This Beautiful Fantastic [2016)

I must admit, I didn’t expect this film to be good.

At all.

Indeed, the thumbnail seemed to indicate that Elizabeth Hurley was the star.

And so this makes two recent movies for which the adverts capitalized on the similarity of their leading ladies to actresses more famous than themselves.

But I am thankful.

Because Elizabeth Hurley could never have pulled this off (though she be a completely competent actress).

No.

This Beautiful Fantastic needed a magic beyond its worldly resources.

And Jessica Brown Findlay brought that magic.

Which is not to say that Simon Aboud did not do a fine job directing our film.

He most certainly did.

One might say this film is about gardens and gardening.

And in a way, it is.

But it is much more about love.

Loss.

Awkwardness.

Work.

Bad luck.

Innocence.

Purity.

Friendship.

OCD.

Introversion.

Jerks.

Coping.

So many strands.

Tom Wilkinson is fantastic here.

But Andrew Scott is equally good.

Wilkinson grounds this production.

Scott is perhaps the prodigy.

Brown Findlay is some pure substance which elevates everything.

She needs these two actors.

But they need her as much if not more.

Jeremy Irvine also has flashes of brilliance here.

I quite enjoyed this movie.

I’m thankful it exists.

So we must delve deeper.

We must admit that Brown Findlay’s lips are to this film as J. Lo’s ass is to Ali G.

Which is to say, Brown Findlay’s lips are almost an additional actor here.

They have a life of their own.

You might call this poor fetishism, but it needs must be said.

These are on par with those of Angelina Jolie.

But there’s a difference.

Brown Findlay’s lips are not freakishly large.

And yet, they draw the eyes.

One cannot look away.

They are always the quivering point of focus in this gossamer production.

Which is also to say, Brown Findlay is really really beautiful.

That is a factor in and of itself.

I seldom say this about any actress.

But it almost goes without saying here.

She is freakishly beautiful.

By which, we mean, breathtaking.

Natural.

Astounding.

And a damn fine actress!

 

-PD

Loving Vincent [2017)

I’m so scared.

My fiancée is very sick.

It has been this way for months.

But her recent decline is awful.

And I don’t know what to do.

I pray.

I try to offer advice.

I try to help.

Bring food that she cannot eat.

Bring water that she cannot drink.

I write.

I call.

But now she cannot even talk on the phone.

She cannot even watch a movie.

I urge her to go to the hospital again.

But I cannot force her.

She does not live with me.

She is staying with her dad right now.

Which brings me to this.

I have a job.

An employer.

But I have no hours.

I am just waiting.

My training is done and I had one shift.

But there was some kind of glitch.

So I am just waiting.

We have argued many times.

Me and my fiancée.

We have broken up several times.

Me with her.

And she with me.

But I love her.

And I don’t want to lose her.

But there’s nothing much I can do.

She had to stop working a week ago.

Ten days.

And now we wait.

But I am nervous.

We have a special bond.

We have endured many hard times, but there is a special bond.

We are both stubborn.

Both outcasts.

Used to standing up for ourselves.

Like two feral cats.

Used to extricating ourselves from unpropitious circumstances.

We have mourned.

And she has borne more sorrow than any one person ought.

And yet I do not want her to go.

In this sad city.

She is my only link to the artistic life.

The only one with whom I share my most precious thoughts.

I don’t know how to approach the present.

Or the coming future.

What will the future hold?

We pray.

Both of us.

We share this.

I have done everything I can.

The only thing I could have done better was everything.

I could have been perfect.

But I’m not.

And I never will be.

I acknowledge my shortcomings.

They are many.

This is not a perfect film.

But it is worth watching.

Ably directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welshman.

Perhaps not the greatest vehicle for my favorite working actress Saoirse Ronan.

More suited to show off the talents of Douglas Booth.

So it goes.

 

-PD

Medianeras [2011)

Here is as close to perfect as I can imagine.

When I clicked on this film on Hulu (translated as Sidewalls), I just expected it to be another film that I would stop watching after 30 seconds.

It vaguely looked like it had Eva Green in it.

Or Natalie Portman.

Thank God it doesn’t.

Instead, it stars Pilar López de Ayala as Mariana and Javier Drolas as Martin.

