Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Dir.: Edgar Wright

Introducing another kid to this movie. It's full of wit and unique energy, with Edgar Wright's style so perfectly attuned to its subject that it never suffers from too-cute-ness, as his often does. Fun aside, underneath all of the colorful noise, I think Scott Pilgrim vs. the World offers some stirring insight into the emotional chaos of attempting relationships in a world that has replaced moral philosophy with pop culture. An older acquaintance who watched this around the same time, excoriated its characters as wholly loathsome; I think they're doing the best that they can making all of the usual mistakes, but with introspection limited to t-shirt slogans.

Watched: 3/1/2019
Flickcharted: #212 (95.13%);
re-ranked down from #182 (95.82%)

Beat the Devil (1953)

Beat the Devil (1953)

Dir.: John Huston

I'm not sure what I'm missing with this John Huston / Bogart team-up: the script seems to be going for comedy, but the movie doesn't feel particularly funny outside of Jennifer Jones' sharp performance.

I had very little idea what was going on at any point, but the cast was fun. In all of the Huston movies I've watched over the past few months, his sense of humor has been the toughest thing for me to grapple with. Maybe that's the problem here; or maybe it's just a mess.

Generous ranking, mostly because I liked Jennifer Jones so much.

Watched: 3/1/2019
Flickcharted: #2074 (52.41%)

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Dir.: Quentin Tarantino

My first re-watch of this Tarantino movie, which flirted with my Top 100 for a while before settling down at #147. It's a movie for which the terrific climactic sequence carries most of its impact. The rest of it I found too talky. This could be considered a problem for most of Tarantino's movies, but not one I've ever had with any of them. Here, the balance felt off. Still, one of the boldest, best final acts around.

For a filmmaker whose movies are full of gnarly violence, I wonder if the moment that the projectionist sets alight that mound of silver nitrate film prints is the most personally painful Tarantino has ever filmed?

Watched: 3/2/2019
Flickcharted: #214 (95.09%);
re-ranked down from #147 (96.63%)

The Women (1939)

The Women (1939)

Dir.: George Cukor

The 1939 George Cukor dramedy THE WOMEN is most notable, perhaps, for the fact that not a single man shows up anywhere in its 133 minutes, despite it spanning over two years and featuring a considerably large cast. Lest this be mistaken as a feminist statement, however, the tagline for THE WOMEN is "It's All About the Men!," making any reading of this film through the Bechdel paradigm hazardous to one's health. With a story and screenplay by notable women of letters Clare Boothe Luce and Anita Loos, THE WOMEN takes place in upper class society's man-free zones, like women's health spas, fashion shows, lingerie fittings, kitchens and boudoirs, not to mention the bedrooms and houses left empty when the men move on to younger women, leaving their wives behind.

At first, I feared that THE WOMEN was going to be one of those comedies that confuses pace and noise for humor, as its opening whirlwind tour of a health spa is rife with yapping dogs, wacky accents and other zippy zaniness, but it quickly settles into a somewhat banal divorce drama about a wealthy woman (Norma Shearer) who learns from the rumor mill (led by Rosalind Russell) that her husband has a mistress (Joan Crawford) and struggles to balance the conflicting advice coming from her mother and her friends with her own feelings. Shearer gives the film a sturdy emotional anchor, in the midst of too many goofball characters. The entire cast is appealing, but in the manner with which Cukor bounces around from one bustling location to another, it was not always easy to keep track of who was who; when Joan Fontaine emerges as a significant supporting player during the second half of THE WOMEN, I honestly could not remember if she had been introduced at any point during the first half. The list of notable names in the cast is practically endless, from Paulette Goddard to Marjorie "Ma Kettle" Main to pro gossiper Hedda Hopper. It's overall an impressive undertaking, with some very ambitious sequences — including a Technicolor fashion show that bursts through the black and white — but I found the simpler modest melodrama more rewarding than all of the busywork around it.

Watching something like THE WOMEN, which is a non-stop parade of stereotypes and social commentary deemed hopelessly retrograde by today's standards, is a challenge. On the one hand, it often feels hopelessly regressive and reductive, as it depicts its well-to-do women as slaves to extravagant fashion and relentless myopic gossiping, and its "happy ending" culminates with a triumphant swell as Shearer, on the way to reunite with her unfaithful ex-husband, announces that pride is "a luxury a woman in love can't afford!" On the other hand, underneath its clever one-liners and cat fights, THE WOMEN does layout fairly starkly (and possibly subversively for its time) the confining contradictions of gender roles as they stood during the 1930s; from that, one can either scoff at such a pitiable state of affairs, or take the opportunity to consider both the gains and losses in that arena since then.

Watched: 3/2/2019
Flickcharted: #1801 (58.68%)

Chariots of Fire (1981)

Chariots of Fire (1981)

Dir.: Hugh Hudson

From the MLC Notebook:

  • Effortless sense of grandeur; it's a small movie that plays big. Visual style is modest but evocative.
  • Iconic anachronistic music shouldn't work, but it does.
  • Running scenes are special, focus in on something essential about athletics.
  • Some bad dialog, but even when it oversteps into melodrama or preciousness there's a gentleness to Hudson's direction that is hard to fault.
  • Ian Holm gets a little ridiculous, and the character of Jennie Liddell is also a bit silly. But these cartoons are the exceptions compared to otherwise finely drawn characters.
  • Is this Hudson's first feature film? Very little info about 1971 movie Irresistible; the rest were shorts and documentaries.
  • Why this narrative format? A flashback within a flashback? Why this nobody of a narrator, who isn't even concerned with his own event? Narrative handling of Olympics is also a jumble, unclear on qualifying heats vs. medal competitions, and passing reference to other insignificant races earlier in the same day? Doesn't really matter, but could've used a little attention.
  • LOL at guy from A Clockwork Orange with the exact same expression on his face.

Watched: 3/3/2019
Flickcharted: #1088 (75.05%)

Stage Door (1937)

Stage Door (1937)

Dir.: Gregory La Cava

From the MLC Notebook:

  • This seems like a lot of fun. How long until Hepburn comes in and snuffs it out like a wet blanket?
  • At least Hepburn's a witty wet blanket this time, but I'm on Team Rogers.
  • So much snappy dialog, so many delightful actresses — Rogers, Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Eve Arden — one of them is even wearing a kitty as a shawl!
  • What a surprise: Katherine Hepburn thinks she knows better than everyone else.
  • What a surprise: Katherine Hepburn is stridently lecturing someone.
  • From a play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, which explains that truly fantastic dialog.
  • Director Gregory La Cava is giving this the same spark he gave My Man Godfrey
  • The camaraderie among these women is especially affecting. Andrea Leeds is terrific.
  • Hepburn is the heel this time, which is seriously mitigating her presence.
  • Premonitions of Sunset Blvd! in this ascent up the stairs.
  • Stage Door takes a semi-incongruous sour turn in the final act. It's chilling initially, but I resent where the narrative takes it.
  • I am booing Hepburn's undeserved unearned success. Leaves a bitter taste at the end of something that was pretty wonderful for over an hour.

