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Snooze factor = Z




[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



Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?



Le DeuxiŤme Souffle aka The Second Wind (1966)
The more films I watch of Jean-Pierre Melville, the more I am enamored by both his directing style and, especially, his take on Crime films. I'm not sure if it's because it's French and therefore they step over the limitations of the Hays Code that fettered a lot of American Noir films. Or, simply, and most likely, the skill and style that goes into his film making. And this is no exception. Finding another top-notch story with excellent characters that instantly draws you into the underbelly of France. Including an Inspector, Commissaire Blot (Paul Meurisse) who's wit, charm, and intelligence make for an excellent match for those with who he pursues and is quite familiar.
His first appearance investigating a shootout at a restaurant put an instant smile on my face.
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MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN
(1979, Jones)
A comedy film





Set in 33 AD, Life of Brian follows the, well, life of Brian (Graham Chapman), a young, regular Jewish guy that is somehow mistaken for the Messiah. Despite his reluctance, he ends up being followed both by people who want to praise him as well as soldiers that want to silence and imprison him.

As was expected, the film was condemned, censored, and banned by some religious groups and countries, while also becoming a critically acclaimed box-office hit that's often considered one of the best comedies made. So I suppose you can always look at the bright side of life.

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot
I consider this to be one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. On the shortest of lists.



The Little Things 8/10

Some found it slow, but I actually really enjoyed the performances. Leto was super creepy, Denzel, top notch as always and Malikís character made such bad decisions, but were made to be believable through his acting choices. Solid flick.



The Shooting - This Western directed by Monte Hellman was filmed in 1965 but wasn't released until 1967. It's low budget and I think that's the only strike against it. The small cast is faultless with no weak performances among them. And I don't know if you can consider the dialogue necessarily authentic but it does avoid sounding contrived. Because of the relatively minuscule ($75,000) budget the movie is filmed using mostly natural light with the actors wearing little or no makeup. All these factors somehow end up working in the movies favor.

The singularly talented Warren Oates plays Willet Gashade, an ex bounty hunter turned gold miner. He rides back into camp to find his childlike friend Coley (Will Hutchins) hiding from an unseen gunman. He tells Willet that their friend Leland Drum has been shot dead and that Drum and Willet's brother Coigne had gone into town where a drunken Coigne ran down a man and a "little person". The two break camp to go in search of Coigne and they run across an odd young woman (Millie Perkins) who has shot her horse for no apparent reason. She hires Gashade to take her to a town some distance away. Willet however can't shake the feeling that they're being followed, a suspicion that turns out to be true when gunhand Billy Spear (Jack Nicholson) shows up. The nameless woman has hired him for an unspecified reason.

Anyone watching will note that the movie doesn't overstate things, trusting in the viewer to make their own inferences. So that when the ending comes it is both expected while also satisfying the existential bent of the script. 90/100
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The Beast in Heat (1977)

+


Pretty typical nazsploitation, except one of the ways they torture the female prisoners is with a sex crazed half man half beast. It has it's moments but it's mediocre overall.



Is it controversial to say that Gone With the Wind is a bad film? Visually, it's outstanding, but it's also an apologia for racism with the way it romanticizes slavery, devoting much of the runtime to exploring the positive relations between the O'Hara's and their house slaves, who remain on good terms with them and stand by them throughout the film, even as they're fighting to keep them enslaved in the Civil War. On top of that, Scarlett O'Hara is self-absorbed, unsympathetic, and unlikable (specifically with her behavior towards Ashley). I generally don't have an issue with unlikable characters, but it did seem like the film wanted us to sympathize with her and I had trouble feeling any sympathy for her during these scenes. I also felt worn down by the film's melodrama. I did find a couple scenes powerful, but it often felt like characters were constantly crying throughout the film to the point I grew exhausted by all of it. In fact, speaking of the melodrama,
WARNING: spoilers below
a couple major deaths in the film (Scarlett's father and Melanie) felt like pile on to the already overbearing melodrama.



I haven't seen it in a long, long time, but I never sympathized with Scarlett, and judging by the ending, I assume that wasn't the intention of the book/film.
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I haven't seen it in a long, long time, but I never sympathized with Scarlett, and judging by the ending, I assume that wasn't the intention of the book/film.
Okay, fair, but with that being said, there's still some other things which turned me off of the film, like its flawed politics and the excessive melodrama. Given this, I wouldn't say I liked the film.



