Sophie’s Choice (1982) – I felt like watching something depressing, and I hadn’t watched anything about the Holocaust or World War 2 yet, so hey, Sophie’s Choice, why not. Knowing full well going into it what the titular choice is about, it can be frustrating that the movie waits until almost the very end to tell you what the actual choice was. Try to let that anticipation go, forget for a moment that Sophie’s Choice has become a cultural shorthand for a horrific choice between two equally terrible things, and enjoy a sad movie about an immigrant woman after the war.
The Room (2003) – What the hell was that?
I’m not much for cult followings, but The Room has built itself a nice one complete with Rocky-Horror-style shoutouts from the audience and thrown objects (although the latter, plastic spoons thrown at the sight of a very minor piece of set dressing, feels a little forced).
I don’t know if I can really say much about The Room itself but to say that it was a baffling disaster of a movie. I just don’t know.
The Lodger (1927) – I’ve said before that Alfred Hitchcock is at his best in his later, big-budget Hollywood movies, but The Lodger holds up. There’s a 2009 remake with Alfred Molina, the guy from The Mentalist, and Hope Davis, but that remake’s trailer looks exactly as bad as that description makes it sound.
Anyway, The Lodger, this version at least, manages to build and sustain a level of suspense I didn’t expect from an old silent movie. Hitchcock really knew how to get good performances out of his actors, and the editing of this movie keeps things moving in a way uncommon of movies of that era.
The President’s Analyst (1967) – A solid premise for a comedy; a respected analyst is conscripted to serve as the psychiatrist to the President of the United States. I can’t say that this movie disappointed me, but it definitely took the premise in a direction I wasn’t expecting and kept going with it. Like if a train derailed and then just kept barreling across the countryside as if nothing happened, digging deep grooves into the earth as it went, making its regular stops, but hundreds of miles off target.
Furthermore, for the record, James Coburn was more attractive than any of his features should allow, yet somehow when combined together, he had a very charismatic air about him. His voice might have contributed to that.
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) – At the risk of sounding like you should all get off my lawn, this kind of movie is a lost art. People can’t even title their parodies and spoofs any more without just flat-out telling you what you’re getting (Scary Movie, the Not Another [descriptor] Movie series, Not [original, full title] a XXX Parody).
There are a couple of clumsy racial jokes that fall a little flat, which it’s tempting to excuse due to the time it was made, but in a sketch-based movie, it’s easy enough to just skip over that part without losing anything from the overall film.
¡Que viva Mexico! (Да здравствует Мексика! – 1932/1979) – The version we saw, completed well after the fact, was an interesting movie. Assuming it followed Eisenstein’s original intent, it’s an early example of what we now know as the western movie archetype. A lowly peasant man seeks revenge on the wealthy tyrants who left him for dead and violated his woman. And then there’s a lot of really heavy socialist symbolism piled on top of that, as one would expect from the director of Battleship Potemkin. I’m not usually a fan of the slow pacing of the silent film era, but Eisenstein really knew how to keep it moving and keep an interest and purpose in each shot.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015) – I am so used to biopics about artists that focus heavily on their art that it is disorienting to see a two-hour movie about a filmmaker that neither pays much homage to his style nor even shows more than a scene or two where actual filming is happening. I guess you could say it’s more about Sergei Eisenstein the man than about Sergei Eisenstein the filmmaker.
The performances vary wildly from Elmer Bäck’s spastic, enthusiastic Eisenstein to a much more subdued Luis Alberti as his guide. Incidental characters here and there are similarly varied. By the way, with as much screen time as Bäck and Alberti take, everyone else is incidental, so be prepared to see a lot of those two.
This Must Be the Place (2011) – The Netflix description suggested to me some level of wackiness, at least in its premise. The movie itself took about half an hour to deliver on anything resembling interest and then well over another half hour to show me anything like what I was promised. Whether that interest rose to the level of the wackiness I was led to expect, well… Well. So. Hey, so Frances McDormand was in it, though. Not for long, but I’m sure she’s busy.
This could have been a 15-minute short, and I still would have been bored.
The God of Cookery (食神 – 1996) – Hey, how about we get some lighthearted buffoonery in here? Yeah, that’s nice. That’ll do. I assure you I’ll get back to the heavy stuff soon, but this was needed.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) – This is deeply upsetting, to put it lightly. I put off watching We Need to Talk About Kevin for several years. I had heard what it was about–so you don’t have to Google it, Tilda Swinton plays the mother of a boy who commits a horrific crime left unsaid for the majority of the movie–and decided it was the sort of thing I would need to be in exactly the right mood for. I was right; do not watch this unless you are in the mood for feeling very bad about everything for two hours.
I have had nightmares about this sort of scenario. I have never had nor will ever have children, so not exactly this, but the sort of scenario where my name becomes poison, where by my associations I am forever a pariah in my home. Tilda Swinton makes me imagine it all over again, in more vivid detail than I ever dreamed. John C. Reilly makes me question my own sanity along with hers, even knowing what happens at the end of the story. All over, the cast builds a story where perspective and perceptions can’t be trusted, but neither can doubts. In the end, a sense of futility and inevitability are overwhelming.