My #365movies Project (week 1 and 2)

The Idea was simple. I hadn’t been taking time to relax and watch movies, so I would make a game out of it. This is how bad things have gotten, I have to give myself a chore to stop myself always doing chores and not relaxing. So I decided to watch 365 movie in 2017. I started new year’s day and have gotten up to know. Here is the first two weeks…
If you see an asterisk, then this is my first viewing of the film.

#1 – RED*
We started watching at about 10:30 New Years Eve, and finished after Midnight on New Year’s day. I wasn’t super impressed with the movie. Somewhere along the lines, super silly, over the top started the bore the living crap out of me. The fact that poor Mary-Louise Parker could have been replaced by a sexy lamp did nothing to help. The whole thing felt underdeveloped and over blown. Was not a fan.

#2 Mon Oncle*
Oh my God, where has this movie been all my life? I bought that Jacques Tati set from Criterion and for reasons best left unexplored I started with this movie. It’s not perfect, but I found a lot to like. I’m a fan of physical comedy, and silent films and the like, so this movie worked for me a lot. Tati’s work is known as containing themes about how the modern world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but as Hulot reacts to things in an affable manner, you sort of don’t notice. The movie doesn’t come right out and say modernity sucks, but it’s woven into every part of the movie. I liked this one. I’m probably over blowing it, but this is the movie that has stuck with me so far.

#3 The Dead Will Walk*
Included on one of the George Romero zombie DVDs, this little retrospective documentary killed about 90 minutes of time. There isn’t a lot to say, since it’s just a few interviews cobbled together with some vintage documentary footage that is from another documentary that is probably on the same DVD set this came from. Not bad, but it’s something you watch once on New Year Year’s day having already watched two other movies that day.

#4 Magnificent Seven (2016)*
There just wasn’t much there. I can see why this flopped, there’s not much story and the action is kind of basic. I have the same problems with this as the 3:10 to Yuma remake. There was a point where the action just became like watching someone else play a video game. The original had 40 bad guys, you could see the progression as the power balance moved back and forth. I have no idea how many millions our 7 heroes killed, but they all looked bored doing it. There’s so much wrong that going into would just be a series of complaints.

#5 Ant-Man*
I liked Ant-Man better, but in many ways it’s just another Marvel Movie. I like the Marvel movies, but I feel a strange reluctance about them. I like them well enough while watching them, but find lately that I hesitate to see them in the theaters. I didn’t see Ant-Man in the theaters, and while I got Captain America: Civil War at the same holiday I got this, I haven’t re-watched that yet. Still, it’s a pretty good movie, I fear I may be getting burned out on the Marvel formula.

#6 Geisha Assasin*
I may have owned this movie for three years and never watched it. I love samurai movies, but I just couldn’t with this cheap little thing until now. I do mean cheap. If this movie cost more than $27 to make, I will eat my hat. It looks like it was shot with prosumer DV cams and all expense was spared on the script because the whole script could fit on the back of an envelope. It looks cheap, the action has a good reputation, but I wasn’t impressed. HOWEVER! I have a strong notion that a room full of half drunk friends could turn this movie into pure gold. You can talk, you can laugh, you can play drinking games with how many cheap fighting movie gags are used (spoiler, it’s all of them) this may be a party movie rather than a sit alone movie.

#7 San Quentin*
And then we drifted into the move basic, boiler plate guys in prison movie that ever there was. It’s not that I have nothing to say, it’s that I was forgetting this movie while I was watching it. It’s just not memorable and everyone was sort of sleepwalking through their parts.

#8 Gotti*
Yeah, the HBO movie. I have seen a lot of gangster movies, and this was one of them. A random present Syd bought me off my wishlist one day. Again, a sort of basic, boilerplate movie. It’s a thing that happened.

#10 Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure*
Stand up. Eddie Izzard Stand up. You know what you are getting into with this. There is a point where all his shows sort of blend together for me. The jokes here are fresher in my mind, but I expect that they will fade into the pot of Eddie Izzard Bits.