Firecracker (1981)

A campy Philippine martial arts film. It's definitely a bad movie, but it's bad in a somewhat positive way. Horribly choreographed fight scenes, minimal plot (mostly just a collection of almost random action scenes), and some sexy stuff thrown into the mix (from an extremely silly sex scene to our heroine fighting only in her panties). Good stuff, in a way, if you're in the right mood (I guess I wasn't, exactly).
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Being There, 1979

A developmentally delayed man named Chance (Peter Sellers) lives in the home of an old man, where he works as a gardener. When the old man dies, Chance is evicted from the home, the only life he has ever known. Accidentally struck by a car that belongs to a well-connected political figure, Chance is brought to their home. The man, Ben (Melvyn Douglas), is seriously ill. As Chance sends time in the home, he becomes close to the man's wife, Eve (Shirley MacLaine). Espousing his simple beliefs about gardening (and always on the lookout for a TV to watch), Chance is quickly mistaken for a savvy, enigmatic political player.

I can distinctly remember being shown part of this movie when I was like 10 years old and just . . . not getting it at all. I don't think that I was able to understand this kind of satire.

On one level, the dynamic of the film is very straightforward. Chance makes a simple statement and everyone around him sees and hears what they want to see and hear. A simple statement about planting schedules translates into a television appearance to discuss the health of the economy.

While the surface level humor of course exists in the space between what Chance says and does and how others interpret that (for example, a feverish rush to find out who he is leads several politicians to assume he may be a high-level operative), what gives the film an extra lift is simply the contrast between the simplicity and kindness of Chance's basic outlook on life and the greed and self-interest of those around him.

Normally in a film of this kind, the main character becomes a sort of angel, bettering all of those around him. And while it is true that Chance does seem to have an impact on some of the characters--such as the family doctor treating Ben--it holds onto a degree of cynicism about the ability of many of the characters to even make a change.

Generally speaking, this is something of a subdued film, but there is still a degree of bite to it. There is a jarring cutaway during the film to the family of another employee of the place where Chance used to work. Using the poor reception of their television set as an unspoken metric of privilege, Chance's former co-worker watches Chance on the TV and muses that being white is all it takes to be successful in the United States. While her speech might seem a bit on the nose and a bit simplistic, it is interesting the way that Chance's improbable rise to prominence confirms some of the worst cultural tropes.

My one area of trepidation with the film were the sequences in which different characters, and particularly Eve, attempt to seduce or otherwise sexually engage with Chance. While this dynamic does result in one very funny scene--Eve misinterpreting Chance saying "I like to watch" and compliantly masturbating for him while he watches a yoga program on the TV--other times I felt it went a bit too far. I think that if you imagine swapping the genders, it seems pretty clear. The idea that other characters assume that Chance wants sex makes sense with the rest of the film. But even within the trappings of satire, watching a woman try to seduce a man who is watching an episode of Mr. Rogers sounded some alarms for me. I think that some of it has to do with the version of developmental disability in the film, which is very much a Hollywood version of such a character.

Overall, though, I enjoyed it, and particularly the audacity of the final 3 or 4 minutes. It's not a film I really anticipate revisiting, but I'm glad I watched it.




The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes - Billy Wilder directed this 1970 Sherlock Holmes movie. Those are two names I never thought of combining. And yet the result is pretty darn good. I do think it takes someone like a Billy Wilder to mix such disparate elements as Russian ballerinas, the Loch Ness monster, midget acrobats, canaries, Queen Victoria, Trappist monks, cocaine and international politics and turn out not only a cohesive story but an entertaining one as well.

Stage actor Robert Stephens does a fine job as Holmes with Colin Blakely capably taking on the role Dr. Watson. Genevieve Page as Gabrielle Valadon, a woman searching for her missing engineer husband, rounds out the three main characters. I was already deep into the mystery and enjoying the proceedings when none other than Christopher Lee showed up as Mycroft Holmes. That just deepened my appreciation for this wonderfully eccentric take on the Holmes mythos. I just wish they had given Lee more screen time. That would have approached perfection. 90/100





Revenge, 2017

A young woman named Jen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) arrives via helicopter to an extravagant desert vacation home with her married lover, Richard (Kevin Janssens). But a fun and sexy weekend goes awry when two of Richard's friends, Dimi (Guillaume Bouchede) and Stan (Vincent Colombe) arrive. When Richard leaves for a few hours, Jen is horrifically assaulted, and when she is unwilling to take a payoff to "forget" what happened, the men leave her brutally injured in the desert.

