Remarkably, the works of Bob Fosse have so far escaped me.  I’m acutely aware of his importance to Broadway musicals, a discipline which I have never fully embraced.  I also saw Cabaret when I was a teenager, foolishly catching up on Best Picture winners as though that would give me a worthwhile head start on film history.  I don’t recall much of it, and it’s certainly due a rewatch.  Of his other works, I’ve only seen parts of the much lauded Star 80, though I’ve always taken that film to have earned its reputation during the rise of film twitter.  I am aware of the stature of All That Jazz, but perhaps some interdisciplinary snobbery on my part led me to sit on it for a very long time. Read the rest of this entry »

During quarantine, I’ll be occasionally writing for 30 minutes on any film I happen to watch.  Today is La Dolce Vita, spurred on by a crossword question.

Having never fully embraced Fellini, other than a few notable films, including this one, I realized I hadn’t seen La Dolce Vita in its entirety since I was in my early 20s.  It was a film I actually watched semi-frequently owing to it being one of the few DVDs I owned when I first moved overseas.  It’s the most famous film from one of the most famous directors in history, so there’s not much I can add to the discourse that hasn’t been said time and time again over the decades, including in Roger Ebert’s fantastic Great Movies essay on it from the 90s.  Read the rest of this entry »

Jojo Rabbit

February 9, 2020

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Blaming marketing campaigns is cheap knock on any product, certainly art, but JoJo Rabbit’s claim that it is an “anti-hate satire” gets at the core of the problem with the film:  It is not a satire.  Sure, there are mildly satirical elements tossed around (maybe Stephen Merchant’s Gestapo officer or the Rebel Wilson’s ridiculous Hitler Youth instructor), but overall, this is just Fascist iconography played broadly to give some element of stakes to a pretty simple and frankly insipid story of young love and overcoming prejudice.  Read the rest of this entry »

Scattered Thoughts on Us

March 24, 2019

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There will be spoilers, so go see the movie before you read any further.  The movie is definitely worth seeing. Read the rest of this entry »

Alita: Battle Angel

March 8, 2019

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There’s a type of film that is so in love with its source material it can’t get out of it’s own way.  Alita: Battle Angel is one such film.  After many, many years in development, initially by James Cameron (I recall thinking Luc Besson’s Angel-A was some type of adaptation because it was in the news at the time), and now finally brought to the screen from his script by Robert Rodriguez, it is very clearly a film that has suffered from overthinking.  It’s a property doomed to failure in a lot of ways, and though I have absolutely no knowledge of the manga from which it is adapted, I’d imagine it doesn’t lend itself to easy adaptation. 

Alita (Rosa Salazar) is a 300 year old cyborg found in a scrap heap and brought back to life by cybernetic surgeon Ido (Christoph Waltz).  She meets a guy, there are bounty hunters, ne’er do well scientists struggling with loss, a gargantuan cyborg baddie, an underworld (literally, in this case) kingpin, a violent sport called Motorball, a grieving mother who has sold herself out to get back to the good place, and a shadowy overlord living in the sky.  There is a lot going on here.  If I could hazard a guess, the creators didn’t know how much they could get away with or, more precisely, how many movies they would get to pull out of the property, and as a result, there are about 9 different stories all given short shrift in such a jarring fashion that it’s impossible to get your grounding.  It’s difficult enough to establish an entire world without feeling like you’re intentionally holding back information to fill out the details, and it’s another thing entirely to try to cram everything into two hours.  It’s a rare case in modern cinema where a 6 hour Netflix series would have been preferable, but this is one. 

The set pieces are good enough that I have to assume they were the starting point, and the job of the writers was to fill in the gaps to get to them.  It feels creaky as hell because of this, and it results in an early ominous warning from Ido to Alita never to pay attention to Motorball to, 90 minutes later and with absolutely no character development on his part to signal a change in ethos, he’s happily suiting her up with custom skates to join the league.  The visuals are striking at times, even if early scenes of Christoph Waltz hunting down a Jack the Ripper type killer with a giant hammer made me wish there was a Bloodborne movie instead.  The set pieces really are quite something, and Salazar’s CGI Alita is sympathetic enough that I want to root for the movie to work.  Unfortunately there are about four too many climaxes and endless interstitial scene handwaving to ever get fully on board.  It’s half assed and corny and punctuated with arresting visuals so, basically, it’s the ultimate Robert Rodriguez movie.  Bill Pope’s cinematography should be singled out for the sheer range of styles that have to be accomplished in a single film, but other than that an Alita’s genuinely affecting character, it’s a mess.  If it was shorn down to a few of its plot lines, it might have worked.  Instead, we get a team of talented people whose reach far exceeded their grasp.

Annihilation

March 1, 2018

annihilation-plant-evolution-elementsWell trodden territory in some ways, and yet also utterly unique in it’s derivations for a (US, at least) theatrical release, Alex Garland’s Annihilation is the kind of messy, intriguing, and at times utterly enthralling science fiction that drives me to consider it beyond the walls of the multiplex even as I’m sure much of it doesn’t hold up.  A (very loose, from what I’ve been told) adaptation of the first of the Southern Reach trilogy of novels by Jeff VanderMeer, the film sees Natalie Portman as an ex-army biologist thrust into a top secret base in Florida after her presumed dead special forces husband returns home after a year absence before promptly spewing blood all over the back of an ambulance.  The base is observing a phenomenon called “The Shimmer”, based on the fact that it, well, shimmers the color spectrum.  She volunteers to join a team that’s potentially on a suicide mission to venture into The Shimmer to better understand it’s peculiar affect on everything around it, especially as the “everything around it” is expanding rapidly.  Things go Stalker pretty quickly, with ample time for brief bouts of the sci-fi horror Garland has ventured in previously in his screenplays for Sunshine and 28 Days Later Read the rest of this entry »

Dunkirk

July 24, 2017

dunkirk-movie-preview-01_feature.jpgThough an inspirational story of true heroism against almost impossible odds, I can’t say I’ve ever been too keen to see a movie about the famous rescue at Dunkirk.  Though it’s etched in history due to its strategic importance (survival of the army meant survival of Britain and the Allies) as well as the famous Churchill speech it inspired, a film version lends itself too easily to ponderous patriotism and hokey sentimentalism.  It also seems quite boring.  I get the impression, having now seen Christopher Nolan’s depiction, that he probably felt the same way – at least, about the boring bit. Read the rest of this entry »