Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - 2021 Edition

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For the Criterion category, here are a couple that interest me...

#24 - High and Low
#182 - Straw Dogs
#221 - Ikiru
#226 - Onibaba
#248 - Videodrome
#249 - The Battle of Algiers
#253 - A Woman Under the Influence
#260 - Eyes Without a Face
#265 - Short Cuts (also for the Altman category)
#281 - Jules and Jim
#288 - F for Fake
#325 - Kind Hearts and Coronets
#422 - The Last Emperor
#542 - Antichrist
#712 - Scanners
#842 - Dreams
#1024 - Destry Rides Again

The ones in bold are the only ones available streaming for free in the services I have. I'm a bit more drawn towards The Battle of Algiers, or maybe Antichrist, but if there's any nudge to any other direction, let me know.
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I'm pretty sure you've seen several of these, but . . . (Most of these are on Amazon)

A film with the number 2 (Two, Second, etc.) in its title: Kubo and the Two Strings, Tale of Two Sisters, Man with Two Brains, 2 Nights Till Morning, Dig Two Graves, The Two of Us, Two Step
A film with a title that starts with the letters C or D: Capote, Catch Me Daddy, DOA, Deat Watch, Django Kill If You Live Shoot!, Eve's Bayou
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #2 (i.e. 12, 82, 912): High and Low, Playtime
A film from the 1920s: The Extra Girl, The Kid, The Thief of Bagdad
A sequel: Maniac Cop 2
A film featuring the name of a couple in its title: David and Lisa
A film with an African-American cast (Black History Month): JDs Revenge, Eve's Bayou
A film from Robert Altman (born January 20): Images



I think that Images is legit a great movie. Highly recommended.
When I read the synopsis, it's the one I felt more drawn to.



I'm pretty sure you've seen several of these, but . . . (Most of these are on Amazon)

A film with the number 2 (Two, Second, etc.) in its title: Kubo and the Two Strings, Tale of Two Sisters, Man with Two Brains, 2 Nights Till Morning, Dig Two Graves, The Two of Us, Two Step
A film with a title that starts with the letters C or D: Capote, Catch Me Daddy, DOA, Deat Watch, Django Kill If You Live Shoot!, Eve's Bayou
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #2 (i.e. 12, 82, 912): High and Low, Playtime
A film from the 1920s: The Extra Girl, The Kid, The Thief of Bagdad
A sequel: Maniac Cop 2
A film featuring the name of a couple in its title: David and Lisa
A film with an African-American cast (Black History Month): JDs Revenge, Eve's Bayou
A film from Robert Altman (born January 20): Images
Seen the ones in red, although it's been 20+ years since I saw Eve's Bayou. I wouldn't mind a rewatch.

Thanks!



For the Criterion category, here are a couple that interest me...

#24 - High and Low
#182 - Straw Dogs
#221 - Ikiru
#226 - Onibaba
#248 - Videodrome
#249 - The Battle of Algiers
#253 - A Woman Under the Influence
#260 - Eyes Without a Face
#265 - Short Cuts (also for the Altman category)
#281 - Jules and Jim
#288 - F for Fake
#325 - Kind Hearts and Coronets
#422 - The Last Emperor
#542 - Antichrist
#712 - Scanners
#842 - Dreams
#1024 - Destry Rides Again

The ones in bold are the only ones available streaming for free in the services I have. I'm a bit more drawn towards The Battle of Algiers, or maybe Antichrist, but if there's any nudge to any other direction, let me know.
The Battle of Algiers is fantastic, but I also think very highly of Ikiru, Eyes Without a Face, Jules and Jim, and F for Fake. You can’t go wrong with any of those.



THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC
(1928, Dreyer)
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #2 • A film from the 1920s



"Tell me, how can you still believe you were sent by God?"
"God moves in mysterious ways... Yes, I am His child."
"And the great victory?"
"My martyrdom!"
"And your freedom?"
"Death!"

There are many notable aspects to the life of Joan of Arc. She was a peasant turned war heroine that led many French victories over the English during the Hundred Years War, and she did all that while being a teenage girl. But as notable as her life was, she is also notable for the way she died, which is what this film is about.