#11 Playtime*
I livetweeted my thoughts on this one so you can go look, but I’ll sum up. This is a beautifully made movie that goes on too long, has no particular plot (or too many) and is seriously a mess. I have never felt so conflicted. On the one hand there are masterful jokes and hilarious moments, but there are also things that go on so long that I actually said “Is this scene still happening?” while watching. I have never felt so bored and fascinated at the same time. I am totally going to watch this again, and will be frustrated again, but I can see why it failed.

#12 The Golden Spiders
I really like the Nero Wolfe Mysteries show. I had to eventually watch stuff I had seen before, and I’m glad it this one. This show got me into the books, which are some of my favorite books in detective fiction. I love this first made for TV movie. It’s pretty great.

#13 Traffic*
Okay… so… it was shorter than Playtime, and it had a plot, but I can almost see Tati’s teeth gritting every time he has to come on screen as Hulot. One thing I find interesting, and it’s shown more here than some of the earlier movies, Tati seems to be okay with young people and youth culture. He looks backwards to a simpler time, but young people are usually the good people in his movies. The helpful strangers all always in their 20s in this movie.

#14 Horse Feathers
I like the Marx Brothers, Grocho is fun. Watching Chico play piano is like watching a magic trick… and then there’s Harpo. The older I get the less interested in Harpo I become. And Zeppo is Zeppo. Still, fun enough movie.

Then I started to go in for some short movies…
#15 The Electronic Labyrinth 1138 4EB
If Jacques Tati and George Orwell had a baby, it would be this movie.

#16 Me and The Big Guy
It’s basically one, long, joke.

#17 The Second Come Back
Another one joke short. Not as good as some, better than others.
So that’s the first week, tune in next week and we’ll see where we are.

Lost and Found

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Lost and Found (2008/ Dir. Philip Hunt/ Entertainment One and Studio Aka)
Here is the short version of this review: Go buy this, it’s excellent.

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My Horror Movie Quandary

Posted: September 21, 2014 in Article
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As we close in on October, it becomes that time of year to pull out all the old horror movies and get involved in Scary Movie Month. This is where I face my annual challenge. See, a lot of people watch scary movies to get scared… of movies. Which is something I don’t really understand. Not the desire, I’ve been in and around the BDSM community long enough to understand pleasure gained from discomfort, so I get that part. No I just don’t get the being scared part.

You see, I have never been scared by a movie. I’m not sure I’ve ever really been scared of anything, but certainly not a movie. I have been disturbed, or been shown things I don’t necessarily want to see, but never actually scared. It just never happens, nothing ever gets to me that way. I’m also bad company in a haunted house because I tend to look at the ghouls as they come out of the walls and judge them on their make-up choices. I know I’m perfectly safe, this is all for entertainment, and even if someone gets stupid I know I’m at least six times meaner than a sporadically employed actor is prepared to deal with on an average Tuesday night.

I’m not particularly fussed when safety is questionable either. I’m wary, because the person who is unaware of their surroundings is a victim waiting to happen, but I’m never afraid. Partially, again, I’m not the sort of person who just walks into an unknown alley and even if I have to for whatever reason I know that I’m at least four times meaner than most muggers are prepared to deal with on an average Sunday night.

This issue became such an issue for me, that I eventually had to come up with a formula so I could separate fantasy from horror. I don’t think many people would argue that fantasy and horror share a common wall, and sometimes the smells from one can seep into the room of the other. In trying to decide where to place things, or how other people might place them, I eventually came up with this idea.

If the powers of good can easily and readily assist the hero, then it’s fantasy. If the powers of good are helpless, or non-existent, then it’s horror. Gandalf can always show up on the back of an eagle, but The Turtle cannot help you. Now with something like the Elric series, you simply adjust your definition of “Good” to mean “On Elric’s side” and you’ve more or less got the idea. It’s not perfect, because by that logic Labyrinth is a horror movie, but if there weren’t exceptions, how else would we prove the rules?

