COVID-19 Diaries: Film holes filled plus newish movies

I did manage to watch some previously unseen and newish movies in addition to all the rewatches and Christopher Guest films (minus This Is Spinal Tap, which as of now isn’t included for free in any subscriptions). 

Holes filled

In Movie Crush parlance, I had the chance to fill a couple of holes, i.e., see films that I ought to have seen by now.

Dead Ringers. From David Cronenberg and starring Jeremy Irons, this 1988 movie is about a pair of creepy gynecologist twins who get into weird shit. Obviously it was really good. I had no idea it was based on a true story. Ick!

The Ninth Gate. Kind of random but Noel on Movie Crush mentioned it, and I realized I had never seen it. Troubling aspect is that it’s from Roman Polanski although that didn’t bother me enough to not watch it. Although it’s about the devil and his worshippers, there’s a weirdly cozy aspect about it since Johnny Depp plays a rare book dealer, and so there are a few scenes with nice libraries and collections. Not the best movie but I give it a thumbs up.

Newish movies

Midsommar. From Ari Aster of Hereditary fame, this horror film centers on a young woman who goes to Sweden and gets much more than she bargained for. It got mixed reviews. Movie Crush did a “crush to judgement,” but I held off on listening to it until I watched it. All I knew was that Chuck and Noel liked it overall except for some aspects. So I think my expectations were slightly lower.

In a nutshell: I thought it was great. There was this ominous feeling throughout, made even more so by the backdrop of an endlessly sunny day. So when crazy shit goes down, it’s really disturbing. As for how it compares to Hereditary, it’s tough to say. They are two very different movies. But I guess I’d say I loved Hereditary (although the first time I saw it, I was like what the fuck) and I liked Midsommar.

Knives Out. I had heard people say (namely Chuck from Movie Crush) that this was the best movie ever, but while I liked it, I thought it was just pretty good. It’s a delightful, well-done murder mystery with a stellar cast. I certainly enjoyed it, but I didn’t keep thinking about it afterward. 

The Lighthouse. Unlike with this movie. Very weird and interesting, The Lighthouse is about, well, a lighthouse, and the two men (or “wickies” as they’re called) keeping it. At first nothing seems to happen, then all kinds of weird shit happens, and then in the end it all makes sense. At least that’s my impression. The acting is phenomenal — Willem Dafoe of course but also Robert Pattinson. Damn, Cedric Diggory can act!

Nocturnal Animals. I had heard good things about this one, and while it was well acted, I feel like in the end it amounted to nothing. There are some harrowing scenes but those are from a novel within the movie so there’s nothing at stake. While that story is about a horrific tragedy, the main one is about a failed marriage. I mean, obviously there’s an analogy there, but I didn’t buy it.

Uncut Gems. Another one that earned high praise from Chuck, and this time I agree. About a jeweler with a gambling problem, this film was really well done and acted, and also extremely stressful. One bad decision after another. Not a movie to unwind with.

The Goldfinch. Although I had heard this wasn’t that good, I still watched it. My friend Aki said it wasn’t bad and she hadn’t even read the book. And it wasn’t! The acting was great, and I loved the Boris character and the dynamic between him and Theo, as I did in the book. It wasn’t a masterpiece but I still liked it.

The Lovebirds. My friend Yiannis mentioned this was a fun movie, and I love both Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani so why not? It was a little bit dumb (their characters’ fights didn’t seem like real rights) but it was entertaining and like Yiannis said fun. A good pick for if you’re stuck on a flight or at home because it’s a pandemic.

Horse Girl. This looked intriguing and stars my woman crush Alison Brie. She plays a lonely woman who may or may not have — well, I don’t want to give the whole thing away. Basically it’s unclear what’s reality and what’s not. While well acted, the film wasn’t satisfying to me overall. But I wouldn’t say it’s a bad movie.

The Vast of Night. Unlike this one. I feel bad saying it was bad because it’s not just some dumb schlock. It’s trying to be something and do something different, but it was boring as fuck. I thought I had heard it recommended on some podcast, but maybe I got the title wrong. Set in the 1950s in a small town, a girl operator hears a weird noise on the line, and it all goes from there.

I think the problem was there’s not a lot of action, just so much talking. The first 15 minutes goes on for so long with just talking talking talking about something trivial, and then there are these two long monologues. I wonder if it would have been better as a radio or podcast play. From what I read, it’s an homage to the War of the Worlds broadcast so maybe that was the idea. Doesn’t quite work on film.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Overall I liked this movie but I had a few problems with it. Number one, the anti-Asian vibe, not just the ridiculous and insulting portrayal of Bruce Lee but the scene with Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in the theater watching herself on screen, how people cheered as her character beat up Nancy Kwan. 

The second thing I hated was all the women’s feet. Quentin Tarantino famously has a foot fetish, and it was SO OBVIOUS in this film, from Margot Robbie’s dirty feet in the theater to Dakota Fanning as Squeaky Fromme pointing with her toes to even more I won’t get into. The third thing was (SPOILER ALERT) the brutal deaths of two of the Manson girls. Their beatings seemed a lot more violent than the one guy’s.

Of course all the acting was awesome, and I was totally engaged the whole time. It didn’t feel like almost three hours. 

The Old Guard. This, on the other hand, had strong, fully realized women characters. Netflix was promoting it a lot, and I sort of just ignored it until I heard someone on a, you guessed it, podcast rave about it. Then I watched the trailer and was like I’M IN. It was so fucking good. The concept, the characters, the action scenes, the acting. Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne are both badasses. They totally set it up for a sequel, and I can’t wait for the pandemic to be over so it can come out.

Bonus: Yorgos Lanthimos catalog

I watched these before March so they don’t count as pandemic watches, but I still have strong feelings about them.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer. I watched this because I saw someone recommend it on the Movie Crushers Facebook page. They wrote something like, “What the hell did I just watch?” which intrigued me. I had the same feeling. At first I thought, What in the world is going on here? because of the characters’ very deliberate way of speaking. But that grew on me and gave the film a sinister, creepy atmosphere. Plus Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan were so damned good. I was rapt the entire time and thought about it a lot afterward.

The Lobster. I really liked this film too. Surreal and somewhat disturbing, the film is set in a world in which single people are condemned to a very strange life. After watching this movie and Sacred Deer, I thought, I’m spoiled for “normal” movies now. They can only be as strange and interesting as these two.

The Favourite. Speaking of which, this was the most normal of his movies that I’ve seen. Of course it was great and I liked it, but I liked The Lobster and Sacred Deer better. 

Now I want to see Dogtooth, one of his earlier films. Looks like it’s free on something called Tubi.

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