45 thoughts on “Movies 2022

  1. Sword of Trust (2019)
    Dir. Lynne Shelton
    Starring: Marc Maron (Mel), Jon Bass (Nathaniel), Michaela Watkins (Mary), Jillian Bell (Cynthia)

    This film is a mixed-bag, flawed, but entertaining moments that tilts the scales, creating somewhat fond feelings for the film. Maron’s performance is another reason for this as well as a subplot involving his character.

    Here’s a description of the plot: Mary and Cynthia try to pawn a recently received sword, which they claim proves the South actually won the Civil War. Mel, the pawnshop owner, being a sensible person, thinks this is nuts, and an insult to his intelligence. But after his assistant, Nathaniel, shows him a youtube Civil War conspiracy theorist offering big money for relics that can prove his claim, Mel changes his mind and hatches a plan to get the money.

    There were some solid laugh-out-loud moments, which is one reason I think fondly of the film. I’m not very familiar with Maron, but not only did I enjoy his comedic moments, but there were some surprising dramatic moments in this film—surprising not only because at least of the moments came out of left field, but Maron’s dramatic acting was quite good. (I would compare that left-field moment to the Quint’s U.S.S. Indianapolis story in Jaws. It’s a very different movie, but both scenes were a left turn that I didn’t see coming.)

    At the same time, while these dramatic moments were effectively poignant, I still don’t see the connection with the larger theme of the movie—specifically, the skewering of conspiracy theorists, specifically Trump supporters that embrace election fraud falsehoods. At the end of the film, Mel seems to give in a bit to his old girlfriend, displaying several acts of kindness. But this underscores the lack of graciousness and mercy towards the people the film makes fun of. Is there no compassion for them from progressives?

    One last disappointment, and it relates somewhat to the last point above—namely, the film’s failure to satisfy viewers with an understanding of these Trump supporters. The film actually teases the viewer with this promise. I’m thinking specifically of Mel’s speech in the van, where he explains the reason he’s going to see the guy in person, in spite of the foolishness of doing so. (I liked this moment.) The end is a cop out, pulling the rub under viewers, to some degree.

  2. The Sparks Brothers (2021)
    Dir. Edgar Wright

    “Throughout all the years I’ve been making music, if you get on a tour bus, and you sit on a long ride with a bunch of other musicians, eventually the conversation will go to Sparks.” That’s what the musician Beck said in this documentary about Sparks, or more specifically brothers Ron and Russell Mael, the nucleus of the group. Surprise was how I reacted to this comment–because I had never heard of Sparks, at all. It’s not like I’m a musical expert, but I’m interested enough in music to think that I would have at least heard of this group. In any case, I only watched this because of a friend’s recommendation, and I’m glad I did.

    I’ll mention two reasons I enjoyed the film—one, Edgar Wright’s creative and amusing direction, and, two, learning about the brothers and their interesting music. Surprisingly, their actual music was the least appealing thing—it’s everything else that I found interesting. (I’ll say more about this later.) In this way, they remind me of my reaction to John Cage, the iconoclastic composer and thinker.

    If I have one criticism, it’s the lack of deeper analysis of Sparks’ aesthetic and approach. The Mael brothers don’t say a lot about their approach, nor do the featured talking heads–well, not enough to satisfy me anyway.

    One thing that seems to set this band apart from other groups, doing similar things, is the naturalness and sincerity behind the music, which makes the satire and humor much more subtle—but also likely more confusing and odd for at least some viewers. A group like The Residents, for example, (who came to mind while watching this) is blatantly bizarre,
    putting them clearly in the underground, avant-garde category. Nor are they blatantly satirical (read: over-the-top) like Weird Al or even Spinal Tap, which can result in failing to notice the satire and humor. Sparks does has just enough qualities for viewers to think they are a legitimate pop group. But there odd features, the subject matter and lyrics, as well as Russ’s singing style, and both of the brothers’ stage personae, can creates a dissonance that could leave listeners with some doubts. They basically seem to have placed themselves and their music in gray zone, at least to some.

    Earlier, I mentioned that other aspects of Sparks, besides the music, interested me. Their perseverance and commitment to their art are an example of this. In their appearances in the film, they seem like low-key individuals–there are almost no expressions of passion or anguish–including when they speak about struggles and slow periods in their career. This give the impression that they chug through these hard times and move onto to new things, unwavering and confident, in almost a machine-like fashion. I think this is very different from artists who don’t have a lot of commercial success–particularly those that actually tasted mainstream success and actually make music that has this potential. I came away with the sense that money and fame were far less important than their artistic vision (but to be honest I didn’t think the film really tried to dig into these topics).