The Passion of Joan of Arc is based on the actual trial record for Joan (Renée Jeanne Falconetti) after being captured by England, and features her interrogation and subsequent execution at the hands of the clerical court.

Directed by Carl Theodore Dreyer and released in 1928, the film is itself notable for various reasons. From its production and minimalist set design to Dreyer's direction; but most notably for Falconetti's iconic performance. Originally a stage actress, she delivers an emotionally charged performance, which is impressive for the silent film era. But instead of being limited by that, Falconetti makes the most out of her expressions and her glassy, teary eyes, to the point that you can't help but feel her pain and suffering.

But aside from that, Dreyer's direction is just as impressive. The way he uses the camera is something that feels unlike anything that was done at the time, and maybe even that has been done since. His constant close-ups of the faces of the judges and the court, accompanied by the gorgeous cinematography makes these old, wrinkled men feel grotesque and evil in both their physique and soul.

Finally, Dreyer uses a minimalist set design to create dread and build tension. From the way he shoots the torture chamber they use to intimidate Joan, or the way he shoots the angry mob in the final act. That, along with Falconetti's performance, make of this one of the most beautiful films I've seen.

Grade:



Yeah, it's so good.

The first time I watched it the angles and the intensity of the torture sequence actually made me feel a little sick.

I think that the movie shows a great mix of strength and vulnerability.



Yeah, it's so good.

The first time I watched it the angles and the intensity of the torture sequence actually made me feel a little sick.

I think that the movie shows a great mix of strength and vulnerability.
And what's impressive is that you don't really see anything. It's all just her eyes and the way he cuts to the shadows of the torture devices.

That, and the scene near the end where he keeps swinging the camera as we see people dropping ball and chains from the window. Loved that shot.



THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS
(1966, Pontecorvo)
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #2 (#249)



"It's hard to start a revolution. Even harder to continue it. And hardest of all to win it. But, it's only afterwards, when we have won, that the true difficulties begin."

Algeria was invaded by France in 1830. The invasion effectively ended the slave trade and piracy in the country. However, during colonial rule, the indigenous Algerian population declined as a result of violence and epidemics while French immigrants took control of the economy by confiscating arable lands from tribal people. This left the native Muslim population without political or economical status, which led to dissatisfaction, tensions, and eventually, more violence.

The Battle of Algiers follows the near culmination of that violence, as it chronicles the efforts of Algerian rebels (the FLN) against the French during the late 1950s. The film follows a quasi-documentary style, while focusing on revolutionary fighter Ali La Pointe (Brahim Haggiag), who rose the ranks of the revolution until he pretty much became a right-hand man to the FLN leaders, and hence, a nuisance to the French government.

The documentary-style gives the film a gritty and realistic vibe. Without leaning heavily into any side, it helps to get a better understanding of how this war unfolded. There are no good guys or bad guys; just people fighting for their place and what they think is right. The portrayals of urban and guerrilla warfare, torture, and the extents to which each side would go to "win" is well handled.

On the other hand, this approach limits the emotional connection we can have with any character. Not that it was the goal of the film or that it *needed* it, but I felt it could've been good to have someone more tangible to hold onto. La Pointe is an enigmatic and probably interesting character, but we never get to really explore his way of thinking, or of any character actually. He's more of a blank slate than an open book.

Regardless of that, Pontecorvo's direction is tight, and he knows how to handle tension. The scenes where the rebels perform concealed attacks on the French are neatly staged and directed. Also, despite the filmmaker's restrain in regards to the situation, I think the film succeeds in showing the unwanted effects of "Western colonization" in other cultures, and how the violence of the process (invasions, confiscations, eradication) will only breed more violence; but also that the hardest job of all comes once the dust has settled.

Grade:



That's an all-time favorite of mine. It barely missed out on my top 25. With that being said, I didn't mind the lack of character development as I think it was sacrificed in service of representing the events of the film on a much wider scale. The scope of the film made up for the lack of an emotional connection I felt towards anyone, in my opinion. To be fair though, when I first saw it, my opinion was more or less the same as yours and I didn't care much for it either. In time though, it grew on me to the point it's one of my top 5 war films.



