Iro's One Movie a Day Thread

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Thank you kindly, folks.
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#692 - Flags of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood, 2006



Based on the true story of the men who appeared in the iconic photo of an American flag being raised during the battle for Iwo Jima during World War II.

I go back and forth on whether or not I like Clint Eastwood as a director. He's certainly made some good movies, bu sometimes it's easy to feel like he's just...okay as far as his directorial career goes. Flags of Our Fathers is probably as middling as Eastwood movies are likely to get. It has an interesting concept in that it is based on the behind-the-scenes events surrounding one of the most iconic images in American history; that of a group of soldiers raising the American flag in the middle of a decisive conflict on the island of Iwo Jima. The film jumps about in time, starting off decades after the fact as one veteran becomes deathly ill while another starts narrating the story of what happened. From there, it flits between what happened on that eventful day and also what happens in the meantime as the three surviving members of that photograph (Ryan Philippe, Jesse Bradford, and Adam Beach) are subsequently pulled from active duty and paraded around by the powers-that-be as manufactured war heroes who are made to re-enact their traumatic experience for the gratification of the folks back home. Though things are kept a success on the outside thanks to a tireless team of spokespeople and agents, on the inside the core trio are breaking apart for a number of reasons.

While Flags of Our Fathers isn't necessarily a bad film, it's not exactly one that leaves too much of an impression. One does have to give Eastwood some credit for staging some solid wartime action, even if it does hew a little too close to the frenetic nature of the iconic sequences featured in Saving Private Ryan. At least the careful pacing of revelations regarding the events of that particular day is handled reasonably well. The aftermath proves okay but not striking as it covers the trio's attempts to adjust to life on tour - Beach's character becomes the most notable in that regard as he is made to endure considerable racism (both blatant and subtle) due to his Native American heritage, which only dovetails as his survivor's guilt and alcoholism continue to worsen. In comparison, Bradford's affiliation with his sweetheart (Melanie Lynskey) proves a sticking point for his public-relations agents; Philippe's own survivor's guilt feeds into the proceedings considerably as his engagement with the demands of the heroes' tour only makes his recollections of the actual events prove increasingly troubling.

Flags of Our Fathers is fairly ambitious in how it attempts to jump between different moments in history so as to tell the stories of the men involved and, to a lesser extent, those of the people affected in both great and small ways. This does get a little confusing as the film takes most of its running time to establish the person looking to collect the stories of what happened, which does make it feel underweight when it reaches a conclusion in the most recent time period where these heroes have aged out of their supposedly glorious youths. It's good for one watch, but that's about all there is to this film. I give it credit for attempting to paint a layered portrait of the ugly truth behind a supposedly glorious image, but that doesn't stop it running through some fairly standard period-piece developments that fail to make the film stand out in any sufficiently meaningful way. If you're looking to go through Eastwood's directorial filmography, then this is hardly the worst film you could watch, but that's only because it leaves no serious impact rather than any seriously negative impact. Still looking forward to checking out companion film Letters From Iwo Jima, though.




I wonder if it's fair to compare this (or any WW2 action set piece of the last 18 years) to SPR when to do anything less is, quite obviously, not up to the mark that film set?



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I wonder if it's fair to compare this (or any WW2 action set piece of the last 18 years) to SPR when to do anything less is, quite obviously, not up to the mark that film set?
This is a good point.



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#693 - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Tobe Hooper, 1986



A vengeful sheriff joins forces with a radio DJ to track down the family of cannibals who once killed his nephew and traumatised his niece.

I noted before how The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is in a class of its own compared to other well-known "slasher" movies, so it stands to reason that any attempt to spin a franchise out of the film would likewise stand out from the pack. While your typical slasher franchise tends to spawn several sequels of incredibly debatable quality that all featured the central villain going after interchangeable groups of victims, the first sequel to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre goes in a direction that's as left-field as one would expect. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 isn't just content to replicate the same plot by having a whole new collection of youths be killed off by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface; instead, it constructs a whole new tale based on a sheriff (Dennis Hopper) who is the uncle of the brother and sister who were terrorised during the events of the first film. To this end, he has spent over a decade scouring the state of Texas for the cannibalistic family, who have gone under the radar (with the exception of the family's oldest brother becoming a prize-winning chili cook). Hopper then crosses paths with a radio DJ (Caroline Williams) whose drive to do something more than just play music is cruelly rewarded when a prank call to her station serves as evidence for the killers' presence, which ends up making her their target.