    I also like the visual and performance features of the group. I wished Wright dug into this more–including Ron’s stage persona with silent film icons like Chaplin and Hulot. It seems clear that Ron is going for this. At the same time, his early stage persona seemed to be an ambiguous mixture of Chaplin and Hitler. Was that a mistake or intentional?

    Russ’s stage persona seems more subtle–namely, there is less affectation. His persona and stage performances seem natural and genuine, as if it reflects Russ, more than being a construct like Ziggy Stardust. But I’m uncertain about this. There’s a doll-like, pretty-boy quality–similar to other pop lead vocalists, and give their penchant for satire and humor, I wonder if this is an artifice designed to make the satire more effective and biting. Again, as far as I can recall, this isn’t a question the film really explores.

    Although the music itself, at least on the surface, doesn’t really appeal to me, and I’m not keen on analyzing lyrics, the film showed me enough to do both (or at least plan to).

    1. The coworker who recommended I see Annette also recommended this, since the Sparks brothers wrote Annette. I haven’t gotten to it yet because I have other things on the to-view list.

    2. Yeah, the documentary definitely increased my interest in seeing Annette.

      By the way, did you hear of Sparks before? while growing up? I don’t remember them at all, although when I heard “Cool Places” (with Jane Wiedin), the song sounded vaguely familiar.


      The one thing I forgot to mention. I like their album covers. I believe Ron’s undergraduate degree is in art, and I think it shows in their album covers.


      Kimono My House

      (I like the title, Kimono My House as well.)

      1. I was aware of them, and I heard a few things (Cool Places was a minor MTV hit, so I totally remember that), but nothing stuck with me. When we were in our first years of college, there was a Christian alt-pop-dance group called Sparks and I kept getting the two bands confused. The Christian band was only okay, and I think they only put out two or three albums.

        1. Tangential follow-up.

          Sparks the Christian band was Greg and Rebecca Sparks, who released two albums as Sparks and one as Greg and Rebecca Sparks.

          I knew I was forgetting part of the story, and (as often) AllMusic had the answer. Greg and Rebecca spun off from an earlier dance group called Bash ‘n the Code, whom I did like very much.

          Turns out Greg and Rebecca are still touring and performing together, which is nice to hear.

          This was my favorite Bash ‘n the Code song. “Big Mouth” (1987).

  3. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018)
    Dir. Bi Gan

    This Chinese movie, unrelated to the Eugene O’Neil play, is about a man searching for a woman in his past. Talking about this film–or I should say, analyzing it–is too difficult; I would compare it to analyzing and explicating a poem, and in this case, without having a good grasp of it.

    In spite of this, I enjoyed the film. One thing I regret, though: I didn’t realize this was in 3D, and I wish I could have seen it with the 3D glasses–in a good movie theater.

  4. Mixtape (2021), streaming on Netflix
    Gemma Brooke Allen, Julie Bowen, Audrey Hsieh, Olga Petsa, Nick Thune. Directed by Valerie Weiss. Written by Stacey Menear.

    Twelve-year-old Beverly lost her parents in a car accident when she was two. She lives with Gail, her forty-something postal carrier grandmother who worries about paying for Beverly’s college education — if the world survives the Y2K virus.

    When Beverly discovers a mixtape in her mother’s things, she thinks there may be a message for her in the songs.

    The tape is snarled in her Walkman the first time she tries to listen, so with the help of two new friends at school — also loners — and a shaggy Gen Xer who owns a record store with no customers, she finds the songs, track-by-track, on a quest to discover the stuff nobody wants to tell.

    Dwyer’s Law of Supporting Characters says if at least three of the main character’s friends, relatives or antagonists are interesting enough to make you wish for movies about each of them, you have at least a pretty good film. It’s a rare occurrence, but Mixtape satisfies this law. And while the young actors’ performances are spotty at times, they deliver enough emotional gut-punching to make me tear up several times.

    The music is outstanding, with killer songs by the Stooges, Cheap Trick, Lit, Vertical Horizon and Vitamin C. While these great songs lead to an almost inevitable closing scene I really dislike, I’m pretty sure twelve-year-old me would have loved the end. Watch it with your tweens or early teens and let me know if I’m right.

    80 of 100 for a creative idea with compelling characters and a movie that would have been an all-time favorite for young me.

    1. Dwyer’s Law of Supporting Characters says if at least three of the main character’s friends, relatives or antagonists are interesting enough to make you wish for movies about each of them…

      This is a very high bar. I’m curious to hear the other films that satisfied this law.