Watched: 3/4/2019
Flickcharted: #1642 (62.35%)

Top Hat (1935)

Top Hat (1935)

Dir.: Mark Sandrich

From the MLC Notebook:

  • A slim mistaken identity premise, but light and breezy and charming.
  • Consistently funny with sharp comic actors like Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, and Eric Blore.
  • After two good early dance numbers, the big "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" production goes from listless to oddly violent in a dull-to-weird concept.
  • "Cheek to Cheek" is swoony magic with Rogers in a controversial but mesmerizing Ostrich feather gown.
  • The perfection of "Cheek to Cheek" makes the rest of the musical numbers seem arbitrary.
  • After fun steady build, movie stutters to a stop in the middle of the third act, stalling for some cheap gags and musical filler when it should be closing the deal.
  • "The Piccolino" is lavish, but impersonal, and so short of the weight and purpose of "Cheek to Cheek" that it's completely anti-climactic.
  • Top Hat could have shed a couple of unnecessary numbers in exchange for one meaningful number at the very end instead of a limp waltz-to-fade.
  • Still, pretty magical, with Rogers immaculate in every moment and Astaire, who I often find too lightweight when he's not dancing, in a plot that uses him perfectly.

Watched: 3/4/2019
Flickcharted: #651 (85.08%)

Henry V (1989)

Henry V (1989)

Dir.: Kenneth Branagh

There's been a lot of Shakespeare around my house recently. My teen daughter just performed in A Midsummer Night's Dream; my 6th grade son is memorizing two parts in Julius Caesar. Introducing Henry V into that will either reveal that I've been suitably primed or feel like it's one highbrow homework assignment too many.

I saw Henry V in 1989 or 1990, but whatever I thought of it then has since been obscured by a friend's resulting obsession with Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and Patrick Doyle's score.

MLC Notebook:

  • Aw, Branagh looks like such a cute widdle baby-face!
  • There's an earthy emotion to this which is good, but Branagh is savoring every word with just a little too much relish.
  • I wonder if this revived take on Shakespeare was partly inspired by young Branagh growing up with all of those stodgy BBC TV productions and then seeing what Kurosawa did with Ran? The Japanese distinguished and freshened what in the UK had become part of the furniture.
  • The indulgence of these performances is balanced with spectacle and energy.
  • Jesus, that St. Crispin's day speech is something else. No offense to my friend's acting, but Branagh in context really makes it matter. Kill the French!
  • This battle scene is devastating (and, clearly, parts were inspired by Ran; even the music echoes it at times). Branagh's performance is the key to everything. He really came alive at some point and is moving a mountain now.
  • The final image of the battle sequence, with Henry carrying the slain boy (Christian Bale) across the field, is just powerful.
  • Cute near-end scene with Emma Thompson could be from a different play, but its lightness is not unwelcome, if a bit incongruous (and a little too pushy, if not outright man-splainy).

Watched: 3/5/2019
Flickcharted: #827 (81.05%)

Show Boat (1951)

Show Boat (1951)

Dir.: George Sidney

If Show Boat had only been the five minutes or so that William Warfield sings "Ol' Man River" — one of the truly great American songs — it would be unimpeachable, but, sadly, there are over 90 more minutes of misdirected tripe to sit through. This must be a nostalgic favorite, because by any other metric it's almost unwatchable.

From the MLC Notebook:

  • A Technicolor musical in Academy ratio feels wrong.
  • I could only find a fuzzy TCM recording; the visuals surely deserve better than this.
  • My affection for Howard Keel based on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers didn't translate to Kiss Me Kate. Will he impress me here? (Update: NOPE!)
  • Grand setting and colorful costumes, but in the early going the story and music are uninspired, and the singing is emotionally stuffy while the acting is wooden.
  • Twenty-three minutes in and I'm laughing at the acting of lines like "That rattlebrained mule!" Not promising.
  • I'm torn between genuinely liking this Ava Gardner number "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and finding it 'so bad it's good.' There's real feeling to the song, but there's something essentially silly about the context and staging of it.
  • Tone seems to shift in mid-scene. Is this the worst-directed big Hollywood musical I've ever seen? The dialog sometimes seems dubbed by worse actors, and the editing in of closeups is jarring, as if it's covering for something.
  • This deserves an HD transfer. As bad as it is, it should at least be allowed to look beautiful.
  • "Ol' Man River" by William Warfield is majestic — but it comes out of nowhere from a character who has barely had a line of dialog previously. (And who practically disappears for the rest of the film.) This should be a climactic song, not a first act closer sung by someone insignificant to the story.
  • Already tired of Joe E. Brown's dumb clown face. Maybe he'll fall off the boat and drown.
  • I want to laugh every time a song clumsily breaks out, but this movie is too joyless.
  • It jumps off the Show Boat to stuff an entire "perils of gambling" movie into a dumb 20-minute stretch.
  • For director George Sidney this lifeless dud directly followed the terrific Annie Get Your Gun. WTF happened here?
  • Another Edna Ferber adaptation, like Stage Door.
  • There's been no boat for the last half-hour.
  • Forty-five minutes now without a boat.
  • The world of this movie is far too small. Every scene in the last 45 minutes features characters randomly bumping into one another.
  • I was excited to see an Ava Gardner movie, but she turns in a real stinker, capping it off with some of the worst "drunk" acting I've ever seen.
  • And a terrible child actor is the cherry on top.
  • How could Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II write the peerless song "Ol' Man River" and this is the bullshit they come up with to build around it? Fire everyone.
  • And a reprise of the only good thing in the movie as the credits roll. A shameless attempt at salvage. Boooo!

