104 New To Me Movies: Sweetie(1989)

Stats

Title: Sweetie
Release year: 1989
Director: Jane Campion
Written By: Jane Campion & Gerard Lee
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 3 Stars

Review

I’ve come around to the idea that good art can make you uncomfortable, that sometimes that is absolutely necessary. But I maybe shouldn’t have gone for that on a freezing cold Sunday morning when I’m fighting anxiety over a Covid Spike? Anyway, I watched Jane Campion’s first feature film Sweetie and I did not enjoy it.

I was moved, to an extent, and certainly challenged. And disturbed, very disturbed. Sweetie is the story of a family dealing with a severly mentally ill daughter, mainly her sister…who also probably isn’t particularly well, and the way that effects and shapes the way people live their lives.

The movie is a lot. It doesn’t romanticize severe mental illness at all, which of course makes it very disturbing to watch, because severe, unmanaged mental illness is disturbing.

So I finished the movie, intrigued but disturbed, logged in my spreadsheet, with a four star rating, but then I listened to my beloved Two Friends break down the movie and it turns out it is supposed to be a comedy.

Huh.

Anyway, lost a star for that. Because while there are definitely funny moments, but more in the theatrical human behavior can be funny ways, less in the haha this is a comedy ways. Anyway, I wasn’t terribly into it.

I really am interested as I move forward with Jane Campion’s filmography. She definitely clicks into some very real and intense feelings and as her work gets more polished, I look forward to it hitting me differently. I’m not going to quit, but…oof, this one was kind of tough.

104 New To Me Movies: In The Heat Of The Night (1967)

Stats

Title: In The Heat Of The Night
Release year: 1967
Director: Norman Jewison
Written By: Stirling Siliphant, From The Novel By John Ball
Recommended By: Sidney Poitier passed away last week, AFI 100 Years, 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition
Rating: 5 Stars

Review

Sidney Poitier had one of the most iconic years in the history of cinema in 1967. His three most remembered roles, Mark Thackery in To Sir, with Love, Dr. John Prentice in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and Virgil Tibbs in In The Heat Of The Night. I’ve seen the other two movies more times than I can count. (And did watch them this weekend, upon hearing of Sir Sidney’s death.) But I’d never sat down and watched In The Heat Of The Night and decided to remedy that.

The movie is based on a novel, and tells the story of Virgil Tibbs, a homicide detective from Philadelphia who has the bad luck of waiting for a train transfer on the morning a wealthy real estate developer is murdered in a tiny Mississippi town. Eager to put the matter to bed, the local police figure picking up the strange black man in the train depot is probably fine.

Tibbs manages to keep his cool long enough to not get pinned with the murder, but does get roped into helping solve it. What follows is a beautiful structured detective story, anchored by a stunning slow burn performance from Poitier. All of his natural charm and charisma is pointed toward simmering rage and perfect bodily control.

The one moment where he loses that control, when an old plantation owner, a suspect in the murder, slaps Tibbs and Tibbs slaps him back. Now, in addition to trying to solve a crime in a place that is actively hostile towards him, there’s a bunch of people who are literally trying to kill him.

Tibbs is working with racist but filled with integrity new police chief Bill Gillespie, in a truly incredible performance by Rod Steiger.

Nothing about this movie would work if you didn’t buy Steiger in this role. And if he and Poitier’s chemistry has this really flinty perfection, and as these two men grow to respect (but never like) one another, you feel the flint spark.

The mystery is pretty standard pot boiler/rural noir stuff, but it’s a stunning example of it anchored by these two excellent performances. And I’m very glad I revisited the other two of Poitier’s epic year, to see the differences. He really was the greatest.

104 New To Me Movies: Two Friends (1986)

Stats

Title: Two Friends
Release year: 1986
Director: Jane Campion
Written By: Helen Garner
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
To Explain: Blank Check is my favorite podcast. It has completely changed how I watch and think about movies. Plus it’s very funny. So, I’m watching along with them this year (they go director by director) and when their movies are movies I’ve never watched before? Well, I’m counting them for this project. They’re starting the year with Campion and I’ve never seen any of her movies, so, the second movie of the week for the next 8 weeks will be those!
Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review

OK, so I gave my little foreword, but I do have to say, that if it weren’t for Blank Check I wouldn’t have watched this movie at all, and I’d be the poorer for it. While restrained by it’s made for Australian TV format and it’s time, it’s a remarkable piece of writing that’s well directed.