Given how much of what made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre such a distinctive film in the first place is the way in which it compensated for being made on a shoestring budget, one wonders how well the same sensibility would translate to a more expensive production. Hooper at least attempts to offer a variation of the same sort of visual creativity to this film that made the original so great, here substituting '70s grain for '80s flash. There is the odd bit of visual flair, with the most notable example being the scene that introduces the deranged "Chop Top" (Bill Moseley, who is surprisingly tolerable here) and is soaked in giallo-like red and green lighting. The lurid approach extends to the violence on offer; while the original film traded on implication and sparse but effective use of actual gore, the sequel is pretty unapologetic in terms of offering the kind of splatter that one would expect from a movie with the phrase "chainsaw massacre" in its title. The fact that the effects are being provided by the one and only Tom Savini is also a point in the film's favour as scenes like people getting skinned alive or getting their heads sawed in half pepper the film. Throughout it all, the film is anchored by not only Hopper's revenge plot (as he plans on fighting fire with fire by equipping himself with multiple chainsaws) but also Williams as the Southern-fried victim who has to try to survive the ordeal by any means necessary, even when it comes to trying to befriend Leatherface.

The fact that this was produced by the notorious schlock factory that is the Cannon Group is pretty evident as the film is filled with '80s cheese for better or (more frequently) worse. While the film is definitely silly enough that you know not to take it seriously (it's a movie where Dennis Hopper wears a ten-gallon hat and carries a chainsaw in each hand), that's not enough to stop it feeling awfully tedious for the most part. The angle involving Williams is promising enough at first since it gives the character more of an arc than your typical final girl and she's at least got enough personality so as not to prove irritating. However, the film does get hung up on finding new ways to torture her (eventually resorting to replicating the original's climax where the family's elderly patriarch repeatedly tries and fails to kill the heroine with a hammer) and never quite matches the initial radio-station confrontation. There's not much in the way of black comedy either save for the family's dysfunctional squabbling and the ways in which it exaggerates the original's subtext for comic effect (such as Leatherface going so far as to make humping motions while directing his chainsaw at Williams - real subtle, fellas). As such, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is too goofy to really work as a horror and its goofiness isn't enough to prevent it from being a serious slog at times. It's not without its charm or merit, but instances of both are few and far between.




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#694 - Bridge of Spies
Steven Spielberg, 2015



In 1957, an insurance lawyer is called upon to defend a captured Soviet spy only for things to escalate when the Soviets capture an American spy.

Though Steven Spielberg has made several films that are either major favourites of mine or at least solid films in their own right, for the most part his work just feels alright or mediocre. Given how Spielberg's last couple of films had been the incredibly dry (albeit technically well-made) period-pieces War Horse and Lincoln, I wasn't about to hold out much hope for Bridge of Spies, which only seemed to promise more of the same. After setting the stage with an impressive mostly-silent sequence following a day in the life of a Russian spy (Mark Rylance) that culminates in him being arrested by the CIA, we get to Hanks' character, a fairly nondescript lawyer and family man who is tasked with serving as Rylance's public defender. Though his task is to provide a good show of how the American justice system works, Hanks decides to actually do his job right and ends up upsetting a great number of people as a result. This does draw him a lot of negative attention from people on every level of American society, but his stalwart belief in upholding the system in the face of subtly malevolent patriotism pays off when an American pilot (Austin Stowell) is taken hostage by the Soviets while carrying out a top-secret mission...

