Capsule digest #6

I am high from the Academy Awards this year. It would be remarkable if the Best Picture winner had merely been a foreign film, had merely been a thriller, had merely been an excellent auteurist odyssey; turns out it was all three, and I say this having not been a fan of the earlier Bong films I saw. Parasite (which is also, incidentally, the first winner to have also received the Palme d’Or since Marty in 1955) joins Moonlight as a winner from this decade that deserves the honor, and will actually still be talked about in enthusiastic terms some decades down the line. (I am highly fond of Argo but Spotlight, true, but they are very much within a personal bias and blind spot of mine whereby movies that feel like acted-out 60 Minutes episodes are one of my personal fetishes.)

Much of the period covered in this post of capsule reviews — taking us from November 28, 2019 to February 16, 2020 — was taken up with catching up on new and recent films at the close of the decade; we’ve started going to the theater a lot more. But I’m now anxious to get back to my 1950s canon and Best Picture nominee projects, and with my music blog majorly scaling down, I’m happy that I’ll now have more time to work on those — so you can expect these summary posts to appear a little more often in the future.

Along with all the (mostly fun, at least until Joker came across the desk) wrangling to keep caught up on new Oscar nominees — my new library manager job now comes in handy because I can get new releases ordered for the benefit of both me and the public much more quickly — the big narrative here in the long arc of my cinematic appreciation is that Tati and Ophuls now join my list of all-time favorite directors. The reviews I wrote of Tati’s Mon Oncle and M. Hulot’s Holiday, some months apart, are all but identical because my awestruck response to their unique storytelling and comic sensibility is something that goes beyond just one film, even if Playtime is the most overwhelming. I’ve truly never seen anything like those movies, and even with a lifetime of reading about and being vaguely aware of them, I wasn’t truly prepared. I’ll probably write more eloquently about them a few years from now.

Full reviews this cycle: My second viewing of Key Largo brought it in as a belated addition (Lboxd) to the roster of full essays connected to our 1940s canon project last year. My third time with The Seventh Seal (no Lboxd link because I just said “a good film!”, very insightful) made for a handy offering for the ’50s project. Both of those titles were formerly capsuled here. Finally, my crossover-blog Beatles initaitive continues with their fifth and final film, Let It Be (Lboxd; upgrade), though some peripheral movies remain to be seen or revisited here

Other films seen:
– Wanted Amber to see 20th Century Women, which as of this writing is on Netflix. Brief Lboxd capsule. We also watched Inside Llewyn Davis, her first time and my second, and I was rather disappointed — given its omnipresence on many decade lists — that I still don’t like it nearly as much as I want to.
– Any excuse to return to Yellow Submarine is a good one; as part of my project rewatching the Beatles’ films in sequence, I picked it up on Blu and wrote a few very perfunctory words at Lboxd.
– 2010s revisit project LBoxd links: All Is Lost, Hanna, Gone Girl. All Is Lost and especially Gone Girl held up even better than I expected; Fincher’s film is really quite a remarkable achievement.
– Gradually working through the bonanza of discs I picked up immediately after buying a multi-region player early last year; I finally sat down with the Masters of Cinema edition of Sunrise, and was — as ever — left with many thoughts, linked there at LBoxd.
– Kino’s new-release roster, described below, prompted a few revisits: here’s a little on Seven Days to Noon. And two of the rare Hitchcocks that are unlikely ever to get full essays here: The Farmer’s Wife, a film rife with very odd choices; and The Skin Game, which I actually really enjoy but I think there’s at least a little bit of fanboying in there. (Oops, after proofreading this post I realized these films actually hadn’t been viewed since I started the blog so they needed new capsules, so they don’t really belong here. Corrected below.)
– Stone Theaters in Wilmington has a weekly classic film screening now; we saw Meet Me in St. Louis there and it was a really delightful time. They’re showing North by Northwest in March; second to 2001, which I finally got to see in IMAX last year, it’s long been my most-wanted theatrical experience, so I’m psyched!

Non-feature or non-cinema screened:
– Just a lot of Looney Tunes really. Also some MST3K and more Twin Peaks. Revisited the Beatles’ The Making of Sgt. Pepper since I got the Pepper set that has it on Blu-ray as a gift; it wasn’t quite as engrossing as I remembered. Maybe the lower running time sans commercials makes it seem less substantial, which often happens to me with TV programs I originally saw on the air!