Two Friends is a beautifully structured and creatively shot film, with deeply true things to say about female friendship and the ways that it builds and breaks you up.

It centers around two girls, two friends if you will. (Again, I apologize for Blankie rhetoric) Louise and Kelly, who have always been close, but when high school comes they go in different dirrections and it breaks them up, despite a beautiful feeling before that.

Where the movie gets cool, is that it moves backwards. It starts in one point. Louise settled in, as her parents fret over the death of another friend’s daughter’s death. Kelly is mentioned, but only off hand. They’re worried about her, Louise hasn’t heard from her in a while. She does eventually get a letter, where Kelly outlines what her life currently looks like. We also see Kelly’s strained relationship with her mother and stepfather, we then flash back throughout a year, showing how the girls friendship got where it is now. The real fraying point seems to be when Kelly’s awful step father decided that Kelly would not be attending the prestigious high school both girls got into.

The movie is episodic, and deeply felt and very real. I love stories about female friendship and they tend to often be sanitized, but Louise and Kelly’s friendship is anything but sanitized. They hurt each other in small ways, It’s also always cool to check out an acclaimed artist’s early work, because I can absolutely see why Campion got to move on. Even with it’s limitations this is a fascinatingly shot movie.

There’s one scene where Kelly is completely lost, having planned on spending the weekend with her father, who then ran off to hang with his girlfriend, finds herself making out with his roommate and then fleeing in terror of the adultness of that situation. Campion films Kris Bidenko, who plays Kelly, alone at an intersection, showing how the large world is around this little girl. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to diving more deeply into Jane Campion for the next few months. Two films in and I’m already pretty happy with my project choice.

104 New To Me Movies: Citizen Kane (1941)

Stats

Title: Citizen Kane
Release Year: 1941
Director: Orson Welles
Writer: Herman J. Mankiewiecz & Orson Welles
Reccomended By: AFI 100 Years, 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition
My Rating: FIVE STARS

Review

Citizen Kane is widely regarded to be the greatest film ever made. It tops just about every list, touting it’s revolutionary use of the camera, it’s clever and piercing satirical screenplay and it’s, for it’s time unconventional structure.

And I, a person who loves movies, who especially spend a lot of time…uh…what’s a nice term for yelling at people? Loudly and emphatically attempting to persuade those around them, that works, to check out old movies, had never seen it! (FYI, my mental “old movies” barometer is pre 1970. 1970 to around 2000 is just “movies,” and anything after that is “newer movies.”) So I was curious. Would I also think this was the greatest movie ever made? Would I see the revolutionary wheels it set in motion? Be shaken to my core by it’s satire of William Randolph Hearst in particular and The Hollowness Of The American Dream in general?

Eh.

Look, it’s a great film. There’s just no questioning that, it’s actually very funny, in a sharp wry, theater-y way. It’s written and structured a lot like a play, probably because it was written and directed by Orson Welles, who was, primarily, a playwright. The too crazy to be true, but mostly actually is, life of Charles Foster Kane, told by the various people who loved him until he sucked them dry, the way he did everyone, and everything, and even, some would argue, the soul of the nation he claimed to love.

And as I understand it, it did this first, and that is very impressive, and it’s seamless and doesn’t seem too clunky, Welles knows exactly what he’s doing with this movie. His performance as Kane is transcendent as well, truly leading us through how he corrupted himself and those around him, with chemistry, charm and unfathomable charm.

But while I was watching, all I could think was, “In 9 years, All About Eve is going to do this so perfectly.” (To be fair to Citizen Kane, All About Eve is ACTUALLY my choice for the greatest film ever made…soooo…) But I’m glad this was my first choice for this project. I was thrilled by the movie, pleasantly surprised by it’s comedy, and I can absolutely see why people are so hot on it as “the greatest ever!” I just disagree. I think it created a wonderful template for films of it’s kind, masterfully acted and the camera work is exciting.

I hope as I get back in shape my criticism can get more sharper and less reactive, so I apologize if this was just me saying, “Movie good, but not perfect!” but let’s walk before we run here folks.

2022 Project – 104 New To Me Movies

Hi Fangirl Friends!

I know I’ve been MIA, here’s the thing.

