Capsule digest #2

This set covers the period from September 12th to November 27th, encompassing the death of FilmStruck, the announcement of its replacement (the Criterion Channel), a hurricane, an evacuation and a birthday, and a new movie by Orson goddamned Welles.

Other films seen: Keeping up with the Hitchcock chronology, Amber and I revisited Notorious because I will, after all, find any possible excuse to watch it, but I already reviewed it here back in 2012, and that entry has even been updated to the new format; you saw my new full review of Rope in this space, and can find my accompanying Letterboxd writeup here. A masterpiece new to me and fully reviewed as such was Stray Dog (Letterboxd: click), which is currently next to High and Low as my favorite Kurosawa. Not quite a masterpiece but certainly a treasure, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women left me with too much to say to confine to a Letterboxd capsule. Beetle Juice was a fun bit of Halloween viewing and a finer film than I remembered, which will necessitate me watching it closely enough to write something coherent next time; for something incoherent, here you go. Finally, I started up on revisiting the films I highly rated from the current decade for list-making purposes, and while I stalled out pretty quickly, I got three under my belt and you can track my progress at LB; I will likely be speeding up a lot in about a week and on through the new year. For now, at Letterboxd: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Footnote, The Babadook! (The first two got full reviews here years ago back when I wrote “essays” for every movie I saw.)

Non-feature or non-cinema screened: Beyond Bob’s Burgers, MST3K and Moonlighting, I want to strongly recommend the package of supplements on Criterion’s Complete Jean Vigo collection, which also offered a chance to see Vigo’s two early shorts, the wonderful semi-city symphony doc / semi-abstract political screed / semi-pornographic clip A Propos de Nice; and the more strictly functional Taris. As for what else has gotten my attention lately, may I direct you to two oddly fascinating vintage documentaries I found buried deep on Youtube — this one is about the last day of metal typesetting at the New York Times and is a striking artifact of its era, and this one is a typically snide Charles Kuralt examination of malls that inadvertently features some remarkable footage of a typically bland shopping mall in the early 1980s and, better yet, some extremely amusing interviews with teens. My Youtube favorites are a weird cornucopia of mostly eccentric fixations but you can always check in to see if I’ve located anything especially nifty of late; growing up I flipped through channels and recorded oddball stuff off cable TV, and I guess this is the modern-day equivalent.

Several of the below films are sure to prompt full reviews in the future, the most obvious such case being The Other Side of the Wind, which I could talk about for days — its release, at long last, may remain the most significant cinematic event of my lifetime, the first new work of a true indisputable American master in the cinema since, I would argue, Eyes Wide Shut. Maybe not the last, but who are we to say yet who the new masters will be, and how can we kid ourselves than any of them will be, no matter how gifted or brilliant, working in the same singular class as Orson Welles? It’s not a slur on movies today, it’s a statement of fact: there will never be another like him.

*** (click the links for longer Letterboxd versions of the capsules, if you so wish)

I Walked with a Zombie (1943, Jacques Tourneur) [hr]
One of the most bizarre, soulfully pained mainstream pictures of the studio era, this Val Lewton-RKO horror has a rather vague spirital-sensual plotline that never states itself explicitly, and never presents anything conventional or particulalry melodramatic in its characterizations. It follows a nurse from Canada who is sent to look after a plantation owner’s debilitated wife in the West Indies, on an island shadowed by the slavery and violence in its recent past; the two worlds collide in dreamlike, unsettling ways without ever clearly relying on any supernatural happenstance. Instead the film — beautifully directed, treating horror concepts as dreadful reality in the same way as the team’s Cat People — is sophisticated, mysterious, probing, sumptuous and insatiably erotic… all while thoroughly subsuming itself to an atmosphere of indescribable fear.

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969, Charles Jarrott) [r]
Expansive, intimate chronicle of the doomed rise to the throne of one Anne Boleyn is legendary for having been bought and paid for at the Academy Awards; but unlike most pictures with that distinction from The Alamo to Dr. Dolittle, it’s extremely competent and engaging popcorn, though it really gets a lot of mileage out of impeccable casting. Richard Burton is as hammy a Henry VIII as Charles Laughton or Robert Shaw and considerably less fun, but Geneviève Bujold brings stunning emotional range to her characterization of Boleyn. The supporting cast is equally impressive, with Anthony Quayle carving such a believably slimy and eventually pathetic figure as the wily Cardinal Wolsey you could almost swear he was a Republican politician.