This is actually a huge reason why I’m sort of uninterested in large swaths of horror. Gore flicks tend to bore the shit out of me. Oh, you’ve got sprays of blood? Bitch, I watch samurai movies, come back when it’s a geyser. You’ve got arms and legs hacked off? Second verse, same as the first! Pig parts loaded into a latex body mold don’t do much for me either. Any movie that relies on guts and gore over story or invention is going to bore me rigid.

I look at all horror as I would any fantasy or thriller. I get the same feeling watching Saw as I do watching Kiss the Girls, a deep and profound sense of loss for Carey Elwes ability to act. Seriously, he is TERRIBLE in both of those movies. What the hell happened? He was almost okay in Cat’s Meow. Seriously. But then, that movie had Eddie Izzard pretending to be Charlie Chaplin and if ever an actor was miscast…

What was I saying?

This is why I often can be found at the fun said of the horror aisle, with my copy of Creepshow and Corman’s Poe Cycle. If I go in for a serious horror movie I at least go for the really good ones. I need something interesting to watch, a story that can unfold, not just a treasure chest of jump scares and people screaming. The Blair Witch Project for example, I must have turned off four or five times while it ran on cable because it just didn’t work for me in the slightest. Watching annoying people bicker might be a horror movie to you, for me it’s Thanksgiving. Actually, I’ll admit on that on that it’s the found footage thing. Found footage can eat a dick. I mean, if I’m going to complain about bickering, what else is Night of the Living Dead, other than watching people bicker? Watching interesting people bicker about interesting things other than sticks tied up with string and where did the map go, comes the answer.

I know most of us here are grown ups, and most people aren’t really scared when they go to see a scary movie, but I have heard a fair amount of “these used to scare me and I watched them to conquer them and became them and now I’m not scared anymore.” and I hear a good deal of “these are literal fears, they’re metaphorical.” The example being no one is really afraid of the wolfman (or rather becoming the wolfman), they’re afraid of becoming something they can’t control. No one fears Pinhead, the cenobites just represent people who are more into BDSM than you are, and they want to show you all the fun. Only, somehow that’s supposed to be scary? I think? Help me out on this. Are the cenobites scary, sexy, or a monastic tradition that stresses community life? Even then though, I’m not particularly fussed by these things, so I don’t get the same effect. Not even the idea of kinky sexy monks can get my heart racing.

So in conclusion I would just like to say that Falco deserved way better than he got from the world.

So Why These Movies?

Posted: August 8, 2014 in Article
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So Why These Movies?

I was depressed the last two weeks or so, and I watched some movies. We’re not talking basic depression, we’re talking Allie Brosh depression. Stupid, pointless, meaningless, reasonless depression. You just sit there, fighting the urge to cry with every fiber of your being because that seems important somehow. I can’t say that everyone else has my reactions, but I can say that there were a few movies I watched and that helped. Not solved the issue, not cheered me up, but helped ease the stupid, pointless, random pain. I want to share with you the movies I watched, and the reasons I picked them…

Interview With The Vampire
A movie that is full of depression themes. Louis is clinically depressed, that cannot be denied with any truth. However, there is more to it than that. Louis is beautiful, and people want to have him be with them. The problem is, they want him to be as they want him, with little regard for how he feels about anything. He’s basically expected to just follow along passively and not get people down with all his complicated feelings and longings and being depressed and stuff.

I can identify with Louis, so I like the story a little more than some of the other people I know. Lestat is not a villain because he’s evil, he’s the villain because he’s selfish and stupid. He selfishly complains about Louis’s depression, and stupidly does stupid things to try and “fix” the unfixable. He tries grand gestures and then can’t understand why that doesn’t make everything all better.

This isn’t about “feeling better” or “cheering up” or even “not curling up under my desk and sobbing” at all. It’s about being able to have a moment where I can say “Yes, someone else has felt the way I do and they put it on screen.”

Speaking of which…

The Crow
Say what you like about Detroit not being as vast, as tall or as swank as the city depicted in the movie, it gets something right. If you are a man, living with issues, the patriarchal system has left you with only a few options. You are allowed to suck it up and be stoic, or you are allowed to be angry and take your rage out on deserving targets. I’m not sure there is another movie where those two sides are as well represented as The Crow.

