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TrueFaith77 09-10-2022 11:54 AM

48. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (Sam Raimi); grade: F

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness expands the Fascist dimensions of the MCU and the recent fascination with the concept of a multiverse. The metaphysic is one of randomness conquered by Will (dictatorial social planning). Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness hooks audiences with sentimentality (Strange's romantic regret and Wanda's maternal pain). As with Lennon imagining a sky with no significance in the fascist anthem "Imagine" and Everything Everywhere All at Once conceiving of a creation with no meaning--no creator--DSATMM offers the salve of images lacking emotional resonance. It completes the dulling—the cleansing from Difference—of pop culture.

TrueFaith77 09-10-2022 12:03 PM

49.Peter Von Kant (Francois Ozon); grade: A

Ozon remakes Rainer Werner Fassbinder's lesbian melodrama Bitter Tears of Petra Van Kant as a fictionalized biography of Fassbinder. The layers of mise-en-abyme intoxicate like a vertiginy of movie love (made palpable by Manuel Dacosse's liberated camera and rich complementary color scheme). First, in 70 minutes, Ozon tightens and personalizes the Brechtian theatricality of Fassbinder's 2-hour-plus dirge (that climaxes with genuine revelation--a Brechtian coup de grace). Because the film is now about a middle-aged gay filmmaker obsessed with a male ingenue in the '70s, it hones in on the sex politics of today's #MeToo moment. Ozon deepens the topicality by revealing the complexity of sexual and capitalistic exploitation, the willing participation on both sides and the way an artist's desires manifest themselves personally and artistically. So, yes, Ozon finds within Fassbinder's dialectic materialist-then-spiritual tract, the essence of gay sensibility that Fassbinder revealed in his last--and greatest--film Querelle. Hence, the film's diegetic soundtrack includes a rendition of that film's theme song as sung here by Isabelle Adjani. Another layer, Ozon's inspired casting of Isabelle Adjani as Peter Von Kant's muse allows him to investigates her significance as a female expression of gay men's deepest longings: a wall-paper sized photograph of her face looms over many of the scenes, just like the Renaissance artworks portraying the martyrdom of St. Sebastian. So, Ozon continues his own personal investigation of melodrama--distinct form Fassbinder's. Furthermore, Ozon's casting of flirty-eyed Khalil Ben Gharbia suggests his own affinities more than Fassbinder's--and expands to surprising classical and pop ideas of male beauty. (Adjani devastates with her response to Peter’s demand to know if she slept with Gharbia.) Put simply: through creative non-fiction and disguised autobiography and intertextuality, Ozon creates through the characterization of Denis Menochet as Peter Von Kant an emotional catalogue of gay sexual life--the profound need at the center of it all. Menochet gives the performance of the year because his eyes capture the way a lover begs for every morsel of reassurance. Ozon discovers the genesis of that need in a profound scene featuring Hanna Schygulla, Fassbinder's young ingenue now playing "his" mother. However, Von Kant the filmmaker only finds an outlet in movie-making for his capacity for feeling. That makes this top-tier Ozon. But still not great. The Fassbinder structure contains an ellipsis in which the power dynamic shifts between the two characters--deconstructing and critiquing the role of power in human relations. Therein resides the lost opportunity for Ozon to explore the specifics of sexual experience--intimacy--that seems to reside in the memory of the filmmaker's eyes that open and close the film. Ozon's Querelle remains pending.

FuzzyPlum 09-11-2022 01:14 AM


Originally Posted by TrueFaith77 (Post 1277721)

As with Lennon imagining a sky with no significance in the fascist anthem "Imagine"

What? Fascist anthem??? Where did you pull that one from???
Get outta here

TrueFaith77 09-23-2022 02:59 PM

50.I Came By (Babak Avari); grade: D-

The Brits jumping on the race-based horror genre bandwagon (think Get Out and all its white-guilt indulging progeny) only demonstrates that they have slightly more wit than their American counterparts. In I Came By, the cleverness manifests itself in a few identity-politics genre twists. First, the white supremacist, homophobic, imperialist serial killer played by Hugh Bonneville at first appears to be a gay offing his exotic tricks. Nope. He's just British! (He barks into a black female detective's face: "I thought you were one of the smart ones!") Then, director Avari sneakily makes it seem as though middle-class graffiti terrorist George MacKay and, then, his mother Kelly Macdonald will take down the villain. It's a double-down on the gimmick that Hitchcock (and De Palma) would raise into profound art in Psycho and Dressed to Kill. Because those two actors were so memorable in, respectively, The True History of the Kelly Gang and Gosford Park, the spectator may not have guessed that it is unknown Zimbabwean actor Percelle Ascott who must avenge them. I was hoping his baby mama and then his child would have to carry the mantel to extend the joke. Instead, it's just more wish-fulfillment fantasy.