Recent Blu-ray releases:
Christmas in July (Kino Lorber): Beautiful presentation of the Preston Sturges classic, a decent commentary from Samm Deighan who obviously loves the movie and delves into some of its anti-capitalist subtext as well as the ways in which it fits in with the rest of Sturges’ career.
Seven Days to Noon (Kino Lorber): No extras at all, but back in the day when I was going through Best Screenplay/Story Oscar winners I had to depend on a cropped, muddy Youtube video of this so I’m just thrilled it exists in the marketplace now. It’s an incredibly entertaining film, you should check it out.
Hitchcock British International Pictures box (Kino Lorber): Four Hitchcock silents that were long unavailable in decent quality, now restored by the BFI, presented along with his early talkie The Skin Game. None of these are more than mildly successful films; boxing melodrama The Ring and tragic romance The Manxman offer vivid direction while The Skin Game is entertaining in a trashy sort of way now that you can hear the dialogue, at least if you like watching wealthy neighbors squabbling back and forth; Champagne and The Farmer’s Wife are among the director’s weakest efforts. But for devoted students of the Master this set has been a long time coming, and is a worthy companion to Kino’s recent releases of Murder! and Blackmail reviewed last time out. This is the best these movies have ever looked on home video by far, with the many gray market releases of the early 2000s now thankfully a distant memory, and in a truly unprecedented twist, three of them come with commentaries, something I really couldn’t have imagined happening when I was stuck with PD versions from Brentwood and Laserlight (“introduction by Tony Curtis”). Nick Pinkerton, whose work I normally really enjoy, talks over The Ring but the results are no more than OK. Farren Nehme does a stellar job with The Manxman and a decent one with Champagne; both critics point up the harsh truth that when it comes down to it, there isn’t really that much to say about Alfred Hitchcock’s silent features, which are in most cases visually tremendous without a lot of depth. (The major exception, The Lodger, was already out from Criterion — the rights to his films for Gaumont have a different home than those he made for BIP.) One thing I did really enjoy, though it’s a rather perfunctory addition, was the included extracts from the Truffaut interview; the highlight in these tidbits was one in which Hitchcock admits he doesn’t like watching his films and has never seen Psycho with an audience because it would upset him, a good pick-me-up if you’re having doubts about your creative work.
Days of Wine and Roses (Warner Archive): Yet another shimmering presentation of a black & white film from Warner Archive; there’s so much depth and dynamism to it it feels like 3D. The sparse, low-key 2002 commentary by Blake Edwards — on which he comments on the poor condition of whatever print he’s watching, which is now ironic — is the sort of thing that I would’ve found boring and irritating in the early DVD era but now, with Edwards gone and so much changed, it’s just touching to hear him react to a movie he hasn’t seen in many years and even just to hear his voice again. (He was one of the first directors whose work I deliberately remember seeking out, before even the likes of Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks.)
Brick (Kino Lorber): Rian Johnson futzes a bit with the color correction on his first film but it looks lovely and it’s great to see it again. The extras are ported over from the old DVD. I can’t remember if I ever had time back then to sit down with them, and they’re pedestrian enough that even if I did I would probably have quickly forgotten, but looking at them now I’m struck by how weird it is to hear a young director openly flirting with a crew member (the costume designer) in public, moreover that he apparently approved the resulting track to be released again. If it were me I’d be too embarrassed (especially if I’d since married Karina Longworth, but I digress).

I picked up the new Masters of Cinema editions of The Golem and The African Queen; more on those soon. And I’m planning on a big bulky Criterion order as soon as their February flash sale gets announced; hopefully I waited long enough that I end up with a version of All About Eve that has the better packaging than the apparently hives-inducing horrorshow that was initially issued.

***

Here we go with 31 new capsules:

Mon Oncle (1958, Jacques Tati) [hr]
A young boy’s arid home life in a hyper-efficient modern house among his superficial, class-conscious parents is contrasted with the whimsy he encounters on outings with his uncle M. Hulot in his ramshackle, cheerful neighborhood, the colorful strife of which sparks much more play and imagination. As a construction, Tati’s first color film is exacting and ingenious, marked by theoretically simple pleasures and a refusal to allow its audience to rest. Hulot is a representation of unapologetic human frailty, but the film as a whole is a canvas that reflects as eccentric and singular a vision as any art on this scale possibly could.

