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The Love Witch

The Love Witch

Sure, there's a lot of red in the flick, but, yeah, better Dead than Red

dir: Anna Biller

2016

What… what in the name of unholy fuck was that about?

I did read some very positive reviews of this flick late last year, very keen appraisals that argue passionately and persuasively about the merits of The Love Witch. This even made some people’s Best Of lists at the tail end of 2016. I even got to read a glowing review in The Age, the local paper of record, which made me think “Hmm, sounds great, must check it out”.

And now? Now I feel this dull rage, like I got ripped off by someone who wasn’t even running that good a scam on me, yet I got played anyway and I lost my watch, my wallet and my glass eye in the deal…

Of course you can’t rely on other people’s opinions in order to form your own opinions about anything: yes, People are People and have Different Experiences and Such when they See the World in All its Glory. I know all that: I’ve seen identical twins watch the same movie and violently disagree over their different takes on it while walking out of the theatre, which even might have resulted in a punch up, no shit.

At the very least what I can say is that the merits a fair few reviewers and / or film critics saw in this film are completely lost on me, even as I can nod my head and comprehend some of the themes and points the film seems to be making. Where I say “seems” I could just readily admit that I have no freaking idea.

Rating:

La La Land

La La Land

I prefer this poster because it makes it look like a completely different
flick from the one it actually is. This ain't no Goddard flick, though maybe
it's a remake of Breathless and no-one told me.

dir: Damien Chazelle

2016

It’s like… don’t they realise how out of place something like this is right now, in this day and age?

Don’t the makers and stars of La La Land realise that the place society seems to be leaning towards is more Fear the Walking Dead rather than Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Singing in the Rain?

They couldn’t have known, I guess, when they were making it that it would look like some anachronistic relic, like something completely at odds with the zeitgeist it would be released into. This flick says nothing about our anxieties, our fears, however concrete or abstract as they may be, but it does speak sweetly to our hopes and dreams.

Turns out, as long as we try our darnedest at whatever the hell it is we most want in the world and don’t give up, and we look like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, then eventually we’ll get exactly what we want, because this is a universe that rewards people’s most heartfelt desires and their specific attractiveness, instead of a realm that crushes everything in the vast uncaring coldness of oblivion.

This is exactly the kind of cynicism that a film like La La Land is trying to transcend, and why the hell not? These dark times we live in need some spark of light, some reminders that eventually, maybe, things will be a tad brighter? Or that maybe the staggering darkness isn’t as all pervasive as it seems?

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Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Oh what a lovely day I had before I watched this monstrosity

dir: Burr Steers

2016

It should have been more fun than this.

It should have been more… something, anything than this.

There’s no argument that the world needs more versions of Pride and Prejudice. We don’t. Thanks, we’ve had plenty, there’s no more room at the inn.

I say that yet I happily watch any of them whenever they appear on cable. Especially that one, you know the one, the one that’s sex on a stick, with Colin Firth as Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy Bennett. Even the ones I don’t like I still watch, like that one with the stick insect and the other guy, or that Bollywood ‘inspired’ one, or any of the literally one million other versions.

We further don’t need more of them because virtually every romantic thing aimed at those humans who drink red wine / read / masturbate in the bath is pretty much based on Pride & Prejudice anyway. How so, you ask, as you sip from your second glass of wine for the night, and eat your third Tim Tam?

Rating:

Tangerine

Tangerine

It's nice that they used a beautiful image to promote it, because
honestly this image is prettier than anything that happens in this
scuzzy "masterpiece"

dir: Sean Baker

2015

In all honestly, this movie is like a Tom Waits song from a slightly alternate reality come to vivid, stinking, meth-smoking life.

It’s also one of the most bizarre Christmas related or Xmas-adjacent flicks I’ve ever seen.

Tangerine may seem to be too gimmicky to be taken seriously as a movie, as a ‘serious’ movie, but I think they made something pretty interesting.