Indeed, this is the second Argentine film I’ve found which borders on sheer perfection.

The other is El Crítico (which followed two years later in 2013).

It’s true.

Both these films are introspective and self-reflective.

In Medianeras, this is more subtle.

Martin carries around three Tati films in his backpack (the topmost [visible] one being Playtime).

But all of this is academic.

What is important to say is that Medianeras is a cosmic, transcendent romance for the 21st century.

The composition is taut.

The cinematography is deft.

The montage is formidable.

But equally, the writing by director Gustavo Taretto is pristine.

You can look him up.

He’s a big, bushy-bearded 53-year-old.

But I highly admire the mind which came up with this film.

And the eye which brought it to life.

Pilar López de Ayala is magical here.

So many beautiful touches of storytelling.

Sure.

Taretto owes a small debt to Jeunet’s Amélie, but it is ever so small.

Indeed, it is mostly the music (the precious, tick-tock minimalism of the harp) and a pair of sequences involving humorous litanies.

The latter is achieved through copious edits of visual images to match the speaker’s rather cumbersome list(s).

It makes sense.

Amélie was a huge hit on the international stage just ten years prior to Medianeras.

And it too was an excellent film.

So Taretto has borrowed from a source which also indicates his good taste.

But our director has gone much further than merely borrowing.

He has created his own coherent language.

There are amazing sequences with Pilar López de Ayala in her apartment as her next-door neighbor wades through Beethoven and Chopin on a hoisted piano.

It is such that Mariana’s isolated life becomes a sort of postmodern ballet.

Sans dancing.

More brooding than anything.

Playing.

But, above all, being lonely.

And that is what drives this home.

We have a lonely man.

And a lonely woman (Ornette).

And paths which cross.

It’s not just sexual tension, but philosophical tension.

We really don’t know if these two perfect lovers will ever meet.

They are so dangerously close to colliding.

Like electrons.

We want these characters to live forever.

And they do.

In that they are composed of real life foibles.

As both watch Woody Allen in the dark.

And cry.

[as I cry watching them]

And both turn up Daniel Johnston singing “True Love Will Find You in the End”.

As I live with my parents.

[as the late-Daniel Johnston lived with his]

I think.

But I do know this.

That the sidewall in Austin has said, “Hi, how are you?” for so long.

And I am stuck in San Antonio.

Probably a much shittier city than Buenos Aires.

No doubt.

But so achingly-close to my old haunts in Austin.

And I don’t know if I will ever see them again.

Because life is hard.

And my life is generally shit.

“Working” at Starbucks.

Soon enough.

Again.

Not sure.

If my fiancée is dying.

And I am weeping.

Because I can relate to Martin and Mariana.

I can’t sleep.

It is 5 a.m. and I am writing a movie review which probably no one will read.

But I am happy in a strange way.

Because I found a film that reflects my life and makes me feel like all of my romantic longings and eccentricities are not for nothing.

So thank you, Gustavo.

Amazing film!!!

 

-PD

High Noon [1952)

What’s the point?

Says the old lawman who refuses.

Disillusioned.

I hear you, old lawman.

What is the point?

No one here but me.

What did I do wrong?

I could have been perfect, but I wasn’t.

But we all have little High Noons.

Where we can run, or do the right thing.

There’s a lot more left to the night.

And though my heart is hurting, I have stood fast.

In my own little way.

Sure, I feel pathetic.

But in my own way, a hero.

There was an easier path for me tonight.

And last night too.

But tonight was so seductive.

Mind games.

Of right and wrong.

Here I sit.

With no one to talk to.

I’m really not sure what’s happening.

I feel like Gary Cooper at the table with the bullets.

Just me and the bullets.

I have tried really hard.

Maybe not hard enough.

But I can look back and have pride in some of what I’ve done.

When I mess up, I try to rectify the situation.

And so on and so forth…into infinity.

Dimitri Tiomkin’s strings outline the ticking clock.

What’s the point?

Sure, Grace Kelly looks nice…but a little young.

She doesn’t have that same allure she would have later.

But she does the right thing too.

In the end.

We can despise her, but when the guns start firing, she makes up for it all.

Gary Cooper.