The Pirate (1948, Vincente Minnelli) [hr]
Breezy, funny Arthur Freed-MGM musical is offensive in about a hundred different ways but also incredibly slick and fun after a bumpy start; it features Gene Kelly, tightly controlled as ever, as a philandering actor who tries to contort himself to fit the fantasies of Judy Garland, extremely bored with her provincial future and seemingly dull politician husband-to-be (Walter Slezak). The songs by Cole Porter are far from his best, but the accompanying dance numbers are wonderfully choreographed, performed and captured by Minnelli and Harry Stradling, particularly a breathtaking, erotic ballet in which Garland briefly sees the man she wants in front of her. The film’s shortcomings are forgivable because its modest humor is so winning.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971, Norman Jewison)
Three-hour musical about an impoverished Jewish family in pre-Revolution Russia nearly replicates all of the content of the famous Broadway production, with Chaim Topol in place of the presumably more charismatic Zero Mostel, though Topol is perfectly OK. Some of the songs are good enough to have passed into the cultural lexicon, like “Sunrise, Sunset” and “If I Were a Rich Man,” but the film goes on forever at a glacial pace, really capturing nothing more than how one father gradually breaks away from Orthodox tradition as his daughters begin to marry off. The tone is comic and wistful for the first half, tragic and bleak in the second, and the use of a musical to talk about antisemitic Tsarist edicts generates the same kind of oppressive discomfort in me as turning Oliver Twist and Les Miserables into big song-and-dance productions.

The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941, William Dieterle) [r]
The often staid awards-bait dispenser Dieterle went over to RKO and made this batshit dark fable riffing on the Faust legend, which feels at times like an American prediction of Ealing Studios in its almost cruel humor and cinematic ingenuity. Sadly it’s also a mess; its determination to wrap up with a rather contrived “trial” forces us to spend a lot of time throughout the picture with the titular Webster, a lawyer-politician played with thundering obviousness by Edward Arnold in what feels like a parody of a Frank Capra character — you’re much happier to see Walter Huston’s grinning, delightfully ambiguous Scratch. The mixture of idealism and pointed political commentary fits only haphazardly with Stone’s story arc, whose most intriguing elements — the appearance of a temptress played unforgettably by Simone Simon, and the way Stone’s soul is infected by capital — run afoul of the distractingly overbearing “conscience.”

Bound for Glory (1976, Hal Ashby) [r]
David Carradine is phenomenal as Woody Guthrie but this musical biopic rings false, mostly because it’s largely fabricated, unnecessarily inventing extra conflicts and obstacles. As you’d expect of Ashby, the moments when he illustrates Guthrie’s rebellion and sense of injustice are riveting and have a layer of documentary realism that recalls the most strikingly natural moments of the director’s best work. While it’s laudable that the film shies away from presenting the folksinger as an unambiguous hero, he’s instead too much of an underwritten cipher, oscillating between speechifying advocate for the working class and typical self-absorbed proto-rock star asshole whose preference for “the people” over his wife and family is ultimately glamorized. Haskell Wexler’s Oscar-winning cinematography is so heavily diffused that when a dust storm blankets the town in a few scenes it’s hard to tell any difference. The music’s amazing.

The Right Stuff (1983, Philip Kaufman)
Exceedingly off-putting narrative of the early U.S. space program, focusing on the Mercury 7 astronauts and the absent idol Chuck Yeager, a juxtaposition that makes more sense in Tom Wolfe’s rambling, stream-of-consciousness book… as does the confused tone, volleying between reverent wonder and flippant tongue-in-cheek lampoon, which makes it impossible to enjoy the serious moments or the humorous ones, because you’re never quite sure whether the film means to impress you or is mocking everything you’re seeing.

His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks) [hr]
(Revisit; slight upgrade.) A divorced newspaper reporter (blazing Rosalind Russell) spends a long breathless night of breaking news dealing with ex-husband Cary Grant and fiance Ralph Bellamy’s juggling of her. Low-budget, stagy comedy crackles with prescience and intelligence, with remarkably fast-paced rat-a-tat dialogue and storytelling. Russell falls into the material like it’s a song she’s singing, and the absolute trust and familiarity that she exhibits with Cary Grant and the other “newsmen” is full-bodied and three-dimensional. The relentless overlapping dialogue is easy enough to catch, as is the strength, wisdom and resilience of Russell’s character, but the surprising thing is how much gravity it has, the pain under the sarcasm that flies back and forth in the press room. Somehow it’s the real world: unvarnished, wonderful, tragic and painfully direct.

