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Lilting (Hong Khaou, 2014)

This is another movie I saw being suggested in GBG's 2010's Recommendations thread. I hadn't even heard of it before then,

Although it's rather short, this is definitely a movie that requires patience and full engagement. It's a slow meditation on grief, guilt, obligation, and understanding. Ben Whishaw gives a particularly strong performance as a young man trying to connect with his dead boyfriend's Chinese-Cambodian mother - who doesn't like him, speaks no English, and doesn't know that her son was gay. Cheng Pei Pei is also excellent as the dead man's mother and gives a lot of humanity to a character that might otherwise have come off as cold, particularly in the film's earlier scenes.

It's a very moving film and one that I'll probably watch again, but my shortlist for the 2010s countdown is now at 82 films so its chances of making the final cut are pretty slim.




10 Foreign Language movies to go
I saw this movie on TV when I was like 11 years old, and even then I realized that the ending
WARNING: spoilers below
was borderline parody. They survive, and the last scene is them being paid like a million dollars for a book deal, right?


Once I saw the original, many years later, the difference in the films was so stark.
WARNING: spoilers below
They make a joke about the coffee and laugh I think - like the whole film has been this cheap half hour episode of some popular show.


I have a funny relationship with this movie in that I was in college and I was willing to see a good foreign film even if they weren't really my thing yet, and I saw this film and decided that there was just no way that any version of this could really be that compelling. So I never saw the original.
And then at pretty much the same time, I guess a month or two later, I saw Point Of No Return and I was a pretty big fan of Nikita and I realized how badly Hollywood remade European films.
But for poor Spoorloos, the damage had been done. I mean, it's been almost 30 years and I've still never given it a shot because of how totally unremarkable The Vanishing is.
You can see why I might have been so angry. I mean, it's one thing to remake your film and for it to have simply lost some of it's shine - but to turn it into something so off-putting was a shame.
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But for poor Spoorloos, the damage had been done. I mean, it's been almost 30 years and I've still never given it a shot because of how totally unremarkable The Vanishing is.
They are completely different films, and you'll know it 5 minutes in. Highly recommended.





No bueno. Has too much silliness for my taste, which made it kinda boring midway through. Story is as basic as they come, the ending is very predictable and I only endure it for the post credits scenes.
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Lilting (Hong Khaou, 2014)

This is another movie I saw being suggested in GBG's 2010's Recommendations thread. I hadn't even heard of it before then,

Although it's rather short, this is definitely a movie that requires patience and full engagement. It's a slow meditation on grief, guilt, obligation, and understanding. Ben Whishaw gives a particularly strong performance as a young man trying to connect with his dead boyfriend's Chinese-Cambodian mother - who doesn't like him, speaks no English, and doesn't know that her son was gay. Cheng Pei Pei is also excellent as the dead man's mother and gives a lot of humanity to a character that might otherwise have come off as cold, particularly in the film's earlier scenes.

It's a very moving film and one that I'll probably watch again, but my shortlist for the 2010s countdown is now at 82 films so its chances of making the final cut are pretty slim.

This was a recent viewing for me, and I loved it. I'm excited to revisit it sometime. The performances are great, but there's also something really special about the way that the camera moves and how it connects to the different shifts in time.



Victim of The Night


No bueno. Has too much silliness for my taste, which made it kinda boring midway through. Story is as basic as they come, the ending is very predictable and I only endure it for the post credits scenes.
Yeah, I was a huge fan of Rangarok and this movie sucked.





Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942

In this biographical musical, George Cohan (James Cagney) navigates the theatrical life from child stardom to producing his own musicals.

It's never a good thing--to me--when a film claiming to be biographical decides to take rampant liberties with the truth in order to drum up drama. But this film shows that the opposite can be true. Pretty much every hint of difficulty or conflict seems to resolve itself in about five minutes, and you could say "And everything was fine" after just about every moment of drama.

There are some fun musical numbers in the first third of the film as Cohan is making his rise through the industry, striking out on his own after his abrasive personality alienates the audience of his family's show.