      By the way, the film looked interesting, but I got the sense that I would be unfamiliar with the music on the mixtape, so that dissuaded me.

      1. One of its big failings is the music isn’t emphasized nearly enough so it won’t be a problem. I’m almost sure.

    2. One of its big failings is the music isn’t emphasized nearly enough so it won’t be a problem. I’m almost sure.

      Yeah, but I agree with you–not emphasizing the music is a bit disappointing. The music, and the way the film weaves it into the characters and story, was what appeals to me.

      1. That’s two strikes. Too bad the soundtrack isn’t also loaded with songs by Fastway, to make it an immediate strikeout.

  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2018)
    Dir. Celine Sciamma

    Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    A French film about a female artist, Marianne (Noemie Merlant), hired to paint a woman, Heloise (Adele Haenel), who is betrothed to a man she doesn’t know. The man will only marry her if he likes what he sees in the portrait. Heloise knows this so she has refused cooperate. To get around this, Heloise’s mother, the Countess (Valeria Golino), presents Marianne as a walking companion (who will secretly paint Heloise’s portrait).

    I believe the film won the best screenplay award at Cannes, and I do think some of the dialogue justifies this. If we can credit the absence of certain characters to the screenplay, that would be another aspect that made the screenplay award worthy.

    Having said that, the acting may actually outshine the screenplay. In my view, a lot of the action occurs from what is not said–specifically, from the facial expressions, particularly of the two leads.

    This is definitely a feminist film, exploring the ways a patriarchal society restricts and harms women, but I really liked it for themes concerning art and artists–namely, the artist’s devotion to their art, and the way art can sustain human beings, particularly in the midst of painful moments.

  6. Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)
    Dir. Louis Malle
    Starring: Wallace Shawn (Vanya), Julianne Moore (Yelena), Larry Pines (Dr. Astrov), Brooke Smith (Sonya), George Gaynes (Prof. Serebryakov), etc.

    I owned the DVD of this for a long time, but never got around to watching it. I recently decided to watch this after seeing Drive My Car, as Uncle Vanya seems like a critical part of the film.

    I’m too lazy to write a proper review, so what follows will be notes and comments.

    • I saw a performance of Uncle Vanya in college, and loved it. I may have read it and seen it several years after that, and had the same reaction. But before watching it recently, I worried I may no longer feel the same–primarily because I worried that the emotional dialogue would seem false or too maudlin. Happily, that wasn’t the case.
    • Strangely, the viewing did vindicate my initial concern on some level. For example, in my view, the dialogue, which at times, function more like monologues or speeches, could–almost should–come across as maudlin and maybe pretentious. But they don’t. Additionally, I don’t really think the play establishes the characters all that much before the characters express themselves. Finally, in a way, one could reasonably describe some of the dialogue and characters as whining and whiners, respectively–and they’re mostly whining about First World problems (e.g., “I could have been the next Schopenhauer or Dostoevsky!”); or the characters seem mostly middle class, with some of them being well-educated.
    • But in spite of this, the dialogue and emotions worked, which I find surprising. How? Why? At this moment, I have no answer.
    • The play is very modern–people sitting around talking. Still, of the 20th and 21st century movies that are in the same vein, I’m not sure any of them are as dramatic or moving.
    • I was really drawn to Larry Pines, and enjoyed watching his performance. (Aside: He looks like he could be Richard Crenna’s brother.) I also liked Julianne Moore and Brooke Smith. On the other hand, I thought they should have cast someone else for Vanya role (maybe Larry Pines?), instead of Wallace Shawn. To me, his comic persona, from films like Princess Bride distracted me, and I think his performance lacked the pathos and dramatic weight it required. But Shawn wasn’t as bad as I’m making him out to be; he certainly didn’t ruin the film for me.
    • David Mamet adapted the play for the screen, but besides some of the scenes that take place outside of the play itself, I’m not sure how he modified the script. (The film starts with the actors appearing at a theater to rehearse the play. They acted out scenes and then there are pauses at certain points, with the director calling for a break or describing an upcoming scene.)
    • I have an older DVD, and the there are moments when the camera tilts, almost as if the characters are on a large ship during rough seas. I can’t exactly tell if this is intentional or if this some weird trick to make the film work for a TV screen.
    • I liked this a lot more than Drive My Car.
  7. Metal Lords (2022 streaming on Netflix)
    Jaeden Martell, Adrian Greensmith, Isis Hainsworth. Written by D. B. Weiss. Directed by Peter Sollett.