If the first gimmick “major release arthouse flick with transgender leads” doesn’t put you off, then the second might: Tangerine was filmed on an iPhone and edited using the kinds of software anyone with a Mac has on their computer but rarely uses. Of course a bunch of stuff has been done to it in post, especially the soundtrack, but also the visuals have been cleared up / colour adjusted.

Technical details aside, Tangerine got a lot of press as it toured the film festival circuit, even playing at Melbourne’s International Film Festival before disappearing upon release. It was always going to be a hard sell outside of a very narrow niche.

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The Age of Adaline

Age of Adaline

In The Age of Adaline, the Avengers attempt to save the world from a
quiet immortal woman living in San Francisco looking after a succession of
dogs. The Avengers lose because she's just so charming, with her
1920s levelheadedness and snappy dress sense.

dir: Lee Toland Krieger

2015

Fantasy? Romance? Fantasy romance?

Whatever perfect combination of both those concepts you could wish for.

What is this film about? Well, it’s…

Hard to say. It’s about immortality and love, and hiding, and time.

That there is a strange element to the story is a given, since it’s about a woman who’s over a hundred years old but who doesn’t look a day over 25. What it’s ultimately saying about life and love, well, I have no idea, because I wasn’t able to figure it out whilst watching it.

I’ve thought about it some more since then. Still nothing.

Adaline (Blake Lively) looks like a young woman living in San Francisco. Upon travelling to her place of work she reminisces about her youth while watching archival footage of San Fran 100 years ago. If her faraway expression wasn’t enough, a serious, sober voiceover starts telling us stuff as if we, and not Adaline, are watching a documentary.

This is not a documentary, in case I haven’t yet made it painfully obvious. Adaline floats through most of the movie, elegant and detached from all around her. Why?

Well, people would get freaked out since she doesn’t age. And she doesn’t want a visit from the FBI/Gestapo again, where they once grabbed her, presumably for the purposes of experimentation, and yet they did it so incompetently that she was able to get away.

Rating:

Top Five

Top Five

Let's walk around for a while and who knows what might happen

dir: Chris Rock

2014

Oh, how hard it must be, to be rich and successful! Doesn’t your heart go out to the struggling celebs, whose lives are irretrievably destroyed by the wealth and the constant temptations of the flesh that most of us will never know of, let alone imagine?

I know mine does. Each morning and before I lay me down to sleep on my bed of nails, as I dutifully put on my hairshirt, I pray to the sweet Lord above and below that He look after all those successful comedians who are struggling to be taken seriously as dramatic actors. Then I wipe a tear away and sleep the sleep of the wicked.

Chris Rock directs and stars in a film where he seems to be playing a thinly veiled variation on Chris Rock. Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. At least he calls his character “Andre Allen”. And this “Andre Allen” character is way more famous than Chris Rock is. This Andre Allen is like Brad Pitt – Katy Perry – Angela Lansbury famous, being mobbed on the streets and being driven everywhere in limos.

There are key differences, though. The character he plays here is in recovery, is afraid of comedy, and desperately seeks the approval of some film critic called James who hates his work with an unholy passion. I wonder if circumstances will present him with an opportunity to get back at his nemesis?

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Love is Strange

Love is Strange

And it's mean and cruel, and fluffy and silly, and silky
and oh so manageable, too.

dir: Ira Sachs

2014

Love is indeed strange, and wonderful and terrible, and a bunch of other descriptive words and adjectives. And it’s stronger than death, lighter than helium and more painful than anything else we can experience or imagine.

And it can also be a comfortable, gentle thing, as invisible to the rest of the world as it is obvious to us.

What it’s not is the solution to all the mundane problems that beset us in our daily lives. Sonny and Cher, a married couple at the time, sang that some other churlish soulless wretches could say that love won’t pay the rent, but everything’s okay because "I Got You, Babe", and that makes everything fine and dandy.

Well, fuck that. They were rich bastards who got divorced anyway, but their rent being paid was never a problem for them.