Watched: 3/5/2019
Flickcharted: #3316 (24.01%)

Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)

Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)

Dir.: D.W. Griffith

From the MLC Notebook:

  • I'm pretty sure that I watched all or part of this in college, but that was too long ago, and I suspect this version is more complete.
  • It's a visionary spectacle that takes forever failing to translate inspiration into narrative.
  • Of the four storylines, two are almost completely disposable. Only the audaciousness of the Babylon set really stands out — and it is astounding — but that entire section still lacks anything of personal interest; only the melodrama of the New York plot engages as a story. I tend to like Griffith's smaller movies the best.
  • In his tone-deaf crusade against intolerance, D.W. Griffith takes a skewer to Catholics, Jews, nosy women, and rich businessmen. This is a populist screed against powerful elites forcing their mores upon the common man.
  • An impressively grand scale is evident in most shots, with ornate settings, outlandish costumes, and deep frames full of movement.
  • Griffith is often credited for his narrative techniques, but he's just as impressive as a visual artist, with each shot carefully composed and his frames sometimes resembling classic photographs and paintings. He has a strong eye for mise-en-scene and interesting, expressive faces.
  • Both racy and gory. The beheading is pretty shocking.
  • Contrast these pickup lines: "The fragrant mystery of your body is greater than the mystery of life!" and "Say, kid, you're going to be my chicken!"
  • LOL: "When women cease to attract men they turn to reform." Subtle, DWG.
  • There is far too much of Lillian Gish as "The Eternal Mother" rocking that cradle. I don't think it works in any way as a symbol somehow related to anything else, and its monotony gets worse with each callback.
  • I keep forgetting that the French and Biblical segments exist until they interrupt the other parts.
  • A judge sentences the man to be hanged until he is "dead dead dead!" This echoes Griffith's overall excess of ambition. One would have been enough to make the same point.
  • Griffith's famous cross-cutting climax is a complete dud when applied to four unequally interesting storylines that have little to do with each other. They conflict rather than harmonize.
  • Neat effects during the crucifixion scene and its angelic conclusion.
  • Lots of stuff worth mining from Intolerance, but it's far too long, and Griffith is far too impressed with his own moralizing.

Watched: 3/7/2019
Flickcharted: #1925 (55.90%)

Captain Marvel (2019)

Captain Marvel (2019)

Dir.: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

I'm already several movies past caring about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this new chapter didn't do anything to revive my interest.

Brie Larson is a far better actress than she is a movie star, and I'm not sure she's the right choice here, but her smaller presence is a welcome change as much as her lack of swagger hurts at other times.

As for the movie's messaging, it drowns some potentially provocative concepts with over-aggressive and arguably condescending preening.

Directorially, it's flat, and at times seems kind of embarrassed by its own tropes. The same old jokes are delivered with the least enthusiasm possible, and even the now-obligatory "cool soundtrack" music queues seem to be played at half-volume and fade out too soon.

The cat jokes alone save this from being my lowest-ranked MCU movie, but that's about it.

Watched: 3/8/2019
Flickcharted: #3430 (21.44%)

Happy Death Day (2017)

Happy Death Day (2017)

Dir.: Christopher Landon

Pleasantly clever lite-"horror." Wish it was more clever about the plotting within its creative structure, but that's asking too much of low-ambition genre filmmaking.

Jessica Rothe is real star in this, though. She possibly makes it seem better than it is.

Watched: 3/9/2019
Flickcharted: #2577 (40.98%);
re-ranked up from #2881 (34.01%)

Heart of Glass (1976)

Heart of Glass (1976)

Dir.: Werner Herzog

From the MLC Notebook:

  • At 7 mins, I'm worrying that nothing will happen.
  • WTF is anyone talking about?
  • The Werner Herzog paradox: highly stylized and yet too casual about its technique, as if it was filmed and edited during a prolonged collective hashish hangover. (I'm later informed that Herzog claims the cast of Heart of Glass was hypnotized, which makes a lot of sense; whether this is true or an excuse he came up with to justify the end product I am sastisfied to leave as a mystery.)
  • Centuries ago, there was a village of superstitious weirdos whose economy and culture revolved around the production of ruby-colored glass. Only one glazier knew the secret recipe for this ruby glass, and when he dies, everyone lumbers around like inbred zombies hoping to discover his method. There's also a guy who sits in the forest like some kind of soothsayer, and two guys who appear to be having a days-long staring contest.
  • As per usual for Herzog, lingers on a lot of beautiful nature shots for just long enough to wonder if he's padding the running time; also some uninteresting low-quality nature shots that look like they were filmed off of a projection surface. As usual, the motivation is inscrutable.
  • The villagers have bestowed this ruby glass with superstitious import, some claiming that it protects them from the evils of the universe; it has also enabled them to atrophy, and some are concerned that without it, they will have to resort to eating oat bread again, which gives them headaches.
  • "The Master" of the town looks like a premonition of the plague in Herzog's Nosferatu the VampYre, projecting vampiric depression as he develops destructive ideas for recreating the ruby-colored glass.
  • There an intriguing quality to Heart of Glass, but it's so lackadaisical and seems to be headed nowhere, that it can't even muster the energy to be pleasingly weird.
  • A nice few minutes are spent watching someone making a horse figurine out of glass.
  • The soothsayer predicts the 20th century's World Wars, gets attacked by a mob, inexplicably survives the mob and escapes from jail, and then he wrestles an invisible bear because who knows why.
  • I feel like I can somewhat grasp why most movies exist: the cravings of an audience and/or the purpose of an artist. Not so much with this one.
  • It took a few years for Herzog's The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser to grow on me. Heart of Glass has similar flavor to it but so much less going on, I doubt it will rise in my esteem.
  • Not foe the first time with Herzog. I find myself getting more out Heart of Glass as I scan through it quickly to grab stills than while watching it at the intended length and pace.

Watched: 3/9/2019
Flickcharted: #2687 (38.47%)

The Sure Thing (1985)

The Sure Thing (1985)

Dir.: Rob Reiner

I wanted something light and familiar from the 1980s today, after a week of sometimes daunting movie challenge picks. I picked Rob Reiner's The Sure Thing, even though I suspected that it would not hold up very well, over 30 years later, by stumbling into too many 1980s teen movie traps. It did better than I expected and, looked at from the right angle, is a quietly clever rebuke of the 1980s teen sex comedies that it resembles.

The plot, in short, is that mismatched college freshmen — Gib (John Cusack) is a crude slob, Alison (Daphne Zuniga) is uptight — road-trip together from the northeast to L.A. and fall in love despite obvious friction and the uninspiring romantic goals that each is pursuing. The problem most of today's viewers will have with The Sure Thing is how it handles Gib's dream girl, played by Nicolette Sheridan. The opening credits ogle her tanned body, and when Gib finally meets her, she's an empty blonde skin suit who seems to have no agency within the unflattering context of her role in the movie's plot: she is an anonymous blonde with no personality who is only meant to serve the sexual needs of indifferent young men.