Bridge of Spies is unmistakably a Spielberg film, and though such a description is liable to conjure up negative associations regarding the director's tendency to provide simplistic middle-brow crowd-pleasers, I actually find this to be a somewhat pleasant (if not exactly amazing) example of such. Hanks' character is a do-gooder who refuses to let his principles be compromised by, well, just about anybody. It's clear that things are taking a toll, especially when his wife (Amy Ryan) frequently expresses concerns over the effect it is having on their home life. There's also the various other members of his firm and the legal system who seem appalled that Hanks might actually take this job seriously, lending an appropriate amount of insidious nuance to what could have been an extremely bland historical drama. This is very much a film of two halves as the first must set up all the players, yet it doesn't feel stretched-out or boring even as it does indulge some very familiar tropes (there is at least one scene where Hanks gives an upstanding closing statement monologue defending Rylance that still worked in spite of itself). The second half does pick up a bit as Hanks' character is made to go and negotiate the exchange of hostages, which is complicated when an American student is caught on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall and incarcerated by the East Germans.

In a year where most of the major spy films have aimed for pure thrills and amusement, Bridge of Spies provides a solid counterpoint as a film that focuses on the mundane yet dangerous world of real-world espionage. The film definitely shows Spielberg at his most dependable as it doesn't come across as an instant classic but definitely doesn't feel like a misfire either. It may prove a little alienating with its focus on the intricacies on legal negotiations and whatnot, but it's paced reasonably well with the occasional moments of action or tension (most notably the scene where Stowell's character fails his mission). Characters aren't really much more than well-acted archetypes, though Rylance delivers a performance that stands out precisely because of how much his character does not stand out (and his matter-of-fact countenance is played for both comical and dramatic effect). Spielberg can still command a technically masterful film that fittingly I also have to give credit to the writing (especially since the script credits the Coen brothers as co-writers) for offering some much-needed nuance and a wry sense of humour to a film that could have been yet another bland (if technically decent) historical drama in Spielberg's filmography. There's enough of his fingerprints over it that if you find him disagreeable in general then you might as well avoid it anyway, but it's far from the worst film he's ever made.




Very impressive. Congrats Iro on being #1 !!!!!



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#695 - Top Secret!
Jim Abrahams/David Zucker/Jerry Zucker, 1984



An American pop star travels to East Germany as part of a cultural exchange but soon becomes embroiled in the fight against an evil conspiracy.

Airplane! has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the best comedies ever made thanks to its combination of rapid-fire one-liners, outlandish sight gags, and heavily referential parody of the popular "disaster" sub-genre. The trio of comedy filmmakers responsible (hereafter referred to as ZAZ) followed it up with another genre parody that went a bit more left-field with its targets of choice. Top Secret! spoofs not only spoofs spy movies but also war movies and Elvis Presley movies, which makes for an eclectic mix that somehow works. Val Kilmer makes his big-screen debut as the fresh-faced young pop star who finds himself caught in the middle of a conflict centred around a scientist (Michael Gough) who is being held captive by the oppressive East German military. He meets a young woman (Lucy Gutteridge) who is a member of the underground resistance and so they go on an adventure that involves them getting into and out of trouble. As with other ZAZ comedies like Airplane! or The Naked Gun, the plot is done in broad strokes and only needs to work enough to not distract from the comedy itself.

Top Secret! may not be the best film that ZAZ have ever made but it's still pretty consistent in terms of laughs. There is the odd joke that's a little predictable ("I know a little German") or a little off-colour (the whole cow scene) to actually be that funny, but for the most part it's still solid enough even on a repeat viewing. Kilmer is pretty good when it comes to imitating Elvis's voice and mannerisms and he manages to make the film's occasional musical number work as a result. The cast may not feature as many recognisable faces as Airplane! did, but that doesn't mean that the ones on display here don't commit, whether it's Omar Sharif as a straight-faced secret agent or Peter Cushing as a Swedish bookstore owner. As is to be expected, the film is packed to the gills with gags that run the gamut from wordplay to surreal visuals. While the ambition is clear enough in the staging of comical musical numbers, it also extends to some of the gags (most memorably Cushing's only scene, which is a long take filmed entirely in reverse). As is the case with many a good parody, you don't automatically need to know what the jokes are referencing in order to find them funny. As a result, Top Secret! ends up being a very amusing comedy that holds up on repeat viewings and does well on its own merits instead of feeling like an underwhelming spiritual successor to one of the greatest comedies of the 1980s.




