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11 Foreign Language movies to go
I think that the most powerful art about the death penalty takes exactly this approach. Have you seen Herzog's Into the Abyss? I thought it was amazing, not only tackling the question of how we treat people who are (undeniably, sometimes even proudly) guilty of crimes, but also the toll that deliberate, state-sponsored killing takes on those involved. If you like Dead Man Walking, I think Into the Abyss makes for a great companion piece. (Though they are both very intense, so maybe not as a double feature!)
I remember reading about Into the Abyss when it came out, and wanting to see it very much - unfortunately I haven't yet, and it seems I have to seek it out rather than waiting to cross paths with it. The best film I've every seen regarding this issue is Krzysztof Kieslowski's A Short Film About Killing, which he made towards the end of his 'strictly Polish' period. If you haven't seen that, then I recommend it to you.
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My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.

Latest Review : Paper Moon (1973)





The Sea Beast, 2022

In this animated film, seasoned sea monster hunter Jacob (Karl Urban) is set to inherit an imposing ship from his captain (Jared Harris). But when the hunters to after a notorious large red sea monster, plucky orphan Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator) stows away on the ship, and after a dangerous encounter Maisie and Jacob end up learning more about the monsters and the nature of the conflict between them and the kingdom.

About halfway through this film, I was like "Well, someone has seen Moana!". You know, sea-faring adventure with a grown man and a young woman; adorable but weird animal sidekick; themes about the balance between people and nature; giant crab monster. But despite some VERY familiar elements, I thought that The Sea Beast was an enjoyable adventure with a good message at its core.

It really helps that the voice acting is very strong. Urban deftly manages the absurd comedy and the more serious moments easily. Hator's Maisie is an engaging child character. And the two of them have an easy chemistry that helps their banter. The supporting cast is also pretty good, including Harris as the grizzled captain and Marianne Jean-Baptiste is also on hand as the stoic first mate of the ship.

Visually, I enjoyed the film. I wouldn't say that it's incredibly original, but the action scenes are easy to follow and the size and scope of the sea monsters is fun.

There are two messages in the film, and I appreciated both of them. One is simply about communication, and the other is about the fact that you can be well-intentioned and wrong at the same time. The latter message is pulled off pretty deftly. Where it would have been easy to vilify the sea monster hunters, the focus is put more on those who have driven the conflict for their own profit.

Nothing earth-shattering, but a solid family film.

Oh boy, my older kid saw this and he. just. won't. stop talking about it To be fair, I saw half of it and thought what I saw was pretty solid, but damn, it's all day he's talking about the Red Beast and Jacob Holland
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I remember reading about Into the Abyss when it came out, and wanting to see it very much - unfortunately I haven't yet, and it seems I have to seek it out rather than waiting to cross paths with it. The best film I've every seen regarding this issue is Krzysztof Kieslowski's A Short Film About Killing, which he made towards the end of his 'strictly Polish' period. If you haven't seen that, then I recommend it to you.
I started A Short Film About Killing but bailed pretty quickly because of the dead animals. It's sitting there in my Criterion queue, waiting for me to get back into it.

Oh boy, my older kid saw this and he. just. won't. stop talking about it To be fair, I saw half of it and thought what I saw was pretty solid, but damn, it's all day he's talking about the Red Beast and Jacob Holland
I think it does a really good job of creating aspirational characters. Both Jacob and Maisie are brave and funny, and the Red Beast has a great big animal personality. I think that if I were watching this as a 7-10 year old I would have LOVED it.



Bookie lives in the middle of these two, but it will definitely probably test the patience of those not acclimatized to what he does.
You got that right...