The movie does manage to get to the heart of something else though. The stoicism falls away in a few scenes (Particularly the apartment scene with the ever underappreciated Ernie Hudson) and you can just see the utter and complete sadness. You watch the pain on Brandon Lee’s face, you can see him reaching down to something and bringing it to the surface in a very honest and personal way. It’s a movie that manages to say something, and be something, that I’m not sure everyone who was making the movie was aware of. They snuck it past the guards and gave us something we can hold onto. Here is a movie that understands that you feel trapped, that you haven’t really been given the equipment or the training to deal with this thing that has been laid on you. It also says it’s okay to explode and let all that rage out, which isn’t healthy, but I wouldn’t have been able to hear an alternate message at the time anyway.

Guardians of the Galaxy
An understanding of a different kind. Misfits have feelings, it’s okay to have feelings, even Rocket can have feelings. I’ve seen this movie twice this week, and I’m still processing some of it, but I haven’t been to see a movie a second time in the theater since Sin City and the last one before that was Schindler’s List. Everything wrong with so many comic book movies is addressed here, and Rocket says something that has been sticking with me.

Drax: All the anger, all the rage, it was just to cover up my loss.
Rocket: Oh boo-hoo. Everyone has dead people, that’s no excuse to make everyone else dead though.
I feel like that’s a one-line argument against Grimdark right there.

The movie surprised me by being a story that had some depth and a lot of feeling. I was expecting a fun, silly movie, what I got were characters I genuinely cared about developing in ways that made me feel better. Consider for a moment, that this is a movie where a raccoon cradles a stick and sobs. Now, consider that instead of being absurd, I’m sitting there going “Yeah. *sniff* You let it out Rocket. *sob* You cry if you gotta cry. *weeps* It’s okay.” Again, I find something I can identify with in this movie.

Also, I’m going to be hard pressed to find something that fills me with as much joy as watching little mini-Groot dancing to The Jackson 5.

I feel like this list needs more on it, but these are really the only three movies I watched. I mean, I’ve had trouble sleeping lately and letting MST3K run in the background helps, but I can’t call that watching. I could end this by saying something like “What I can say is that a big part of the reason I think we like the movies we like is being able to identify with someone in the story. Or at least know that someone behind the scenes understands us.” but it feels silly to say something so obvious. Problem is, I don’t know how obvious that is and as depression makes you think everything you say is stupid anyway… it becomes kind of a problem.

Sad little film fest…

Posted: March 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

I realized something. I only ever seen to watch Koyaanisqatsi and Silent Running when I’m alone, and it’s like… midnight. And then it occurred to me that Goyokin fits that pattern as well. And The Dark Corner and Under The Cherry Moon too. And now I want to watch them all, in that order, and have the weirdest One-Man Film Fest in history.

This is why I can’t be left alone unsupervised.

So I watched all of Zatoichi…

Posted: February 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

I don’t have any children, I have cats. Specifically, I have one cat that is MY cat. This is going somewhere. So at Christmas, I decided to allow my cat to get me a nice present. She decided to get me the Zatoichi Boxset from The Criterion Collection. See, I don’t have kids, so Syd can’t get some something and put their names on it. I’ve got to go on Amazon for the cat, and find something she would think I would like, and buy it for her. Cats, as you may have heard, are lazy creatures. So that’s how I came to own most of the Zatoichi movies, I already owned recent films under the brand name (more on that later) and I acquired the latest and the one film Criterion didn’t put in their boxset (again, later) so I could have them all. I then decided to watch all of them during January. I watched all the original movies during January, but life got in the way for the last three films. I watched them during the first few days of February.

So what it is?
The Zatoichi movies are an action series that spanned both movies and TV. There are 25 movies in the original set of films (which were made in only 11 years) and then it went to TV for four seasons. Then, in 1989, one more movie came along. All of these stared Shintaro Katsu in the title role (all the movies had the name Zatoichi in the title) which means it’s really not the James Bond of Japan, since those losers drop out after four or five movies. Even Dr Who tends to get a new guy to be its lead after three seasons.