While this might not assuage those to whom this is a concern, I would advise against mistaking this zero-dimensional character as just another lazy chauvinist writer's nerd-fapping ideal. I think it's fairly clear that Reiner is intentionally objectifying this "sure thing," so as to deconstruct a character type found in so many other movies of the era as a false ideal. The Sure Thing quite literally flips the script from the "spring break" comedies that were popular at the time by setting the majority of its action during winter break, but it features smaller, more sly about-faces, as well. The in-your-face sleaziness of the opening credits is both an expression of what Gib thinks he should want in a woman, according the glib culture of the times, but Reiner also uses it as a lure to draw in the usual sex comedy audience before presenting them with the correction: the smart and interesting girl is of real value. While a trope-busting meta-movie these days would include a scene in which Sheridan's character asserts herself out of caricature, Reiner depicts her as robotically bland before dismissing her entirely; to acknowledge her as real would be a disservice to real women.

Aside from this game of teasing and then twisting social mores, Reiner scores a decent link in his chain of straight successes, from This is Spinal Tap to Misery. Cusack is in top-form playing yet another smart-alecky underachiever trying to hide that both his heart and brain are bigger than even he knows; Zuniga is his perfect foil, charming and sharp-witted, surprised and yet excited by her own vulnerability. It moves along at a pleasing pace with plenty of little laughs and a whole greater than its parts.

Watched: 3/10/2019
Flickcharted: #1192 (72.71%);
re-ranked up from #1347 (69.16%)

Sazen Tange and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo (1935)

Sazen Tange and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo (1935)

Dir.: Sadao Yamanaka

With such a pleasing high-concept plot, it's a surprise that this early Japanese classic hasn't been remade by Hollywood. Sadao Yamanaka's screwballishly swerving narrative hits a nice balance between well-earned laughs and gentle pathos. Surely a big crowd-pleaser in its home country; however, someone will have explain to me the final beat.

Watched: 3/10/2019
Flickcharted: #855 (80.43%)

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Dir.: Rob Reiner

On Monday our home internet was out for the entire day, so my adrift kids were reduced to watching something from my bluray library. I picked This is Spinal Tap, and there's nothing like watching a classic comedy with an audience who completely doesn't get it. (My oldest daughter gets it, but the others lost interest in a hurry).

This is one of those movies that I could probably recite with 80% accuracy if pressed, so it's hard to judge with any objectivity. A lot of the comedy is in the dryness of the execution and its too-close-for-parody observations of a kind of music and scene that barely exists anymore; I suppose the novelty has worn off for youngsters who have watched "The Office" and "Parks and Rec" use the same documentary style as a vehicle for more obvious "jokes."

I still feel like this is important culturally, and it's so in-my-bones that I don't even laugh at its bits as much as I coast on them.

Watched: 3/11/2019
Flickcharted: #49 (98.88%);
re-ranked down from #31 (99.29%)

Border (2018)

Border (2018)

Dir.: Ali Abbasi

A provocative idea that is mined for only a smidgen of shock value. Although it's well-directed and performed and never dull, I felt let down by it when it was all over.

Watched: 3/12/2019
Flickcharted: #1749 (59.98%)

Leaving Neverland (2019)

Leaving Neverland (2019)

Dir.: Dan Reed

Graphic descriptions of abuse serve the purpose of being hard to shake; anyone who watches this will forever associate Michael Jackson with these convincing allegations.

However, as a documentary, this is utterly unambitious. It asks no questions, presents no mysteries, has no unique perspective, challenges nothing. It's necessary, I suppose, but, beyond the sordid details, essentially uninteresting.

Watched: 3/14/2019
Flickcharted: #2180 (50.13%)

Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown (1974)

Dir.: Roman Polanski

I've been a Chinatown agnostic since my early days, always appreciating its technical quality while never really understanding the effusive praise heaped on Robert Towne's screenplay, which was heralded as the gold standard of Hollywood writing back when I began getting serious about movies.

You can read my dismissive review of its DVD release here.

I've watched it at least one more time between then and now, and remained blase.

However, this time, the tragedy of Chinatown finally hit me. For whatever reason, Jake Gittes and Evelyn Mulwray never mattered to me before; while I still think that Towne's screenplay leaves too much to the charisma of Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, especially with regard to their romance, I felt their devastation on this viewing.

I also think that Towne's use of "Chinatown" as a metaphor for perilous moral chaos is lazy and based on only the most perfunctory of backstory. Overall, Towne relies too much on assuming that there's a universality to Los Angeles that automatically resonates with general audiences, and he could've done a better job of building that into his script.

Still, this time I was able to disregard the leaps required to make Chinatown's characters and places connect, and they connected powerfully.

Watched: 3/15/2019
Flickcharted: #477 (89.09%); re-ranked up from #1093 (74.99%)

The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)

The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)

Dir.: Matthew Robbins

I watched this several times a teen, despite being well-aware of its deficiencies. I wrote of it in 1988, "One of the best recent films to insult your intelligence..." and "The cast is talented, although you wouldn't notice it from this film..." and I awarded it my lowest-possible rating of "CRAP."

However, The Legend of Billie Jean has lingered with me through the decades as an essentially 1980s piece of teensploitation, and I picked it as something that perhaps my 15-year-old daughter might find funny in a "you people were weird back then" kind of way.

I must be even weirder now, as I kind of loved The Legend of Billie Jean this time around (and so did my daughter). It's pretty dumb, based on dumb kids surrounded by dumb adults and everyone doing dumb things in the service of a dumb plot. But the iconography that director Matthew Robbins conjures up is durable kitsch, and there's a ridiculous thrill to how it plays out.

It's the perfect movie for a Pat Benatar anthem, and damned if they don't play "Invincible" at least twice, and if you don't sing along the first time, the second should get you.

Maybe I should do a project in which I rewatch the movies I hated most circa 1988.

Watched: 3/15/2019
Flickcharted: #1181 (72.99%)

Death Proof (2007)

Death Proof (2007)

Dir.: Quentin Tarantino

Feeling somewhat inspired lately to revisit the Tarantino movies that I had only seen once, I returned to Death Proof with fond memories. It seems to be one of his least-liked movies, and that's fair, but only because his usual output is at a much higher level. Even with its aggressive indulgences, Death Proof is a good time with an ending that overshadows its shortcomings.

From the MLC Notebook:

  • Ew, gross eating. My least favorite thing in movies.
  • Death Proof is arguably Tarantino's most derivative movie, but he still elevates or improves upon his source material in most cases. He mines the art from trash.
  • What I love about Tarantino's wallowing in his influences, it that it's never glib or crass or cynical — there is love in every visual detail, and every visual detail is close to perfect.
  • This movie suffers when it's at its most indulgent, especially where dialog is concerned. It sometimes feel like Tarantino is padding for a more respectable running time.
  • Kurt Russell is damned charming, even as a dirtbag.
  • The more gimmicky stylistic flourishes are not only unneeded, they're distracting. It's a stronger movie when focused on story.
  • Pet peeve, why doesn't the car that doesn't want to be in the deadly race just slow down and let Zoe Bell inside?
  • I love Stuntman Mike's transformation. Perfect.
  • My fond memories of Death Proof are mostly of its terrific final act, which is Tarantino at his best. Everything prior is slouching.