Kings Row (1942, Sam Wood) [r]
Batshit Warner Bros. soaper is a forerunner to lurid suburban dramas like Peyton Place. It opens with the carousing of a quintet of heavily emotional children, but Wood rapidly steers away from sentimentality and ramps up the interpersonal hypocrisy with a pair of tragedies anchored by the violent actions of insane doctors. No, really. With a wacky star-studded cast, William Cameron Menzies’ production design and Bob Burks’ photography, and a completely unpredictable multi-conflict structure, you can interpret it as terrible kitchen-sink stuff or as a grand yarn-spin, and either way you’re basically correct.

Goodbye First Love (2011, Mia Hansen-Løve)
Precisely what the title promises and not much else, an amiable and well-acted portrait of late adolescence without any noteworthy insights. Lola Créton and Sebastian Urzendowsky are both wonderful, but neither is much of a character, and the film’s beautiful direction and cinematography (by Stéphane Fontaine) are largely dedicated to a poetic extrapolation of lead character Camille’s emotional state. The film’s pain and energy are rather telegraphed, replete with hip, eloquent college professor who inevitably becomes something else, as must they always.

Force Majeure (2014, Ruben Östlund) [r]
This National Lampoon’s French Alps Vacation nightmare has an embarrassing dad running off George Costanza-style when his family is threatened by an oncoming avalanche and then dealing with the supremely icky fallout when everyone turns out physically OK. Östlund and a great stable of actors eerily capture the horrors of an extended relationship-threatening argument as well as the infinite cringiness of witnessing the same thing from the outside. Several sources, all presumably sadists, list this as a comedy. Film also features one of the most formidable beards in all of cinema.

The Band Wagon (1953, Vincente Minnelli) [r]
It sounds unassailable: Fred Astaire in color hobnobbing with the Freed unit in the role of a washed-up song & dance man who gets shoehorned into a pretentious Faust revival. But the comedy is flat and the story — to whatever extent that matters — never seems to actually start. Among the song sequences, though, “By Myself” and the Mickey Spillane ballet are strong, and both crumble at the feet of “Dancing in the Dark,” which has Astaire and Cyd Charisse subsuming themselves completely to the purest expression of romantic longing — a peak moment of Hollywood mythmaking that renders the film automatically indispensable.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934, Sidney Franklin) [r]
Ostensibly the story of Robert Browning’s courtship of the largely bedridden Elizabeth Barrett, but really a portrait of an abusive home led by patriarch Edward Barrett, indelibly and harrowingly drawn by Charles Laughton, who’s fun to watch embodying such a loathsome character even as his behavior is clearly born of someone’s keen observation of narcissistic behavior. That’s what makes the film rather gripping and valuable today, especially since it never tempers its unsparing attitude toward him with any sort of sentimental claptrap about family. Kind of a proto-Heiress, almost.

High-Rise (2015, Ben Wheatley) [c]
Wheatley’s JG Ballard adaptation about a mini-apocalypse inside a skyscraper people can’t or won’t leave that becomes a microcosm of civilization is a respectably inventive failure that never attains any real vitality.

Dark Waters (2019, Todd Haynes) [r]
Justified outrage takes Haynes out of his element to make a narratively conventional thriller about corporate whistleblowing focusing on DuPont and its Teflon product. The movie’s major distinctive element is its conviction that we are all day-to-day victims of crony capitalism, which is obviously correct, but the rather poor script hits only the expected beats and prompts little that’s artistically inspiring apart from superb cinematography by Edward Lachman. Anne Hathaway is fully wasted as the doting wife of the protagonist, attorney Robert Bilott, who’s played fairly convincingly by Mark Ruffalo reprising all his SpotlightZodiac hits.

Fyre (2019, Chris Smith) [hr]
Weirdly fascinating, surprisingly thorough Netflix documentary reinforces the absurdity in the story of the eponymous festival whose trainwreck falure was a viral sensation, while offering a sobering reminder of the innocent parties (mostly native Bahamians and unpaid ground workers) who were fucked over in tangibly crippling ways by Billy McFarland et al. This is the kind of documentary whose artistic merit won’t be particularly apparent for several years, but I suspect its keen eye for perversity will have a healthy long life, and for the moment it’s a striking portrait of the weird era we live in when “social media influencers” are a thing.

Knives Out (2019, Rian Johnson) [r]
Crafty, frothy if excessively talky whodunit takes the bold structural leap of showing all its cards early on and allowing the suspense of the given scenario to play out, with a few handy plot devices sufficiently original that their contrivances don’t really hurt. As with so many stories in this genre, there are too many characters for any of them to make a huge impression, even the nurse Marta so compellingly played by Ana de Armas who’s the prime reason this isn’t a straight comedy. Only Christopher Plummer is given a lot to bite into with the aged author whose death sets the plot into motion; you come away wishing for more of him.