Turns out living in a general sense of existential dread for 2 years is uh…not super great for creativity! Who KNEW? So while my mental health PLUMMETED in the spring of 2021, I realized I needed to change some stuff, and I decided, first and foremost, I needed to cut down on my voluntary work load.

I decided to focus on fiction for a while, as losing myself in the world’s in my mind felt safer and easier. So while The Marina Chronicle flourished, and I finished a NaNoWriMo draft, I decided to leave The Fangirl’s Dilemma behind for a while.

But then something kind of weird happened.

Black Widow hit theaters and every time I tried to write about it, I felt like I had nothing to say. I loved the movie. I thought Scarlett Johannson finally got to do justice to a part she’d grown up with. Florence Pugh was my new favorite film actor and David Harbour and Rachel Weisz delivered truly unhinged and delightful supporting performances.

Dune came out and I watched it like six times, and tried to reread the novel to do an In The Shadow Of Adaptation and just…wasn’t interested. I didn’t have much to say about Dune that I hadn’t said when I wrote about the books a few years ago.

But then, I shifted my focus. Away from the big nerd properties I’d been so focused on. I squeezed into a festival screening of Spencer, I went out of my way to see The French Dispatch and House of Gucci, I hit a 92nd Street Y screening and Q & A of The Humans with Crystan, random weeknights saw indie and foreign movies with Irvin, I found myself more excited to talk about tick, tick…BOOM! and see Belfast or Licorice Pizza (I haven’t yet, I had a COVID scare when I was planning to!) than Spider-Man: No Way Home. (Exception of course for The Matrix: Resurrections which is probably my favorite movie of the year because it’s insanely perfect!)

I remembered that before I started writing about nerd media I was interested in a far more wide spectrum of film. I watched old movies, and saw off beat indie comedies. I read about Awards Buzz and had actual opinions about the movies in those articles. I knew about writers and directors and just…gave a shit.

So, for 2022, I’m going to try to give a shit again. I’m going to commit to going off of my beaten path. I’m going to watch 2 movies a week that I’ve never seen before. I reached out on Facebook and asked friends to recommend movies for me to watch. I was honest about the AFI 100 and Best Picture Winners I’ve never seen, and I’m going to fill in some blind spots.

Hopefully this will kick me back into gear. Because I miss criticism, and I miss being passionate about movies. We start tomorrow with Citizen Kane!

That’s right before last night I’d never seen Citizen Kane! I know. I’m awful. But I’m going to try to be better. That’s the whole point!

The 007 Project: Octopussy

Previously On The 007 Project: I got back in the general swing of things and so did Roger Moore! For Your Eyes Only was a wonderful return to form

Who’s Our Bond: We’re still on Moore and I like him more than ever in this run. Seriously, the movies are keeping their lightness, but have lost their Smokey And The Bandit style zaniness, and are all the better for them. I’m hoping that we enter a similar tone coming up soon in this franchise, but we’ll get to my hopes for the future in the great beyond of someday when No Time To Die comes out. Anyway, Roger Moore, still very good. I know I’ve only been through 3 on this project, but he really is my front runner favorite.

What’s The Plot: A fabrege egg has been stolen and replaced by a fake! Also the Russians are trying to get Western Europe to disengage on a nuclear level, so that they can bomb the US without reprisal. Standard Cold War shit. While tracking the assasination of 009, Bond finds himself caught up with some jewel smugglers and a weird cult, led by the Octopussy, a poweful business woman, with a stupid name. She and Bond have several, “we’re not so different, you and I,” moments and obviously wind up in love.

It is quickly learned that the fake egg is a nuclear device of some kind, and there’s some nonsense with a circus and the American base in West Berlin, but basically Bond solves the case, and he and Octopussy float off together.

Tell Me About The Girl

I really enjoyed Octopussy, as played by Maud Adams. I like that she was more mature, that she had her own concerns outside of Bond and the mission and I hate her stupid name, but otherwise, this is a real step forward, Bond Girl wise.

The Song Is The Thing

“All Time High” is actually a really rad song, performed by Rita Coolidge and hey Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. (I am, if you followed my travails in the past year, a fan of Sir Tim’s work! The Lion King! Evita! Chess!) I think it’s funny that they realized they couldn’t call the song “Octopussy” because it is such a stupid name. So stupid. I hate it so much.