TrueFaith77 09-23-2022 03:06 PM

51.Athena (Romain Gavras); grade: F

Athena throws a Molotov cocktail into a combustibly divided culture. Background: Director Romain Gavras is the son of politically-sophisticated and aesthetically-gifted Costa-Gavras (Z, State of Siege, Capital, and the great The Confession). Romain's previous film The World Is Yours references both Scarface and Tarantino to address immigration culture-shock and ethnic criminal underworlds in France (featuring greatest-living actress Isabelle Adjani in a Cesar-nominated performance). So one enters Athena with more than the requisite open mind. The extended long-take that opens the film introduces the emotional-political terrain: 3 Muslim brothers' differing responses to the murder of their 4th and youngest brother by, it is believed, the police. It could also be read as a De Palma-esque media critique. A Molotov cocktail thrown by militant now-youngest brother Karim (Sami Slimane) explodes a press conference meant to encourage peaceful protest featuring the French military-garbed brother Abdel (Dali Benssalah). Shortly after, Karim choreographs the dropping of debris by utilizing his cell phone screen of live news coverage outside the Athena living projects that he and his marauding gang has barricaded. Ultimately, the technique, with its rousing music score and fluid snaking camera movements, celebrates cultural chaos. (The oldest brother Karim (Sami Slimane) has his own socially destructive and degenerate motivation during the tenement's collapse.) With their opposing approaches, handsome Slimane and Benssalah perfectly represent propagandistic semiotics--in balance. As Gavras perversely turns fate, the film and the two brothers choose a side and their equal appeal sentimentalizes privileged filmmaker Gavras's projection of revolutionary politics onto an oppressed minority. Too much a literalist, Gavras takes the barrio name of "Athena" to infuse the story with elements of Greek Tragedy. *SPOILERS*: Topping even Oedipus Rex, all 4 brothers ultimately die (including 1 by fratricide!). Then, Gavras reveals the previously withheld twist: that youngest brother was not killed by the police, after all, but by radical white supremacists posing as police. Their successfully achieved aims: the sparking civil unrest and the destruction of the Athena projects and the undermining of confidence in the police. The imagined power of a fringe political movement to manipulate social distrust actually exposes the irresponsible employment of technique by Gavras. Fortunately, nobody cares about this movie.

TrueFaith77 09-25-2022 09:51 AM

52.Gigi & Nate (Nick Hamm); grade: B-
53.Confess, Fletch (Greg Mottola); grade: C+
54.After Ever Happy (Castille Landon); grade: B-

In Greg Mottola's aptly titled reboot Confess, Fletch, Fletch (as played by John Hamm) is guilty as hell... guilty of being white. That ends up being the subterranean theme in a comedy about the good fortune of bumbling investigative reporter turned private investigator. "White privilege" also explain the mystery of comic actor Hamm's career--as in his ludicrously acclaimed psychotic cypher Don Draper in the pseudo-dramatic Mad Men (recalled here by the presence of John Slattery). Confess, Fletch brings this concern to the surface when police detectives played by black actor Ron Wood Jr. and Iranian actress Ayden Mayeri solve the case no thanks to Fletch's detective skills but with assist from Fletch's ability to infiltrate a yachting club. This is how Mottola (who directed the terrific comedies Adventureland and Paul) brings Fletch into the modern world--afflicted by pandemics of all sorts (the villain is a germaphobe, Fletch bemoans the state of journalism and the presidency). Fletch/Hamm attempts to expiate his white guilt with the spectacle of gifting various supporting characters with the film's loot of Mussolini-purloined art masterpieces. Face it, though, this sometimes-funny movie wouldn't have gotten made without white affirmative action. "Privilege" significantly provides the invisible safety net for the lead characters who deal with the repercussions of physical and psychological traumas, respectively, in the B-movies Gigi & Nate and After Ever Happy. (Notably, Marcia Gay Harden is in both Confess, Fletch and Gigi & Nate--she's never been better frankly; Josphine Langford is in both After Ever Happy and Gigi & Nate--showing a versatility and a sexiness more distinctive than the bland white affirmative action beneficiary and current "it girl" Florence Pugh.) The cgi "service animal" monkey in Gigi & Nate and the revolving, almost-surreal interchangeable cast of supporting actors in the After series (After Ever Happy is the 4th in the ongoing saga) orbit the perceptual reality of the whiteness of lead actors Charlie Rowe (Gigi & Nate)--so memorable in TV's Red Band Society and the stage's Judas Kiss--and Hero Fiennes Tiffin (After Ever Happy). The benefits--the options--their characters enjoy and even the privilege of the genres they inhabit (inspirational, extreme Romanticism) provide the context for the universal feeling that their stories engender. As New Order titled a song: Guilt is a useless emotion.