On his wedding day.

Kind of an MS-13 trip.

When we see Lee Van Cleef at the very beginning.

And we realize he’s way down the credits.

It’s then that we know this is gonna be good.

Do the right thing.

You might sense Trump here.

Good.

Gets really complex.

At “high noon”, Kane (Cooper) will be either dead or single.

Which is why he has to dig deep.

What is it that makes him stay?

Perhaps the same thing which makes Kelly eventually turn back?

Katy Jurado is good here.

Married to Ernest Borgnine for four years.

This film is a big metaphor.

No one does a damn thing.

Because it’s too hard.

Lloyd Bridges definitely picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.

Bridges plays the quid pro quo sack of shit that tries to unnerve Gary Cooper.

Hell, Harry Morgan is even in this!

You know, Colonel Potter from MASH!

But it’s pretty much just up to Gary Cooper.

Cooper’s mannerisms would later be carried on by Kevin Costner (to name just one).

But here Cooper was all alone.

Sweating.

Sweat as a motif.

Supposed to be in New Mexico.

Would you have the courage to write a will just before your judgement hour?

That’s a lot of temerity.

Maybe this film really revolves around the uncredited role by Jack Elam.

I don’t know.

But this is a film not to be missed!!!

 

-PD

Idiocracy [2006)

Here is a must-see film.

Hear me out.

A movie that didn’t even make a million dollars at the box office.

13 years ago.

A very prescient take on America.

From the dude who gave us Beavis and Butt-Head.

I was lucky enough to meet Luke Wilson years ago.

If I had to choose a favorite contemporary male actor, it would probably be him.

I am not a big fan of Maya Rudolph (at all), but she does well here.

Dax Shepard does a really good job here.

Jetskis in the reflecting pool of the Washington Monument.

President with Mountain Dew for a middle name.

A La-Z-Boy with a toilet in it.

Doctor Lexus.

Pictographs for sub-literate emergency room receptionist.

Gatorade coming out of water fountains.

Water has been phased out.

Not enough electrolytes.

Big box store gone badder.

Costco.

Starbucks is where you get hand jobs.

Showdown with Beef Supreme.

Welcome to Costco.  I love you.

Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

Really, this film is very, very intelligent.

There are some priceless moments.

The automated Carl’s Jr. kiosk is one of the highlights.

So many amazing little details here and there.

I suppose it is a cult film.

And with good reason.

It is strange, but it is an essential film.

Kudos to Mike Judge.

 

-PD

Das Boot [1981)

Here we sit at the bottom of the ocean.

280 meters below Gibraltar.

On a high place.

In a film which (throughout) performs the strange trick of forcing us through cinematic language to sympathize with a boat full of Nazis.

Funny trick, that.

I challenge you to watch this film and see if you don’t also end up pulling for the Nazi U-boat crew.

There is no shame in it.

For Das Boot is itself a propaganda film.

But to what end?

It seems, more than anything, like an intellectual exercise.

And it is precisely because it eschews convention that it is an enjoyable and riveting film.

Indeed, it comes close to being a masterpiece.

It is also a case study in personalities.

Nothing magnifies personality clashes like a claustrophobic metal tube.

I guess we all have to pay our dues.

And sometimes we have to pay them again.

Perhaps we are always paying dues.

Until we are dead.

The stress can drive you crazy.

And there are always people floating in the water.

Which is to say, life is war.

A war to feed ourselves.

To retain shelter.

To ward off the tax man.

To warm our bones.

To stay dry and clothed against the elements.

Urgent need to let some rest.

In need of medical attention.

Eating an orange like a scurvied maniac.

In which you root for the Nazis.

Like Godard as a boy in Switzerland.

In this strange, strange film.

And then the Allied hammer comes down.

And you are shown your sins.

You realize you have been rooting for the Nazis.

And as you watch them die, you are sad.

Because they were the stars of a good story.

And you became emotionally invested in them.

Even though they were (in reality) scumbags.

Or maybe they were just doing their jobs.

This isn’t sympathy for concentration camp guards.

This is a portrait of the poor schmucks who were floating on (and beneath) the sea.

And if I remember correctly, 75% of the 40,000 U-boat submariners in WWII died.