But what's missing from this movie is heart. Cagney is fine in the lead role when it comes to the acting and the dancing, but his singing style is the good old speak-singing thing. This feels especially problematic when the people around him are out and out singing their parts.

I suppose the details of Cohan's life would be interesting to a fan of Broadway shows, but there wasn't much to hold me to the story. Cohan's life is never particularly difficult. The worst thing that happens to him is that he's a huge jerk and people don't want to work with him. But then he, you know, matures and that isn't a problem anymore. His relationship with his wife, Mary (Joan Leslie) is untroubled, as is his relationship with his family.

Having to cover the entirety of Cohan's life means taking big leaps in time and resolving situations in a matter of minutes. There's a lot of telling instead of showing. Nowhere is this more evident than in a late sequence where Cohan wins a Congressional Medal of Honor. We are shown a close up of the medal as the inscription is read aloud. Then the man presenting it to him ---the President!--gives a pat few lines about how patriotic music is just as powerful as any weapon.

This is by no means a slam on Cohan himself, who it sounds like worked hard and excelled in his profession. I did like a sequence where Cohan finds a parade singing one of his songs as they march.

I don't know. Overall this one just left me a bit cold.




Victim of The Night


Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942

In this biographical musical, George Cohan (James Cagney) navigates the theatrical life from child stardom to producing his own musicals.

It's never a good thing--to me--when a film claiming to be biographical decides to take rampant liberties with the truth in order to drum up drama. But this film shows that the opposite can be true. Pretty much every hint of difficulty or conflict seems to resolve itself in about five minutes, and you could say "And everything was fine" after just about every moment of drama.

There are some fun musical numbers in the first third of the film as Cohan is making his rise through the industry, striking out on his own after his abrasive personality alienates the audience of his family's show.

But what's missing from this movie is heart. Cagney is fine in the lead role when it comes to the acting and the dancing, but his singing style is the good old speak-singing thing. This feels especially problematic when the people around him are out and out singing their parts.

I suppose the details of Cohan's life would be interesting to a fan of Broadway shows, but there wasn't much to hold me to the story. Cohan's life is never particularly difficult. The worst thing that happens to him is that he's a huge jerk and people don't want to work with him. But then he, you know, matures and that isn't a problem anymore. His relationship with his wife, Mary (Joan Leslie) is untroubled, as is his relationship with his family.

Having to cover the entirety of Cohan's life means taking big leaps in time and resolving situations in a matter of minutes. There's a lot of telling instead of showing. Nowhere is this more evident than in a late sequence where Cohan wins a Congressional Medal of Honor. We are shown a close up of the medal as the inscription is read aloud. Then the man presenting it to him ---the President!--gives a pat few lines about how patriotic music is just as powerful as any weapon.

This is by no means a slam on Cohan himself, who it sounds like worked hard and excelled in his profession. I did like a sequence where Cohan finds a parade singing one of his songs as they march.

I don't know. Overall this one just left me a bit cold.

Bummer. I really like this one and have seen it at least a dozen times. This movie is all just about watching Cagney (although I thought Joan Leslie was great too). To watch The Public Enemy and then this really makes Cagney a legend to me. I'd seen YDD probably 6-10 times before I finally saw The Public Enemy in college for the first time (on the big screen, no less). And I was like, "What? George M. Cohan's a stone-cold killer?!" He was awesome in Ragtime too.
The other main thing about YDD is its relentless optimism and upbeat attitude. That always puts me right. Of course, I watch this on July 4th most years. Even though I am a firm believer that July 4th is celebrating a bunch of rich white slave-owning men who didn't want to pay their taxes.



Bummer. I really like this one and have seen it at least a dozen times. This movie is all just about watching Cagney (although I thought Joan Leslie was great too).
Cagney was fine. (Though Oscar winning? Meh.) The movie around him just felt too pat and simplistic.