TrueFaith77 10-02-2022 03:06 PM

54-1/2. Dos entre muchos (Julian Hernandez); grade: A+

Julian Hernandez is one of only two great new filmmakers in the 21st century (Zack Snyder is the other, fyi). Hernandez and Snyder share, along with formal innovation and an operatic sense of Myth, the sensuality that evokes spiritual states comparable only to Sternberg and Bertolucci. Covidpocalypse provides the context for Hernandez’s erotic technique to take a radical stance against isolation in a new short film, translated as Two Among Many. Two long-distance lovers (Esteban Caicedo as a musician and Alan Ramirez as a dancer) improvise means of communication and intimacy when separated by Covid strictures (and other disasters). They use modern technology to collaborate on a dance piece and eat dinner together over FaceTime (and feed a pet fish). Hernandez makes palpable their longing in the most powerful love scene since his own Raging Sun, Raging Sky—that was set to Jose Jose’s “Cada Mañana”; this one is the finale of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea—both enrapturing. Cinematographer Chak Perez Pena lets the sunshine in at day-time and aims his keylight at night, both to sculptural effect—it’s the most beautiful movie of the year. Later, when, like the time-jumping tracking camera mise-en-scene Hernandez originated in Broken Sky, Ramirez takes new positions with each camera setup, the filmmakers already illuminated the space with meaning (and expanded the significance of Covid to gay men's AIDS-era confrontation with mortality). The song Caicedo prepares—“Is It Okay if I Call You Mine?” from Fame—provides accompaniment to Ramirez's final rooftop dance. Hernandez infuses the sequence with such heartbreak and hope that it reveals his unique, as-yet-unfulfilled potential to restore the musical form after Fame commenced the genre's 40-year demise.

TrueFaith77 10-02-2022 03:07 PM

55.Dead for a Dollar (Walter Hill); grade: A

Finally! A real movie! The great Walter Hill returns cinema to American movies by also returning to its foundational genre, the Western. Doing so, Hill clarifies contemporary socio-political quandaries with concrete forms of morality. Moral action drives the plot, fulfills the characters, burnishes the images, and provides rhythm to the editing. One character quotes Marlowe—“Is this ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’?”—to explain the reason for the rescue mission of a married white woman (Rachel Brosnahan) presumably by a black deserter from the army (Brandon Scott) that goes from New Mexico (and Texas) to Mexico, but it also signifies the mythic nature of the story that leads to an irrevocable confrontation between ancient foes (convict Willem Dafoe and bounty hunter Christoph Waltz). It’s an American myth brimming with American tensions and dynamics, and characters who cross a porous moral border only to be defined by the hard line of truth. When his partner, a black solider (Warren S.L. Burke, conveying conflicting loyalties) asks about his nationality, Waltz answers with a Germanic accent: “I’m an American.” Every character gets the chance to state his or her position—but differences get settled (like a fair and honest election) by persuasion (Brosnahan appealing to Waltz’s essential goodness) or quick-draw contests. When Burke challenges a racist to a bullwhip duel, the whip-snaps crack like gunshots. Lloyd Ahern’s vivid lighting in sepia tone—providing delicate shading across a spectrum of skin tones—provides a sense of place (the harsh sunlight of the desert) and the perceptual reality of America’s collective unconscious like faded photographs (flashbacks are in dreamlike black-and-white). Similarly, the town names that flash on screen provide direction like a spiritual compass (Pueblo de Guadalupe, Ciudad Trinidad Maria). Ideas burst through the screen a la the patented Hill image of a horse careening through a proscenium-like window (it remains as thrilling as ever!). The abstract, cubistic editing of Hill’s Streets of Fire, The Driver, and The Long Riders matures into the metaphysical legibility of Bullet to the Head and, now, Dead for a Dollar. When one character kills someone for the first time, Hill establishes the spatial context and moral necessity by cutting to a distant character’s reaction—yelling, “Dios!”—before cutting back to show the character on the bullet's receiving end dropping dead. The title cards at the end explain the fates of the characters who survive the final shootout—a character-testing “humdinger!” exclaimed one Hill afficionado on Twitter. It appropriates the true-story trope to convey beneficent faith. It’s the best American film of the year. Viva Walter Hill!