Romeo and Juliet (1936, George Cukor)
Badly miscast production headlines ridiculously aged-out Leslie Howard, hardly a spectacular actor at the best of times, and Norma Shearer, wasting away in an inappropriate role. The dialogue is obviously indestructible but this specific play loses every bit of its tenuous emotion when robbed of the haunting youth of its leads. The usual MGM opulence is everywhere if that’s what you’re here for.

Colossal (2016, Nacho Vigalondo) [r]
Inventive, impressively original comedy about an alcoholic who returns to her hometown in sulking disgrace, while with curious synchronicity a series of supernatural tragedies occur on the other side of the world. The kind of story that subverts one’s sense of perception so successfully that a moment as out-of-context ridiculous as a man stomping around a sandbox while a woman glares at him from the ground and cries attains a momentous scope of tragedy; it integrates genre silliness far more organically than Edgar Wright’s films. Anne Hathaway is astoundingly good as the floundering writer whose life is suddenly uprooted, and her winning, crafty performance balances out the moments when Vigalondo loses the story thread or overextends his Babadook-like metaphors.

The Meyerowitz Stories (2017, Noah Baumbach) [hr]
Perhaps there’s a case to be made that we don’t need another movie about a deeply sequestered family of New York artists, but there’s a great deal of heart in this portrait of the shattered lives of three siblings unmistakably rowed up shit creek by an aloof artist father (Dustin Hoffman) who had no business having children; now they all flinch and cringe at the presentation of unconditional love and are all too forgiving of the toxic behavior they’ve known since they were infants. And yet, somewhere, there’s hope, ample feeling and Baumbach’s usual profound sense of the awkward weight of reality: the sensation that we’re watching real relationships, if not real life, unfold.

Three Coins in the Fountain (1954, Jean Negulesco)
Dull, unmemorable triple romance story set among three American secretaries in Rome is badly written and full of mediocre acting; its one saving grace is that Negulesco makes use of the Cinemascope frame for travel porn, which is somewhat better than Fox’s usual application of it to overblown period films. The opening montage set to Frank Sinatra is nice. But this is an extremely dated, superficial idea of classed-up entertainment, not funny or sexy and not nearly as “adult” as it thinks it is.

Cluny Brown (1946, Ernst Lubitsch) [hr]
A tantalizingly witty, earthy combination of Lubitsch’s socially incisive comedies with his more frothy and romantic material, this truly delightful Fox comedy’s exploration of class is more realistic, nuanced and audacious than that of Ruggles of Red Gap or even most of Renoir’s films. Set in 1938 London on the cusp of the war and capturing almost agelessly the attitudes of the worldly-privileged toward impending disaster as contrasted to those with much more to lose, the film serves equally as sharp satire and warm domestic comedy, decrying the social mores of “high society” in a surprisingly forceful manner. Jennifer Jones is slightly miscast, but this is a film of episodes and nearly all of them are wonderful, from the opening plumbing disaster to the finale. Best of all may be Cluny’s terrifying encounter with “respectability” at a potential mother-in-law’s birthday party.

State Fair (1933, Henry King) [hr]
A warm slice of life that demonstrates completely unforced affection toward its characters without condescension, this is a remarkable portrait of farm folks taking a break from their routine long enough to enjoy the annual fair. It never forces the issue of their bond or affection, which makes it more persuasive than the modern gooey Hollywood process of reinforcing the Unbreakable Magic Power of Family, and sets forth no controversy when the two almost-grown progeny (Janet Gaynor, Norman Foster) step out on their own and enjoy life and flings with people they happen to meet. None of what happens corresponds to any sort of preordained structure, it’s just life flowing with a poignant sense of the weight of the varied speeds at which time seems to pass, all interspersed with amusing bits of business — hogs, shady merchants, roller-coasters. But what strikes you most is how love is palpably in the air.

The Strange Little Cat (2013, Ramon Zurcher)
Idle, slightly tense slice of life about a family’s comings and goings over a single day in a flat in Berlin; nothing much happens, just a few meaningful glances and some amusing exchanges, plus kids being kids, young adults being young adults, etc. Convincingly natural and well-performed but not for all or even most tastes; it’s just rambling with no payoff, quite deliberately.