The other main thing about YDD is its relentless optimism and upbeat attitude. That always puts me right. Of course, I watch this on July 4th most years. Even though I am a firm believer that July 4th is celebrating a bunch of rich white slave-owning men who didn't want to pay their taxes.
With very little genuine emotional connection, I had a mixed response to the rah-rah patriotic nature of the film. Especially when it's a film set in New York and Washington DC and there was one scene with Black characters and they were servants with no dialogue. It also totally sidelines its female characters, including talking about women who are dead or married in the same way ("gone"). I mean, I get that this is a biography about a white man, so I'm not like "Boo! Why was so much of this film centered on a white person?!?!". What I'm saying is that the film is so locked into his perspective and so oblivious to any other point of view or reality that I found it hard to connect. At times I sympathized with George. Mostly I found him annoying (when he was a kid) or just felt distanced and neutral about him. If asked to point to any compelling arc or character growth, I come up blank.



Victim of The Night
Cagney was fine. (Though Oscar winning? Meh.) The movie around him just felt too pat and simplistic.



With very little genuine emotional connection, I had a mixed response to the rah-rah patriotic nature of the film. Especially when it's a film set in New York and Washington DC and there was one scene with Black characters and they were servants with no dialogue. It also totally sidelines its female characters, including talking about women who are dead or married in the same way ("gone"). I mean, I get that this is a biography about a white man, so I'm not like "Boo! Why was so much of this film centered on a white person?!?!". What I'm saying is that the film is so locked into his perspective and so oblivious to any other point of view or reality that I found it hard to connect. At times I sympathized with George. Mostly I found him annoying (when he was a kid) or just felt distanced and neutral about him. If asked to point to any compelling arc or character growth, I come up blank.
Oh, I don't care about the rah rah patriotic part it's more about Cohan's relentless optimism.



Oh, I don't care about the rah rah patriotic part it's more about Cohan's relentless optimism.
For me there wasn't enough hardship for me to find his character's outlook inspiring.

A talented person was successful in his career, and it didn't go much deeper than that for me.





American Beauty, 1999

Lester (Kevin Spacey) is in the throes of a midlife crisis, living with a wife named Carolyn (Annette Bening) who is materialistic and frustrated in her own job as a real estate agent. Their teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), is also miserable--miserable with her body and miserable with her parents' endless sniping. But things shift dramatically when Lester becomes sexually fixated on Jane's friend Angela (Mena Suvari) and Jane becomes involved with a boy named Ricky (Wes Bentley) who just moved in next door.

I know that this movie is generally well regarded. Ehhhh . . .

For the entire runtime this film felt fractured--I was able to see it as a collection of parts, but it never totally cohered for me as a single entity.

My favorite aspect was the visual elements. I was very into the bold use of color, and specifically the repeated scheme of red bursts against white backgrounds. There were many stunning shots, including one of the house's red door in a rainstorm that I thought was really breathtaking. Overall I liked the direction.

Performance-wise, the film is really strong in a certain sense. These days I really struggle to immerse myself in films where every actor on screen is a big-name actor. Heck, even one of the no-dialogue bit parts was played by someone who is high profile (Jon Cho as a potential house buyer). Everyone is good in their roles, though really this is the Kevin Spacey Show. Get ready to clutch your pearls, my separate-the-art-from-the-artist friends, but knowing that Spacey engaged in sexually predatory behavior in real life made it less than fun to watch the camera lovingly document his every little quirk as his character engaged in sexually predatory behavior. At times was he really funny? Yes. But this is a movie full of capital-P Performances, something I find a bit exhausting at the best of times.

Ultimately, though, I did not care for the writing. The worst was the writing of the two teenage girls. How do you know that a middle-aged man is writing the dialogue for teen girls? Oh, I don't know. Maybe by having them reference Christy Turlington? Birch and Suvari were good in their roles, but my God did I cringe every time they had a conversation.

I also take issue with the last act for several reasons.

First
WARNING: spoilers below
I'm sorry, but Lester's last minute change of heart about Angela? I didn't buy it for a second. He goes from making out with her to wrapping her in a blanket (gag) and making her a meal (double gag)? It feels incredibly unearned and honestly gives the sense that the film is trying to pull a last minute redemption for a man who has been emotionally and borderline physically abusive to his wife and child.