Top Secret! is something I've seen quite a few times as it was one of the (relatively few) films that I had in the mid 80's. I have to confess I started to feel less and less for it as the rewatches piled up, but it's been 20 odd years since I last saw it and I think I'd think more kindly on it now.



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#696 - Hachi: A Dog's Tale
Lasse Hallström, 2009



A college professor finds a lost dog and eventually decides to keep him.

I vaguely remember hearing the famous true story of Hachi the akita, but it had been long enough that I'd forgotten the specifics by the time that I ended seeing this American film based very loosely on said story. As such, I won't go into details in case people are not aware of the story - if you're really that interested then by all means go look it up, but I think there's something to be said for going in with as little conscious knowledge of the details as possible. I was originally intrigued by the fact that this film was on the IMDb Top 250. While that user-generated chart isn't necessarily the greatest indicator of a film's quality, the idea that a little movie about Richard Gere and his pet dog had been rated so highly was more than enough to make me sit up and wonder just what made this film so special. The film starts with an opening montage that sees an akita puppy being transported from a Japanese temple to an American college town only for his cage to lose the address tag and fall off the baggage cart. The forgotten puppy is discovered by a college professor (Richard Gere) coming home from work; being unable to leave it at the station overnight, he takes it home even though he knows that his wife (Joan Allen) won't stand for it. Though he does his best to find the dog's rightful owner or at least give it a good home, he ultimately ends up keeping the dog and together they form a powerful bond.

To go into further detail would definitely spoil this incredibly brief and lean film, but I think I've given it enough of a set-up. Considering how it's got an animal for a main character and is categorised as a drama, one can easily guess as to how this story is likely to turn out even without knowing the truth of the matter. As such, one can easily feel like the film is going for an easy emotional response as it starts off its story with scenes of a distressed puppy and only proceeds to keep tugging on the audience's heartstrings as things progress. Though this has the potential to alienate an audience who can see how the film is apparently trying to play them and will actively resist its methods (which is honestly how I felt myself reacting a lot of the time), it's compensated for by the extremely earnest manner in which it's handled. The film finds room to breathe within its incredibly straightforward narrative as it shows the ways in which everyone gradually warms up to the adorable dog (even if he shows no interest in normal dog pastimes like playing fetch). I can't decide if this is the film's greatest strength or its most glaring flaw as there does come a moment two-thirds of the way through that will make the unaware wonder how the film could possibly fill its remaining running time.

The acting by the various dogs needed to play Hachi at various ages all do commendable jobs, while a cast of largely recognisable human actors do alright with some fairly standard roles. Gere and Allen anchor the film alright as an older married couple who do have their fair share of arguments (especially when Hachi arrives on the scene) but they still have believable chemistry, while the film peppers its small number of settings with basic but fairly believable characters. Of note is the trio of locals (Jason Alexander, Erick Avari, and Davenia McFadden) who work in the area surrounding the train station where Gere and Hachi part ways and reunite every day, thus lending the area some much-needed character. The presence of Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa as a colleague of Gere's who is able to provide Japan-related exposition does seem more than a little convenient for the story's needs, but it's carried off well as Hiroyuki-Tagawa plays a soft and empathetic role that's a far cry from the villains I'm used to seeing him play. Such a decision also serves as a sign of how the story does try to stay true to the spirit of the original Hachi by not diverging too greatly from the story's Japanese origins.

