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The 27th General Hall of Fame

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I just realized that nobody reviewed my nomination yet. I wonder who's going to be first.
I assume it'll be one of the last I watch. Seen it semi-recently but not recently enough to skip it with a clear conscience. It's also not my kind of film and actually, the one I'm least thrilled to watch out of all noms (note, this doesn't mean I expect it to be the worst - my original rating was 2.5/5 I'd remember).
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Demons / 修羅 (1971)
Directed by: Toshio Matsumoto
Starring: Katsuo Nakamura, Yasuko Sanjo, Masao Imafuku

Demons has a fantastic visual style. It's an interesting mixture of restraint and bold decisions that manage to compliment each other very well. The stark contract between pitch black shadows and bright light is very reminiscent of German Expressionism, drawing focus and creating striking imagery.

The film itself is filled with desire and despair. Fantasized outcomes, and the promise of revenge are weighed down by an oppressive atmosphere and a tragic chain of events. Seemingly simple matters become increasingly complex, as separate elements of the story begin weaving together as the finale draws near.

Kabuki theatre was an obvious inspiration for Demons, both visually and stylistically, with the actors' performances similarly exaggerated. Nakamura does a particularly fine job, but the entire cast was great. Everything about the film is engaging, and it was a highly enjoyable viewing experience.


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Cure, 1997

Kenichi Takabe (Koji Yakusho) is a detective investigating a series of murders with eerie similarities. Though the crimes are all committed by people they easily find and catch, none of them seems able to explain the reason for the killing, nor do they seem to have any connection with each other. That is until a common thread does emerge, an amnesiac young man named Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara) who came into contact with the perpetrators before they committed their crimes.

This is another rewatch for me, and a film I definitely enjoyed the second time around.

There is such a potent, unrelenting sense of unease in this film. The whole thing has a jaundiced color palette, as if the life has already been sucked out of everyone we meet. When there is a spot of brightness---such as the startling red of a dress at the dry cleaner's---it feels more like a warning than a relief from the muted tones. Then there is the way that the film is show, often at a distance from the characters. Close ups are used almost entirely to give us the perspective of a character in a certain moment.

The settings themselves feel unabashedly drawn from the vast well of horror imagery. Mental hospitals with long, dark hallways. Cells made of stone lit with yellow lights. Abandoned buildings where the wind howls through broken windows.

The mystery itself is intriguing. What power, exactly, does Mamiya have over the people he encounters? Through the film we see suggestions that this is a world brimming with anger, such as a man in a shop raving to himself. Is Mamiya simply tapping into some of that rage, or has he found a way to make people do something that is not actually in their hearts? In a later scene,
WARNING: spoilers below
a psychiatrist who realizes he has been "touched" by Mamiya chooses to handcuff himself to a pipe, finally turning his homicidal impulses on himself rather than kill someone else. Was he being taken over, or did he merely realize he had some urge to harm/kill inside?
.

Hagiwara's performance as Mamiya is enjoyably frustrating. Perpetually evasive, one is never sure if he is playing a game or sincere. Does he understand the effect he has on others? Is his memory loss genuine? Or is it all an act? Either way, it is horrifying.

The first time I watched this film, I really struggled to pay attention to it. Or maybe that's not quite the right way to put it, but I didn't feel like I was in tune with its rhythms. I'd find that I'd spaced out on some dialogue or didn't quite get who a certain character was. It was the same thing this time around, but I think that it's just how I interact with the way the film is shot and edited, which has a kind of dreamy, unanchored feeling to it.

Great stuff, and even knowing how all the twists and turns would pan out I still really loved watching it all play out. Fantastic ending as well.




Mad Love (1985)


To my surprise, this was on Netflix here in Finland, so no issues finding a good quality copy. This is my second film by Zulawski, the first is Possession which I like. There are similarities between the two films, especially the acting, but this one is more energetic, wild, and chaotic. It's also infuriatingly peppy, preposterous, and a prime example of what I despise in modern art, or "art."

Zulawski knows how to make a good-looking film. Sadly, the writing is modernism in a nutshell; non-sensical dialogue, absurd characters, theatrical over-done insanity, and artsy incoherence. Honestly, I can't even say if this tries too hard to be art, or is it a parody of that. It's amusing at times in a similar manner as watching a drunkard stumble while yelling some nonsense, but I don't think that's enough to make it a good movie.