Overall Thoughts

While hating the title is a big thing for me here, I genuinely enjoyed watching this movie. It’s fun, breezy, and well performed. I’ll get into it more next week, but I very much appreciate that Moore was able to ride out his tenure on a high note of three good movies.

Which brings us to next week! A View To A Kill! Christopher Walken! Tanya Roberts (RIP)! Grace Jones! Very Exciting

The 007 Project: Moonraker

I took The Holidays off from blogging. I’m back in the new year! Usually I dive into the new year with a fun new concept. This year, alas no. I’m starting new work in the next few weeks and I don’t know how much time I’m going to have so I don’t want to commit to anything. We’ll keep going with the Bond stuff though.

Previously On The 007 Project: While I am still charmed by Roger Moore, but I think the shine may be coming off soon. I also reiterate my enjoyment of Bond being in Hitchcock style romantic films.

Who’s Our Bond: Still Roger Moore. He’s starting to show his age and his boredom. I really think he brought it for The Spy Who Loved Me, but this is back to coasting. At least, fucking Sherriff JW Peppah doesn’t show up this time. I’ve discovered that the extended comedic chase scene is the thing I like the least about Moore’s tenure.

What’s The Plot?

The RAF and NASA have lost a rocket! OH NO! Only James Bond can find it. It turns out that the rocket, The Moonraker was stolen by the sinister aerospace billionair Drax, who also hired Jaws to fight Bond. Bond is aided in his search for the rock by Dr. Holly Goodhead. (SIGH) Drax wants to start life over on the moon, with himself as the sire of a master race. (COOL) Doctor Goodhead and Bond get shot into space, and they defeat Drax and that’s kind of it. (I actually got really bored watching this movie so I didn’t pay super close attention).

I’m Addressing The Problematic

I didn’t notice anything, but as I said, I was pretty bored and not paying close attention.

Tell Me About The Girl

Lois Chile plays Holly Goodhead, and, LORD that name makes me want to gouge my eyes out, but at least she’s a Doctor and she thinks Bond sucks (you know, until she doesn’t)

The Song Is The Thing

Shirley Bassey is back! Hooray! The song is not as good as “Goldfinger” (nothing is), but it’s servicable. There’s something about Bassey’s throaty belting that feels like James Bond.

Overall Thoughts

Oof, this one was rough. I kept meaning to rewatch it so that I would have more to say, but I couldn’t bring myself to. That’s why this is short. I’m going to return to the Wednesday posting here in two days, when I watch For Your Eyes Only. (RIP Tanya Roberts)

The 007 Project: The Spy Who Loved Me

Peviously On The 007 Project: I dig Roger Moore. Bond went to Hong Kong and learned Kung Fu.

Sorry I’m late this week! I got a new job! YAY!!!!! But I realized I hadn’t gotten this post done on Wednesday morning and I was already getting dressed to go to said new job so, this one is a bit rushed and late! Sorry again.

Who’s Our Bond?

Still Moore for the next few movies. I’m enjoying each Bond’s shot at a romance, if you’re Lazenby it’s your only shot, and so far they have been my favorites. Moore does well.

What’s The Plot?

When both a British and Soviet submarine disappear, Bond is called in on the British side to find it, on the Russian side Anya Amasova is brought in. They team up after some antagonistic flirting, and chase Jaws across Egypt. They also do my favorite James Bond thing during this section. (I have favorite things in this series now! Aren’t you excited, I definitely am) They hook up on a boat! (She also mentions Tracey and he shuts her down with the most withering of withering British glares)

They learn that the submarines were taken by a tycoon named, Not Blofeld For Rights Reasons. He wants to start society over underwater. Whatever, Anya and Bond foil him. But more importantly she learns he was involved in the death of the love of her life in a ski chase at the begining of the movie. Will she forgive him?

She does! Hooray

I’m Adressing The Problematic

I mean, it’s a depiction of the Middle East in the 80’s. Nothing glaring, but it’s not you know, perfect.

Tell Me About The Girl

Barbara Bach plays Anya. She’s sexy, smart and badass, not to mention she’s got her own axe to grind, ie getting revenge for her dead lover. I like her a lot. I like this movie a lot

The Song Is The Thing

The song is a Carly Simon song called “Nobody Does It Better” which I didn’t realize even was a Bond song, so, it’s not a great one.