*shifty eyes*







SF = Zzz


[Snooze Factor Ratings]:
Z = didn't nod off at all
Zz = nearly nodded off but managed to stay alert
Zzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed
Zzzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed but nodded off again at the same point and therefore needed to go back a number of times before I got through it...
Zzzzz = nodded off and missed some or the rest of the film but was not interested enough to go back over it



Book of Eli - So I actually was quite interested in this movie while watching it, and was into the plot. I do understand that critics do not really like this one, because there were some things off about the movie such as the one-dimensional villain, and the people I was watching it with did not like Mila Kunis very much. Denzel Washington however is great as always in this movie.

One Sings the Other Doesn't - I enjoyed following the lives of the two characters of the movie(Apple and Suzannah) who follow on through multiple adventures in their lives for a decade. At first sight, I thought it was going to be a Demy-styled musical, but felt rather different from one. The movie was visually appealing as well and kind of made me think of Woodstock a little bit. This was a fun movie, but I actually liked Agnes Varda's other movie(Cleo From 5 to 7) more. Cleo From 5 to 7 though is a masterpiece. For now, I kind of think Agnes Varda is a genius director and better than some of the popular ones most people rave about.



Victim of The Night


Marihuana, 1936

...the behaviors we see after they get high are, honestly, the kind of things that I more associate with people who have been drinking, such as going swimming while intoxicated.
Nope, I do that every time I'm high.



Victim of The Night
He made the cuts after the film was a commerical failure. Which isn't always the best reason, especially when the rest of the movies made in his typical style allow for lots of space for his actors to ramble and improvise until they completely exhaust themselves.


The two you've seen are not typical Cassavetes. They are almost normal films. When it comes to his usual more uncompromising approach, Husbands is the one that pushes his extremes to the max, where Minnie and Moskovitz is one of the tamer ones. Bookie lives in the middle of these two, but it will definitely probably test the patience of those not acclimatized to what he does.


I guess it depends how much you want to be left to the whims of a drunkard filming drunkards until something finally happens. I think that is an important element, even if it pushes against the lean and mean expectations you might have for a neo noir film. It's possible the edit works more as a genre piece than the theatrical cut
Yeah, I kinda knew the ones I had seen were not the films people cite when they're talking about Cassavetes.
I think I'll watch the long version. I'm very patient.



Victim of The Night
Office Space (1999)




My wife smoked a blunt before I put it on so she was laughing the whole time. I was amused the whole time. I liked the supporting characters better than the lead, not unusual for a comedy. It was good, definitely worth watching. That's as far as it goes for me.
I guess, for me, when Ted McGinley, Gary Cole, or Stephen Root are speaking, I find the movie funny and when Jennifer Aniston is in it, I find it a little charming (well, at least her).
The rest of the time I am bored to tears.



Victim of The Night


By https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1707386/mediaindex, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35988556

Les Misťrables - (2012)

To all the lovers of this film - I'm sorry, but 158 minutes was far too long for me. There's around 30 minutes of this film put together which I find to be exciting spectacle - and 2 hours worth of wandering soliloquy, with characters singing their thoughts to themselves. Does the stage show go as long? This movie's excesses made some stretches somewhat painful, and instead of winning me over and getting me to love this musical, I ended up disliking it more than I did initially.

4/10
Yes.
I took my mother to the stage production for her birthday... and she asked to leave about an hour and a half in. It was really a slog.



A Patch of Blue (1965)



Excellently acted. Very touching & topical for its time.

WARNING: "The real issue:" spoilers below
Some people think the major reason Gordon (Portier) doesn't consummate his relationship with Selina (Hartman) is because of their different races.

And sure, that's part of it considering the prospects of the long term. But Gordon is very intelligent and he realizes things Selina can't in her love-struck state toward the first eligible man who's shown kindness to her.

What starts as kindness toward a disabled girl on Gordon's part turns into love for both, but he realizes that although Selina is an adult age-wise, she is emotionally & intellectually a child due to her being raised as basically a prisoner / slave in an abusive home. It's almost a statutory issue for Gordon.

To have an adult romantic or sexual relationship with Selina at this point would be taking advantage of her emotional & intellectual immaturity and would be no better than taking advantage of her blindness.