    Kevin and Hunter are in a metal band whose name is so metal I can’t say it here, and they attend a high school where nobody else cares about metal. Kevin isn’t sure he cares about metal himself, as he only plays drums in his school band to avoid taking P.E., but Hunter is his best friend and best friends stick together.

    “If we devote ourselves to metal, we’ll own this school,” says Hunter, who clearly doesn’t know anything because believe me: devoting yourself to metal in high school has exactly the opposite effect.

    It’s a pretty good premise, but Metal Lords manages to be engaging and boring at the same time, something I didn’t think was possible. Perhaps it’s because the movie runs through a checklist of teen movie elements as if it’s entered in a John Hughes tribute festival.

    There’s a house party, a talent show, underage drinking, a disconnected wealthy parent, some bullying, and a strict-but-understanding school counselor. Your teens may find it novel, but you’ve seen most of it before.

    Yet Kevin and his potential love interest Emily are interesting characters, wriggling their way believably through the complexities of high school life, and if Hunter weren’t around, they’d have a good chance at figuring out how to get through.

    Almost nothing in this film would happen in real life, but if you can let it go—and if you can manage not to be bored—you might ride along for Kevin’s coming of age and find some pretty good redemption and decent human connection here.

    It’s a 50 out of 100, but I’m giving it four bonus points for a good soundtrack and funny cameos by members of Judas Priest, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica and Anthrax.


    1. Kevin and Hunter are in a metal band whose name is so metal I can’t say it here, and they attend a high school where nobody else cares about metal. Kevin isn’t sure he cares about metal himself, as he only plays drums in his school band to avoid taking P.E., but Hunter is his best friend and best friends stick together.

      This totally has your name written on it.

      1. I’ll probably see it again so I can appreciate more of the positive stuff, which I don’t mention enough of. The metal cred in this film is actually excellent. Tom Morello was the musical consultant (or something like that) and wrote the band’s one original song. The writer and director definitely know their metal.

  8. First Cow (2019)
    Dir. Kelly Reichardt

    Notes of the film (with spoilers)

    • I found the performances and scenes understated, as if the filmmakers intentionally drained both of drama or anything that would make them entertaining. Think of Bresson’s approach, but less extreme. Then again, perhaps other viewers would disagree. For me, not only did the performances/actors and scenes seem devoid of drama–that is, they seemed mundane–I didn’t think the actors had a lot of chemistry. Specifically, the two main characters develop a substantive friendship, but the scenes or chemistry didn’t seem enough to establish this…One could argue that the depiction of the friendship was subtle, and maybe I’m not appreciating this subtlety.
      On the other hand, to my surprise, the last sequence moved me, specifically the line–“I’ve got you.” The film shows a friendship in more prosaic situations, and my reaction perhaps vindicates the filmmakers’ approach.
    • I’m not sure about the meaning of the film’s title or the larger significance of the cow in the film. I must say the cow was beautiful, particularly in the way it conveyed a sense of gentleness and kindness. It reminded me of the donkey in au Hasard Baltazar.
    • Besides friendship, what is this movie about? We see two outsiders pursuing the American dream, but people like them, the pessimist, or realist, would argue, have no chance. But there is one thing they can attain in this world–friendship. And that can be something beautiful. In a way, this makes me think of Leaving Las Vegas. The main character is doomed, but to have someone love him is somehow beautiful.
  9. Kongsi Raya (2022, streaming on Netflix)
    Qasrina Karim and Wilson Lee. Directed by Teddy Chin.
    In Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese and English with English subtitles.

    Sharifah is a young television producer on her celebrity father’s TV cooking show.

    Jack is a talented cook in his father’s Chinese restaurant. He will be the third generation of chefs to run the business.

    Kongsi Raya takes almost forever to get going, but when Sharifah and Jack finally meet and fall in love, everything should be great. She’s Malaysian and he’s Chinese, and while they’re willing to navigate their cultural differences, their fathers are not. Jack is disowned. Sharifah lies to her parents about Jack, saying he is the boyfriend of her new BFF.

    This movie’s got a lot going on, and it’s a real mixed bag. There are several cartoonishly silly scenes so exaggerated they seem to belong to another movie, including an early scene that’s kind of cruel and gruesome but meant to be funny. Add the seldom-believable character-in-drag gimmick, and you almost have an easy-to-skip flick.

    Yet the food photography makes you want to lick the screen, and the Iron-Chef-like televised competition between the fathers is kind of a neat idea. And when this film gets sweet, it’s verrrry sweet.