Scarlet Street (1945, Fritz Lang) [hr]
Lang’s version of La Chienne (previously filmed, brilliantly, by Jean Renoir) is even bleaker despite being made for Walter Wanger in Hollywood. Edward G. Robinson is impeccably cast as Christopher Cross, the lonely middle-aged cashier and painter in a loveless marriage that has him trapped and abused; in a mindset of desperation and sexual obsession he falls for an “actress” named Kitty (Joan Bennett) who takes him for a ride along with her hidden boyfriend Johnny, Dan Duryea in one of the best slimy villain performances in film noir. Lang and Milton Krasner drench everything in darkness; even daytime scenes are oppressive. Apart from the handsome grit of the production, though, the major divergence from Renoir’s film is its sheer glee at its characters’ almost uniform sadism, with even mild-mannered Cross eventually crossing over into depravity. None of it’s pretty, but in its own cynical manner it’s a kind of delight.

Seabiscuit (2003, Gary Ross) [NO]
Insipid studio product using the real story of the famous Depression-era racehorse as a springboard for generic emoting from the likes of Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges, both of whom betray so much phoniness it’s like watching a political convention, though neither is as bad as William H. Macy’s infuriating cutesy-pie cameo as a fast-talking radio announcer. The film has an overall feel of nauseating smugness, absolutely convinced of its own profundity (complete with David McCullough narration) like other dire “hopeful” sport pictures of the post-9/11 period such as Cinderella Man, with the same inauthentic prettiness to its period flavor. Randy Newman’s incredibly vapid score doesn’t help, aiding and abetting Ross in his refusal to let the audience fill in any kind of blank for themselves.

Prison (1949, Ingmar Bergman) [hr]
Just three years into Bergman’s directorial career he shows sophistication and imagination that can be mistaken for no one else; the story he’s telling is grim and even hackneyed, about two couples with bad power dynamics falling apart and a short-lived affair resulting, all framed by the musings of a young film director and his all-knowing teacher. Poking fun at it, especially if you’re less than reverent toward arthouse cinema, would be shooting fish in a barrel, so unapologetic are its surreal but expository dream sequences, queries about the ambivalence of the moral universe, and innumerable tragedies (unexpected pregnancies, murders, evil pimps, suicides). Yet Bergman’s deep and unwavering belief in living inside his own emotions is nothing if not admirable, projecting his psyche onscreen unfiltered. Plus the sets and cinematography and location work in Stockholm are intoxicating, as beautiful as any Hollywood film of the era.

Trader Horn (1931, W.S. Van Dyke) [c]
MGM’s big African safari epic, one of the first Hollywood talkies shot overseas, is so brazenly racist it actually sustains interest for a while in a train-wreck sort of way, helped along by some of the arresting nature photography and accidental documentary (and in all likelihood, tastelessly intrusive) excursions into traditions and culture that would be heretofore entirely unknown to its audience. Van Dyke wasn’t Merian Cooper, though — no respect or even misguided envy for his subjects — and he was in over his head; people died and became ill as a result of this mad stunt, which grows even more irksome when a character voices the true message of the film: “Don’t you understand? White people must help each other!” It’s that kind of film; there are very good reasons it’s more or less buried now.

Stations of the Cross (2014, Dietrich Brüggemann) [r]
Compelling, minimalist allegory about a pious teenage girl whose life begins to parallel the images of the title, as a result of her fantasies of sainthood and closeness with God, her desire for her autistic brother to be healed, and the temptations and frustrations of life in school and around her impossible mother. The performances are exquisite, especially Lea van Ackena’s as young Maria, as is Brüggemann’s choice to film each scene in one take, usually holding to a specific composition; this renders the story’s progression hypnotic. However, the screenplay lays on the metaphor a bit too thick, and while the characterizations are complex, the anti-fundamentalism message, however righteous, feels a bit too easy and smug. Several of the scenes do work as extraordinary drama even just as stand-alones, especially when outsiders look in on the tragic irony of it all, as in the gym class and doctor’s office sequences.