His solution to get her out of her abusive home and into a school, and then revisit their relationship in a year's time (after Selina has a chance to be exposed to the world, other people and things she's never experienced before) seems an optimum one.

I was only left wondering who's going to pay for her schooling? Gordon? The state? (I imagine there must have been some type of funding for the blind at that time - although it was never addressed in the movie.)





WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER
(2001, Wain)



"Before we start, I'd just like to say the campers you're about to see suck dick! But nevertheless, please welcome them."

Wet Hot American Summer follows an assorted cast, most of which were part of The State comedy troupe. The characters include theater directors Susie and Ben (Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper) trying to prepare the camp's talent show, camp director Beth falling in love with a neighboring astrophysics professor (David Hyde Pierce), and Coop (Showalter), a shy nerdy guy secretly in love with Katie (Marguerite Moreau), who is in turn fixated on her obnoxious and unfaithful boyfriend Andy (Paul Rudd).

With an ensemble cast that big, the film does a good job of balancing the different storylines. However, the clear scene-stealer is Rudd. His performance is so effortless and laid-back that you can't help but believe he's an a$$hole, and yet you wanna see more of him. The other thing that makes this work is the way the script and direction combines the meta aspect of parodying classic summer camp films (and teen films in general) and the absurdity of its various sketches (i.e. camp cook Gene receiving life advice from a can of mixed vegetables)

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot





School Life, 2016

This documentary follows a year at the Headfort School, an eccentric boarding school in Ireland that's a mix of tradition and classical education and rock'n'roll jam sessions. Leading the school are Amanda and John Leyden, both teachers who have been at the school for decades and are now facing down the idea of retirement.

Obviously I have huge biases when it comes to this subject matter, as I am a teacher and this is the age group I work with the most.

I really enjoyed this documentary as a slice-of-life of a really eccentric environment. The students learn scripture, and then in their ethics class they have a (relatively) open-minded discussion about gay marriage. (Leading to this all-time amazing quote from a child: "I don't know. Maybe sometimes it's better to be gay than to be single.") There is a school band, playing everything from contemporary hits to "Wild Thing", with students playing guitar, drums, bass, keyboard, and singing.

The film really focuses on two students in particular, Eliza and Ted, who are seemingly opposites. Eliza is very shy and withdrawn, but is an academic superstar. This isn't entirely obvious until a class is to compete in a trivia contest and the first young man to pick a teammate quickly chooses Eliza. Ted, on the other hand, is incredibly charismatic and outgoing, but struggles with dyslexia, making his studies a lot more difficult. John and Amanda both work to draw out the best in these students.

We don't see much of how John and Amanda teach, aside from a one-minute snippet here and there. But what does come across is their gift for blending an academic relationship with a surrogate-parent one, and their desire to see their students succeed.

There were a few gaps that made me have questions. Being a boarding school, my assumption would be that these children are all from relatively wealthy families, but maybe that's an incorrect assumption. We do get several hints in this direction, including the fact that one of their students "has done a bit of modeling" and another is seen practicing her harp. I wonder, in part, because the type of free-ranging educational structure that we see in this film is often something reserved for schools with wealthy children.

I also wish that we got a bit more of a sense of how John and Amanda see their roles. There is a little talk about "I don't know what I'll do with myself" regarding their retirement, but otherwise we get very little information on this front.

Still, this is a very charming look at a group of children and adults who have a special relationship. I enjoyed my time at Headfort.




