Rate The Last Movie You Saw

Tools    





And since we're talking about it again, I'd just like to go back and say that this was a good review of a great movie, Popcorn, and while Lyndon may have been pretty long and slow, I ultimately found it be highly involving (in addition to visually beautiful, of course), and one of Kubrick's very best; good work, man!
Thanks, Stu! This was written for the current Hall of Fame we're hosting here. Join the next one Stu (which won't be for a while, but keep an eye out for it)!





Of Good Report, 2013

Parker Sithole (Mothusi Magano) is a quiet, reserved man who gets a job at a local high school. Parker goes home with a beautiful young woman one night after drinking at a bar, only to be horrified when she walks into his classroom the next day as a pupil. Nolitha (Petronella Tshuma) is willing to continue their affair, and the two become shockingly bold in pursuing each other even on school grounds. But when Nolitha goes through a traumatic experience and withdraws from her relationship with Parker, he becomes dangerously obsessed with her.

I am a fan of the contemporary use of black and white photography, and in this case the look of the film matches the topic perfectly. There are many noir elements to this story, and some of the best moments in the film involve the use of light and shadow. This is especially true in a series of flashbacks that show us Parker's miserable, abusive life with his dying mother.

The performances are also strong. In the role of Parker, Mothusi Magano pulls off the challenge of making the character a totally immoral weasel, and yet someone who you could sympathize with at times. He is just so desperate and needy that you almost (almost) have to feel bad for the guy. As Nolitha, Petronella Tshuma is also very good. She embodies a character who is gorgeous and knows it, and who enjoys their forbidden affair until she begins to feel fear at the real consequences of their actions, and ultimately an inability to understand or cope with Parker's adult, needy dysfunction.

The film operates in two different modes/tones: a more straight ahead thriller and a darkly comedic borderline horror. As is often the case with me and movies, I really wish that the film had picked a vibe and stuck with it. As the film starts with building a more serious tone and mood, it's a little jarring when it switches gears to something more tongue-in-cheek. This more darkly comedic tone is what seems to have been intended to dominate, and it's okay. Elements like the wordplay at hand (take a good look at Parker's last name and Nolitha's first name) signal this. But the comedy angle sometimes underwhelmed me a bit, and weakens the implied critique about people abusing their power.

While the comedy was hit or miss for me, the only thing that bothered me was the degree to which Nolitha's nude or semi-nude body was frequently put on display. As is often the case when I find this element frustrating, the film seems content to break its own rules of point of view if it's convenient to get some nudity on camera. It makes sense, in some of the sequences, to see her and to understand Parker's infatuation. But at a certain point it began to feel like the actual purpose of certain shots was just to put an attractive female body on display. (Will I shock and amaze anyone when I say that there is nowhere near the same amount of male nudity? No? We're not shocked?). There is, of course, a difference between a character in a film objectifying someone and the film itself objectifying that person. There were several times that I felt the film slipped from the former to the latter. And considering the actress would have been 21 or 22 while filming, it bordered on feeling a bit exploitative.

It's frustrating when the film slips into this mode of objectifying Nolitha, because at many points it seems to understand exactly why objectification is a problem. When Nolitha tries to move on to dating a boy her age, he is also demanding and needy (in one uncomfortable sequence demanding a "real kiss" with tongue before he will let her get in the car). Acknowledging the struggle of a person who is being mistreated but then exploiting her body for a jiggle factor lends the film a bit of a sense of hypocrisy.

I do want to give a shout out to Lee Ann von Rooi, who plays a police constable who looks into Nolitha's disappearance when the girl goes missing. She is incredibly charismatic and I wish the writing had given her a bit more to do.

That said, I would check out another film by this director. African films are a huge blindspot for me. I feel like when films from Africa or the Middle East get put on lists they are often the more serious dramas. It was neat to see a film pulling from different genres (noir, horror, dark comedy).




Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) -


Though the last time I saw this film was several years ago, I remember thoroughly enjoying my time with it. I was impressed with Wallis's performance and Hushpuppy's character arc, though I felt the film's magical realism flew over my head and wasn't sure what to make of that aspect. I had been meaning to rewatch the film for a while, so I was happy to revisit it for this thread.

When it was released back in 2012, it garnered a lot of praise, but since then, it has received a fair share of backlash. Given this, I wasn't sure how well it would hold up. Fortunately though, it held up pretty well, except my initial opinion of the film is pretty much the same as it was last time.