Second, the reveal that Ricky's dad is gay (or bi-curious or whatever)? I know that some people love the line that homophobes are secretly gay. This view, in an of itself, is homophobic. It posits that the persecution and violence towards gay people is done . . . by gay people. This is exacerbated by the fact that Ricky's dad kills Lester seemingly not because his middle-aged neighbor was having sexual relations with his teenage son, but because he rejected him sexually.


Finally, I really hated the arc with Ricky's character. His stalking of Jane is romanticized and it's gross. Ricky is repeatedly positioned as the voice of reason and I don't even have words for how dumb I find that.

The comedy stuff worked for me, generally speaking, but the drama side of things was a hot--and occasionally offensive--mess. I'm still mulling over my feelings about the way that the film seemingly parodies the obsession with teenage girls and indulges in that obsession with the way that it portrays the body of its two young women leads.




Victim of The Night


American Beauty, 1999

Lester (Kevin Spacey) is in the throes of a midlife crisis, living with a wife named Carolyn (Annette Bening) who is materialistic and frustrated in her own job as a real estate agent. Their teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), is also miserable--miserable with her body and miserable with her parents' endless sniping. But things shift dramatically when Lester becomes sexually fixated on Jane's friend Angela (Mena Suvari) and Jane becomes involved with a boy named Ricky (Wes Bentley) who just moved in next door.

I know that this movie is generally well regarded. Ehhhh . . .

For the entire runtime this film felt fractured--I was able to see it as a collection of parts, but it never totally cohered for me as a single entity.

My favorite aspect was the visual elements. I was very into the bold use of color, and specifically the repeated scheme of red bursts against white backgrounds. There were many stunning shots, including one of the house's red door in a rainstorm that I thought was really breathtaking. Overall I liked the direction.

Performance-wise, the film is really strong in a certain sense. These days I really struggle to immerse myself in films where every actor on screen is a big-name actor. Heck, even one of the no-dialogue bit parts was played by someone who is high profile (Jon Cho as a potential house buyer). Everyone is good in their roles, though really this is the Kevin Spacey Show. Get ready to clutch your pearls, my separate-the-art-from-the-artist friends, but knowing that Spacey engaged in sexually predatory behavior in real life made it less than fun to watch the camera lovingly document his every little quirk as his character engaged in sexually predatory behavior. At times was he really funny? Yes. But this is a movie full of capital-P Performances, something I find a bit exhausting at the best of times.

Ultimately, though, I did not care for the writing. The worst was the writing of the two teenage girls. How do you know that a middle-aged man is writing the dialogue for teen girls? Oh, I don't know. Maybe by having them reference Christy Turlington? Birch and Suvari were good in their roles, but my God did I cringe every time they had a conversation.

I also take issue with the last act for several reasons.

First
WARNING: spoilers below
I'm sorry, but Lester's last minute change of heart about Angela? I didn't buy it for a second. He goes from making out with her to wrapping her in a blanket (gag) and making her a meal (double gag)? It feels incredibly unearned and honestly gives the sense that the film is trying to pull a last minute redemption for a man who has been emotionally and borderline physically abusive to his wife and child.

Second, the reveal that Ricky's dad is gay (or bi-curious or whatever)? I know that some people love the line that homophobes are secretly gay. This view, in an of itself, is homophobic. It posits that the persecution and violence towards gay people is done . . . by gay people. This is exacerbated by the fact that Ricky's dad kills Lester seemingly not because his middle-aged neighbor was having sexual relations with his teenage son, but because he rejected him sexually.


Finally, I really hated the arc with Ricky's character. His stalking of Jane is romanticized and it's gross. Ricky is repeatedly positioned as the voice of reason and I don't even have words for how dumb I find that.

The comedy stuff worked for me, generally speaking, but the drama side of things was a hot--and occasionally offensive--mess. I'm still mulling over my feelings about the way that the film seemingly parodies the obsession with teenage girls and indulges in that obsession with the way that it portrays the body of its two young women leads.

Yeah, this is a movie that I saw in the theater and thought was very good if kinda bizarre in its narrative to one that simply didn't pass the fridge test in about an hour or so for me.