29th Hall of Fame

Tomboy (2011) -


This film was fine. Not a whole lot for me to dig at, but I still enjoyed it. It really shines in a few places, but throughout most of the film, I felt it didn't provide enough character depth to Laure for me to grow invested in her character. Watching Laure's relationship with several kids (Lisa, specifically) and the measures she takes to hide her gender grow, one wonders why she goes to such great measures to hide her identity. There are a few interpretations you could make for the film (e.g., Laure wanting to be seen as tougher, that she developed a romantic interest in Lisa, that she could be transgender), but since the film refuses to get inside Laure's head nor give her much of a personality, there isn't enough evidence provided to determine which of these interpretations the film had in mind and I wasn't able to latch on to any of these readings. In the end, they all seemed superficial and weren't fleshed out enough. Regardless, I still enjoyed enough about the film to give it a loose recommendation. For one, the lengths Laure goes to hide her gender get appropriately disturbing at times, such as when she takes her shirt off in front of her friends or makes a clay penis. These scenes are effective as, not only do they show how far Laure is willing to go, but they also open up questions on whether she was pulling these kinds of stunts at her old house. I also enjoyed the different ways the people around Laure reacted to what she was doing. The reactions ranged from acceptance to violence and it was interesting to watch these situations unfold as they were all fairly compelling. Finally, while I think most of the film is just competent, I did like the ending quite a lot. It simultaneously feels like the end and the start of something big for Laure. For the most part though, I thought this film was alright and I don't expect for it to stick around in my head for long.



It really shines in a few places, but throughout most of the film, I felt it didn't provide enough character depth to Laure for me to grow invested in her character. Watching Laure's relationship with several kids (Lisa, specifically) and the measures she takes to hide her gender grow, one wonders why she goes to such great measures to hide her identity.
Kids at the age of the character in this film are often in a discovery/exploration phase when it comes to identity (and I use the word "identity" broadly here, not just to mean gender/sexuality stuff).

I thought that the film really captured the way that kids will do things, not always even knowing why they are doing them. You're right that we don't know exactly what motivates Laure (ie that she is sexually/romantically attracted to Lisa and needs to be a boy to make that work; that she might be transgender and/or more comfortable presenting as a boy; all of the above)---but Laure might also not totally understand their own motivation.

I think that what the film does make very clear and does present very well is the different reactions that people around such a child have, and just how hostile things can get for kids who are in that exploration phase.

I was invested in Laure because it was so clear that Laure's position was a lonely one.



BEN-HUR
(1959, Wyler)



"It goes on, Judah. The race... the race is not over!"

Set in the times of Christ, Ben-Hur follows the titular character (Charlton Heston), a wealthy Jewish prince that finds himself enslaved and sent to the galleys. As he attempts to regain his freedom, his path crosses with that of Jesus Christ himself.

A good Twitter friend of mine has been constantly insisting on me to watch this. It's his second favorite film, I think. The "Epic of all Epics" he calls it. And he's not wrong. At the time of release, the film had the biggest budget, the largest sets, and one of the most complex productions of any film. The efforts paid off as the film ended up becoming one of the highest grossing films and won 11 out of 12 Academy Awards.

But beyond the huge production values and the huge scope, Ben-Hur is, in and of itself, a very good film. Most of the performances are solid, with Stephen Boyd being perhaps the strongest from the leads. He and Heston did a good job of making this friendship between Ben-Hur and Messala believable. I would've liked if they had given more attention and depth to that after the first act, but what we got worked. Heston also could've added more emotion to his performance, but his stoic demeanor suits the character's determination well.

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot



Kids at the age of the character in this film are often in a discovery/exploration phase when it comes to identity (and I use the word "identity" broadly here, not just to mean gender/sexuality stuff).

I thought that the film really captured the way that kids will do things, not always even knowing why they are doing them. You're right that we don't know exactly what motivates Laure (ie that she is sexually/romantically attracted to Lisa and needs to be a boy to make that work; that she might be transgender and/or more comfortable presenting as a boy; all of the above)---but Laure might also not totally understand their own motivation.

I think that what the film does make very clear and does present very well is the different reactions that people around such a child have, and just how hostile things can get for kids who are in that exploration phase.