As has been noted by many people in the past, Quvenzhane Wallis gives a strong performance. Nowadays, it's hard to find good child actors, but Wallis did a phenomenal job in this film, sounding like someone much older who's had many years of acting experience. Her narration brimmed with all kinds of emotion, causing her to disappear into her role. While Dwight Henry was good, Wallis definitely stole the film.

Hushpuppy's and Wink's relationship was also compelling, just like I thought it was last time. Hushpuppy's mother has left them and has caused a rift in their family. Hushpuppy has her own house and her father requires for her to take care of herself, hence toughening her up for the real world. With his health declining and the ability to thrive in the Bathtub growing harder, accomplishing this becomes especially important. While there are some scenes of Wink teaching her various skills (fishing and preparing food), I liked how her arc didn't have a "checking off the boxes" feel in terms of him teaching her a single skill at a time, one after another. Instead, this theme was largely handled by the way Wink spoke to her. He often referred to her with masculine pronouns and having her act "manly" with telling her to break open a lobster with her bare hands instead of a knife or pretending that she beat him in an arm wrestle. I thought their dynamic was pretty solid, overall.

WARNING: spoilers below
While Hushpuppy's character arc in the film is compelling, I think only one scene from it reaches greatness, which is when she goes to seek out her mother. The sequence starts off fine enough with the dreamy atmosphere of the restaurant, but her conversation with her mother blew me away. What's interesting is that Hushpuppy doesn't reveal they're mother and daughter throughout this sequence. Like, she almost reveals it by saying "You can take care of me. Me and Daddy." However, once her mother says she can't take care of anyone, Hushpuppy doesn't reveal any more info about their relation and leaves after a few minutes. My reading of this sequence is, after Hushpuppy noticed her father wasn't going to live much longer, she chose to go to her mother as a last resort in hopes she'd look after her. Seeing her mother couldn't take care of her either though was when she fully realized she had to take care of herself. Thus, that was the final main step to her character arc. Overall, I think the emotional bits of this scene were handled pretty obliquely, which was why I responded so well to it. Again though, I don't think anything else in the film is able to reach this scene in terms of greatness.


I found the film's magical realism to be a mixed bag. I enjoyed some aspects to it, like Hushpuppy imagining her mother as the playfulness of these scenes were contrasted with a strong sense of longing. They also highlighted Hushpuppy's dependency on her parents. As with my first viewing though, I wasn't sure what to make of the Aurochs. Were they supposed to be reflections of how Hushpuppy has to toughen up? Are they supposed to represent a form of violence which Hushpuppy has to avoid adopting? No clue. As they stood, I appreciated their scenes as a curiosity, but I felt they were underdeveloped and would've liked for them to be fleshed out more.

Overall, I think this film holds up pretty well. Though I think only one scene in it reaches greatness, it still has plenty to offer, both in the way of Wallis's performance and Hushpuppy's character arc. I don't know if I'll watch it again, but I'm glad I got to revisit it.



'The Hidden Fortress' (1958)


One of Kurosawa's more accessible films, laced with comedy and adventure. His ability to keep characters in focus (deep or shallow) is brilliant. Framing and blocking also noticeable and the way he uses fog to light the scene is sublime. Mifune again dominates the screen.

This was the first Mifune (and Kurosawa) I ever saw and you're right Mifune just dominates a screen. In Sword of Doom, for example, Nakadai is fantastic in the lead role yet the moment Mifune walks into the frame he dominates it until the moment he is no longer in it and then for a while after really too. I think I could get hooked on watching him iron his shirts.



Dial M for Murder


Very entertaining (as can be expected from the Master of Suspense), but I think different casting might have taken this to the next level for me. Ray Milland is very good as the conniving husband, but he's not exactly easy to identify with, and I think someone like Cary Grant (who Hitchcock used brilliantly in a such a capacity in Suspicion) could have complicated the audience's sympathies with his immense charisma. Placing the heroine in the wrong man role is pretty novel at least, and Grace Kelly is very easy to root for. As for John Williams, at first I was thinking I would have liked Jimmy Stewart in the role, but I think his fogey-ishness nicely subverts our expectations of his intelligence (I understand he played the same role in the stage version).

Hitchcock's visual direction is astute as always but also somewhat low-key (the film's stage origins are pretty evident), which makes it interesting that the film was originally made in 3-D. There are a few scenes that obviously would play well in the format (the best known scene, Grace Kelly's trial scene) but given how much of the movie is set in the same house, I'm curious how he would have handled those interior scenes. Definitely would like to see the film in that format eventually.
I also loved this movie. In fact, I think it's now one of my favorites. But I gotta say, I think Ray Milland was perfectly cast, I think it's the best role and performance of his career (at least that I've seen) and I absolutely would not like to have seen Cary Grant in this role. Milland is so self-assured, frankly over-confident, too slick by half as he should be, to me, for this film. I will admit that the first time I saw the film I was a little unsure of him (I had only seen him in X: The Man With The X-ray Eyes at that point) but having seen it several times now, I think he's less replaceable than Kelly in this film. She's great but someone else could have played that role. But I think Milland was perfect.