Who Is This Guy?
The main character is a blind masseur, who wanders from place to place, getting in adventures. It’s okay that he’s blind though, because he has a cane with a sword in it and Mad Skillz (with a Z damnit) that even Daredevil would find impressive. He’s also part of the yakuza, even though he’s not part of any particular group. Yakuza have a different relationship to mainstream culture in Japan than The Mafia have in America, evidently. Zatoichi is very specific about how things should be done, and has no time for any yakuza boss who works with a corrupt official or victimizes people who aren’t asking for it. He’s got no problem with gamblers and even tolerates thugs, but if they break The Rules, then they are toast. Thing is, he’s not very high ranking, the Zato part of the name indicates that he’s the lowest rank of masseurs. He’s supposed to be just one step above a beggar, he’s the lowest rank of the lowest legal profession.

What Surprised Me
What I found most surprising is that the series never started to feel stale. There was only one movie in the original 25 that I didn’t like and that was Zatoichi Meets he One-Armed Swordsman. Every other movie was great, and I really enjoyed each and every one of them. I was also a little surprised at the fact that it wasn’t the same thing over and over again. Certain themes cropped up, but there are repeated themes just within the Samurai movie genre as a whole. That a few things seem to come up over and over again wasn’t a failing of the movies, so much as the beat of their rhythm. That there were regular badasses for Ichi to fight, or that Ichi would guess the dice by the sound they made was just part of the movies.

The thing is, the stories at the heart of the movies was always something a little different, and they were actually developed. A local boss would have a scam, and he would have reasons for the scam, and the people who would be helped and hurt are generally shown and fleshed out within the movie. It would have been very easy for this series to get lazy, but I never felt like it did. I always felt like the movies had fully realized stories and characters that you could actually care about. And at the heart of the whole thing is a fantastic actor playing a really captivating role. Katsu is sort of amazing as Zatoichi, and he’s incredibly fast. There are several action scenes I had to watch over to really catch everything.

I was also taken aback at how modern the movies felt. They’re shot with a style that was less prevalent then, but is more so now. This was kind of a trendsetting series though, so it’s easy to see how this might be the case.

Thoughts
The first 25 come in such quick succession that it was like watching a TV show (which the series later became) but one where a little more time and money was lavished than the average show. It’s a really excellent series, and very populist. The poor people, the exploited masses, these are the heroes, while the rich are corrupt bastards. Ichi is a tough guy, and a sweetheart, so he was adored by yakuza and grandmothers alike. You can see how the series was as popular as it was, and why it gave Katsu the power it did.

The last movie (the 26th) came some 16 years after the previous film, and is so 80s it kind of hurts. The movie itself it fine, even if it comes off as Zatoichi’s greatest hits. The music is super 80s pop though, as is much of the rest of the movies. I liked it though, and it’s got no shame in standing next to its brothers.

Now, in 2003 Kitano Takeshi made a new movie, with himself in the title role. He’s often the star of movies he directs, so there was nothing odd there. And Katsu directed two of the original Zatoichi movies, so that’s okay. The movie was weird though, because it was very much a Kitano Takeshi movie and those two styles don’t naturally suggest each other. Also, while paying tribute to the originals, they are also sort of a parody as well. Several things are made jokes, while other things are followed along exactly as they should be. It was sort of the perfect mix in a world that grasped that kind of humor.

In 2008 a movie with a woman starring as Ichi (the blind swordswoman). This movie played the whole thing far more seriously, and had a plot that followed Ichi more than it examined the bad guys. The movie was different than any of the Zatoichi movies, but I felt like that was in a good way. It was inspired by the original, but it wasn’t a slave to it. It was also longer than any of the others. Most the Zatoichi movies clock in at under 90 minutes, this one went a full two hours.

Finally, at the end (and I’m exhausted by the way) come 2010s Zatoichi: The Last. To be honest, less said about that the better

The Greats Recap

Posted: December 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Great Series

Horror

Fantasy

Historical Movies

Crime Pictures

Sci-Fi

Westerns, Samurai & Kung-fu