The Other Side of the Wind (2018, Orson Welles) [hr]
Fully shot in his own lifetime with a tortuously long postproduction gestation, Welles’ last narrative film is a playful, rambling but impressively lively portrait of an enigmatic “great man” director’s 70th birthday party filmed and edited in fits and starts out of people’s houses with a cast and crew that was doing it out of love, right up to its bizarrely appropriate premiere on a streaming service four decades later, thirty years after Welles’ death. Despite its considerable wit and busyness it absolutely pulses with loss and disappointment that extends far beyond the matter of the lead character’s (and Welles’) demise. It’s so radical in its construction and editing it feels brand new, and even the “movie within a movie” designed as a parody of pretentious arthouse fare is as visually arresting and masterfully cut as anything in Welles’ career, therefore far more striking than anything in even great films of the modern era.

The Big Sleep (1946, Howard Hawks) [hr]
(Revisit; slight upgrade.) The quintessential Hollywood detective movie, successfully transcending plot — so much less convincingly seedy than Chandler’s novel, though equally addictive in its atmospherics — to create a seemingly three-dimensional world that we don’t particularly want to leave by film’s end. Humphrey Bogart’s Marlowe is an irresistible characterization because of his unassuming modesty fused with awe-inspiring know-how. The great pleasures here are episodic but almost invariably rich, from his encounters with delightful bookstore flirt Dorothy Malone and cab driver Joy Barlow to the sheer perversity of his dealings with the underworld, and don’t forget racehorsing-anal sex metaphors slipped under the Code. Lauren Bacall and Martha Vickers are both engaging and share thrilling chemistry with Bogart, who gets jumped, gets played, gets scared, but somehow we all still want to be him.

The Color Purple (1985, Steven Spielberg) [hr]
Confronted by abuse at every turn in a world that already views her as subhuman by default, Whoopi Goldberg’s Celie longs to reconnect with her sister Nettie (Akosua Busia) after her husband forbids them to see each other. The years pass in telling increments but sometimes with touches of unexpected bliss. Watered-down? Perhaps, but Steven Spielberg’s film of Alice Walker’s novel remains subversive by the standards of the Hollywood literary adaptation and moreover, it makes an incredible case for his elastic brilliance as a director; there’s absolutely no one else who renders characters, moments, and grand-scale stories so fluently. This also doesn’t hedge in order to make white audiences comfortable, which is presumably one reason it has remained so popular over the decades. The time (its distance and passage), the scenery, but mostly the people: it’s all right there, and it sings out.

Gun Crazy (1950, Joseph H. Lewis) [hr]
A frenetic, sexy film noir that never takes a second to collect itself, following a pair of talented sharpshooters (Peggy Cummins and John Dall) who are completely unable to stop law-breaking once they’ve taken the lid off their impulses. Owes a lot to You Only Live Once and in turn was pilfered by Bonnie and Clyde; but thanks to its all-American sleaziness, its incredibly modern blocking (with wild compositions and more than one elaborate sequence played in a single take) and the totally unrestrained performances, this is vital, nasty and luscious — great storytelling that captures the perverse allure of violence and underworld life without surrendering to or romanticizing it. In other words, this is how you capture nihilism and filth without making a movie that’s nihilistic filth.

The Pride of the Yankees (1942, Sam Wood) [hr]
Biopic of the baseball player Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) is a wide-eyed wonder: charming, sensitive, touching, almost effortless in its maudlin Americana — seven decades hence it still feels like a story about all of us, and even if you’re a huge skeptic of that kind of thing, it’s terminally effective in temporarily fooling us into thinking a moment like Gehrig’s rise and retirement belongs to the world, and that’s without allowing us the comfort of one last vestige of his humanity at the fade, post-sealed fate, post-speech about said fate. Instead, as soon as his story is no longer the public’s, he simply fades into the shadows, never to be heard from again — so not only is it all very persuasive in its simplicity, it’s also smart and even a tiny bit probing about it.

My Darling Clementine (1946, John Ford) [hr]
Enchantingly languid Ford western freely springs from some of that genre’s burned-in iconography — Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the OK Corral, the Clantons — but renders it casually (and fictitiously) enough to present it as slightly heightened life in progress, so that one’s historical interest is almost totally subsumed by fascination with the characterizations and, as usual in Ford’s best films, their complex relationships. A healthy part of this is the robust, stoic central performance of Henry Fonda as Earp, as well as those of Cathy Downs and Linda Darnell as Holliday’s love interests; the meaningful glances shared among these parties would be material enough for a very long book. Of course, it’s also one of the most beautiful Hollywood films thanks to Joseph MacDonald’s florid photography of Monument Valley. This is multifaceted, tangential storytelling in classic folk tradition, freeing myths from the weight of legend.