American Beauty, 1999

Lester (Kevin Spacey) is in the throes of a midlife crisis, living with a wife named Carolyn (Annette Bening) who is materialistic and frustrated in her own job as a real estate agent. Their teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), is also miserable--miserable with her body and miserable with her parents' endless sniping. But things shift dramatically when Lester becomes sexually fixated on Jane's friend Angela (Mena Suvari) and Jane becomes involved with a boy named Ricky (Wes Bentley) who just moved in next door.

I know that this movie is generally well regarded. Ehhhh . . .

For the entire runtime this film felt fractured--I was able to see it as a collection of parts, but it never totally cohered for me as a single entity.

My favorite aspect was the visual elements. I was very into the bold use of color, and specifically the repeated scheme of red bursts against white backgrounds. There were many stunning shots, including one of the house's red door in a rainstorm that I thought was really breathtaking. Overall I liked the direction.

Performance-wise, the film is really strong in a certain sense. These days I really struggle to immerse myself in films where every actor on screen is a big-name actor. Heck, even one of the no-dialogue bit parts was played by someone who is high profile (Jon Cho as a potential house buyer). Everyone is good in their roles, though really this is the Kevin Spacey Show. Get ready to clutch your pearls, my separate-the-art-from-the-artist friends, but knowing that Spacey engaged in sexually predatory behavior in real life made it less than fun to watch the camera lovingly document his every little quirk as his character engaged in sexually predatory behavior. At times was he really funny? Yes. But this is a movie full of capital-P Performances, something I find a bit exhausting at the best of times.

Ultimately, though, I did not care for the writing. The worst was the writing of the two teenage girls. How do you know that a middle-aged man is writing the dialogue for teen girls? Oh, I don't know. Maybe by having them reference Christy Turlington? Birch and Suvari were good in their roles, but my God did I cringe every time they had a conversation.

I also take issue with the last act for several reasons.

First
WARNING: spoilers below
I'm sorry, but Lester's last minute change of heart about Angela? I didn't buy it for a second. He goes from making out with her to wrapping her in a blanket (gag) and making her a meal (double gag)? It feels incredibly unearned and honestly gives the sense that the film is trying to pull a last minute redemption for a man who has been emotionally and borderline physically abusive to his wife and child.

Second, the reveal that Ricky's dad is gay (or bi-curious or whatever)? I know that some people love the line that homophobes are secretly gay. This view, in an of itself, is homophobic. It posits that the persecution and violence towards gay people is done . . . by gay people. This is exacerbated by the fact that Ricky's dad kills Lester seemingly not because his middle-aged neighbor was having sexual relations with his teenage son, but because he rejected him sexually.


Finally, I really hated the arc with Ricky's character. His stalking of Jane is romanticized and it's gross. Ricky is repeatedly positioned as the voice of reason and I don't even have words for how dumb I find that.

The comedy stuff worked for me, generally speaking, but the drama side of things was a hot--and occasionally offensive--mess. I'm still mulling over my feelings about the way that the film seemingly parodies the obsession with teenage girls and indulges in that obsession with the way that it portrays the body of its two young women leads.

Your review reflects a lot of my thoughts towards the film, except I'd probably rate it a bit lower.
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American Beauty, 1999

I know that this movie is generally well regarded. Ehhhh . . .
I think it was better regarded in '99 than it is now, if that helps.

As for the end,
 
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Yeah, this is a movie that I saw in the theater and thought was very good if kinda bizarre in its narrative to one that simply didn't pass the fridge test in about an hour or so for me.
Your review reflects a lot of my thoughts towards the film, except I'd probably rate it a bit lower.
I almost scored it a
, but visuals go a long way for me.

I think it was better regarded in '99 than it is now, if that helps.

As for the end,
 
It's not just that
WARNING: spoilers below
it's a downer ending, but rather the way that it so relentlessly centers Lester. And I agree totally with why it feels unearned. I think it comes down to that last minute 180 of Lester being decent and finding inner peace. I think that the film would have had more charge if he'd actually slept with Angela and then been killed. I do not like the way that the last few minutes try to drum of sympathy for Lester.
.