Hachi: A Dog's Tale definitely feels quite lightweight due to its decision to trade narrative complexity for emotional simplicity; it's easy to recognise the story's beats and after the "twist" comes the film does threaten to turn into a slog. In the hands of lesser filmmakers this could have become little more than manipulative drivel (and it doesn't start too promisingly with its framing story showcasing Gere's young grandson talking to his class about Hachi), but despite constantly threatening to do so it never quite falls into that category. The music is appropriately understated and conjures the right mood without feeling overly obtrusive; the visual style also does its best to avoid being distracting with the occasional concession to cinematic stylisation (such as multiple shots being done from Hachi's point of view). Despite all its shortcomings, it just works. Thinking about it as I write this review over a week later makes me remember the feelings just as much as I remember the usual details like performances or technique. There's no telling if I'll ever actually give Hachi: A Dog's Tale another viewing, but I think the fact that I still found it at least a little moving despite consciously refusing to let it truly get to me should say a lot about its emotional potency even in the face of knee-jerk cynicism. While that may not automatically speak to its overall quality as a film, I definitely feel that its sincere and uncomplicated take on its subject matter definitely makes it a good experience instead of a bad one.




28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
Congrats on surpassing me Iro. It only took you reviewing a dozen movies a day and a 4 month hiatus from me to do it!!!
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#697 - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Sergio Leone, 1966



During the American Civil War, a trio of gunslingers compete against each other in order to be the first to find a buried crate of Confederate gold.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is arguably the closest there is to a consensus pick for Sergio Leone's best film and I don't see much reason to disagree with that assessment. It sees the conclusion of the loosely-connected Dollars trilogy, a collection of features united mainly by the presence of Clint Eastwood as a gruff, steely-eyed gunslinger who has little motivation beyond acquiring money through frequently violent means (and also apparently playing separate characters in each film). A Fistful of Dollars saw him play both sides of a border-town gang war for as much cash as possible, while For a Few Dollars More saw him team up with Lee Van Cleef's rival bounty hunter in order to claim one extremely lucrative reward. Elements of both those films find their way into the third film as it involves constantly-shifting loyalties and unlikely companions working their way towards an incredible prize; this time around it's a box of gold buried by some rogue Confederate soldiers. A series of unfortunate events results in the box drawing the attention of three separate men. Eastwood is the supposedly "good" character, a bounty hunter who has a scam worked out with Eli Wallach's "ugly" bandit that involves Eastwood constantly capturing and releasing Wallach in order to keep claiming the bounties on Wallach's head. Meanwhile, there's a hired killer (Van Cleef) who quickly establishes himself as the "bad" when he shows himself willing to stop at nothing in order to claim what he believes is his.

While Leone would expand upon the epic scope with his later films, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly features that scope without sacrificing the personality that made his first two films so much fun to watch in the first place. Much of that is due to the three leads. Eastwood's iconic presence full of grit and squint manages to compensate for his character's more glaring flaws, as does Van Cleef's gleefully sadistic turn as a character who is similar to Eastwood's in terms of motivation and competence but is far more brutal in his treatment of others. Caught between these two is Wallach, who may be a callous criminal (and listening to court officials rattle off some especially despicable-sounding crimes does make liking him seem very questionable even if you were to assume that they were made up for the purposes of the scam) but he's far and away the most human of the three. While Eastwood and Van Cleef play some rather flat characters (albeit with their own little moments that hint at greater depths, such as Eastwood idly playing with a kitten at one point), Wallach is the grimy, rat-faced heart of the film; without him, things just don't work. His extremely animated delivery and mannerisms certainly make him an excellent counter-point to the laconic coolness of the other two leads to the point where attempts to develop his backstory don't feel like intrusions. Though it's easy to miss the rest of the cast, one can't help but note minor characters like a brutish one-eyed soldier or a drunken captain with dreams of destruction.