Village of the Damned (1960)



Another recent favorite of mine.



To each his own, then; for me, Hardy's Max was a force of nature as overwhelming as that giant dust storm, like if you took the anti-social loner he was in The Road Warrior and dialed that up to 11, to the point that he seemed like more of a grunting, rabid animal than man at first, before slowly but surely regaining his sense of humanity and camaraderie with other people step by step, inch by inch (which means that he got a meatier arc in FR than he did in TRW, to boot). As far as I'm concerned, he's the new definitive version of Rockatansky.
Oh my.
Yeah, I definitely didn't find him definitive. He really didn't do much for me in this, fine but unspectacular and upstaged by Theron in every scene they shared, and I do like him usually. I thought he was fine, but I also felt a number of other actors could have been as good or better and that he definitely didn't have the charisma to be the new Max long-term but since they were switching the focus to Furiosa (and Charlize is a master) it was fine, we could just leave Max behind.
Now he's not giving me Charlize so I'm gonna go find George Miller and take a dump in his hat.


PS - I obviously need to rewatch Fury Road because a lot of people seem to have been more impressed with it than me. I thought it was a good job by George to somehow bring the Mad Max world to a modern film and I think he is one of the most underrated filmmakers out there (why doesn't he make more movies?!!!). But, while I thought it was a good Mad Max movie, it would probably either be 3rd or tied for 4th (with Thunderdome) for me in the series, given that I like them all quite a bit.
As a side note, I would have liked more Immortan Joe too. I think Toecutter was a much better villain and I was hoping to get something more like that (more depth) from the casting of Keays-Byrne and I thought just making him nothing more than a scary face was a waste. I think that really was my biggest beef with the film was that Immortan Joe was scary-looking but was barely a villain at all. He was a mechanism to put The Road Warrior on-screen for a new generation and to pass the torch from Max, who really had no relationship with the villain at all, to Furiosa, who not only did, but was a much more interesting character than Max or Joe overall.
But, I as I said, I obviously need to see it again as I really did enjoy it and I need to see if maybe my feelings will soften and it rises above Thunderdome in the MM pantheon (though it could never pass MM or RW).

And, on that note, I will take this moment to give my ranking of the series:

1. Mad Max
2. The Road Warrior
3. Beyond Thunderdome
4. Fury Road

Finally, I would like to say, that I have greatly enjoyed our discussion. It doesn't need to end, but I just wanted to say that.



This is my #3 Hitchcock so I agree that it is very, very entertaining. However, I have no issues with the casting. Milland is simply excellent and steals every scene, but so is Kelly, and the rest. The only issue I have is with the character of Mark, who I see as pretty much unnecessary, and it's there only to provide Kelly with an empathetic male cushion, opposite Milland. Other than that, it's excellent.
100.



I obviously need to rewatch Fury Road because a lot of people seem to have been more impressed with it than me. I thought it was a good job by George to somehow bring the Mad Max world to a modern film and I think he is one of the most underrated filmmakers out there (why doesn't he make more movies?!!!). But, while I thought it was a good Mad Max movie, it would probably either be 3rd or tied for 4th (with Thunderdome) for me in the series, given that I like them all quite a bit.
I would guess that a lot of us feel the same, actually. I adored Fury Road but I would also rank it 3rd, so I don't think you're missing something that the rest of us got. Not me, at least.
You're crazy to rank Thunderdome above it, but other than that you're fine.
__________________
Captain's Log
My Collection



I would guess that a lot of us feel the same, actually. I adored Fury Road but I would also rank it 3rd, so I don't think you're missing something that the rest of us got. Not me, at least.
You're crazy to rank Thunderdome above it, but other than that you're fine.
Ha!
There's just a lot I really like about Thunderdome that, again, I did not like for years but found a new appreciation for when I went back and watched it recently... on top of all the things I already did like, like Barter Town and Master Blaster and the politics between the dwarf and Auntie Entity and then the final RW-esque action sequence. And of course, the final line of dialogue, which I have always loved.
That said, perhaps when I re-watch Fury Road, and I've been meaning to do a marathon with friends but a number of them just didn't feel they could make it through all four, it will bump up above Thunderdome.