Watched: 3/16/2019
Flickcharted: #1474 (66.29%);
re-ranked down from #1421 (67.50%)

Jackie Brown (1997)

Jackie Brown (1997)

Dir.: Quentin Tarantino

My last remaining Tarantino one-shot, which I hadn't seen since its opening night in 1997, is his least distinct movie. Not that it lacks personality: it's full of rich Elmore Leonard criminal malfeasance, it just doesn't bubble with Tarantino's particular excesses. I suppose it's the Tarantino movie for people who are not too excited about Tarantino.

Taking a backseat to the source material, the director positively luxuriates in mood. It's practically flawless in execution, but its sense of fun and mischief is more subdued than usual. It's almost as if, after Pulp Fiction, he tried to contain himself and make a big boy picture, and a pretty good one at that.

  • #55. Django Unchained (98. 74%)
  • #62. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (98. 58%)
  • #63. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (98. 56%)
  • #214. Inglourious Basterds (95. 11%)
  • #256. Pulp Fiction (94. 15%)
  • #268. Reservoir Dogs (93. 87%)
  • #731. Jackie Brown (83. 28%)
  • #916. The Hateful Eight (79. 06%)
  • #1475. Death Proof (66. 28%)

The two in the middle, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, are the only ones I haven't watched within the last 5 years.

Watched: 3/16/2019
Flickcharted: #731 (83.28%);
re-ranked up from #849 (80.58%)

The Butterfly Effect (2004)

The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Dir.: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber

As middling stoner sci-fi goes, The Butterfly Effect is a lot of fun; that is, if you find the intense suckiness of grim childhood trauma a source of amusement, and in this case I do.

While the ordinariness of its slick production coupled with Ashton Kutcher's pillow-headed performance keeps it from ever feeling truly edgy or out of control, The Butterfly Effect is fairly bold as it takes its dumb idea as seriously as it can handle.

(I remember the director's cut ending being even more ridiculous than it actually is, so that was a bit of a let-down; still, it should've been the ending proper and is a classic of going all the way with a dubious concept.)

Previously reviewed here.

Watched: 3/17/2019
Flickcharted: #1910 (56.32%);
re-ranked down from #1457 (66.68%)

Roller Town (2012)

Roller Town (2012)

Dir.: Andrew Bush

I'm not familiar with the Canadian sketch comedy group Picnicface, but they struck a thin vein of gold with this roller disco movie spoof. Despite sometimes amateurish filmmaking, there are far more and much heartier laughs to be had here than in the comparable UCB spoof Freak Dance or the stoner-focused hijinks of Broken Lizard. The clever, the crass and the absurd get equal time, and the mostly unknown-to-me cast is sharp and appealing. There are few too many instances of acknowledging a joke, but it's more hit than miss and a nice surprise overall.

Skatetown USA fans, here's one for you; currently free for Amazon Prime subscribers.

Watched: 3/17/2019
Flickcharted: #1373 (68.60%)

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

Dir.: Michael Winterbottom

I assigned this movie, unseen, to an acquaintance as part of their movie challenge, to accompany two other Michael Winterbottom movies which are underrated and underseen: In this World and A Mighty Heart.

I had heard that The Killer Inside Me featured a scene of brutal violence. As someone who has watched all manner of gruesomeness, from gore silliness like Bloodsucking Freaks and Pieces to serious confrontations of depravity like Salo and Irreversible, the bursts of violence in Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Jim Thompson's novel belongs in the latter group.

WARNING: If you do not want to watch violence so graphic and personal that it will likely shake and haunt you, do not watch this movie.

From the MLC Notebook:

  • Casey Affleck's Lou Ford delights in the deception of his innocently boyish facade, and uses it.
  • That scene was worse than I expected, but as emotionally powerful as it is horrifying.
  • This could be called Bad Lieutenant: Central City.
  • Good use of devastating revelations that make things harshly, unstomachably clear.
  • Winterbottom smoothly glides through, just like Ford, with the juxtaposition of the movie's content with jaunty Django-esque music.
  • This is easily one of the more visually stylish movies I've seen from Winterbottom.
  • This is a movie about the destructive wages of internalized generational abuse. The fissures created by abuse cannot be closed; it is nature's way to stress the cracks until they are unignorable.
  • The ending is a let-down both narratively and visually. Winterbottom goes for a grandeur that feels out-of-step with the intimate nature of what comes before; and final effects are poorly done, as if budget limitations compromised the intent.
  • Aside from that hiccup, it's a sophisticated and chilling study of violence and trauma. It makes me want to read some Thompson.

Watched: 3/18/2019
Flickcharted: #1128 (74.21%)

Under the Volcano (1984)

Under the Volcano (1984)

Dir.: John Huston

Aside from a neat, showy drunk performance from Albert Finney, and Jacqueline Bisset reasserting herself as a total fox, this is an odd late-career picture from John Huston. Then again, most of his late-career movies seem like oddities. Finney's character is intent on self-destruction (or, rather, accepts it as a forgone conclusion) as he staggers around late-1930s Mexico; there isn't much tension to it, but there is a bit of poetry; however, it mostly feels only half-explored and somewhat random.

It took me a few minutes to realize from where I recognized Anthony Andrews: he played the guy who married Julie on "The Love Boat."

Watched: 3/20/2019
Flickcharted: #2627 (39.97%)

The Mule (2018)

The Mule (2018)

Dir.: Clint Eastwood

Unlike his relatively sharp 85-year-old character, 88-year-old director Clint Eastwood meanders aimlessly through an intriguing plot, chalking up a lot of miles without really going anywhere at all.

From the MLC Notebook:

  • Scattered, with some nonsequiteur dialog forcing conflicts
  • Best parts are a comfortable rehash of Eastwood's Gran Torino schtick.
  • Seems to forget about the ATF subplot whenever possible.
  • Makes you question the management practices of the drug cartels.
  • Extremely trite handling of most of its subject matter, but the domestic stuff is excruciating. You can't blame Earl for wanting to be somewhere else for his entire life.
  • The Mule is oddly compelling given its anemic rambling. It's not satisfying, or gripping, or interesting. It's just pleasant, like the "Matlock" of drug smuggling movies.
  • Is it weird that the ATF seems to be prioritizing this one mule over the rest of the cartel? They seem to have taps on the phones of everyone else in the entire criminal enterprise, but they only want to arrest this one low-level lackey who will be replaced the next day.