In a similar vein to Kubrick, Leone is only so concerned with developing his characters as they serve to prop up the rest of the film. Even then, the epic nature of the tale does have its fair share of lulls, especially when you end up watching the Restored Edition (which doesn't really add anything of note). While Leone is a filmmaker who has built a reputation on slow and deliberate pacing, there are some instances where it is felt in a less-than-preferable way. Fortunately, things are kept rolling along at a strong enough pace that such instances are rare and ultimately negligible. Being a film where actions frequently speak louder than words, what little dialogue there is ends up being extremely blunt for the most part (though I do wonder if something is lost in the translation from Italian to English), but that only adds to the film's rugged, laconic charm. The film definitely excels at visual storytelling and manages to use a wide variety of techniques to maximum effect, whether it's sweeping panoramic shots of the dusty scenery or the infamously tight close-ups on the characters' filthy, sweaty faces Though it's easy to write off the film's eclectic use of cinematic language as being just for show and occasionally resulting in a plot hole, these instances are simply a by-product and to allow yourself to be too distracted by them is like noticing the edge of a theatre stage. The intent behind such bombastic cinematic tools is easily observable; it was only on this most recent viewing that I noticed how carefully orchestrated every shot, cut, and character action in the film's iconic climax is meant to be. The more tacitly dangerous moments are great, such as Wallach being made to do a potentially lethal stunt involving an oncoming train or flying debris threatening to strike our leads for real.

The reason that The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has endured for almost fifty years after its release is that it manages to create a grand work of cinema without succumbing to the same dry stuffiness and broad sentiment that could and would undermine other epics of the era. The film isn't exactly devoid of sentiment either as it adds in moments great and small that stop the film and its characters from being a bland, apathy-inducing (but good-looking) mess. The hypocrisy of the so-called civilised folks is a hold-over from the last couple of films, but that soon bleeds into superficial anti-war rhetoric as the trio venture from relatively peaceful frontier towns to a number of war-torn locations, each one more miserable than the last. These range from stockades where prisoners are made to play music to cover the sound of their comrades being tortured to a strategically redundant bridge that is still the place where a bloody and pointless battle rages without end. This being a film about a bunch of cowboys trying to kill each other over some money, it's of course unsurprising that any trenchant anti-war commentary serves as little more than window-dressing to the film's main plot. Even that knowledge isn't enough to prevent this from being an out-and-out fun film that is most definitely worth busting out again and again...and I never even mentioned Ennio Morricone's score.




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#698 - Videodrome
David Cronenberg, 1983



A sleazy cable-TV producer who is searching for provocative new programs discovers a horribly twisted new program dedicated to non-stop violence.

I have a rather contentious attitude towards David Cronenberg. I've seen several of his films and found that, for the most part, they range from the decent to the unimpressive. I give him credit for at least being an ambitious auteur working to bring some uncomfortable blends of emotion and intellect to a variety of genres in such a way that I'll definitely make an effort to see as much of his work as possible, but I have trouble considering any of them favourites or classics...except for Videodrome. Quite fittingly, I first watched Videodrome on cable-TV many years ago and it still remains one of the most indelible movie-watching experiences I've ever had. The storytelling was swift and unpredictable, the effects were disturbing, the film as a whole was extremely unsettling...in other words, it was the opposite of The Fly. Even watching it now, it's still a decidedly uncomfortable experience, but that's just a sign that it's lost none of its potency. Videodrome follows an executive (James Woods) from a controversial cable-TV station as he looks for exciting new programs to draw in audiences. Being bored by anything that he deems too "soft", things take a turn when his video-pirating colleague (Peter Dvorsky) unearths the eponymous "Videodrome", a show that consists of nothing but scenes of people being brutally tortured by masked figures in a filthy room. Woods decides this is just the sort of show that he's looking for, but his discovery only sends him into one very nightmarish rabbit-hole...

Part of what makes Videodrome stand out among the rest of Cronenberg's body-horror films is that its focus on early-'80s technology does nothing to render the film a relic of the past. Several decades later, its sinister commentary on the pervasive nature of widespread scenes of sex, violence, and the twisted ways in which they blend together still holds very much true regardless of technological advancement. There are even less overtly sinister ways in which television bleeds into modern society, such as a religious charity that provides television to homeless people instead of food. Amidst all this weirdness, Woods proves the perfect centre for the film as the slimy exec who quite blatantly prioritises commerce and controversy over any kind of moral or artistic integrity. He is matched by a number of different characters who represent varying attitudes towards not only Videodrome but also the very nature of mass media itself. The most prominent of these is easily Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry as a radio host whose extremely liberal attitudes both unnerve and entice Woods, though the presence of Jack Creley as a Marshall McLuhan-like academic who only ever appears on videotape is a weird one that still seems strangely plausible. Everyone turns in solid performances that may come across as stiff or stilted but that's arguably the point in a film about how technology is changing the ways in which people interact.