TrueFaith77 10-15-2022 12:45 PM

56.Will-o'-the-Wisp (Joao Pedro Rodrigues); grade: B+
58.Amsterdam (David O. Russell); grade: B+
59.Raymond & Ray (Rodrigo Garcia); grade: A-

"He was a racist who liked everybody," that's how half-brothers Raymond (Ewan McGregor) and Ray (Ethan Hawke) remember their enigmatic father who left behind psychic wounds that remain fresh in Rodrigo Garcia's Raymond & Ray. The enigma of race haunts the most intriguing romantic entanglements in three films made my deeply serious artists who seem over-burdened by contemporary political concerns.

Will-o'-the-Wisp (Joao Pedro Rodrigues)
For Joao Pedro Rodrigues, this tension manifests itself in the structure of Will-o'the-Wisp. The prologue and epilogue overtly conjure the absurdities of political idolatry (Greta Thunburg, Barack Obama). Then, the film's main narrative about a blanco Spanish Prince (Mauro Costa) who joins the fire department and falls in love with a Black fireman (Andre Cabral) achieves an uncanny combination of Bunuelian surrealism and amazing sensuality to tear down contemporary shibboleths. It begins with a rhapsody on fire department drill movements and climaxes with a frisson-busting 69 position in a fire-ravaged forest with looming phalluses framing contrasting angelic faces trading naughty racially-tinged provocations. At the film's best, its sweetness (when Cabral comforts Costa after a prank) and its bold gay sexuality (nude firemen recreating famous artworks) challenges the assault on intimacy in the post-Obama, post-Covid, post-January 6 era.

Amsterdam (David O. Russell)
The tension between universal longing and divisive politics--expressed as the trauma of WWI and threat of WWII--in David O. Russell's Amsterdam results most plainly in it not being funny--and hence making a mess of history. Russell's technique appears to involve establishing the context for actors to unveil their own luminous individuality. Russell achieves an awesome spectacle: when Zoe Saldana and Christian Bale perform an autopsy looking at each other and down at the camera to express shared integrity and attraction, when Margot Robbie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Rami Malek appear in a forward-facing three-shot balancing expositional and emotional cross-purposes, when Robbie looks at John David Washington (Denzel's son) in a p.o.v. shot to divine his essential innocence, and when WWI veterans put on a benefit show demonstrating their various talents. Through cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki's emphasis on faces and the eyes shining through them, it's the most beautifully photographed American movie since Byron Shah shot Joe Nussbaum's Prom (2011). These inherently democratic images clearly testify to the uniqueness--the value--of each actor in a creative dynamic undercut by the overstuffed plot conflating political paranoia and the desire to escape. (Put bluntly, Russell proves oblivious to the contemporary resonance of a plot combining eugenics, exploitation of workers, and despotism.) Interestingly, Russell proffers escape in the form of romantic fulfillment--essentially conventional--made more complicated in Rodrigo Garcia's new film.

Raymond & Ray (Rodrigo Garcia)
Russell and Garcia are the best American directors of actors since the passing of Altman and Jonathan Demme. In Mother and Child (2011) and Nine Lives (2006), Garcia elicited from 12 actresses their best-ever performances in which they transcended even themselves to reveal each character's spiritual kernel of truth. In Raymond & Ray, Garcia gets to the essence of men's difficulty with expressing their feelings when two half-brothers reunite to bury their callous, magnetic father. McGregor and Hawke's characters suppress their pain so much that they stop short of a brotherly hug when grabs his own crotch and chides: "Hug this!" Scene-by-scene (during the car trip, interacting with two women at the wake, meeting more brothers for the first time at the burial), the brothers discover new facets of their father's mystery. They also clarify each of son's distinct responses to their father's abuse--what made jock McGregor and scholastic Hawke inseparable as children and estranged as adult cuckold and addict ("The boys are not the men"). When the funeral ritual calls upon McGregor and Hawke to say their piece, one can only speak with a trumpet, the other with a gun. These expressions draw out the feminine instincts of the "racist" white father's Mexican lover (Maribel Verdu) and Black nurse (Sophie Okonedo)--a felicitous twist of fate reminiscent of Annette Bening's reunification with her long-lost daughter Naomi Watts in Mother and Child. Through Garcia's direction--the camera tracking through the cemetery taking in the expanding brotherhood, closeups shot from the corpse's p.o.v.--McGregor and, especially, Hawke achieve such transparency that the slightest shifts in facial expression tap a wellspring of compassion.