This puts Eastwood within three spots of nudging Ron Howard further down my Most-Watched Directors stats.

Watched: 3/20/2019
Flickcharted: #2446 (44.09%)

Fat City (1972)

Fat City (1972)

Dir.: John Huston

If John Huston wasn't directly influenced by Cassavetes in the making of this skid row boxing picture, they must have been drinking the same water (but it probably wasn't water).

As Fat City parallels the different trajectories of two small-time boxers — has-been Stacy Keach and up-and-comer Jeff Bridges — there's a lot of that loose, improvy, down-and-out caterwauling that defined gritty drama in the early 1970s. It works decently here, although sometimes it seems to be substituted in place of character, writing or direction. This kind of kitchen sink scenery chewing is like porn for method actors but it's sometimes hard to hold onto and often goes nowhere.

From the MLC Notebook:

  • Keach is an old version of the new Vince Vaughn.
  • Susan Tyrell is both refreshingly different and massively irritating.
  • LOL, right after I wrote that, Keach said of Tyrell: "Every time she opens her mouth I think I'm gonna go CRAZY!"
  • I believe that's Sixto "Sugarman" Rodriguez as the dapper boxer who seems half-asleep.
  • Huston seemed to feel an affinity for self-destructive drunks who feel most at home at the bottom. This and Under the Volcano come from the same part of his soul, but Fat City worked a bit better overall.

Watched: 3/21/2019
Flickcharted: #1668 (61.89%)

Better Off Dead (1985)

Better Off Dead (1985)

Dir.: Savage Steve Holland

Oddly lethargic, surely out of inexperience and budgetary necessity, but even that seems to add to the deadpan tone on top of which there is so much now-iconic comedy that it's kind of mystifying given that the movie doesn't even seem to be trying at times. It's possible that without the 1980s triumvirate of cool loser John Cusack, primordial freak Curtis Armstrong, and the painfully cute Diane Franklin, this movie would have failed miserably, but they make it a must-see for 1980s anthropologists, despite all of its thuddingly misfired gags.

Watched: 3/22/2019
Flickcharted: #1037 (76.33%); re-ranked up from #1053 (75.96%)

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Dir.: John Huston

This John Huston-directed heist noir is just above-average in most regards but nothing in it contends with the best of the genre.

From the MLC Notebook:

  • There's a neat dynamic with everyone compromising something to get involved and then looking for angles to exploit to their benefit — everyone, that is, except Sterling Hayden, who isn't bright enough to be conniving.
  • Marilyn Monroe is only in it for about 15 mins — during which she says "Yipes!" twice and calls a policeman a "bananahead."
  • If Jean Hagen is good in this, I can't say, as all I see is Lena Lamont.
  • The entire thread with Hayden wanting to return home to his farm felt so underdeveloped and non-integral that the final scene had no impact. That this was where the entire movie was headed seems like a last-minute turn.
  • I had this rated at Letterboxd with 2.5 stars, but it was unranked at Flickchart. I don't know when I watched it previously, and remembered nothing from it.

Watched: 3/22/2019
Flickcharted: #2101 (52.05%)

It's Alive (1974)

It's Alive (1974)

Dir.: Larry Cohen

A re-watch in honor of the late Larry Cohen.

From the MLC Notebook:

  • This has a Bernard Herrmann score, parts of which sound like a tune-up for Taxi Driver!
  • I forgot how great John Ryan is in this. I love him wherever he pops up, but this one really gives him a versatile character to play: even when he's being goofy, he's got this underlying instability and menace to him. He is truly mercurial and unpredictable.
  • The birth sequence is economically effective. The reaction seems a little too cool at first, but bypoasses the trauma to dig into parental shame.
  • I like that Cohen underplays his characters' reactions to the birth of monster. They want to process it as a normal abnormality and move on. There is a resistance to letting this event define them and their family; but this attempt at compartmentalization wears them down. For feeling like a rush-job that is a bit perfunctory with its horror, it really is a thoughtful script on kitchen-sink terms.
  • That is one sweaty boss.
  • A lot of societal commentary: a sensationalist and institutional insensitivity toward the parents, plus a callousness toward children.
  • Everyone is worried about how this birth will reflect on them, from the parents to the hospital to Ryan's workplace to the drug companies to the academics — they all have theories about what might have caused it, but maybe the baby inherited its predatory nature from everyone else's self-interest.
  • Line of dialog: "People who don't have children don't realize how lucky they are."
  • It's Alive is extremely slow and mumbly compared to current polished and formulaic horror. I suppose this doesn't play well with audiences who expect a tight narrative and stylish filmmaking.
  • Cohen plays too many cheating tricks with how this baby gets around and goes unnoticed; he is either stealthy like a ninja or a growling animal. As a horror movie, It's Alive doesn't nail its intentions, but it's always interesting from a sociological and psychological drama angle.
  • Much better than it should be, and in different ways than expected.

Watched: 3/24/2019
Flickcharted: #1053 (75.97%); re-ranked up from #2109 (51.87%)

A Quiet Place (2018)

A Quiet Place (2018)

Dir.: John Krasinski

Re-watched as a horror movie appropriate for both my 9-year-old daughter and my horror-averse wife. This should be a classic — it has a perfectly executed aesthetic for its catchy concept, and a few stunningly realized set-pieces — but writer/director John Krasinski seems to determined to aim as low as possible, throwing in details and plot points that undermine the otherwise intelligent approach with easy appeals to cheap emotion.

Watched: 3/23/2019
Flickcharted: #1670 (61.89%); re-ranked up from #1775 (59.49%)

It's Alive 2: It Lives Again (1978)

It's Alive 2: It Lives Again (1978)

Dir.: Larry Cohen

Larry Cohen's follow-up to the monster baby classic It's Alive removes the mumbly ruminations that made the first film exceed expectations and sticks, instead, to undercooked horror.

John P. Ryan is back as Frank Davis, now tracking families expecting their own mutant offspring so that they can be protected from covert government kill squads.

A good cast does what it can with fairly uninspired material. Frederic Forest brings his offbeat fluster; Kathleen Lloyd is unplaceably familiar; John Marley from The Godfather!; Eddie Constantine from Alphaville! James Dixon is the only other cast member to return from the original movie.

Andrew Duggan plays a doctor whose benevolence is undercut by a creepy interest in newborn babies (with accelerated growth) sexually reproducing with each other "in five to six years."

There's a hint of Village of the Damned introduced into some of exposition, which is less interesting than spontaneous mutations.

Finally, the movie sets up a promising scene — mutant killer babies lurking in the vicinity of a kids' birthday party — but it's a cheap tease that isn't satisfied.