These guys had a very slim chance of surviving this ordeal.

Hard to tell if this is a great film (elegant simplicity) or a shit film (clunky ending).

It’s worth watching, though.

 

-PD

Saturday Night Fever [1977)

Shitty night.

Sickness.

Hard.

Lonely.

Engaged.

Up all night.

No one.

Misery.

Travolta is magnificent here.

Great direction by John Badham.

With very few caveats.

Badham went on to direct another great film:  WarGames.

Donna Pescow was way hotter than Karen Lynn Gorney.

Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

Stephanie says.

Good acting by Martin Shakar as Frank Jr.

His odd blandness inside the 2001 Odyssey discotheque.

Weird dichotomy of the religious life and the nightclub scene.

And of course West Side Story.

Robert Stigwood and rock music.

Here disco.

Fantastic Bee Gees!

Real shit.

Weak ending.

But this is an excellent film.

It is, in its own way, of a fabric that includes grit like Dirty Harry and Death Wish.

This is an essential film.

 

-PD

Get Shorty [1995)

A watchable film.

Not a great film.

I gotta admit…John Travolta is a pretty fucking good actor.

Sure, it’s a standard type (the mobster), but he does it really well here.

The story here is pretty convoluted.

Elmore Leonard.

Having a job proves you’re employable.

Makes it easier to get another job.

Rene Russo looks pretty good here.

She is, by the way, now 65.

Kinda like Henry Miller.

Thinly-veiled biography.

Delroy Lindo is good here.

A nice glimpse of Hollywood…with Gene Hackman driving his Mercedes convertible.

Tough guys communicating to tough guys.

I don’t know why, but I can’t really get into Danny DeVito.

He’s not horrible.

He just doesn’t do anything for me.

In anything he’s been in.

Dennis Farina is really good in this.

Bette Midler looks good in this.

Too bad she’s a moron.

Funny that James Gandolfini plays a redneck in a mobster movie.

Really hard to believe!

Again, worth watching.

But not by much.

 

-PD

The Matrix [1999)

I tried to make her understand.

I tried to tell her what she needed to hear.

I am still waiting.

Waiting for a sea change.

Assange is the superstar hacker.

Mendax.

QAnon lifted “follow the white rabbit” from this film.

Unless this film and the QAnon op stem from the same source.

Smith of 1984.

Turned.

Red-pill me on Tylenol.

LSD implications of Alice.

Mirror from Cocteau.

Keanu Reeves dips his fingers into Orphée (1950).

The Wachowski brothers have both now become trans women.

How fitting.

They are both (incidentally) married to women (Karin and Alisa).

From Walter Carlos to Wendy Carlos.

In which Neo wakes up in the “warm liquid goo” phase.

Brave New Fahrenheit 1984.

Baby farms of dystopia.

Elon Musk has been worried about the very premise of The Matrix.

Worried that his buddies at Google are creating for us the very hell foretold in this movie.

Really.

AI.

Pacified with free porn.

Zion of Joel Silver (producer).

With the “desert of the real”, we get Slavoj Žižek a few years later.

And one of my favorites:  Baudrillard.

Or vice versa.

Oracle like Oprah.

With cookies and everything.

Great acting by Gloria Foster who died in September 2001.

After 9/11.

And this film predates flying machines being swallowed by skyscrapers.

And mass shootings.

Indeed, Columbine kicked off a new era…a mere three weeks after The Matrix was released.

Hmmm…

Many kung fu rips.

It would be four more years before Tarantino began ripping kung fu with the first Kill Bill.

So The Matrix was first here.

A new Star Wars.

Luke Skywalker of Neo.

And the Holocaust chic costumes.

Schindler’s List set this up six years previous in 1993.

Kiss of life.

Great romance.

Sparks.

Channeling Bruce Lee the whole way through.

Great drum and bass tracks.

Cool soundtrack.

I can imagine Thom Yorke really getting into this shit.

The next Radiohead album after this film was the start of a new bleep bloop era.

Kid A.

And Carrie-Anne Moss is really pretty.

Good movie!

 

-PD

택시운전사 [2017)

[A Taxi Driver (2017)]

Wow.

I was unfamiliar.