I can't say I hated Mad Love, though. Once I got the hang of its absurdity, it had its moments. I may not have enjoyed it the way Zulawski intended, but at least I had some chuckles out of the film. Sophie Marceau is also such a beauty.





Mad Love (1985)

I could almost love this one, it has a lot going for it. The visuals are stunning and I don't mean just the pretty things like the red safe room, the alps and the courtesan. I mean the way it's filmed. Even the cobble stone streets and cement causeways and that decrypted old room where they eventually are held up...all are a visual smorgasbord.

I actually liked the oh-so-tragic-ness of the characters as they lament their unfulfilled love and choices in life. I even liked the metaphorical dialogue. I can't say I understood all the seagull talk but it sounded way deep.

But what didn't work for me was the comedy, no wonder the French thought Jerry Lewis was a comic god. The guys in the film act as silly as Jerry Lewis with all the bird sounds and flaying around.

I did like that the gang violence was more stylized and theatrical in nature and not hardcore or gritty. In fact I like the tie-in to the theater and acting as a parable for the characters plight.

Pretty interesting movie.
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The Secret of Roan Inish (John Sayles, 1995)
Imdb

Date Watched: 01/19/22
Rewatch: No.


I don’t have much to say about this. I don’t like folklore/fantasy stuff and live action family movies only work for me if they’re movies I grew up with. I don’t hate this, the scenery’s pretty and the seals are cute, but I wasn’t at all invested in its characters or its story.

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P.S. I think Siddon is going to LOVE Jamie’s scenes.




Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
I think Spielberg might just be above my pay grade because I don't understand this one either. I don't know how to engage with films that have no energy or feeling or texture to them. Only neutral feelings outside of getting pretty bored while the dudes are yapping on the boat in that one really long scene and thinking the handful of lowlight shots looked good. Like, I'm already out of things to remark on. I don't know which one I'm ranking above which yet but I at least had some feelings about Indy. Just 2hrs. left in the cold with nothing to sink my teeth into.




Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
I think Spielberg might just be above my pay grade because I don't understand this one either. I don't know how to engage with films that have no energy or feeling or texture to them. Only neutral feelings outside of getting pretty bored while the dudes are yapping on the boat in that one really long scene
Hey now, I'm not as big a fan of it as I'm "supposed to be" either, but even I felt that was a great scene.






L'Amour Braque -


Since I haven’t read The Idiot, anything by authors mentioned in the movie like Kafka, the play that’s staged in it, The Seagull, or seen any other movies by Andrzej Zulawski, I felt so out of the loop from frame one that I might as well have left the subtitles off. As a result, I can only share my thoughts on what I think happens.

The love triangle between Maria, Leon and Micky is fascinating for how it depicts the mind of an abuse victim. Does Maria really love Micky, or is being abused what she's used to? As for her dalliance with Leon, does she really just want to know what it's like to be in control? I would fail a test on the gang war if one existed, but I sort of see the same abuser and victim dynamic in the love triangle playing out in it, and both plots may be representative of the Cold War-addled world at the time. The repeated mentions of the many other wars happening in the world, for instance, led me to this conclusion, not to mention reminded me of the general atmosphere of the Watchmen graphic novel. Then again, are we really supposed to understand the details of the gang war? Is Leon, like Yojimbo, the outsider whose reactions to this and the greater nonsense happening in the real world meant to reflect our own attitudes towards them? My favorite scene in the movie is the one where Maria and Leon take refuge in the mountains for how it provides relief from all this chaos. It seems to verify my assumption because as soon as Micky discovers their hideout, that chaotic vibe returns immediately.

Again, I went into this movie as coldly possible, so maybe I'm the idiot (pardon the bad joke) for trying to make sense of all of this. Maybe Zulawski is a Dadaist and/or this is an attempt at a feature-length movie in the spirit of Un Chien Andalou? Whatever the case may be, there are enough things I like in the movie for me to give it a slight recommendation. The cinematography is appropriately all over the place and it reminds me of the camerawork in Sam Raimi's best works. The look and feel with its slightly surreal color scheme and use of actual locations is also right up my alley, the standout being the Venin screening room, which might as well have inspired the vaporwave aesthetic. With that said, my typical feeling while watching this is how I'd likely feel while trying to assemble IKEA's most complex piece of furniture without the instructions. I’m at least oddly comforted by the facts that I still have room to grow as a movie lover and that I’m not going to completely understand everything I watch.