I was invested in Laure because it was so clear that Laure's position was a lonely one.
I see what you're saying about Laure potentially not being aware of her own motivations and I think that adds up. I just needed more to her character to get on board with that. For instance, while I generally dig movies about loneliness, I wouldn't describe Laure as lonely throughout most of the film. Yes, she was clearly hiding something from her friends which could potentially ruin their relationships, but since they didn't know about it, she seemed to have a great time with them and was accepted pretty well by their group. After all, provided she was feeling lonely before the film, passing herself off as a boy would've been done to prevent that.

As a comparison, Nicholson's character in Five Easy Pieces was in a similar state of potentially not understanding his own motivations, but his loneliness in that film was made far more clear. As a result, I found that film much more compelling.

I think that what the film does make very clear and does present very well is the different reactions that people around such a child have, and just how hostile things can get for kids who are in that exploration phase.
I do agree that this was handled pretty well though.





House of Bamboo, 1955

A gang of toughs led by a man named Dawson (Robert Ryan) is pulling of a series of daring heists in post-War Tokyo, including one that kills an American sergeant. When one of the gang is gunned down during one of the robberies, the man's old friend, Eddie (Robert Stack) arrives in town wanting to get to the bottom of the death of his friend. Eddie finds an ally in Mariko (Shirley Yamaguchi) the secret wife of his dead friend. But standing between an investigating US Army and Dawson's deadly gang is not the safest place to be . . .

I have really enjoyed everything that I have seen from director Samuel Fuller, and this film was no exception.

The film pulls tension from multiple relationships, always with Eddie as the center. The most plot relevant is his relationship with Dawson who, despite professing very cold and ruthless philosophies, comes to really like and trust Eddie. Ryan does a good job of showing that Dawson is almost confused about why he gels so well with Eddie.

The relationship that does the most to develop Eddie's character is between him and Mariko. Mariko is broken up over the loss of her husband, and at first she tentatively agrees to pretend to be Eddie's lover so that she can help him figure out her husband's death. The romance that grows between Eddie and Mariko is very engaging, each coming to care for the other even as they realize how dangerous their situation is.

Mariko is definitely put through the ringer, taking abuse from all sides at different points in the film. Eddie is barely apologetic after he hits her in the face in order to make her give him an alibi for earlier in the day. Mariko is shunned by other women for having taken up with a foreigner. And Dawson and his men don't hesitate to menace or leer at Mariko. At times I was a bit torn on whether all of these sequences were showing her resilience, or just leaning into some mild exploitation, for example when Eddie first meets her, having followed her home and then jumped her, pinning her to the ground. Still Yamaguchi imbues her character with enough grit and vulnerability that I was actively rooting for her.

The plot unfolds in a nicely twisty-turny way, with some really interesting reveals about halfway through the film. It all leads up to one heck of an action setpiece in the very last minutes.

Definitely one I'd recommend.






House of Bamboo, 1955
Some great widescreen Technicolor cinematography in this. Might give it a rewatch now that it's on the Criterion Channel.



I see what you're saying about Laure potentially not being aware of her own motivations and I think that adds up. I just needed more to her character to get on board with that. For instance, while I generally dig movies about loneliness, I wouldn't describe Laure as lonely throughout most of the film. Yes, she was clearly hiding something from her friends which could potentially ruin their relationships, but since they didn't know about it, she seemed to have a great time with them and was accepted pretty well by their group.
Right, but there are some serious risks that Laure takes by lying about her gender, something that becomes very clear in the last act. The threat of discovery underpins every encounter she has with them.

Loneliness isn't just about being alone, and I do think that Laure is lonely. In fact, I'd argue that there's always an inherent loneliness when being around other people is predicated on deception. I'd say that the camaraderie Laure experiences is tragic in a way, because it's clear it cannot and will not last.

Laure is also forced to conduct this experimentation with only a younger sibling as an ally. There's no one to help talk her through what she is experiencing, and so she has to just wing it.