The Shop Around the Corner (1940, Ernst Lubitsch) [hr]
Of all Lubitsch’s romantic comedies, this may be the most joyous and tangibly human, at least for most of its duration; concluding at Christmastime, it’s ideal holiday atmosphere on top of the sheer earthy delights of its dialogue and lengthy but never stagy scenes (taken from a play by Miklós László). It’s most famous for its wry coupling of coworkers James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan (both outstanding, the latter especially), who are unaware that they are each other’s flirty pen pals as they simultaneously make life hell for each other on the job; but even more interesting is the film’s status as a workplace ensemble comedy about the comings and goings of the crew at a Hungarian leather shop. Lubitsch isn’t primarily thought of as a visual director, but the emotional power of the shot midway through this film in which Sullavan’s hand reaches in vain through the door to her PO box is overwhelming, saying so much without a word.

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Vincente Minnelli) [hr]
Bullshit Americana rendered and commandeered for the good of the world by MGM’s Freed unit, depicting a year in a privileged family’s life in 1903 St. Louis without cynicism. The kids are funny, the dad has a self-righteous streak but tries to keep it under control, and Mom gets exasperated but periodically belts one out at the piano. The songs tend toward the exquisite, and the minimalist choreography seems to lead us via dance from one season to the next. By the time winter rolls around, its genuine yearning for what feels like a truly felt memory of an inevitably temporary condition can choke you up even if your own childhood was comparatively dysfunctional; whether you’re lamenting how much you (or your entire class, race, generation) never had this kind of unquestioned security or whether you’re lamenting the bygone, the movie seems to be there with you, peaking with Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur) [hr]
(Revisit; slight upgrade.) So many of the iconic moments, sights, and words of film noir legend come from this endlessly plundered, borderline misanthropic movie; Robert Mitchum is priceless as the private dick cum petrol dealer so hard-boiled he chain smokes in his sleep. The surreal Americana of the supporting characters, the subtle but jabbing class commentary, and of course Mitchum’s sleepy-eyed seen-it-all portrait of macho invulnerability that has the rug taken from under it — it’s all intoxicating. Far from “cold around the heart,” this film actually bleeds with emotion, loss and regret, about a decent if flawed human being getting wrapped up in a kind of monumental funeral march in which there’s no possible way out even from the very beginning, which is finally the essence of the genre.

Cleopatra (1934, Cecil B. DeMille) [r]
DeMille’s sense of scale and spectacle is astounding, but wardrobes aside, where’s the fun to break up the incessant talking and self-importance? There’s camp, sure (“the queen is testing poisons”), but always with that same stoic distance you see in so many later Hollywood epics; nothing dark or downright weird and threatening, of the Sternberg or Eisenstein variety, just sheer overwhelming thundering awe. That interior boat scene really is one of the most remarkable how-the-fuck moments in this era of Hollywood film, but like similar moments in Griffith’s Intolerance, it has hugeness and outrageousness but no discernible personality. That’s left to Claudette Colbert.

Fatal Attraction (1987, Adrian Lyne)
Yuppie lunkhead (Michael Douglas) ruins everyone’s life in this anti-feminist Big ’80s touchstone.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018, Morgan Neville)
Pretentious, tangential attempt to “contextualize” Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind by sort-of telling the story of its lengthy genesis in the bombastic, fast-cut style of the film itself as well as F for Fake. When you’re not Orson Welles, attempting to imitate Orson Welles is a rather foolish task to set for yourself, so everything here except the on-set footage and the actual interviews from Welles’ family, friends and associates is extremely tiresome. Watch the forty-minute Netflix making-of A Final Cut for Orson instead, unless you just get a kick out of watching the great man work, which is understandable.

Ex Libris (2017, Frederick Wiseman) [r]
Engrossing but overlong verité examination of the workings and machinations of the New York Public Library is best when it sticks to day-to-day operations rather than budgetary meetings and guest lecturers, but it does capture some of the routine miracles and touching weirdness of the participants’ chosen profession, and quietly makes an ironclad case for how indispensable institutions such as this really are.

***

Next metapost will likely be the much-delayed 1940s summary. Next archival project, in addition to continuing work on the Oscar nominees, is the top 100 on the They Shoot Pictures aggregator; I’ll also be concentrating heavily on filling some major gaps in my 2010s database so I can start making a credible decade list, which I look forward to sharing.

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