Shura (Toshio Matsumoto, 1971)
I'll always think of Matsumoto as a short film director even though (spoilers) I've quite enjoyed all the features I've seen from him (this and he did one of my all time faves which I will certainly be nominating for a Hall at some point) and from what I've seen of his work he's an extremely versatile filmmaker. The two features I've seen aren't even remotely similar and all his shorts seem to be trying something new. He's an artist I really respect.

Now, I'm no expert on period pieces like this but this isn't necessarily the most original film you'll ever see but its a strong take on an established style. The lighting obviously takes center stage here and I wish I was more knowledgeable about lighting so I could express why its so good (not like I can express anything else well either) but its very high contrast and creates an unshakable mood to the film. Everything feels so bleak and inescapable. The camerawork isn't too too flashy but it does some creative stuff that doesn't distract from the film while still being like woah!. You have the slick trucking shots you expect from the style, which are great, but you also get a few of these shots that pan off into the darkness and slide a sneaky cut in there as it pans back to a different shot and those moments always really feel like a moment, y'know? Despite the longish runtime, I found this really flew by. I don't know if there's anything here that like super blew me away but its just so solid throughout and feels so in control of itself without feeling constrained or forced. Holds up on this second viewing.



I'll kill anyone who get's in the way of me killin



The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)

A lovely Irish folk tale done true as the day is long.

Little Fiona, having lost her mother and her grieving father, unable to look after her, is sent to her grandparents by the sea. She learns of Roan Inish (Seal Island) and the magical connection between her family, who once lived there, and the selkies. Of her missing younger brother who drifted out to sea in a cradle made by, as the story goes, an ancestor who is said to be a selkie herself.

A picturesque, calming, heart-warming story told with love for the subject matter and accompanied accordingly by folk music.
Simply told, there are no over-the-top theatrics or moments of outrageous spectacles. Like the lapping of the sea, the bobbing of the seals, its sublime magic is interwoven with those living hand in hand with the sea.
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What to do if you find yourself stuck with no hope of rescue:
Consider yourself lucky that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your present circumstances seems more likely, consider yourself lucky that it won't be troubling you much longer.





True Romance, 1993

Clarence (Christian Slater) meets call girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette) and the two quickly hit it off. When Clarence goes to retrieve Alabama's things from her pimp, he accidentally ends up with a suitcase full of drugs. A lot of drugs. Making their way to Los Angeles to sell the drugs and get a fresh start, Clarence and Alabama don't realize that they've gotten themselves tangled up with the mob.

I saw this film years ago, and my vague memory was not loving it a ton. This time around my reaction was kind of the same.

The best element of the movie is the cast. This thing is so chock-full of recognizable faces it's ridiculous. Even more so when you realize that some of them are there for like a minute and a half of screen time. And a lot of these actors are people I love seeing pop up in a film, like Conchata Ferrell or Saul Rubinek.

Largely, though, this is a film that doesn't work for me, and that's largely down to how I feel about the main characters. Specifically, they are the worst.

I know that a movie doesn't have to be full of likeable characters to be great, but the film clearly wants us to root for Clarence and Alabama, but I just couldn't get there. Clarence is such a tool. He is careless and thoughtless and full of bravado in a way that just leaves me feeling frustrated and annoyed. He gets a lot of people hurt or killed, some of them innocent. And Alabama, seeing this all as "romantic" and shrugging her way through all the death and destruction equally rubs me the wrong way.

I understand that many people like Tarantino as a writer, but every word he puts on the page sounds so utterly contrived to my ear. Now, some of the actors manage to really harness the cadence of it or sell it through sheer presence. Walken's delivery of "You got me in a vendetta kind of mood" is amazing. But everything that lands is followed by something that just kills the moments. The "vendetta" line is great. So why is it followed by "Go tell all the angels in heaven . . . blah blah blah"? Excess doesn't work when there's no variation--no stillness or relief from it. The only time that the film reached an enjoyable level of excess for me was in the absurdly bloody final shootout.

