Screening Log #10 Summary Sept. 19th – Nov. 7th 2010

Alright. All has been quiet here on the blogging front for ohhhhhh we’ll call it 2 months. I have not stopped watching films. I have, however, been in class and have had my first job teaching as well (well, teaching assisting anyway) replete with over 50 brilliant and creative students whose work I am responsible for grading. As such, I ‘ve regrettably had little time to keep up with the blog. I feel pretty guilty about that. The header image for this post is not me, but it seems to be my most default feeling or appearance these days.

So, to hopefully bring things back up to speed, here is an entry wherein I list the films I can remember watching in the last little while with a very brief blurb about each. In no alphabetical order, as always.


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Bad Lieutenant PoC-NOBad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (2009)

My second viewing of Werner Herzog‘s underrated foray into Hollywood genre pictures. I can’t help but feel like he’s found something in a new Klaus Kinski in Nic Cage; there’s something in his all-or-nothing performances that approximates Kinski’s seething energy and piercing eyes. I am always a fan of Cage when he can find the right director and this partnership works well. Herzog imbues the stereotypical action story with moment of his trademark lyricism and strangeness: the focus on the lizards, the break-dancing soul of a dead man, the final scene in the aquarium and how it both recalls the connection of the first two while expressing something understated and humane. A sort of bizarro fable wherein the evil man follows his heart and despite all his imperfections everything turns out for the best.


Buffalo 66Buffalo ’66 (1998)

Probably my favourite film, still, for all the reasons that I mention here. Vincent Gallo‘s auturist piece still resonates with me in all the ways that it first did. As bleak as it is tender, biting as it is funny, and as wounded as it is hopeful, with one of my favourite soundtracks of all time as well. The dialogue in the film still kills me to this day, ringing true but also stylistically heightened. Billy’s exchanges with his friend “Goon”/”Rocky” are mean, sensitive and full of the sort of history of a relationship that is hard to translate onto the screen. Gallo’s careful work and love in translating his own personal history onto the screen is apparent in every frame. The film and I love one another and we span time together; every viewing reiterates this point to me.


Human CentipedeThe Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)

October always brings out my (sometimes morbid) enjoyment of, and fascination with, horror films. Tom Six‘s The Human Centipede stands among the darkest and most existentially bleak films I have ever seen. In a lot of ways this is the movie that Hostel wishes it could be; Human Centipede covers a lot of the same beats as Hostel but does so more as a chamber-horror film, less sensational, less spectacle, and more deeply pessimistic about the human condition. From its initial “My Beloved Three-Dog” overtures to the despotically nihilistic closing shots, this film is a paragon of the macabre. Not for the faint of heart or stomach, unevenly acted – save for the pitch (black) perfect Dieter Laser – and unrelentingly dark, the film is the worst sort of success.

MacheteMachete (2010)

Miles more interesting and entertaining than Robert Rodriguez‘s previous grind-house installment, the stolid Planet Terror, Machete is a movie wherein everyone seemed to be having a good time. The cast are uniformly ridiculous in the extent they go to in order to chew the scenery. The film manages to not take itself too seriously (despite Rodriguez trying to shoe-horn in some topical political commentary on the immigration issue); the plot, action, dialogue, nudity and performances are all deliciously, and intentionally, B-Grade and gratuitous. I never thought I would see the day when a man escaped a hospital by swinging through a window with another man’s intestine… Machete gave me that and I can’t offer much more praise for the film than that.


Nightmare2010Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Curiosity got the better of me in this case; always a sucker for the old Nightmare on Elm Street films – Kincaid from part 3 and his “Have a nice stroll, asshole.” line will always have a place in my heart – I caved into curiosity, despite better judgement, and watched Samuel Bayer‘s remake. Far be it for me to harshly criticize anything put on the screen in terms of the work involved, but this film cribs all of its good ideas and visuals from the original and proceeds to execute them in lesser ways… usually because of CGI. I’m not as militantly against remakes as some people are, providing they can bring something new to the equation but this film was more-or-less stillborn in that sense, saying nothing new other than an in bad taste fake-out that perhaps Freddy wasn’t a child-molester after all. But he was. Jackie Earle Haley resurrects his Rorschach voice to good effect, but his performance is about the only positive thing this film has to offer to anyone who has access to the older films.