Catharsis, at last!

Jondalar 10-19-2022 01:46 AM

15. Barbarian, grade B- = well-acted horror movie that's different but not that scary. I liked it but didn't think it was that memorable.The plot was original.

16. Smile, grade B = creepy horror move that is well-acted but not very original. It has a few jump scares that work but I kept thinking I've seen too many movies that are like it, such It Follows. Still it was effective.

17. Pearl, grade C = this is the prequel the horror movie called X. It's basically a character study of the villain Pearl. It shows how she started killing people in her early years. It's very well-acted but just not that interesting or very scary. It's forgettable.

18. Halloween Ends, grade C - = weird, takes a left turn from the previous movie and doesn't make much sense. However, I did feel there were a few original kills and I liked the ending to a degree. I'm glad this series is over though.

TrueFaith77 10-30-2022 08:11 PM

57.The Affairs of Lidia (Bruce LaBruce); grade: B
60.My Son Hunter (Robert Davi); grade: B+
61.Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Ostlund); grade: F
62.Stars at Noon (Claire Denis); grade: D

Two filmmakers in disreputable movie markets (one a sexual libertine, the other a political Conservative) both turn to Brechtian techniques to explore how contemporary politics alienate people from themselves and each other. In other words, aesthetic distance proves the route to compassion, in contrast to the bourgeois cretinism and condescending projection of two Cannes-feted arthouse films.

The Affairs of Lidia (Bruce LaBruce)
LaBruce designs this fashion-world bisexual hardcore porn to appeal to the swinger set (the mise-en-scene recalls Kershner’s The Eyes of Laura Mars). Doing so, LaBruce takes advantage of the mechanical nature of the genre (complete with a nod to Resnais’s magnificent Guerre Est Finie) through aesthetic innovation. He deconstructs the characters’ woke political poses to challenge them with the implications of radically open sexual relationships. The grieved party of the film’s sexual la ronde (Sean Ford) chastises Lidia (Skye Blue), explaining that through her existential “shallowness,” she personifies—she IS—Fashion. He exclaims: “And I LOVE fashion.” LaBruce develops an entirely new visual trope—existential AND semiotic—worthy of Kershner and Resnais: through split screens and montage, characters change or juxtapose different clothing within each sequence. It’s a dazzling extension of the profound Parent Trap montage in LaBruce’s masterpiece Saint-Narcisse.

My Son Hunter (Robert Davi)
Muckracking cinema takes on unexpected empathetic dimensions through the sensibilities of its auteurs. Actor-turned-director Davi knows the debaucherous reality of both Hollywood and D.C.—both of the elite and the exploited climbers. Reminiscent of his participation in Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls, Davi extends that understanding to satire. Both films dramatize a whore’s redemption—liberation—through righteous political action—and then, even better, familial reconciliation that gets to the heart of the national divide. The journalistic rigor of producers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney complements Davi’s low-down industry-town knowledge and, then, transcends it, because McElhinney borders on genius with her understanding of what truly matters in life. Davi visualizes the tragically perverted relationship of Hunter Biden with his father Joe Biden. He stages the Oedipal dialogue about their Ukranian-Russian kickback scheme against the backdrop of the most influential and still-unsurpassed sequence in movie history: the Ukraine-set Odessa steps massacre from Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet-era Battleship Potemkin. Provincial politics—like family dynamics and personal corruption—take on unfathomable geopolitical consequences. Still, the most ingenious Brechtian trope is Laurence Fox’s hilarious and heartbreaking portrayal of Hunter. Imagine Mike Leigh directing Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Ostlund)
Phony in every way. Example: It implausibly portrays a long-in-the-tooth male model (Harris Dickinson) as naive about sexual exploitation in the industry (LaBruce and Davi know better!). It’s misogynist, classist, racist: a Mexican cleaning lady turns tyrant on a deserted island. She sexually exploits the male model. She murders his model girlfriend. She connives to keep the survivors of a yacht explosion under her thumb. In other words, she ends up just like the film’s rich white men—a mere projection of the filmmaker’s and the art-film audience’s own murderous power-lust.