Mildred Pierce (2011, Todd Haynes) [r]
This miniseries, five-plus hours of Haynes swimming around in James M. Cain’s melodrama about a woman’s struggle to stay afloat during the Depression, lives up to its promise from an aesthetic standpoint and in its roster of first-rate performances, particularly by Kate Winslet in the lead. Stretching the tale out makes room for sumptuous detail but is detrimental to the soapy perversions familiar from Michael Curtiz’s tougher, more violent adaptation with Joan Crawford. By hewing to realism, Haynes creates something that feels textured enough to be real life, but every time he dips back into the noir elements, the naturalism is corrupted.

Uncut Gems (2019, Josh & Benny Safdie) [r]
The Safdies’ assaultive follow-up to Good Time demonstrates the same morbid fascination with total fuckups, this time one played by a more likable star, Adam Sandler, whose Howard is a locally famous jeweler in well-captured 2012 NYC with a dozen balls in the air, most importantly a priceless opal covertly shipped to him hidden in a box of fish. In his periphery are an obsequious mistress, Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett, a wife who has fucking had it, sex playlist staple the Weeknd and a gaggle of morons and gangsters. The film is a little too manic to sell the Wages of Fear-like tension it aims for, though its payoff is admittedly tremendous.

Homecoming (2019, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) [r]
The rare Actually Good Film directed by a musician, providing an opportunity to participate in the lavish communal experience of Beyoncé’s 2018 headlining set at Coachella. It’s aesthetically uneven but there’s a lot of joy in the elaborate performance itself that the sometimes overly restless editing can’t dissipate. The euphoric “Deja Vu” followed by a brief Destiny’s Child cameo are major highlights.

Rolling Thunder Revue (2019, Martin Scorsese) [hr]
Perhaps Scorsese’s best film, a great rock & roll document demythologizing the bemusedly self-mythologizing Bob Dylan with skill and wit while presenting a litany of juicy, fevered performances from the legendary mid-1970s tour of the title that make the case for him as a giant of live music. The reason Scorsese is able to get away with so many comic inventions here is that so many of the people revolving around Dylan in this footage (Allen Ginsberg, journalist Larry Sloman, the positively arresting Patti Smith) already seem like larger-than-life cartoon concoctions. Virtually every song we get to hear in full is magnificent.

Little Women (2019, Greta Gerwig) [hr]
Arrestingly beautiful and well-judged passion project for writer-director Gerwig, faithfully adapting Alcott with refreshing complexity of emotion and narrative alike. The casting is remarkably spot-on, and the familiarity and affection conveyed toward the characters is so difficult to articulate as an idea that there’s absolutely no way it was easy to concoct in the script or in the editing room.

The Earrings of Madame de… (1953, Max Ophüls) [hr]
In one of the signature moments of French cinema in the decade before Nouvelle Vague, Ophüls whips around in a state of unlikely euphoria as bored, debt-ridden aristocrat Danielle Darrieux betrays her husband (Charles Boyer) when she falls for the warm, personable Baron Donati (Vittorio De Sica). The story is tied together with a pair of earrings — their symmetry mirroring the story’s — that attain considerable import as narrative device, spiritual symbol, fetish object, grave marker. Ophüls’ famously magisterial, elegant camera movements are as breathtaking as advertised — they walk the hallways of refinement but uncover almost overwhelming compassion and emotion.

Heart of a Dog (2015, Laurie Anderson) [r]
The performance artist and musician Anderson’s monument to her late rat terrier Lolabelle, leading into a larger rumination on consciousness, life and death. Some portions are a little too moony, but several extracts — a painfully honest one about her mother, a shattering dialogue about loss, moving forward and looking backward — are immensely moving. The visuals, which are only sporadically inspired, don’t tell us nearly as much as the words and music, though. The death of Anderson’s husband Lou Reed looms quietly over the proceedings, culminating in an extremely well-earned catharsis in the final minutes.

The Farmer’s Wife (1928, Alfred Hitchcock)
(Revisit; no change.) Wildly extrapolated but often sweetly funny story of a lonely farmer seeking a new bride. If not for overlength, Hitchcock’s silent comedy — his first self-indulgence after one big hit and one minor success — might charm anyone, and it does offer in its lovingly desolate portrait of rural England a dry run for his enormously realized humanist triumph The Trouble with Harry three decades later.