Paranormal Activity 3, 2011, 2nd watch (D)

This movie is much more overtly supernatural than the others, but it adds nothing. First off, it has the worst characters yet. The first guy was a believable douche-adjacent guy, but the two guys in this one are full douche, and nothing else beyond that. They have bro reactions to the ghost stuff on the tapes and don't have a personality besides being bros with cameras. The main kid acts like a small adult, and you never believe for a second that a child would talk the way she talks, supernatural stuff or not.

I thought looking at it as a franchise with an over-arching story would make it better, but that story is barely there. There's nothing to see besides the part where they actually show you everything at the end. No fun game of guess-who or hidden stuff. This is a lazily decorated house, which you constantly have to remind yourself is from 1988 because, *******, they did not hire a decorator to make it convincing. Can't spend a penny extra on paint or wallpaper or carpet in this absolute cashgrab of a franchise. I dislike each movie less than the first time, but I have so much more contempt for the franchise itself now. This is just a way for the studios to make the least effort to ride on a successful name and finance their other projects. I'll finish it, but man, this is threadbare already.





The Sea Inside, 2004

Ramon (Javier Bardem) has been paralyzed from the neck down for over 25 years, ever since breaking his neck after an ill-fated dive into the ocean. Feeling that he no longer wants this life, Ramon begins to advocate for the right to die by assisted suicide, as he cannot take his own life without help. In this journey he connects strongly with two different women: Julia (Belen Rueda) is a lawyer who helps fight Ramon's legal battle, and Rosa (Lola Duenas), a local factory worker who becomes friendly--and maybe more than that--with Ramon after seeing his story on TV. Ramon also struggles with the feelings of his family, especially his brother, Jose (Celso Bugallo), who believes it is wrong for Ramon to take his own life.

This is a very powerful film and I appreciated that it handled a very sensitive topic with nuance and clarity.

Ramon's position is this: life is a right, but should not be an obligation. He is of sound mind, and he does not wish to live any longer under his conditions. Something that the film does a good job of portraying is that Ramon is not living in some sort of perpetual, obvious funk--he is capable of joking around, sharing a cigarette with Julia, turning his mind to writing, and engaging in a debate with a priest who tries to talk him out of his determination. But as Ramon explains, the world is cut off from him in a way that he cannot bear. He cannot reach out to touch a hand that is mere inches from his. It is, as he says, an impossibility and thus not even really part of his reality. Ramon elegantly explains the way that his confinement is unbearable, while at the same time conceding that he can't judge people in his condition who would choose to live. There can be a very cruel rhetoric around people with severe mental or physical disabilities, along the line that it would be better if they were dead. The film has to tread carefully to make it clear that it is a question of choice, not a judgement on who should or should not live.

Javier Bardem is very talented as a performer, and he does a great job of portraying a man who is very intelligent and witty, but who deals with a constant undercurrent of despair. Even in scenes where he might joke around, there is an anger and a frustration that bubbles to the surface in a facial expression or a sharp remark. I'm a huge fan of Belen Rueda, and I was thrilled to see her in this film. Ramon chooses Julia as his lawyer in part because she also suffers from a degenerative condition--a series of seizures that are slowly diminishing her mental capabilities--and in her performance you see someone who is working through her own demons as she helps another person. Lola Duenas is also very solid as Rosa, who begins with the intention to help "fix" Ramon, but eventually comes to understand that it's not a matter of just cheering Ramon up.

It could be very easy for a film to go overboard trying to show Ramon's condition. But there is a more subtle approach here. Simply by allowing us to see that Ramon does not move from his bed, and the stillness with which Bardem plays the character, we can understand the unbearable sense of being imprisoned. This contrasts by sequences which show us Ramon's inner fantasies--dreams in which he rises from bed, sometimes literally flying over the landscape, reaching out to touch Julia. Te memories and the beauty that Ramon has inside is not freeing for him. Instead, the difference between his dreams and his reality becomes a kind of extra hardship.

While the movie is clearly on Ramon's side, it is very sympathetic to those who oppose Ramon's plans. Jose does not want to lose his brother. He cannot bear the thought of playing a part in his brother being gone forever. He sees the idea of euthenasia as akin to putting down an animal. It's true that this is a way of trying to exert control over Ramon, but it comes from a place tat is understandable.