A lot of credit for what makes Videodrome such an outstanding film has to go to the legendary Rick Baker, who provides some excellent practical effects that convey the extremely visceral ways in which Videodrome starts to affect the people who are exposed to it. The film's most notorious moment involves Woods' torso mutating during a session with Videodrome, while there are also instances of gory explosions and pulsating pieces of technology. None of this would really be effective if it wasn't for the way in which the editing and pacing leads to viewers constantly questioning exactly how much of the film is real or simply Videodrome-induced hallucination (or both). Thanks to its lean running time, it keeps utilitarian development to a minimum and doesn't get boring even after multiple viewings. Howard Shore's frequently foreboding and artificial-sounding score only serves to accentuate the mechanical mood of the film. These are just some of the many factors that contribute to Videodrome having staying power in a way that few other Cronenberg films come close to reaching. Just like the eponymous program, it is outwardly gross and borderline-unwatchable (though one could easily consider it tame by present-day standards) but not without reason. That's what makes it a classic.




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#699 - Broken Flowers
Jim Jarmusch, 2005



An old businessman receives an anonymous letter informing him that he has a son so he compiles a list of ex-girlfriends and sets out to visit them all.

Sometimes I feel like appreciating Jim Jarmusch on the back of his more ostensibly accessible genre films like Dead Man or Only Lovers Left Alive is only scratching the surface of his film-making career, especially when he made his name off the back off unorthodox interpersonal dramas where the complete lack of obvious style became its own style. Of course, one could just as easily make the case for Broken Flowers being Jarmusch's own take on the detective genre. The film starts by following a wealthy, ageing businessman (Bill Murray) who has just had his younger girlfriend (Julie Delpy) walk out on him. The mystery starts when he receives a letter typed in red ink on pink paper from an unspecified former lover; this letter informs him about a son that he never knew about. Spurred on by his detective wannabe friend (Jeffrey Wright), Murray makes a list of all the women who could have possibly written the letter before reluctantly going on a cross-country trip to figure out which one may have sent him the letter. It's a solid concept that could definitely have been played for much more emotional and dramatic effect by another director but in the hands of Jarmusch the resulting film is much more understated.

Of course, I do wonder if Broken Flowers might be a little too understated for its own good. It certainly assembles a strong cast; Murray builds off the same weary ennui that earned him acclaim in Lost in Translation and makes for a good presence to centre the film around. As with several of Jarmusch's other films, the most well-known actors may get little more than a scene or two of varying length but they still commit and deliver decent performances. The film's episodic nature does make it feel a bit listless; while listlessness does characterise just about every film Jarmusch has ever made, it feels a bit too pronounced here. His tendency to once again include low-key running gags does fit the extremely deadpan nature of the comedy on offer, though this naturally isn't the kind of comedy that induces a lot of chuckles. Still, Broken Flowers is definitely worth a watch due to the quality of the cast and the way in which the film is peppered with the odd good moment. Like just about every Jarmusch film, it is at once an off-putting film to those who can't quite get into his off-beat brand of cinema and a serviceable entry point for those who can - that being said, he has definitely done better when it comes to low-key character dramas.




Damn. I couldn't even do one movie per day and you look to be hitting and probably surpassing an average of two movies per day WITH full length reviews. Holy crap.



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Damn. I couldn't even do one movie per day and you look to be hitting and probably surpassing an average of two movies per day WITH full length reviews. Holy crap.
On the flip-side, putting in that much effort (plus playing a lot of Fallout 4 and, you know, living a life) still means that I'm about ten or so films behind even though my film-watching has actually slowed down this month.