The Skin Game (1931, Alfred Hitchcock) [r]
(Revisit; slight upgrade.) Cranky British people bitch about land, their neighbors. One of the director’s least distinctive films, this follows in the footsteps of Juno and the Paycock, a play that Hitchcock filmed with a minimum of cinematic contrivance, resulting in a well-acted but bland early talkie. Fortunately, while the story is less subtle and intriguing, this reflects more care on the director’s part and is more entertaining. A big part of what makes it worthwhile is the delightful performance of Edmund Gwenn as a money-grubbing bastard. For those who are not fans of Gwenn or Hitchcock, there’s probably no reason to see this.

Marriage Story (2019, Noah Baumbach) [hr]
Straightforward, empathetic chronicle of a divorce between two flawed, ultimately well-intentioned characters has the ring of truth that comes from reframing past mistakes that did not, at the time, necessarily read as mistakes. Thus it’s kind of a film about how growing up doesn’t really end with the entrance to adulthood, and also a sophisticated examination of irrevocable change in a romantic relationship; Baumbach superbly weaves the multiple complex threads that culminate in a dissolution like the one depicted. The level of detail in the script and performances belies the vagueness of the title; all the vignettes are well-observed, and most of them are mordantly funny.

Parasite (2019, Bong Joon-ho) [hr]
Remarkably original, arrestingly vital and funny thriller-with-a-touch-of-Viridiana follows a poor family deceptively landing gigs with a naive rich one, before a storm sets in. The acting is uniformly phenomenal, the acerbic treatment of poverty as a symptom of societal rot is completely on-point and universal, almost incidentally seeming to tap brutally into the mood of the times for those living under capitalism, the aesthetics are vivid and galvanizing, and the script walks the perfect line between cynicism and heartbreak in a way that feels throttling and disruptive.

Floating Weeds (1959, Yasujiro Ozu) [hr]
A revision of Ozu’s own A Story of Floating Weeds, now in color and subtly improved in a number of ways. Its sensitive portrait of a family fractured by pride and class consciousness (an actor wishes for his son to grow up outside of the world he occupies, so he essentially abandons the boy and sends money to his mother, only to cause old wounds to open when his Kabuki troupe comes to town years later) is often hypnotic in its grace and pregnant drama. The tale is better adapted to this postwar environment, straining less to transcend its cultural context, and the immersive use of sound is beyond description.

High Life (2018, Claire Denis) [r]
Denis’ physically discomforting sci-fi narrative of experiments and sperm-harvesting on cast-off felons and death row inmates who’ve been jettisoned toward a black hole “for science” isn’t wholly successful, but its grime and originality are a relief compared with the mannered, over-scripted, phony wonder of bloated, middlebrow blockbuster-adjacent American films like The Martian, Interstellar and Arrival. Denis never surrenders to the tiresome reliance on exposition that mars those other pictures, preferring to pile weirdness on top of weirdness, and there may be no director alive whose love for the form itself is more obvious.

Burning (2018, Lee Chang-dong) [r]
Sobering character study of an awkward, perpetually underemployed young man whose semi-unrequited affection for a childhood friend is thwarted by a suave, possibly psychotic man-about-town is built on a slow accumulation of detail, which gradually carries it to psychosexual-thriller territory without ever quite coming out and asserting its status as such. While the vagueness does what’s intended — with multiple interpretations keenly courted — it also lacks conviction, embracing puzzle-solving while dismissing the very idea of same in an act of lyrical existentalism; it’s a mystery for people who’d be embarrassed to admit they enjoyed a mystery.

Komeda, Komeda… (2012, Natasza Ziólkowska-Kurczuk)
Competent but rudimentary talking-head documentary about the composer Krzysztof Komeda is included on Criterion’s release of Rosemary’s Baby, and — shot on video with out-of-place bits of animation — it just feels like a lengthy DVD extra, though it apparently did play a couple of film festivals. You do get a decent snapshot of the Polish jazz scene of the late ’50s and early ’60s, and some fine clips of work he did with the likes of Wajda and Polanski, but overall there’s surprisingly little music, and not much that feels sensory or that makes a strong enough case for its subject, who died very early in his career scoring films.

Us (2019, Jordan Peele) [r]
A more ambitious horror story from Peele than Get Out, this phenomenally directed story about a family suddenly at the mercy of a mysterious and familiar-looking clan shadowing them isn’t as elegant as its predecessor but makes up for it with genuine creepiness and wicked excitement — wringing a great deal out of sheer imagination, a disorienting wardrobe choice and some great actors doing weird voices.