That's an all-time favorite of mine. It barely missed out on my top 25. With that being said, I didn't mind the lack of character development as I think it was sacrificed in service of representing the events of the film on a much wider scale. The scope of the film made up for the lack of an emotional connection I felt towards anyone, in my opinion. To be fair though, when I first saw it, my opinion was more or less the same as yours and I didn't care much for it either. In time though, it grew on me to the point it's one of my top 5 war films.
Yeah, I really can't hold that against the film cause, like I said on my review, I don't think it was the film's goal. But still, as good as it was, in regards to the impact it had in me or how it hit me, I didn't think I could go higher than 3.5... which is still pretty good.



ANTWONE FISHER
(2002, Washington)
A film with an African-American cast



"Who will cry for the little boy, Antwone?"
"I will. I always do."

Crying, burning, trapped, hurt, dying, trying... those are some of the words that the titular character uses to describe his situation in this film. Antwone Fisher grew up with no parents, rejected by every level of society, including the ones that took him in. He came "from under a rock", he claims at one point. A retort used as much as a defense but also as a cry for help. Because as much of a front as these kids-turned-teens-turned-adults try to put up, they're ultimately alone and helpless.

This film follows the events that surround Fisher (Derek Luke), a Navy sailor that is sent for a psychiatric evaluation with Dr. Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington) after yet another violent outburst against another sailor. But Fisher says there's nothing wrong with him, or at least that's the front he tries to put up with Davenport when we all know he's just a boy trapped inside a man. The film follows the typical motions of other similar films, with Davenport standing strong beside Fisher, as he eventually opens up to reveal his troubled past; a past that involves abuse of all kinds.

When my wife and I started the process to take in and eventually adopt our two sons, we were allowed to bring them home for a weekend; a weekend that went surprisingly well given the circumstances. Upon returning them to the foster home, this 6-year-old kid clung to my wife as we were about to leave as if there was no tomorrow. This kid, who barely knew us, who we had only met on 3 or 4 previous meetings was bawling, crying uncontrollably begging us not to leave him and his brother. I probably will never be able to get that image out of my mind because it perfectly captured how much absence of love and care, how much need is in this kids.

Fast-forward 2 years and we obviously have them with us, adopted and safe. I can listen to them playing, happily screaming and hollering in the room next door as I cry writing this. Has it been an easy road? Hell, no. I've seen them both crying, "burning", "trapped", hurt, "dying", trying... Much like Antwone, our older kid is prone to violent outbursts and there have been days where things have gotten... rough. Things that sometimes we haven't even shared with our families. But I like to think we've been able to join them in their pain, help them with their scars, and cry with them. I like to think that, unlike Antwone's real and foster family, they can count on us being there.

I struggled with writing this because the film obviously hit close to home. I tried to write from outside, but there's no escaping it. As is expected, Fisher and Davenport develop a bond, and they both help each other overcome their own issues. There are some script issues as far as Davenport's personal struggles go, but Fisher is able to find closure by reuniting with his real family. It's inspirational. It's uplifting. But the scars are there. I know. I've seen them and felt them. And for every Antwone that manages to find his Davenport, and find closure, there are hundreds, thousands of others that don't. For every I.J. and I.J. that finds us, there are many others that are still out there looking for someone to cling to, someone to love them. Who will cry for them?

Grade:



CRAWL
(2019, Aja)
A film with a title that starts with the letters C or D:



"Is there a plan B?"
"That *was* our plan B. In less than an hour, this crawl space will be under water."

Simple. There's no time, only the need to survive. That's the warning that Dave Keller (Barry Pepper) gives his daughter Haley (Kaya Scodelario) as they are hounded by alligators while hiding under their house in the midst of a hurricane. Simple as that. Simple is also the premise of this mixture of disaster and horror directed by Alexandre Aja, and it works pretty darn well.

The film starts setting up the stage establishing the estranged relationship between Haley, an aspiring swimmer, and her father and former coach. There is tension, regret, guilt over past events, marriage and divorce... but the film doesn't waste too much time before throwing us into the eye of the hurricane, literally and figuratively. Less than 20 minutes in, we're already deep in the crawl space, with danger staring us in the face. The above warning comes at the 45 minute mark, on a film that literally lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes. So we have less than an hour to see if they survive or not. Whether it's drowned or eaten by alligators. Simple.