For the rest of us in couples, the sheer magnitude or sun-bright brilliance of the love we feel for each other doesn’t get us anywhere near closer to paying the rent living in expensive cities, or taking care of mortgage payments. Sure, last time we were late on the rent and the mortgage simultaneously, I tried explaining to the landlord and the bank manager ‘hey, we ain’t got the money, but we have Love! Lots and lots of love! Surely that counts for something?’

They both screamed “Fuck your love, pay us!” and started pistol whipping me while The Rolling Stones played in the background.

Rating:

The Fault in Our Stars

Fault in Our Stars

Get off my lawn, you crazy star-crossed cancer-riddled lovers

dir: Josh Boone

2014

I don’t go out of my way to read sappy or depressing books, but, for some reason, probably to do with the excellent reviews it received, I sought out The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, knowing that it was about kids with cancer.

Now that’s a topic that comes pre-loaded with an emotional reaction: It’s like showing a picture of a basket full of puppies and kittens chugging along a conveyor belt into the blade of an industrial saw. Even knowing how manipulative the subject matter would be, I trusted that the author would do right by his characters.

It turned out that my trust was rewarded with a sweet story about teenagers with cancer dealing with love and the fact that they know they’re going to die far sooner than most of us do. It’s one thing to accept the fact that all that live will one day die, no matter who, no matter how wonderful or how loathsome, it comes for us all. It’s another entirely, since most of us live long enough to indulge in the supreme illusion that helps our lives not be an unremittingly miserable trudge to oblivion, being the denial of death, dying when you’re a kid, a teen, or barely out of your teens.

Rating:

Her

Her

Him. It's all about him, really, more so than Her.
Isn't that always the way?

dir: Spike Jonze

That poster, with Joaquin Phoenix and his moustache, staring out at us, we who are looking at his poster. The ‘us’ I’m guessing is predominately expected to be women, as we gaze into his plaintive, soulful eyes, and we’re expected to ignore the fact that his moustache is terrible and it’s no longer Movember, thus there’s no excuses any more.

But there’s even more going on in that poster. His eyes aren’t just plaintive, suggesting longing and the capacity for deep emotion; he’s imploring us, he’s pleading with us not just to watch the film, but to accept what it is that the pervert’s moustache is hiding.

That he is about to, or get into, a pretty weird relationship. Don’t judge me, just love me, he seems to be pleading. Because it could have happened to you too.

Her is, perversely, one of the most sweetly romantic and beautiful films that I’ve watched all year, or at least from last year. It’s the sweetest film I’ve seen this year, but this year is only a handful of days old, so that’s not saying much. Like all of Spike Jonze's films, all of which I've loved beyond rationality, there's some fundamental oddness at play, but there's enough focus placed on the crafting of the themes and the various scenes, and the performances especially that combine to render the parts a workable "whole".

Rating:

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Crazy people shouldn't breed. These crazy people
shouldn't breed

dir: David O. Russell

Do you sometimes hear about a film that a whole bunch of people seem to think is the bee’s knees, the duck’s nuts, the greatest thing since the invention of whisky, and you watch it and think nothing more than a big question mark?

Apparently, Silver Linings Playbook was one of the greatest movies of 2012, perhaps of all time. Your humble writer is in no position to confirm or deny, even after having watched it. Maybe I haven’t seen enough movies. Maybe I’ve seen too many. Whatever the cause, I’m obviously lacking something crucial.

My perplexity doesn’t diminish after having written this review, I’m as confused at the beginning as I am at the end. That’s not to say that this film isn’t modestly enjoyable, it’s just that it’s a very flawed film, and a very conventional one as well.

Mental illness is a tricky subject for movies. Invariably, in the same way they get almost everything real wrong, movies get mental illness wrong wrong wrong. The main character here is a violence-prone maniac with bipolar disorder; it’s what they used to call being manic depressive.

When we first see Pat (Bradley Cooper), he’s in a mental health facility. We don’t know why yet, so one of the first things we see to give us an idea of where this character is coming from, is his taking of, and spitting out, of some medication.

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