Stars at Noon (Claire Denis)
The affair between a journalist-turned-prostitute (ha!) (Margaret Qualley) and a British secret agent (Joe Alwyn) trapped in Nicaragua amid a regional war and global proxy war should provide the opportunity for sexual exploration—two sexy actors exposing character depth and skin. (Alwyn smoldered in Ang Lee’s great Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.) Instead, we get the perceptual reality of Alwyn’s contract limiting nudity and, that cliche shorthand for hetero intimacy, the gross-out of Alwyn using Qualley’s menstrual blood for finger lube (again, LaBruce and Davi know better!). Two American CIA agents (Danny Ramirez and Benny Safdie) test this intimacy—Qualley’s fidelity—by offering her freedom in exchange for her betrayal of Alwyn. The film’s only dynamic visual vector is Qualley’s penchant for sudden outbursts directed at the camera—white fecklessness as existential privilege.

TrueFaith77 10-30-2022 08:14 PM

63.Decision to Leave (Park Chan-wook); grade: F
64.The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh); grade: F
67.Peaceful (Emmanuelle Bercot); grade: A

Decision to Leave (Park Chan-wook)
The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh)

Befitting their cultural fate, let's dispatch with them quickly: Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave and Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin argue for euthanasia (suicide) as a cover for the filmmakers’ advocacy of eugenics (genocide)--and are both too atrocious to afford more words.

Peaceful (Emmanuelle Bercot)
Leave it to the French to restore dignity and meaning to the process of death in the upcoming Francois Ozon film Everything Went Fine and, now, Emmanuelle Bercot’s bravely emotional Peaceful. As with her superb Standing Tall, about juvenile delinquents, Bercot transforms the instructional social-issue movie into art. She structures the film around the seasons—like Andre Techine’s Being 17. Reminding of Robert Altman (A Prairie Home Companion) or Patrice Chereau (Son frere), Bercot achieves resonances through the poetic integrity of her actors' performances (a testament to the value of an individual life). Reminding me a bit of Chereau, Benoît Magimel plays an acting teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer—coaxing vulnerability from his students (teaching them to hug, to say goodbye, to achieve “presence”). Similarly, at the hospital, staff go through exercises to cope with and improve their treatment of terminal patients—including musical performances. The staff also plays for the patients, accompanying tango dancers invited to entertain them. The motif of performance reaches many emotional peaks related to Magimel’s existential—spiritual—dilemma. A student with a crush plays Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Lou Lampros delivering my favorite scene of the year, in which three character's communicate Shakespearean levels of ardor). There's an impromptu performance by staff and patients of “Go Down Moses” (a deliverance) and, finally, a pop benediction (courtesy Prince) that resolves the film’s Oedipal conflicts—an overpowering mother, 2 generations of absent fathers. The resonances build and build so that p.o.v. shots of a plane’s trail in the sky and a reclined—exhausted—view of the Hospital on a rainy night generate spectator empathy for the dying and the grieving. The images of transfusion blood in tubes represents two meanings of the gift of the life. A shot of a mother cradling a baby in her arms provides the impetus for what might be the summation moment of Catherine Deneuve’s iconic career, which again (as in Standing Tall), Bercot integrates into the fabric of the family drama--she plays Magimel's mother. As her grandson, Oscar Morgan achieves “presence” (when his mother asks if he needs her, he replies, “I always need you”). As Magimel's doctor, Gabriel A. Sara conveys the empathy undergirding hospital protocol, while as the head nurse, Cecile de France, achieves the empathy that breaks protocol. Magimel registers the import of every moment befalling his character—and, like an actor, seizes them as opportunities to make meaning. Through it all, Deneuve's humility sets the stage for her family’s redemption. It's the year's most moving film.