This movie was intense to watch. When I was younger someone very close to me was very, very sick. And I will never forget a conversation as a teenager when they confided to me that they had joined the Hemlock Society ("I got a lifetime membership--seemed appropriate") and had made some plans to die if their illness reached a certain stage. This conversation shook me deeply. I was too young and inexperienced to understand the process of living with or fighting painful or uncurable illnesses or conditions, and the idea of choosing to die seemed to me like a "wrong" choice. Then there's the pain of knowing that someone you love might chose to leave life (and you) before they have to. In all I thought that many of the aspects of this film touched on the emotional complications of such a debate and situation.

While the visuals of the film are not the main thing I focused on, I do want to say that the sequence in which Ramon breaks his neck (a brutal impact with the sea floor) is both beautiful and nightmarish.

I did feel a bit unresolved in terms of where the film left some of the characters. I know that the focus of the film was on Ramon and his journey, but in the final moments I wanted to see and know more about how the conclusion of the film impacted his friends and loved ones. And considering the way that we see how Ramon's story is publicized, I wanted a bit more "big picture" in the wrap up. But these are relatively minor quibbles. I really enjoyed this film and, shocker, cried several times.




I don't think Bardem has gotten his just due as an actor. I remember back at another forum (RT I think it was) another poster dismissively talked about his performance in Biutiful. The movie itself wasn't anywhere near perfect but I didn't think anyone could find fault with Bardem himself. The person making the criticism was a bit of a tw*t so I didn't take it all that seriously.
__________________
"Somewhere in a lonely hotel room there's a guy starting to realize that eternal fate has turned it's back on him. It's 2am."



Also Tak, have you ever heard of an Argentinian actor named Ricardo Darin? I've been a fan of his since watching El Hijo de la Novia (Son of the Bride) years and years ago. I think you'd like it if you haven't seen it already. And some of his other work like Nine Queens, The Secret in Their Eyes and White Elephant.



Also Tak, have you ever heard of an Argentinian actor named Ricardo Darin? I've been a fan of his since watching El Hijo de la Novia (Son of the Bride) years and years ago. I think you'd like it if you haven't seen it already. And some of his other work like Nine Queens, The Secret in Their Eyes and White Elephant.
Yup! Have you seen The Aura?



Yup! Have you seen The Aura?
No, no I haven't. I just looked it up and it sounds intriguing. Not on Netflix or Prime though. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.



No, no I haven't. I just looked it up and it sounds intriguing. Not on Netflix or Prime though. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.
Ricardo Darin is an amazing actor. If you can, watch XXY.





Border Incident, 1949

At the border between Mexico and the United States, a group of Mexican laborers illegally cross the border back into Mexico after a few weeks of work in the US. As soon as they cross, however, they are set upon by a gang, robbed and murdered. Seeing a pattern of such killings, Mexican and American authorities decide to work together to crack down on the human smugglers and exploitative farmers who are victimizing the Mexican workers. On the American side is a man named Jack Bearnes (George Murphy); on the Mexican side is a man named Pablo Rodriguez (Ricardo Montalban). The plan is for Pablo to infiltrate the smuggling organization by posing as a migrant worker. When things get complicated, Jack also steps in by pretending to be a man who can forge work permits. But neither man is prepared for the ruthlessness of the smugglers.

This film has been on my radar ever since I took the TCM Film Noir class. And everything that I felt I was promised was delivered by the movie and more.

From the very first sequence, the film makes no bones about the brutality of what is happening to the Mexican workers. This isn't a case of "bang bang fall down" stuff. The men are stabbed, stripped of their money and some clothing, and then left to drown in quicksand. In the first meeting between the Mexican and American officials, one the Mexican officials holds up the bloody clothing of one of the men and says, "This is about the men who lived in these clothes." The film continues this intensity and roughness, including a sequence in the final act of the film that is one of the more horrible and suspenseful things I've seen in an older film.

The film is immediately remarkable for its treatment and point of view on the Mexican workers. They are treated as men who, for the most part, simply want to earn a decent wage. There is a sequence in the middle of the film where Pablo explains to the other workers the fact that because they are going to cross illegally, they will be more vulnerable to wage slavery. There are plenty of bad guys in the film--Mexican and American--and what they all have in common is their willingness to take advantage of men in their time of need.

Both Murphy and Montalban give engaging performances in their roles, though they often work parallel to each other. Howard Da Silva is sufficiently smarmy as the man at the head of the smuggling operation.

Overall this was a tense and compelling thriller. It definitely simplifies the dynamics of the relationship between Mexico and the United States, but within a narrative that is violent and suspenseful, there is something very optimistic about seeing the two countries work together to put an end to exploitation and abuse.

I was really pleasantly surprised by this one, and I would recommend it.