June 2016 movie capsules

17 movies watched in June. Tallies:
– 10 new to the database (previously unseen). New total: 2,018.
– 7 revisits.
– 4 newly reviewed at length here. Though all four — Catch Me If You Can, Barry Lyndon, Paris, Texas and Kind Hearts and Coronets — have elements of old reviews, they’re mostly new work. Without doing so deliberately, I brushed up against a bunch of longtime favorites at the end of the IMDB Top 250 project; we have at least one more long review forthcoming, albeit one that isn’t so kind.
– 13 new or revised capsules, all below.
– Unfortunately I ran out of month while preparing the finale to my Top 250 project because my life briefly derailed in the last week of the month, with more medical issues and a broken air conditioner (not to mention a bunch of Netflix streaming expirations). We’ll pretend that didn’t happen; I still expect to be finished with both that and Best Actress by the very beginning of August.

Project notes:
IMDB Top 250: 9 (2 new). Like I said, this was supposed to be over and done with by the time I made the June post, but life happened. We were on schedule for a good while there, and it’s been a productive month with knocking out a couple of films I’d long needed to see — In the Mood for Love and Tokyo Story — while at last writing about the four aforementioned, beloved titles. Also rewatched and capsuled Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, A Fistful of Dollars and Beauty and the Beast. My current ambition is to have the final project page between the 8th and the 10th. Remaining: 8 (7 new), though at this writing I’ve already watched my first July movie (Zootopia) so those numbers are actually lower by one, and don’t forget that we’re going to have to skip one of those films for now, until its DVD release.
Best Actress Oscar winners: 1 (1 new). At the beginning of the month, I had one Netflix DVD left over for this project to address, Born Yesterday, one of the few deviations from a concentration on IMDB this month. Remaining: 14 (11 new).
2010s catchup: 4 new. I planned to put this on the backburner but I fast-tracked four movies that Netflix dropped: Like Father, Like Son, Faust, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears and Kaboom. I wish I could say it was a worthwhile venture but not one of them was good.
Other: Goddamn motherfucking Harry Potter, times four. At least now I understand a few of my mom’s references.

Caps for sale:

Kaboom (2010, Gregg Araki) [NO]
This farcical college sci-fi about cults and sex and roommates is dreadful stuff that really feels like the fantasy ravings of an out-of-touch Gen X guy trying to be “with it” among the Youths. It’s badly acted, horribly written, incompetently plotted, full of smug, self-congratulatory “comedy,” and basically has no redeeming qualities apart from being supposedly progressive.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005, Mike Newell)
The most episodic of these so far, with Radcliffe and Grint awkwardly hitting puberty, really brings home the feeling that we’re watching episodes of a middling TV show. It’s almost completely unstructured until the third act introduces a greater level of danger and destruction than we’ve seen yet in the series. Newell hasn’t nearly the pluck and deviousness of his predecessor; his take co-opts the tone set by Prisoner of Azkaban without retaining its relative elegance.

Born Yesterday (1950, George Cukor) [r]
Filmed version of the Garson Kanin play about the political awakening of a crooked lobbyist’s (Broderick Crawford) naive wife (Judy Holliday), prompted by sexy bespectacled journalist William Holden, overcomes its staginess in the performances — Holliday’s and Crawford’s, at least — but not Cukor’s pedestrian direction. Holliday gives a singular, complex performance, though the purely comic scene that has her annoying Crawford during a card game is easily the highlight.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013, Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani)
Giallo burlesque is hypnotic, visually sumptuous and totally engaging for about thirty minutes then painfully repetitive. For genre fans only.

Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu) [hr]
Ozu’s methodically well-observed drama of an elderly couple’s visit to Tokyo to see their children and grandchildren makes no sudden moves, nor does it suffer from tearjerking mawkishness or didacticism — it just comes about its emotional beats and character portraits in slow accumulation of details. As a result, when it ends and you regain consciousness, its world is so complete and lived-in you feel you’re entering and not leaving a dream.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003, Gore Verbinski) [r]
(Revisit; slight upgrade.) The first result of a cockamamie Disney scheme about turning rides into movies is a solid distraction, pretty fun at times even. Some excellent stunt sequences in the classic Douglas Fairbanks vein that aren’t necessarily incoherent, nor is the plot (which is generally a passable, old-fashioned supernatural adventure). Johnny Depp is funny. It’s way too long and the CGI looks dreadful now, but this registers low on the offensive blockbuster scale.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007, David Yates) [r]
More tightly scripted than the first four films (though less visually interesting and tense than Prisoner of Azkaban), with a taste for the macabre and surprisingly believable character development, though the film is stolen and made irresistible thanks to the ingenious casting of Imelda Staunton as the prim and terrifying school master Umbridge. The entire sublot covering her reign of terror over Hogwarts is the most fun portion of the entire set of films.

In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai) [hr]
Portrait of a stymied love affair between two people too good-hearted to act on it, though their spouses are cheating on them together. Lyrical, opulent, surreal, an accumulation of small gestures. The use of exclusion by camera and script to render this the world of two people alone is a grand feat of cinematic sleight of hand, and the hazy mood is impeccable — finding an almost gleeful despair in how quickly a deep connection can be forged, and how quickly it can fade.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009, David Yates) [c]
The first truly bad film in the series, less because of the story than because of the fatally haphazard way it’s blocked and edited, not to mention its ugly, confusing compression from a presumably fairly complicated and plotty book. It might be cute to watch the kids’ romantic lives develop if one of them wasn’t Rupert fucking Grint.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964, Sergio Leone) [r]
(Revisit; slight downgrade.) The first of Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy is fun but awfully slight, and plotter than a film of its size has any right to be. I strongly prefer the way Leone’s later westerns prod and challenge the hollow “hero” narrative to the way this one doggedly preserves it, which it certainly didn’t inherit from Yojimbo. Clint Eastwood, the title sequence and the climax deserve their place in the iconography, and Leone’s energy is obvious and invigorating throughout.

Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise) [r]
(Revisit; no change.) The most culturally beloved of the Katzenberg-era Disney Renaissance films primarily, one assumes, because it’s the slickest and most “adult,” very much in the vein of a Broadway musical, with a great atmosphere and charming songs. It’s not as moving or sweeping as you remember or want, but for at least the first two thirds it’s more engaging than almost any other mainstream animated film of its era.

Faust (2011, Alexander Sokurov)
Time-shifted version of the legend contains some beautiful, lovingly saturated images — visually akin to 15th century Flemish paintings and Inside Llewyn Davis, which inherited its cinematographer — across its 130-odd minutes but it’s mostly just endless philosophical yammering and general grotesquerie. Not worth the effort unless you’re really, really keyed into Sokurov’s tastes.

Like Father, Like Son (2013, Hirokazu Koreeda)
Warm drama about families coping after they learn their six year-olds were maliciously switched at birth features a class-conflict dynamic between the two dads that rings true, which is a good thing because the rest of it is overly telegraphed and rather ludicrous, with sub-sitcom character tropes running their course. Not emotionally sterile by any means, but so much more skeletal and superficial than it should be.


Back soon.

[Brief journaling on fully reviewed films: Paris, Texas / Barry Lyndon / Catch Me If You Can]

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