TrueFaith77 11-05-2022 11:38 AM

22.White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch (Alison Klayman); grade: F-
28.How They Got Over (Robert Clem); grade: B+

Simply put, Klayman’s Netflix documentary White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch is the year’s very worst film. Klayman misunderstands the mystery of how an entire industry can be built around one person’s beauty ideals and sexual desires because they unexpectedly synchronize with the multitudes who share it, aspire to it, and are frustratingly outside of it. That frustration manifested itself in a successful discrimination lawsuit by plain-looking A&F employees who just happen to be racially diverse (Asian devotees also protested en masse—a less healthy response than the Live at Budokan screams greeting Cheap Trick’s “BIG. EYES.”). Then, it curdles into something mercenary through the film’s own utterly unfounded #MeToo witch hunt of CEO Michael Jeffries (never even accused!) and salacious accusations against visionary photographer Bruce Weber (never criminally charged). Meanwhile, Clem provides clarity about how culture really works in How They Got Over. The documentary explores both the personalities and the material differences that instigated innovation on the church-based Chitlin circuit. That innovation birthed the American pop culture of the 1960s that expressed universal spiritual longing and aspiration. The ur-innovators experienced this seeming ecumenicism as an abandonment of Jesus. As such, with ears pointed toward eternity, they did not share in worldly reward or recognition. Yet, history responded to their faith with the pop culture that established the world lexicon of Love.

TrueFaith77 11-05-2022 11:39 AM

65.Please Baby Please (Amanda Kramer); grade: F
66.The Ambush (Pierre Morel); grade: C

Is all content propaganda? Even when I go in “blind” to a movie, filled with hope for personal expressions, filmmakers either proselytize or get appropriated by ideological agendas.

Please Baby Please (Amanda Kramer)
Kramer proves utterly incapable of utilizing the Panavasion camera Please Baby Please boasts. It results in garish colors smudged across straight-on tableaux compositions, nauseating fantasy sequence dissolves, and, in the year’s most queasy shot, a close-up of a deluded drag queen played Cole Escola mid-pop aria (is his creepy Search Party psycho just his usual schtick?). The movie means to deconstruct codes of gender from the era of Marlon Brando—in a style stolen from Fassbinder and Bidgood. However, the didactic structuralist jargon spewed by the actors ignores the surprise of sexual attraction and gendered sympathy. It’s a performance-art scam—paid for by celebrity benefactors—reminiscent of St. Vincent playing second bill. Only Karl Glusman’s mesh-attired biker—a symbol—seems a recognizable, tactile human being.

The Ambush (Pierre Morel)
The need for content (released on streaming the same week as its theatrical run), the endless revenue streams from governments (here, the UAE), and the market for cheapo action films (another Saban release) provides job opportunities for capable genre filmmakers like Morel (of the Besson-produced Taken and From Paris With Love). With The Ambush, Morel demonstrates his frankly excellent montage—delineating the ever-widening fields of defense and attack in the UAE’s response to an insurgent ambush—and compositional sense—the clarity of lighting and camera placements inside of tanks under assault. Morel achieves narrative economy as well, establishing each character’s motivation. He expands narrative economy into into thematic economy (one solider justifies the sacrifice of UAE’s fathers for the children of Yemen). Finally, he extends thematic economy into symbolic economy, climaxing with the gifting of a handmade toy horse. Morel fails to clarify the larger impetus for the war or to explore the complexities of character under durress (elements present even in his previous Peppermint). Ultimately, propaganda reduces his skill to sentimentality and manipulation, lacking intensity.

TrueFaith77 11-13-2022 06:04 PM

70.The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg); grade: C-
The final shot of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans stands as the worst image of his career. With it, for the first time, the accusations stick that his films are manipulative and sentimental. The final shot features Spielberg stand-in Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) amblin’ off away from the camera on a studio backlot after a lesson in composition from John Ford (played condescendingly by David Lynch) about the importance of an off-center horizon-line in Western frontier paintings. Janusz Kaminski’s camera jerks self-reflexively to adjust the horizon line in a composition so crowded with studio hangars it loses the horizon line—and movie-meaning. The UWS audience in NYC erupted with laughter (no wonder it’s the Oscar frontrunner). The autobiographical movie (Fabel = Spiel (as in, storyteller); Mans = Berg (as in, Jewish ethnicity) means to connect Spielberg’s single-focused interest in filmmaking with the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. However, the final shot exposes this personal confession as phony on both counts—as a disingenuous means to insidious ends.

Spielberg and co-screenwriter Tony Kushner (Munich, Lincoln, West Side Story (2021)) badly need a dramaturge.