A less interesting script, not enough John Ryan, no punch to the horror, and increasingly derivative story. Typical sequel disappointment.

Watched: 3/26/2019
Flickcharted: #3525 (19.61%)

Where is the Friend's Home? (1987)

Where is the Friend's Home? (1987)

Dir.: Abbas Kiarostami

My 9-year-old cineaste asked if we could watch "a Ukranian movie like The Red Balloon." It took me a few minutes to figure out that she meant 'an Iranian movie like The White Balloon.' So we went with Abbas Kiarostami's feature debut, about a young boy searching a neighboring town for a schoolmate. Lots of subtle critiques of Iranian society are stuffed into this simple tale: adults are not only unhelpful, they are almost universally obstinate and selfish; the culture is organized around failure and abuse; children and old people are targets of exploitation; when help finally does arrive, it's not only self-serving, it's impotent. There is a surprisingly happy ending, but even that carries a subtext of inattention and too much effort for too little reward. Even with all of that going for it, Where is the Friend's Home? (or Where is My Friend's House?, depending on the translation) is somewhat (purposely) static and repetitive as a narrative and only contains a fraction of the punch of Majid Majidi's Children of Heaven or Jafar Panahi's The White Balloon.

Watched: 3/26/2019
Flickcharted: #1709 (61.02%)

License to Drive (1988)

License to Drive (1988)

Dir.: Greg Beeman

As a busy connoisseur of dumb 1980s teen movies when I was a dumb 1980s teen, I missed a few from the later years of that decade as I graduated to serious dramas and weirder cult films. This Corey Haim/Corey Feldman partnership is exactly what it should be, and if you can overlook some skeeziness aimed at teenage Heather Graham, in her first major feature film role, it's pretty fun. Director Greg Beeman, who has since made a long career in television, and somewhat unknown writer Neil Tolkin, mine some good laughs out of the popular 'one crazy night' formula, use the charm of the two Coreys to maximum effect, and make it all hum along at a pleasing pace. Having comedy pros like Richard Masur, Carol Kane on-hand in supporting roles is gravy.

Watched: 2019/03/27
Flickcharted: # 1908 ( 56.50% )

Bubble Boy (2001)

Bubble Boy (2001)

Dir.: Blair Hayes

Jake Gyllenhaal may have made a name for himself in dark, serious dramas, but his performance in this goofy comedy, as an immuno-deficient teen trekking cross-country in a mobile bubble to stop his dream girl's (Marley Shelton) wedding, is equally intense and completely winning. His wacky journey brings him in contact with a singing cult, Danny Trejo, an Ice Cream & Curry food cart, a travelling freak show, and other cultural oddities, and all with a light, fun spirit that's hard to fault even when it engages in cheap shots. Also features Swoosie Kurtz, John Carroll Lynch and Verne Troyer; directed by Blair Hayes.

Watched: 2019/03/27
Flickcharted: # 1837 ( 58.13% )

Us (2019)

Us (2019)

Dir.: Jordan Peele

A debut like Get Out is hard to follow, but Jordan Peele turns in another provocative and teeth-gritting thriller with only a few missteps complicating its effectiveness. Some unneeded exposition not only saps the strength of Us' social commentary, but makes a surprisingly uninspired twist ending tough to reconcile. That aside, Peele creates several memorable and chilling scenes, with Lupita Nyong'o sinking her teeth into a meaty double role. The great Elisabeth Moss also gets a stand-out scene that produces maximum creeps. Good, but, counterintuitively, too ambitious to be great; less narrative would've been more in this case.

Watched: 2019/03/27
Flickcharted: #970 (77.89%)

Phobia (1980)

Phobia (1980)

Dir.: John Huston

It's hard to argue with anyone who might call Phobia John Huston's worst directorial effort; it's not my least-favorite among those I've seen, but it also doesn't feel like a project that was of great interest to the 75-year-old maverick, or one on which he lavished much if any care.

Like a poor man's The Color of Night, Phobia stars Paul Michael Glaser as a psychotherapist whose experimental treatment for fear hits a snag when his patients start dying. Aside from some compelling and disturbing imagery during the therapy sessions — which are immersive IMAX-style expressions of anxiety — there's very little of value.

Phobia was the second movie in a particularly prolific streak for Huston, who, despite his years, crammed four features into four years, with Wise Blood, Victory and Annie, his busiest period since the 1950s.

Trigger warnings: This movie is about triggers, from snakes to sexual assault.

Watched: 2019/03/28
Flickcharted: #3130 (28.69%)

Dragged Across Concrete (2018)

Dragged Across Concrete (2018)

Dir.: S. Craig Zahler

I loved S. Craig Zahler's feature debut Bone Tomahawk, but was lukewarm on his sophomore effort, Riot in Cell Block 99, even though there was a lot to admire in it. Dragged Across Concrete has me excited to revisit Cell Block; it's pretty great if you like slow-burn Elmore Leonard / Michael Mann-style crime stories, and makes me wonder if I overlooked a similar tone in his previous film.

I've heard a bit of criticism that Dragged Across Concrete features too many scenes of guys talking about uninteresting stuff with no action, but it's a character piece at heart and I think it has a lot of empathy for a diverse and dubious collection of characters.

It's also the kind of movie that I might have once criticized as being just another in a long line of half-there Tarantino wannabes, but, despite similar interests, I think S. Craig Zahler has a unique and witty voice that is just as fresh as Tarantino's, but a lot more economical (can I call a 160-minute movie "economical?" How about "terse?")

Interestingly, because of the soundtrack (which features a memorable original song, "Shotgun Safari" performed by Zahler with classic soul ensemble The O-Jays), Dragged Across Concrete a few times brought to mind Tarantino's Jackie Brown, which I happened to re-watch just a week earlier. That Elmore Leonard adaptation turned out to be the very last match-up as I ranked Dragged Across Concrete on my Flickchart (fun coincidence: both are the 3rd films by their directors). I gave Dragged Across Concrete the edge, but it took a few minutes of rumination and debate to get there.

Trigger warnings: Casual non-judgmental broaching of racial tensions has led some to tag this movie as "alt-right;" extremely noisy eating.

Watched: 2019/03/29
Flickcharted: #731 (83.35%)

It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987)

It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987)

Dir.: Larry Cohen

The final chapter in Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive trilogy is by far the weirdest and most ridiculous, fitting a nearly epic scope into a low-budget 90-minute horror movie.

Although Cohen often wears the cheapness of his movies on his sleeve, he still manages to populate this one with courtroom drama, a jungle adventure, a lost-at-sea montage, a random street riot, and even a minor Cuban invasion.