For the first 30 minutes of this film, I kept thinking over and over about Into the Abyss, Werner Herzog's anti-death penalty documentary. In the documentary, Herzog doesn't center his argument on some poor, innocent man who has been railroaded and injustly sentenced to die. He centers his argument on a man who not only is definitely guilty, but who committed a horrible crime and doesn't seem to have any remorse about it. The details of the crime, including heartbreaking crime-scene footage are shown. And this is the man Hergoz uses to try and argue that the death penalty is wrong.

So how does that connect to Revenge? Put simply, Jen is a "bad" victim of sexual assault. From the misogynist/victim-blaming point of view she does everything wrong. Everything. She knows that Richard is cheating on his wife and she doesn't care. She seems to partly be with him because it will help advance her career. After Dimi and Stan arrive, she continues to dance around the house in revealing, skimpy outfits. She performs a sexy dance for all of the men. She flirts aggressively with them. She laughs at their jokes. She lets them touch her. The next day when one of the men is confused by her suddenly cold demeanor, she is rude and ignores him. When he explicitly confronts her about why she suddenly doesn't like him, she says that he is "too small."

And yet. All of these actions combined are clearly not deserving of the assault that she endures. It is a glorious middle finger to the idea that outrage should be reserved for the victims who "did everything right." Even if Jen had covered up and acted shy and reserved, would things have turned out any different? Does it matter? Does wounded pride ever justify the injury of another person?

Rape/revenge movies are kind of a horror/thriller staple and I have seen more than my fair share. This film systematically subverted every trope that I tend to dislike in the subgenre. To begin with, the actual assault is kept off-screen. The build up to it is long and tense and profoundly uncomfortable. But the camera chooses to follow another character, who literally closes a door on the rape and goes to eat a snack in the kitchen, turning up the TV to drown out Jen's screams. The film takes its time establishing the unsettling dynamic between Jen and the men, but does not wallow in the rape itself. There are times when Jen's body is on display, but her attack is not one of them. The film's focus is more on "how does this happen?" than "Hey, let's watch this happen." There's also (from the first 5 minutes and something that immediately made me suspect a woman directed the movie) a shocking degree of parity when it comes to the nudity on screen. Jen's final showdown is with a nude, bloodied antagonist, and it is both frightening and also right-feeling that he is the one in a primal, exposed state.

From a revenge point of view, the film exists after the first 30 minutes in a sort of heightened reality. Jen loses an absurd amount of blood. She survives a fall from a ridiculous height. She treats her wounds in ways that I won't give away, but that are equally bonkers. Fortunately, the "reality" of the cat-and-mouse game in the desert is consistent. Everyone seems to follow the same rules of strength, endurance, and speed. The action/fight sequences are a bloody mess, and they only get more graphic and more splatter-y as the film progresses. I mean, I kind of loved it.

It's also interesting to see the way that 80% of the character development is of the three men. Their interactions with each other are illuminating, and the different men seem to embody different facets of predation. Stan, who actually commits the rape, is shocked at Richard's brutal treatment of Jen after and even suggests that it's not too late to take her to a hospital and claim everything was an accident. Dimi is the indifferent bystander, turning his back on the crime but also happy to help keep Jen quiet. Richard is the embodiment of entitlement, and the film really captures the way that he is so quickly able to characterize Jen as the enemy who wants to destroy his life and his family. When Richard discovers Jen has been attacked, his anger is not because it's horrible that she was raped, but rather because now this is a mess that he has to clean up.

From a style point of view, it is undeniable that the film looks absolutely fantastic. From the shot of Jen and Richard departing the helicopter to a shot of her bubblegum pink nails grabbing his butt as they start to have sex, the angles and colors of the movies are incredibly bold. There are blunt shots using the blue and pink tinted windows in the home, used to frame certain characters as predators or prey. The desert landscape provides a gorgeous, saturated palate against which Jen's blue shirt and the copious amounts of blood are able to pop. All of the colors are turned up to 11, and it only adds to the dream/nightmare-like vibe of the last 3/4 of the movie. There are also some interesting repeated visuals, such as characters walking alongside bodies of water.