Overall Thoughts

I liked this one! I like this plot construction, but the lack of Blofeld in the role that is obviously supposed to be Blofeld delfates things. The Skiing scenes are cool and I like Anya. I still dig Roger Moore.

Next week we go to the Moon, but not really with Moonraker, and in some good, I don’t have to do as much planning news, a bunch of the movies just dropped on Peacock! YAY!!!!!

The 007 Project: Diamonds Are Forever

Previously on The 007 Project: We got a delightful romantic comedy (That ended in murder) and a Bond girl with actual agency and personality.

Who’s Our Bond:

Connery is back baby! The time off did him good. He’s much more engaged in the material here than he was in You Only Live Twice, he’s still a bit too old and he’s put on some weight, but in general it works.

What’s The Plot

We open with a pretty brutal series of scenes where 007 is hunting down Blofeld and killing each source. Tracey is not mentioned, but is my presumed reason for the brutality. Anyway, Blofeld has been changing his appearance regularly to stay a step ahead. Bond catches and presumably kills him.

M then tells Bond his next job is to stop some diamond smugglers, which annoys Bond, because like, downgrade! But he takes his orders and follows a few contacts to Amsterdam, where he meets Tiffany Case, and then they wing to Las Vegas with the gems. (There’s also a whole set piece where he escapes a crematorium). In Vegas we learn that Blofeld is NOT dead and has taken control of a billionaire’s corporation to launch a nuclear sattelite. The diamonds figure into this somehow, though I’m not exactly clear how.

Tiffany and Bond thwart the plan (Felix is around too! HI FELIX!) and then whisk off on a boat.

I’m Adressing The Problematic

Beyond the usual Bond sexism, pretty tame.

Tell Me About The Girl

Jill St. John plays Tiffany Case, and while she’s not terribly distinctive, she does wear fun wigs, and keeps trying to make sure her connection to Bond keeps her out of prison. It’s a cute bit.

The Song Is The Thing

Shirley Bassey is back for this song, which makes sense since a lot of this movie feels like warmed over Goldfinger. The song itself is fine, extolling how you can count on diamonds when people let you down, hence they are “forever”

Overall Thoughts

A middling Bond, very in line with the last few movies. The Vegas setting is super fun, I’m always happy to see 007 at a Casino, but the script is thin, the story tough to follow and Connery really really needs to be done. Which he now is.

Next week we enter the Roger Moore era. Hooray!

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Mandalorian: Chapter 10: “The Passenger”

So, first of all, I hope you’re all feeling good. Here the sun is shining, we’re all taking deep breaths because the future seems to be looking pretty good. The craziest election ever is over and now we get to exhale because some barriers have been broken and you know, it’s good. Also there’s promising COVID Vaccine news! Whoo!

Of course I knew none of this on Friday night when I watch The Mandalorian’s 10th episode, which did offer as a nice easy balm for the evening.

So, after getting Boba Fett’s armor, Mando and Little Baby Yoda go back to Mos Eisley, looking for more leads. Amy Sedaris and a Giant Ant get them a job with a giant Frog Woman who needs transport and might know something about the surviving Mandalorians. She’s trying to get to her home planet so that her eggs can hatch.

After an encounter with some cops (New Republic X-Wing Pilots) they crash land on an ice planet and also the whole time Little Baby Yoda has been just eating the crap out of those Frog Eggs. (As my friend Sara said, “That is some toddler realness!”)

On the planet, The Frog woman finds a hot spring, while Mando repairs the Razor Crest, and there are eggs for LBY there too! Unfortunately they are the eggs of a terrifying spider monster that definitely tries to eat them. Luckily they get the ship working and off they fly, after a confrontation with the cops. (One of whom is Dave Filoni!)

Look, it was a fun little episodic adventure. It is very clear that there was a price increase because once again the action finale is incredible, and it was directed by Peyton Reed so there are all these fabulous small comedy moments, that he’s so good at. And most importantly, BABY YODA RUNS AND IT IS THE CUTEST. America, we’re moving forward. It’s all very exciting.

The nerd commentary this time was quieter, but it was a lot of AWWWW, and being super excited about The Frog Woman, who is great, although we are disappointed in the uncreative name. GIVE A SPECIES NAME.

Anyway, I’m really enjoying the season so far and especially loving my group watches. I have great friends who I love. I love everyone today.

Cross your fingers for that vaccine my darlings!