With this amazing film by Jang Hoon.

Not a perfect film, but very close!

A very moving picture.

Very much due to he extraordinary performance of Song Kang-ho.

And me.

I am learning Korean.

And seven other languages.

But I am lagging behind.

So we dive in further.

Kim Man-seob (Song Kang-ho) has a daughter in the film.

She is very important.

Played by Yoo Eun-mi.

But the big story is that of Gwangju.

South Korea’s sixth-largest city.

1980.

80.

Something about “hope”.

The “official story” is that “civilians raided armories and armed themselves”.

That’s what Wikipedia says.

So still you see that this movie is (whether true or untrue) at odds with mainline history.

None of the protesters are seen with guns.

Not one.

Indeed, no protester in this film does anything but peacefully protest.

So we are looking at (perhaps beautiful) propaganda.

Or, on the other side, FAKE NEWS.

Which is it?

I don’t know.

I am rather new to the subject at hand.

Modern Korean history.

But it begs a further question.

Why is an entire film dedicated to showing how bad the South Korean military coup government was in 1980 when the regime across the border (North Korea) is extraordinarily famous for their ruthlessness?

It is weird.

Who’s funding this?

It wasn’t the United States.

This is not American propaganda.

So who, then?

The most likely culprit is China.

Means, motive, and opportunity.

The idea would be to show the South Korean government as corrupt and (by extension) the American military as grotesque occupiers.

Funny enough.

In 1982 (two years after this incident took place), Gwangju was made a sister city with my hometown:  San Antonio.

Military city.

Hmmm…

Bringing it all back home, said Bob Dylan.

But, as Godard said (and I paraphrase), all propaganda can be beautiful.

i.e., it doesn’t matter if it’s true…it’s still a good story.

Jürgen “Peter” Hinzpeter is framed to make us unquestionably worship reporters.

That is the propaganda showing through.

Excellent story.

About the politeness and honor of Koreans.

Honor a favor.

Bow.

Multiple times.

Quickly.

And do not bring shame on your country by being greedy.

Stand up for your fellow countrymen.

Yes, of course.

Ahhh, those great balls of dough (?) in Honam.

Jeolla food.

I love Korean food!

Ugh!

Bibimbap.

So fucking good!!!

Before cell phones.

Left his 11-year-old daughter home alone in Seoul.

Because he’s a widower.

And now he can’t call to tell her he’s alright.

Because the military has cut all the phone lines to Gwangju.

All she has is him.

All he has is her.

Heartbreaking.

Nice acting by Yoo Hae-jin.

Taxi drivers.

Unite!

Like the ice factory workers in that Bruce Lee film.

The best Bruce Lee movie (probably).

The Big Boss.

Uprising.

Like in Hong Kong.

People take to the streets.

Very real threat of bodily harm.

Up against an immensely powerful military.

That doesn’t want to be embarrassed.

In a precarious position.

CIA uprising in Hong Kong.

This film goes a little overboard with the schmaltz.

A few too many string swells (and lifted Mussorgsky licks).

Sometime around this point we enter the world of BATHOS.

Like a Schindler’s List remake done in Korean.

Out to Suncheon.

Shoes.

Heartbreaking.

Food.

This really is a fine film.

Even with its excesses.

A LONG film.

It almost comes apart.

But hangs together like a Bruckner symphony.

The dramatic arc is there.

The film just gets wobbly for a bit.

Threatening to collapse beneath its own weight.

Some genuinely great cinematography here and there.

Thanks to Go Nak-seon.

Definitely a cautionary tale here.

Certainly a danger that military might can be abused.

When military becomes police.

Gets a little “buddy film” with a strange Fast and Furious meets Thelma & Louise sequence.

As ridiculous as “Gangnam Style”.

Yes, there may be some things lost in translation here.

I know not ALL South Korean films are like this, but are some of these mannerisms normal?

Put plainly, there are some CHEESY film gestures which cheapen this movie unnecessarily.

I’d like to find them endearing (and I kinda do), but they are mostly annoying when encountered.

The Gwangju Uprising.

Minjung.

Heartwarming story.

That a mere taxi driver (a humble rung of society) could make a huge difference.

Very inspiring!!!

 

-PD