The Russian Revolution- The fall of the Tsars and the rise of Lenin told in succinct History channel fashion. There is probably a much richer, more detailed version of this somewhere but this gives you the who, what and wheres pretty easily with minor details to flesh it out. As far as my movie list goes I don’t know if these shorter movies should technically count, but I know I will end up watching more than the intended amount so it will balance things. Also, quit busting my balls about it not every movie has to be 3 hours. (Looking at you Marvel).
Area 51- I love found footage movies. The two movies that have legitimately fucked me up afterwards are Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Not scared per se but just messed up in the head. Now, when I say I love them I mean I give them a lot of leeway in terms of quality. They are made to look “real” so that can equate to cheap or shaky shots. Area 51 is not cheap even if the plot is shaky and unrealistic. At one point, a helicopter flies over head as they enter a large military installation with soldiers running all over the place. It made me think that the found footage these days is more a choice of how to tell a story than the need to film it inexpensively and it worked well here if you’re a fan of the genre despite its quirks. (To be honest, I was scared per se at Paranormal Activity. I didn’t go home directly afterwards because I knew no one was there.)
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
The Man & Le Mans- It is one thing to present information about an event. It is another thing to do it with style and that’s what can separate a good documentary from an average one. I will repeat this a few movies from now about Herzog. Like McQueen himself, this thoroughly researched documentary is dripping with style and doesn’t focus solely on him but touches on many different aspects of the sport, film making and the era. Loved this.
Our Brand is Crisis- David Gordon Green is divisive to me. He’s not weird enough for me to point to any of his films as unique but he’s not bland either. That he took a documentary about James Carville’s strategy team heading to Bolivia to rejuvenate a losing candidate’s campaign is odd but it’s an oddity that makes it watchable. Nothing about the extras or the setting are familiar ground in American cinema even if the story is. Think The War Room but in Spanish. Wait, you haven’t seen The War Room? What about when Documentary Now parodied it on IFC? Nothing? Jesus, never mind.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers- I have noticed a theme in older films and it’s an unfortunate one. As far as I can tell, up until around 1990 forcing women to do, well, anything was totally fine. Woman doesn’t like you? Kiss her forcefully until she stops hitting you. Is she talking too much? Take her out back and rape her until those screams of “help” turn into “don’t stop”. She doesn’t want to marry you and her friends are acting up as well? Kidnap all of them from their homes, take them into the mountains and hold them hostage until they decide to love you. This will take approximately one winter btw and the success rate is 100%.
Little Dieter Needs to Fly- Sometimes I look at my life and opinions as a whole and I like to think that I am unique. Yet, you can always leave it to Werner Herzog to show you that your life (and your opinions) are pretty basic. In German-American Dieter Dengler, he has a unique chatterbox of a man who requires very little narration. He is animated and at times eloquent when speaking about his life. Not content with this, the two travel to Vietnam where Dengler, a former POW reenacts his captivity and escape with real Vietnamese people acting as captors. I cannot think of a more PTSD flashback inducing activity but aside from one casual remark he seems unfazed as he relives the time he spent there.
Timbuktu- Maybe I’m too American? I mean that’s definitely true, but I’m thinking cinematically. That question could be applied liberally but specifically it relates to how I didn’t really get into this movie. On the surface, it’s about the ISIS occupation of a small village in Africa but there’s all kinds of tribal and linguistic subtext happening that I did not really follow or understand the nuances of. It has visceral moments, both good and bad, but I’m just too dang surface to appreciate the whole.
Baby Driver- In a world where every piece of prospective and established talent is being sucked into the twin black holes that are DC and Marvel, it’s good to see someone like Edgar Wright escape the gravitational pull to make his own thing. He had worked on Ant Man for years but when it became apparent that he wasn’t going to make something traditionally Marvel, they parted ways and he made Baby. This movie is not perfect but it has moments of perfection and unparalleled musicality. In a summer of flops and superheroes, I will take an imperfect Edgar Wright film any day.
High Plains Drifter- There’s a rape abooooouuut 5 minutes into this movie. By the main character no less. Now, if you know this movie, the general vibe is that the whole town deserves what it gets and Clint Eastwood will be the figure who doles out the punishment, but a little decorum is necessary. Maybe I like my heroes uncomplicated. I like anti-heroes too but the tone wavers. The location for the film, near water and shot in California, make it a standout from the other westerns that Clint shot in Italy. Eastwood directs and trippy dream sequences abound.
Lost City of Z- The only time I can recall a movie being better than a book was Count of Monte Cristo. That’s right. Fuck that book. But most of the time it is the other way around as is the case here. I know that it’s unfair to criticize a movie because the source material was better but the story in question is so interesting and fraught with peril that the movie does not convey. It’s a well done period piece with great jungle scenes and Robert Pattinson making yet another appearance on the list. I recommend both the movie and the book. I’m just not sure what order to make the recommendation.