much and the Criterion Channel had a whole selection of movies scored by Jones. The Deadly Affair was directed by Sidney Lumet from a novel by John le Carré and starred James Mason, Maximilian Schell (great as always), and Simone Signoret.

The Deadly Affair got a bit of a slow start, but it ended up being quite good. I won't spoil the mystery by talking about it, but this is definitely a film worth watching. The main takeaway here is that Simone Signoret – and we already knew this, so I guess it was no surprise – is a genius. She gives an incredible performance. She's sensitive and hard at the same time, vulnerable and vicious, brokenhearted and steel. It's really a perfect portrayal. She has four scenes, and she's just terrific.

Also, for some reason there is an extended sequence at the theatre, where we watch the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of none other than Edward II directed by Sir Peter Hall. We are, of course, treated to the sequence in which the young king is sodomized by a red-hot poker. I rolled my eyes. The show, for the record, looks awful. The set is really hideous. Why this is in the film is beyond me, but it is there all the same.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)

I try to like films like this, but they are not for me. I thought this was really stupid. And I didn't laugh at any of the jokes. This kind of humor is just not my style. I am not sure if this means I am opposed to Blake Edwards or opposed to Peter Sellars or opposed just to the pink panther movies. Also, while we're here: this film had nothing at all to do with the pink panther. It was all about some psychopath attempting to murder Inspector Clouseau. The panther didn't even appear as a plot point or oblique reference.

25 May 2020

Me and You (2012)

Io e Te, this final Bernardo Bertolucci movie, is quite sweet. It maybe could be a play, actually, since it takes place mostly in a confined space, but it has some truly lovely, sensitive touches to it. I quite liked this.

24 May 2020

Splash (1984)

Splash was apparently a big hit in 1984.

Um... ok. This film is a live-action cartoon. No one in it behaves like a real person.

It does have three or four pretty great jokes – I really was cackling when Darryl Hannah tells Tom Hanks what her real name is in her own mermaid language – but mostly I thought this thing was pretty terrible.

After a while, even where the next joke would be became obvious.

Also this shit is insanely sexist. I guess I could be more specific about that, but, like, a mermaid falls in love with a young commitment phobe for reasons – well, she falls in love with him because the writers say she does. But this woman has basically no subjectivity of her own. Her only function is to love this dorky man, to appear naked several times, and to be the butt of various jokes.

23 May 2020

Donkey Skin (1970)

Peau d'Ane (Donkey Skin) is insanely whimsical. The art direction and costume design alone are enough of a reason to watch this Jacques Demy take on a Grimms Fairy Tale. The costumes are iconic and wonderful, and that may be all that anyone needs to know about this weird film.

22 May 2020

The Wayward Cloud (2005)

The Wayward Cloud (天邊一朵雲) – the title is a sort of riff on "The Wayward Wind", a song you've probably heard Patsy Cline sing – is, perhaps, the weirdest Tsai Ming-liang movie I've seen. Lee Kang-sheng plays a porn actor who starts the film having sex with a woman and a watermelon. There is a water shortage in Taiwan, and so watermelons are everywhere – they're cheaper than water – and people are drinking watermelon juice instead of water. This also has very strange musical numbers; the ones in The Wayward Cloud are less integrated into the narrative than the ones in The Hole. These musical numbers are more interesting, though, and are very imaginatively staged. At one point, Lee wears a penis hat and dances around in a very large bathroom with dozens of girls. In another, he cross-dresses and sings amid many watermelon umbrellas. I don't know. I found this movie very strange, and the ending is very troubling.

21 May 2020

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

This script is legitimately terrible, and The Muppets Take Manhattan isn't funny at all. Joan Rivers and Gregory Hines each have funny bits in it, but mostly this is just absurdly bad.

Just as an example of how terrible this thing is, at the end of the movie – which one might expect to be a moment when the muppets, in fact, take Manhattan – the muppets are performing their college show on a Broadway stage but then we move inside the show, in which a real minister is apparently marrying the pig and the frog. This is in the Broadway show they're doing, but also lots and lots of muppets are there, including the entire cast of Sesame Street. The pair are married and then... the movie's over. The plot of the movie is completely given over to the wedding ceremony, and whether or not the show the muppets were doing for their Broadway audience was a success or not, we shall never know. I am imagining, however, that their show was a success, because for some reason people in the muppet movies seem to enjoy the muppets' musical performances – except, that is, when the plot dictates otherwise...

19 May 2020

Black Narcissus

Powell and Pressburger have treated the usual 1940s subject matter – which ought to have had a moral lesson and ended in Christian triumph – into a psychological thriller. The film has amazing lighting, beautiful technicolor, and some wonderful performances, particularly by Flora Robson and Deborah Kerr. The third act really is thrillingly exciting, an astounding thing for me to be saying about a movie about nuns, if you think about it.  

Black Narcissus seems like it's going to do something akin to The Inn of the Sixth Happiness or Come to the Stable but the film takes a deliciously, sickly weird turn, and that makes it very enjoyable.

And while we're talking about very weird turns this movie takes, normally Sabu would be the chief sexual force in a film like this, but instead it is David Farrar who appears as a sexual object throughout the movie. He shows up with a shirt half opened about mid-way through the picture, and then he shows up completely shirtless for an extended period of time. He's even shirtless on the poster! This is a very steamy Powell/Pressburger movie.

Good Morning (1959)

I think the most stunning thing about Ozu's Good Morning is that not only does it have Ozu's usual Chekhovian nuance of sweetness, sadness, finely observed character study, and humor, but Good Morning also has very broad farce! A fart joke is a running bit in this film, and the plot follows two small boys who stop speaking to their parents because they won't buy a television for the house. It's quite hilarious! Much funnier than most Ozu films but sacrificing none of his usual detail.

Good Morning is a perfect film. In fact, all of Ozu's films are perfect. Is Ozu Yasujirō the best film director to ever live? I am convinced that he is.

18 May 2020

Columbus (2017)

Columbus is gorgeous, simple, really moving. In a way it is a talky piece about a man dealing with his father and a very young woman dealing with her mother, but Kogonada has shot the architecture of Columbus (Indiana not Ohio) so lovingly, that the film becomes much more than it seems to be, and Columbus is about how we love the spaces around us, how we get comfortable, and how we help the people we're with.

Kogonada loves Ozu (as he should, he's the best director ever to make movies), and it shows in the way he photographs spaces and silence between people.

This is a quiet, lovely film with some beautiful photography and great performances (Haley Lu Richardson is really wonderful). I was very moved.

Kogonada's next film is called After Yang. It is supposed to be released in 2020, and it stars Haley Lu Richardson (good choice) and Colin Farrell (!). I don't know when we get to see this, but I'm ready.