The first half-hour of It's Alive III: Island of the Alive flirts with the substance of the original film, as a judge rules that all mutant babies be quarantined on a remote island, and a father of monster offspring deals with the professional and personal fall-out of notoriously spawning a murderous freak.

In the second act, however, It's Alive III's shortcomings become more pronounced. First, Cohen’s idea of “colorful“ characters seems to rely on imbuing them with the most annoying tics; frequent Cohen muse Michael Moriarty usually has an appealing everyman quality, but not as this sad-sack kook whose zaniness increases with each quarter-hour.

Second, Island of the Alive gives into one of the big issues afflicting the previous movie in the series, as it dangles the promise of a few enticing set-pieces that either never come to fruition or pass by too quickly and cheaply. While there is a very brief excursion to a jungle teaming with killer (sort-of-)babies, it's over in a flash; and don't get your hopes up for a baby rampage through a punk club or a boardwalk carnival.

The ending of It's Alive III: Island of the Alive does somewhat successfully meld its eccentricities with Cohen's peculiar low-yield sense of non-resolution, and it achieves a certain level of crummy pleasure; at the very least, it's much livelier than It‘s Alive 2.

Trigger warning: The final act features a prime example of the 1980s creep pestering Karen Black.

Watched: 3/30/2019
Flickcharted: #2442 (44.40%)

Weekend at Bernie's (1989)

Weekend at Bernie's (1989)

Dir.: Ted Kotcheff

A lot of “dumb” comedies aren’t actually dumb, but use their smarts in unorthodox ways. Weekend at Bernie’s, however, is actually completely stupid. Its comedy depends on most of its characters being dumber than humanly possible, and it throws in extra-dumb phenomena that violate any known laws of physics, thereby asking its audience to sink to its level of mental debasement.

But — maybe it’s nostalgia — I have a high tolerance for comedies of this era, even when the laughs are rare, as they are here. This is a comedy that is unconcerned with everything, and there’s a kind of spirit in that which makes this bad movie, at least, not miserable.

Also, Terry Kiser deserves some credit for his performance: it can be tough for an actor to pass as dead for a few seconds on-screen; he does it for almost an entire movie and is maybe the best thing about it (low bar, but still).

Another also: Catherine Mary Stewart is a fox, despite some unfortunate reaction shots. And that “bratty kid” who buries Bernie in sand, is now successful TV director Jason Woliner.

Watched: 3/30/2019
Flickcharted: #3134 (28.63%)

Across the Pacific (1942)

Across the Pacific (1942)

Dir.: John Huston

This John Huston-directed spy thriller feels tailor-made for star Humphrey Bogart, who probably says lines like “I guess nobody ever really knows anybody” in his sleep.

Huston re-teams Bogart with Mary Astor, who I consider to be the one weak spot in The Maltese Falcon, but their banter here — written by Richard Macaulay — is consistently bright and funny. There isn’t much weight to the narrative outside of the plot, however — though I do enjoy the fatalism of its pre-Pearl Harbor setting — and as my favorite Bogart is the vulnerable, dark and broken version, this played a little too safe and light.

Trigger warning: One plot point involving two Chinese men leads Bogart to say, bemusedly, "They all look alike."

This movie moves Huston up to 19 movies on my Most-Watched Directors stats, earning him the right to tell Ron Howard: "Eat my dust!"

Watched: 3/31/2019
Flickcharted: #1707 (61.14%)

Special Effects (1984)

Special Effects (1984)

Dir.: Larry Cohen

 I somehow missed this Larry Cohen "think-piece" during the 1980s; it is both full of ideas and compromised by Cohen's meddlesome habit of populating his movies with extremely grating characters.

From the MLC Notebook:

  • Annoying characters but hints of something interesting in the first act
  • This couple seems inspired by Star 80 (later there's a more direct reference; that movies was clearly on Cohen's mind).
  • A fun Tootsie joke, with Dorothy Michaels' photo in amongst other actress headshots.
  • I like this: Eric Bogosian's director character is attempting to manipulate reality by manipulating fiction based on an already manipulated version of reality.
  • The underlying idea is interesting but these people are massively irritating. Zoë Lund from Ms. 45 is too affected (fun fact from IMDb trivia: she was a vocal advocate for heroin use! Fun fact from IMDb trivia: she was dead at age 37!); I like Brad Rijn, playing the same over-his-head rube that he did in Smithereens. Bogosian is perfectly cast for this kind of art-creep role, but he's also always slightly repulsive which isn't helping this movie's main problem.
  • I think I have a pretty good idea where this is going, and it’s a strong idea, but most of the individual ingredients are working against it
  • Special Effects is a glossier than other Cohen movies, with colors that really pop. It's visually nice at times, but too 1980s-gauche at others. Still, a nice change from his flat brown look during the 1970s. It was shot by sometime-porn cinematographer Paul Glickman.
  • This movie didn't go where I expected it would; its climax was a conventional let-down. However, the final note is unexpected and still pretty provocative.

Watched: 3/31/2019
Flickcharted: #2192 (50.11%)

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The Top 20 Movies of All-Time

#1: The Godfather Part II (1974)

#1: The Godfather Part II (1974)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
#2: The Godfather (1972)

#2: The Godfather (1972)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
#3: West Side Story (1961)

#3: West Side Story (1961)

Dir: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
#4: Manhattan (1979)

#4: Manhattan (1979)

Dir: Woody Allen
#5: The Graduate (1967)

#5: The Graduate (1967)

Dir: Mike Nichols
#6: Tootsie (1982)

#6: Tootsie (1982)

Dir: Sydney Pollack
#7: Apocalypse Now (1979)

#7: Apocalypse Now (1979)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
#8: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

#8: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Dir: Irvin Kershner
#9: Star Wars (1977)

#9: Star Wars (1977)

Dir: George Lucas
#10: The Exorcist (1973)

#10: The Exorcist (1973)

Dir: William Friedkin
#11: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

#11: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Dir: Peter Jackson
#12: Taxi Driver (1976)

#12: Taxi Driver (1976)

Dir: Martin Scorsese
#13: Annie Hall (1977)

#13: Annie Hall (1977)

Dir: Woody Allen
#14: Vertigo (1958)

#14: Vertigo (1958)

Dir: Alfred Hitchcock
#15: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

#15: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Dir: Steven Spielberg
#16: Boogie Nights (1997)

#16: Boogie Nights (1997)

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
#17: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

#17: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Dir: Tobe Hooper
#18: It's a Wonderful Life (1944)

#18: It's a Wonderful Life (1944)

Dir: Frank Capra
#19: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

#19: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Dir: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
#20: Zodiac (2007)

#20: Zodiac (2007)

Dir: David Fincher