Director Aja has always had a talent for handling both dread and scares in an effective way. From Haute Tension to The Hills Have Eyes, he has often succeeded in making us wince and cringe and fidget as terror floods the screen. Crawl is no exception. For a film with such a simple premise set in such a limited space, Aja manages to deliver with the jumpscares and the tension, while building a solid empathy for the lead characters.

If anything, there are some incongruencies as far as the amount of pain and injury that the two lead characters can endure, as opposed to others not-so-lucky characters, but I guess that's expected. We want them to feel real and vulnerable, but we want them to survive as well. Simple as that. As it is, that simplicity might also work against the film. I mean, there really isn't much to bite at, but at the end of the day, it accomplishes what it sets out to achieve. Simple.

Grade:



The Passion Of Joan Of Arc is brilliant imo, one of those rare 10/10s and #1 on my pre-1930 ballot. I gave Crawl a pretty similar rating to you, a decent offering of its type that was an enjoyable enough watch in the main.

I feel like I've probably seen Antwone Fisher but if I have it was so long ago now I'd have to regard it as unseen. I've definitely not seen The Battle Of Algiers, herself expressed an interest in watching it so like so many I own it's a matter of when the time is convenient for the both of us.
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Fashionably late to every party since 1473!




I'm excited to share this episode of Thief's Monthly Movie Loot where I chat with stand-up comedian, author, and Emmy Award winning writer Steve Mazan! Check it out.

Thief's Monthly Movie Loot 31 - The Comedy Loot

Spotify users, click here

I had a lot of fun with this one. Steve was a great guest. We talked about his life and career, his film podcast, and comedy in general. We also shared our Top 5 Comedy Films.



BONNIE AND CLYDE
(1967, Penn)
A film with a couple's name in the title



"One time I told you I was gonna make you somebody. That's what you done for me. You made me somebody they gonna remember."

Bonnie and Clyde were a criminal couple that became notorious for their robbing and killing sprees during the Great Depression. But aside from their criminal exploits, the couple and their gang became known for the glamorization of their lifestyle by the press and the public.

Arthur Penn's 1967 film follows the couple (Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway) from their initial meeting to their ultimate demise at the hands of the police. In between, we get to see their love and struggles, the gang they assemble, and how they "perfected their craft" (for lack of a better phrase) from stealing gas stations and convenience stores to robbing banks and murdering cops.

Overall, the film is engaging. The pace is good, and the performances are pretty solid; especially Beatty and Dunaway. Unfortunately, there are some misses in the execution, particularly in how Clyde's brother, Buck (Gene Hackman) and his wife are integrated into the group and the plot, and how Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle), the policeman that relentlessly pursues them, is used.

The other issue I had with the film was with the editing, which I found to be distractingly bad at times. Despite being pretty well directed, the cuts between shots from time to time seemed to be frenetic and unnecessary. I'm surprised to read that the editing was praised and awarded because there were times when it took me out of the film, instead of dragging me in.

Despite those flaws, I really enjoyed the film. Did it glamorize the characters of Bonnie and Clyde over their victims and pursuers? Yes, but I think you can see that it is ultimately a story of loneliness and desperation more than it is one of "glamour". Maybe that's what people will remember.

Grade:



My main beef with B+C was that the anit-establishment/old vs young thing was a bit heavy-handed. I'm aware that element is precisely why it struck such a chord in '67 but as a non-hippie youngster watching it in 2000-whatever I was just kinda like "Yeah, yeah, we get it..."

Still liked the film a lot, though.
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Yeah, I read that this film was one of the ones that started the "New Hollywood" generation, so maybe they were making a point with it. But like you said, maybe it hasn't aged that well. Like I said, there is that glamorization of the "new generation", but I think those that dig into it can really see it's more complicated than just "fast cars", "cool guns", and "bad-ass shots".



PS-- haven't had a chance to get to the latest Loot yet, but congrats on booking a famous person!
Thanks! Really cool guy, and I think our interaction was very natural and funny. Look forward to your thoughts on the episode.