There's also a really bold choice that I loved that is sort of a spoiler (a stylistic one not a narrative one), which is that Jen
WARNING: spoilers below
does not speak (that I remember) after she is pushed off the cliff. I almost wondered, at times, if there was meant to be a supernatural element. There are several moments in which it seems she is being "reborn". But even without words, it is interesting the way that she is able to dominate.


Probably not for everyone, but it was a perfect midnight movie for me.






Deathstalker II. Neither of the leads look like the poster and I don't think it's necessary to see Deathstalker I to follow along with this as it appears to be a stand alone sequel. Stars Monique Gabriel (Tracy from Bachelor Party) as a seer/princess, Reena, looking to reclaim her place as the Princess which was taken from her by an evil sorceress who cloned Reena and put the clone in charge so that she (the sorceress) can manipulate it and rule as she (the sorceress) see's fit. Reena enlists the help of a reluctant Deathstalker to assist her in defeating the evil sorceress and off we go! Movies with plots this complicated are hard to explain so that's about the best I can do. Deathstalker (Stalker, for short) is a bit of an annoying d-bag, kind of a Han Solo/Ash hybrid without the charm and an awful, s**t eating grin, but he kicks ass and saves the day when the plot calls for it. Not usually a fan of bad movies that try to be bad/funny on purpose but this was okay. It has awful acting, terrible dialogue, kind of a stupid plot, bad fx and the fight choreography isn't the best but for a 1980's medieval, sorcery pic you could do worse. It was fun.





There are a few hiccups here and there, but overall a good movie.
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Is it controversial to say that Gone With the Wind is a bad film? Visually, it's outstanding, but it's also an apologia for racism with the way it romanticizes slavery, devoting much of the runtime to exploring the positive relations between the O'Hara's and their house slaves, who remain on good terms with them and stand by them throughout the film, even as they're fighting to keep them enslaved in the Civil War. On top of that, Scarlett O'Hara is self-absorbed, unsympathetic, and unlikable (specifically with her behavior towards Ashley). I generally don't have an issue with unlikable characters, but it did seem like the film wanted us to sympathize with her and I had trouble feeling any sympathy for her during these scenes. I also felt worn down by the film's melodrama. I did find a couple scenes powerful, but it often felt like characters were constantly crying throughout the film to the point I grew exhausted by all of it. In fact, speaking of the melodrama,
WARNING: spoilers below
a couple major deaths in the film (Scarlett's father and Melanie) felt like pile on to the already overbearing melodrama.
Well, it's an interesting question because it's historically considered one of the greatest films ever made and yet modern criticism aligns very much with your thoughts.
Is a film bad if it is not just well-made from stem to stern but well-made enough to be considered at or near the pinnacle of filmmaking of its time but its content is also strongly objectionable?
I don't know the answer to this question.
For what it's worth, I've never liked the film.





Being There, 1979


My one area of trepidation with the film were the sequences in which different characters, and particularly Eve, attempt to seduce or otherwise sexually engage with Chance. While this dynamic does result in one very funny scene--Eve misinterpreting Chance saying "I like to watch" and compliantly masturbating for him while he watches a yoga program on the TV--other times I felt it went a bit too far. I think that if you imagine swapping the genders, it seems pretty clear. The idea that other characters assume that Chance wants sex makes sense with the rest of the film. But even within the trappings of satire, watching a woman try to seduce a man who is watching an episode of Mr. Rogers sounded some alarms for me. I think that some of it has to do with the version of developmental disability in the film, which is very much a Hollywood version of such a character.


Overall, I had similar feelings about Big when Elizabeth Perkins is basically trying to get a twelve year old to have sex with her. I'm sure this seemed funny at the time but it really doesn't hold up well.



Overall, I had similar feelings about Big when Elizabeth Perkins is basically trying to get a twelve year old to have sex with her. I'm sure this seemed funny at the time but it really doesn't hold up well.
RIght.

In both cases, there is a person who, yes, has an adult physical appearance. But in both cases, their behavior goes beyond "quirky" or "carefree". It becomes an ethical issue and it takes a lot of the humor away for me.