Atlantics (2019, Mati Diop) [hr]
Indescribable film opens with a Treasure of the Sierra Madre-like labor dispute and quickly passes into the promises and grand-scale tragedies of young love before launching in multiple, wildly unexpected directions. It has the primordially intense quality of some enchanting story you heard when you were a kid, fused with the heartrending drama of one’s greatest romantic longings. Diop corrals the performances and score (by Fatima Al Qadiri) with the hazy yearning of the visuals, with all involved parties seemingly locked into some truly urgent destiny.

Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953, Jacques Tati) [hr]
Another wonderful, gag-filled and slightly wistful Tati comedy in his unique cinematic vernacular introduces Hulot to the world, here summering on the French coastline and wreaking havoc on the other tourists via bumbling and noisemaking. It’s a smaller-scale production than those he would eventually occupy (and in black & white, even), yet the experience is not that different from watching Playtime; in either case, you’re immersed in a purely visual realm with words viewed harshly as inadequate, with the title character there to lend structure to Tati’s bemused, pointed but affectionate commentary on Modern Life. A long and oddly pleasing dream.

The Irishman (2019, Martin Scorsese)
Inevitable Scorsese interpretation of the life and disappearance of disgraced union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) through the eyes of hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) reflecting on the busiest years of his life with a mix of longing and regret: the very end of Goodfellas now stretched to a crushingly protracted 209 minutes. The director seems enlivened by the relative freshness of the material that reflects aged-out semi-maturity, structured by the penetrating glare of Anna Paquin as Sheeran’s estranged daughter, as opposed to the many scenes that feel like reenactments of moments we’ve all seen before, often with parts of this same cast.

Mustang (2015, Deniz Gamze Ergüven) [r]
Harrowing account of five teenage girls in rural Turkey and how their life in an oppressive household grows worse as they grow older — and more aware of their sexuality — has numerous parallels to The Virgin Suicides, but comes to resemble a straight thriller much more than Sofia Coppola’s film… and has a number of moments of jolting, unexpected wit. It’s all a bit simplistic in some ways, but the performances by the young cast are deeply affecting.

Paddington (2014, Paul King) [c]
Hideously stupid and ugly-looking hybrid of CG and live action takes inspiration from Michael Bond’s charming children’s novels to craft an unholy collection of stilted slapstick, pseudo-hip Wes Anderson lifts and quite frankly intolerable attempts at sweet social messaging while marking the checkboxes of various screenwriting obligations (a villain played by Nicole Kidman wants to skin the bear because of course she does). Got some bizarre degree of credit for being set in London and using British actors; if it’s that important to you then watch Wallace and Gromit for fuck’s sake.

Joker (2019, Todd Phillips) [NO]
Witless, inhumane bid at bringing sophistication into the factory-farmed comic book movie is exactly what you’d imagine the director of The Hangover thinks a really deep film for grownups looks like. Perfunctory regurgitations of Scorsese sit within the umpeenth “gritty” reboot of the Batman universe, forced like all others to sacrifice its sense of irony in the fruitless quest to render an inherently dumb mythos hard-boiled and realistic. Phillips is much too dim to have any clue what he wants to say and, along with Joaquin Phoenix embarrassing himself in the title role, only ever takes the most clearly marked path through this shitshow.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019, Quentin Tarantino) [r]
La Dolce Vita in L.A., an ethereal portrait of the transition between old and new Hollywood and the short-lived innocence growing out of the collision. Intersecting threads follow Leonardo DiCaprio as a former TV star, ever-charismatic Brad Pitt his faithful stuntman, Margot Robbie the doomed Sharon Tate, and a whole bunch of fake-hippie members of the Manson cult that will call the whole 1960s southern California dream into question. Very little actually happens in this lengthy, intoxicating tone poem of sorts, which would be fine if Tarantino’s creative juices didn’t clearly begin flowing anew when he briefly lets it turn into a thriller.

******

I’ve started but not yet finished updating the old Oscar winner pages to reflect the latest ceremony; Actor and Supporting Actor and Actress will be fixed in the next few days. Actress (Renée Zellweger for Judy) and Screenplay (Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit) will delay us a bit; I already took one for the team with Joker and I need a little break. Apart from that, lots more ’50s classics forthcoming and hopefully the beginnings of a wind-down at last on the historical Best Picture nominees, which I’m going to dedicate myself to finishing up before much longer.

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