What really makes this film hard for me is that all of the characters seem to be operating on the same frequency. There's no normalcy. And the weird result of that is that the film feels one-note and monotone. There's also a weird fetishization of "cool stuff", most glaringly the fact that everyone in this reality is obsessed with Elvis, to the point that his friend shows up wearing an Elvis shirt. There's a sense of straining for iconic moments and that feeling of effort is exhausting.

I think that I liked the film a bit more this time around. I think that this time I was able to enjoy certain sections separate from the movie around them. But overall my main feeling was resenting having to root for these two selfish goobers while spicy marimba music told me how fun and in love they were.






Thunder Road (Jim Cummings, 2018)
Imdb

Date Watched: 01/20/22
Rewatch: No.


This didn’t work for me. This movie really tried too hard with its attempts at awkward comedy. Rather than making me laugh, it just made me uncomfortable and the result of that was that I found Jim to be a very off-putting character and frankly had no desire to root for him. He struck me as an incompetent buffoon - as an officer and as a father- and I just felt nothing for him. If Cummings had dropped his awkward shtick and just made a straight drama, or even toned it down, I might’ve connected on some level but such was not the case.




If Cummings had dropped his awkward shtick and just made a straight drama, or even toned it down, I might’ve connected on some level but such was not the case.
Pretty much how I felt about The Wolf of Snow Hollow (I guess you could exchange drama with horror for that one), so I'm assuming this is more of the same.



Baby Face (1933) -


I found this to be a compelling film as the likability of Stanwyck's character resonated with me the most. Watching the earlier scenes in the bar, it wasn't hard to see why Lily rebelled against the men she encountered at the bank. Her father forced her to sleep with her customers for many years and her daily routine in the bar involved men putting their hands on her to ask for requests and other men asking to sleep with her. Due to that, the early scenes of her seducing the men in her workplace to move higher up (I like how her ascent is represented by the camera moving up different floors in the bank from outside) are liberating to watch. As this goes on though, the impact she has on the other men keeps growing more and more severe. First, she gets a worker fired, she then complicates a relationship with another man and his wife, and she finally causes a major tragedy (one she doesn't seem bothered by). Watching her humanity slip away as she keeps getting carried away with her original goal is tragic, especially given how much I cared for her at the start of the film. I also found it interesting how Chico, her best friend in the bar, didn't advance in rank with her and remained as a maid all throughout the film. That was a nice touch of social commentary which showed how minority races will have an especially hard time of getting a high paying job in that environment. Looking at some of the reviews, I noticed there were some mixed reactions to the ending. Some people really liked it, while others felt it didn't work. On one hand, I felt like the remorse Lily eventually showed was earned and a compelling culmination to her arc, but on the other hand, I think the film wrapped itself up into too neat of a bow (this is an issue I've noticed a few times for movies with unlikable protagonists) and, given some of the things Lily caused in the film, her outcome at the end didn't feel earned. This is a minor issue though. Ending aside, I really enjoyed this film.

Next Up: Cure



One Cut of the Dead



Spoilerish

I think just about anything said about this movie would be spoilerish. I had to watch it twice which seems to be becoming a habit for me with Cosmic noms. I had it on my watchlist already, I think just because it's horror and has high ratings, because I knew absolutely nothing about it going in.

The first time I watched it I think I was caught too off gaurd to enjoy it. During the first 36 minutes I was thinking, is this all it's going to be? After the 36 minutes I was thinking, wtf, is this some crappy anthology horror? Of course it all made sense after a while, but the state I was in had me thinking, couldn't they still have made the first 36 minutes more compelling anyway? So I watched it again, and this time I enjoyed the first 36 minutes.

The whole movie within a movie thing is hardly an original concept when it comes to horror movies. This movie just does it better. Actually this isn't even a horror movie, just horror themed I guess I'd say. I don't even know if I'd call it a horror comedy. I'm not sure what to call it, I just know it was a lot of fun. The cast is extremely likable, and in the end I felt like I had watched a feel good movie. That's the last thing I expected. Great nom!

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