PersonaPersona (1966)

Ingmar Bergman‘s seminal meditation on identity and cinema functions more meta-cinematically and self-referentially than almost any of his other films. Beginning with a montage that gestures toward the artifice of the cinema itself, projectors, reels, film history and Bergman’s own typical images before unfolding one of his most carefully shot and composed features. Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman (even in her silence) carry the film on the grace and honesty of their faces. The dynamic between the two women is brilliant and the one-sided dialogue can be seen allegorically commensurate with Bergman’s interrogation of the conversation with God in his “Silence of God” un-trilogy trilogy – Through A Glass Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence. This film puts forward too many ideas and images to be done justice in this small blurb and remains potentially my favourite of Bergman’s films. Hopefully time permits a more in-depth review in the future.


Scott Pilgrim V. the WorldScott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010)

Edgar Wright‘s film holds up very well on a second viewing; the jokes are funny, the relationships believable and the same issues echo through another viewing. I still have yet to read the graphic novels, but I am heartened to see them taking on an important cultural cache in conjunction with the movie. I still believe, as I stated here, that this film does much to make an accurate and pertinent commentary on the way lives are lived by this new generation of young adults. The metaphors and allegories remain relevant and good. Also, Michael Cera‘s shtick is surprisingly appropriate and not grating at all here.


A Serious ManA Serious Man (2009)

The Coen Brothers structure this film as a sort of digression commensurate to the stories told by the Jewish elders in the film; they begin the picture with by backgrounding it with a traditional sort of ghost-story before leaping ahead to 1967. Carried by an exemplary cast led by a Michael Stuhlbarg‘s wonderful performance, the story ostensibly re-tells and re-frames the story of Job from the old testament; a good man, a serious man, is beset by many difficulties in life. The movie is darkly and understatedly hilarious, not uncommon for the Coens work. The ending of the film is, in a way, perfect, resolving many of the strands of the plot while leaving the door open for the rest of life to continue in a similar pattern predicted by the foreboding, and looming large, dark tornado on the horizon.


SpliceSplice (2009)

A surprising film, insofar it was much less concerned with shock and spectacle than I anticipated, Vincenzo Natali‘s Splice is less about the monster created by genetic tampering than in the repercussions this tampering has on conceptions of family. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley‘s scientist pairing struggle with the responsibility and change implicit in the act of having a child but rush into the task of genetically engineering a new form of life spliced with human DNA material. Natali demonstrated in Cube that more horror and suspense can be derived from situation and character and he puts those same elements to work here. The film reminded me, in many ways, of a diluted version of David Cronenberg‘s work of the 70’s and 80’s in the way it investigates how technology affects interpersonal andsocial relationships.


The ThingThe Thing (1982)

Certainly John Carpenter‘s period in the late 70’s to mid 80’s must rank among the prolific periods of any director’s career; his work spans genres from horror, action and science fiction – often employing the tropes of all of these within any single film – and each film ranges from decent to great. His remake of The Thing remains one of my favourite horror/SF films of all time. The film is anchored by an at-peak-form Kurt Russell and a surprisingly salty Wilford Brimley and is populated by some of the most remarkable FX work to date. The alien life-form is brought to life in brilliantly debased glory in a visceral manner that CGI would have trouble duplicating.


A Woman Under the InfluenceA Woman Under the Influence (1974)

John Cassavetes‘ strikingly naturalistic A Woman Under the Influence was sitting on my shelf in the Criterion Collection’s boxed set of his work for some time before I finally recently got around to watching it. An intense and incredibly well acted film, the credit goes squarely on the shoulders of Cassavetes for his ability to give actors long takes to breathe in and to Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk for their difficult and harrowing performances. Rowlands, especially, gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, oscillating between the sympathetic centre of the film and an unhinged and unstable woman. Together with Falk, Rowlands creates one of the most complicated and authentic feeling relationships I’ve seen put on the screen, in no small part also due to Cassavetes devestatingly unobtrusive script. I find difficulty writing about the film when so much of its impact and import is communicated through the relationship of the two characters, through dialogue rather than any drastic action.


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Phew! Made it. Hopefully now that the closet is clean we can proceed with a revised layout for Screening Logs that are more like these blurbs than the sometimes close to one thousand word entries that accompanied the previous Screening Logs… at least until I find myself with more time to write. The feeling of adhering to a longer length was prohibitive of me keeping up with the film watching on here and I don’t much like feeling that way.

3 Responses to “Screening Log #10 Summary Sept. 19th – Nov. 7th 2010”
  1. Catherine Hynes says:

    Good work Son, just make sure to rest.

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