Currently my favorite thing about the film is the part where Annette Bening is standing in front of that "native stone" fireplace. I literally have the same thing in my house and I have a love-hate relationship with it. Now when I look at it I'll have to imagine Jon Cho silently judging it.



It's not just that
WARNING: spoilers below
it's a downer ending, but rather the way that it so relentlessly centers Lester. And I agree totally with why it feels unearned. I think it comes down to that last minute 180 of Lester being decent and finding inner peace. I think that the film would have had more charge if he'd actually slept with Angela and then been killed. I do not like the way that the last few minutes try to drum of sympathy for Lester.
.
WARNING: spoilers below
Right, it's borderline comedy in spots, and Lester has turned over a new leaf at the end, so to end it that way just seemed calculated to be shocking. But in an unearned way that struck me as dishonest at the time.



10 Foreign Language movies to go

By https://twitter.com/mfdahmermovie, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54616958

My Friend Dahmer - (2017)

It's always hard to believe that notorious, infamous or hugely famous people once went to high school, were nobodies, and went through what we all go through. In the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, I had read about him a bit and knew about his childhood, but really didn't know much about what he did in high school. A cartoonist with a strange pseudonym, John "Derf" Backderf, was relatively "close" to him - as during his final year, Dahmer ended up joining his group of friends. He was something of an outcast at the time, but his mimicking of people with cerebral palsy (for a very lowbrow laugh - which would probably only work in childhood) brought him notoriety and he became part of their clique - pulling pranks and belonging in a way that was rare for him. His strange behaviour, however, eventually alienated him again by the time graduation had drawn near, his newfound friends still friendly but hanging out with him less and less.

This film version of the graphic novel "Backderf" (played here by Hereditary's Alex Wolff) wrote feels incredibly real - this isn't a Hollywood version of high school life - this is what it really felt like. Dahmer here is treated somewhat sympathetically - you can see he's drowning in a sea of adult apathy, and although everyone thinks he's weird (he is - very) his fascination with animal anatomy isn't dwelled on and picked up as a warning sign. It's just another strange Dahmer trait. You can see his agonized embarrassment when his new friends meet his eccentric parents, and when he gets an erection when examined by a doctor he has a kid crush on (he later sets his mind on killing this doctor.) He's so self-conscious he's a walking bundle of pain. It all culminates at a stage when he's about to start killing (his first murder occurred three weeks after graduating) - and that this is all true makes it more chilling than any thriller or serial killer-based film.

7/10


By Columbia Pictures - MoviePoster.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11841603

Hero (Accidental Hero) - (1992)

I enjoyed watching this, and it constantly brought me back to Meet John Doe, even though the plot of both movies don't directly correlate. I have to say it doesn't quite firmly track as one thing or another - it's far too comedic to play as a straight drama, but feels like it's too serious and grounded to be your ordinary comedy. The screenplay is very good - you have a really nasty lowly con-man who happens to be a hero, Bernie LaPlante (Dustin Hoffman) - who rescues scores of people from a plane crash. John Bubber (Andy Garcia) comes along to steal the glory, and who will believe Bernie that he's the actual hero? Added to the mix is a journalist with few ethics, Gale Gayley (Geena Davis) who falls for Bubber. It has a few things to say about the media, cynicism, and those we elevate to hero status. It's a comedy/drama that rises above itself at times and I liked it. It doesn't have a natural, flowing feel to it, but many jokes land and it has a few interesting things to say.

6/10




The Worst Person in the World



SF = Zzzz


[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



The Snowtown Murders (2011)



Factual drama about a series of murders perpetrated in a poor area of Adelaide in a supposed "vendetta" against paedophiles and general ne'er do wells,. Problem is, they are doing it for money and welfare cheques of the victims. It's quite harrowing especially how the poverty and hopelessness of the characters' situations make it possible for a fellow like John Bunting (wonderfully portrayed by Daniel Henshall) to waltz in and appear like an avenging angel. Gritty and authentic, this is a good, if uncomfortable watch.