Before he gets the offer from CBS, Sammy/Spielberg bemoans college and, especially, the dorm-mate that makes him go back to his divorced father’s home when he claims that he can’t live with a Barry Goldwater supporter (eliciting more guffaws from the University-indoctrinated audience). However, this undercuts the reality that Spielberg’s movies (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds) appealed to those same Goldwater supporters.

It also pierces the pretension of the preceding section of the film in which Sammy uses his filmmaking prowess to win over some of his aryan tormenters in high school (busting the proscenium to honor gilded athleticism like Leni Riefenstahl). On the first day at a California school, Sammy wonders if he and his sisters have been dropped into “The Land of the Sequoia People”—the film’s best line, which, as Armond White points out, rings more like Spielberg’s bell than Kushner’s gong. Pure Kushner: His sexual envy manifests itself in a fantasy of high school victimization that actually represents Kushner’s own ugly vengeance. This is where the superficially pleasurable movie twists into reverse fascism.

Before marriage troubles drive the parents to move from Arizona to California, a planned move from New Jersey to Arizona triggers a psychotic episode for Sammy’s mother (Michelle Williams’s humiliating ethnic drag act) as she drives her kids straight into a tornado. Spielberg visualizes the loss of control as nested shopping carts careening across an intersection, recalling similar moments in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist, Twister, and a train crash in The Greatest Show on Earth—but without the panache, the wit, or the familial resonance. More disturbingly, Spielberg and Kushner never dramatize the degree of danger, the emotional disasters, into which both parents (crazy mother, deluded father) keep driving their children. (Spielberg already told this story better—and definitively—in the misunderstood Catch Me If You Can.) Herein resides the psychological opening for Marxist Kushner’s authoritarian influence.

The pretense that The Fabelmans is a movie about the “the magic of movies” represents an ideological sleight-of-hand.

The sequences dramatizing the formative influence of The Greatest Show on Earth (1952 Oscar-winner) and Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) constitute trite psychoanalytic emphasis on overcoming family trauma. Compare those sequences in The Fabelmans to the single most instructive moment in a popular film regarding how movies make meaning in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. There, Spielberg crosscuts between E.T. watching Ford’s The Quiet Man and a psychically inebriated Elliott recreating the Ford film’s famous kiss at school. Shots of little Sammy holding movie-projected images in his hands (eyes wide like David in A.I.) and of boys careening around a subdivision street corner on their bikes and admiring a pretty girl remind of E.T., but as reduced by Kaminski’s movie-based facsimile of Spielberg’s now-lost sense of childhood wonder.

The sequences of Sammy making movies emphasize shallow extensions of the film’s Oedipal drama:

1. His mother’s megalomaniac flirtation—a primal scene—after playing piano inspires Sammy’s solution to the problem of the unrealistic spectacle of kids playing cowboys with toy guns (no connection to his mother’s lover’s gift for prestidigitation)
2. His anger at his mother implicating him in her guilt provides the basis for Sammy’s direction of an actor in a backyard-shot war movie (no connection to his father’s military service)
3. His confusion over his parents’ menage a trois gets obliquely reflected in Sammy’s montage in a class-trip documentary that emphasizes a high school love triangle, culminating in the film’s dramatization (Spielberg’s career nadir) of the era’s canard about movie-going: the importance of “seeing yourself” in movies known by the buzzword “representation”

Sammy discovers his mother’s secret love for her husband’s best friend when he edits a home movie of a family camping trip. The well-edited sequence testifies to Spielberg’s skill but also to his lack of perspective. Over-obvious signs of intimacy between the two adulterers make for subpar imitations of Blow Up and Blow Out. Unlike Antonioni and De Palma’s existential investigations of images, this sequence reveals nothing about Spielberg’s own aesthetic. Spielberg comes up lacking compared to John Boorman’s association of Camelot ur-mythology to his own mother’s infidelity with his father’s best friend in Hope and Glory and, then, the visionary, radical empathy that inspired Boorman’s need as an artist to plumb the depths of Ophelia imagery in Queen and Country. Genuine self-reflection like Boorman’s is not Spielberg-Kushner’s intention anyway.

The sentimental triumph of the final shot of The Fabelmans means to manipulate Spielberg’s now-partisan audience, by congratulating its faux-sophistication, in order to reconcile itself to national divorce and to the spiritual oblivion of contemporary pop culture.

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