    My eyes may have rolled three or four times, but my heart was warmed an equal number of times. The single most important element of a good romantic comedy is how believable the relationship is, and although we don’t get enough time alone with Sharifah and Jack, their sincerity tilts the balance in this movie’s favor.

    Although I’ve seen several movies with dialogue in Malay, I think this is my first Malaysian film. I’m not naive enough to believe watching movies from other countries is by itself enough to bring world peace, but soaking up art from different cultures makes us better, and I think it’s a step. So check it out.

    I’m giving it 67 out of 100: it’s on the north end of average.

  10. Force Majeure (2014)
    Dir. Ruben Ostlund

    Here is a filmmaker that makes me excited. In terms of the visuals and acting, notably the comedic acting, I would say he’s among the best current directors. Based on these two factors alone, I’d want to see all of his films–except for one caveat. I’ve only seen two of his films, but based on them, my sense is that he seems to revel in making audiences squirm with awkward moments, often with a moral dimension. I also get the impression that the films partly target fears and weaknesses that are often acute in men. This can make his films difficult to watch–and yet, they’re great to look at, well-acted, and, at times, funny.

    In this film, a family (Swedish) vacation at a ski lodge. The film centers around a significant failing of the father (I’m being intentionally vague), and the way the family deal with this.


    There is one disappointment, and it is not insignificant. The film cops out, in a way that almost feels like Hollywood-style executives intervened and interfered with the film. Then again, maybe my reading of the third act is wrong.

    Right or wrong, here’s my take of the third act. The father’s main failing is that he fails to admit and express remorse for his failing. Once he does that he is forgiven. I don’t object to this. But then, the father acts in quasi-courageous way–and the film depicts this scene with him carrying his wife in his arms.

    I’m less certain about the final images of the film, involving the people getting off the bus and walking. The father admitting to his son that he does smoke feels like a trite signal that he’s changed his ways and his walking at the head of the crowd creates an almost triumphant feeling.

    That one can find healing and restoration through confession and contrition is not a message I reject or sneer at. But the subsequent scenes feel a little excessive, almost as if he’s working hard to please the audience.

  11. 20th Century Women (2018)
    Dir. Mike Mills
    Starring: Annette Benning, Lucas Jade Zumann, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, Billy Crudup

    If A24 films represented a typical Hollywood movies I would say the film industry was in a good place. I can’t think of another film company with such a good batting average. 20th Centruy Women is no exception. I thought it was a wonderful film–with terrific writing and acting–especially Annette Benning, who I always thought was an actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, possessing a kind of feminine elegance that no longer exists in actors.

    The film involves a older woman raising her teenaged son, Jamie (Zumann) on her own. She lives in a big house and has borders living with her–William, the rather offbeat handyman played by Crudup and Abbie, a young photographer.

    I need to come back and write more deeply about the film, but I just want to end this with some comments about the characters. Benning, as I mentioned is wonderful, but she also creates what I thought was a rather original and interesting character–namely, a woman who is fiercely independent and modern, in many ways–prior to the Feminist Revolution. The result is a complex character who is a feminist, who can’t relate to the counter-culture, who still thinks like a traditionalist in some ways (e.g., not talking about one’s emotions or the notion of being happy).

    Crudup’s character is also interesting and the other actors all do a really good job.

    More later.

  12. Road House (1989)
    Dir. Rowdy Herrington
    Starring: Patrick Swayze, etc.

    Even in my early 20s, this looked like an awful film, I had no interest in seeing it, and I didn’t. But recently, I saw the Netflix teaser, which showed Swayze’s first day as the new head bouncer, laying down the law with the existing crew. It actually looked promising–promising enough that I ended up watching this.

    The film actually started off well–particularly in terms of the pacing and efficiency: the film gave you exactly what you needed, and nothing extra.

    Unfortunately, at some point the film went downhill. I wish I could now pinpoint the moment and cite specific examples, but generally the film became silly 80’s action film.

    Having said that, the film had a somewhat interesting premise–namely, it wanted to be a Western set in a bar, with the (martial arts) bouncer for the hero in the white hat. (Swayze’s fighting, and the hand-to-hand fight sequences, weren’t very good.) By the way, I could see Bruce Lee being interested in a film like this. Indeed, it wouldn’t completely surprise me if the script originally came from Bruce Lee. In addition to being a great martial arts fighter, Swayze’s character was also a philosophy major.)

    Another allusion to Westerns is the small town setting; a villain (played by an over-the-top Ben Gazzara) who controls almost everything in the town; and a group of good towns people who eventually help Swayze fight this guy.

    The premise may sound dumb, but I actually think that with some adjustments it could have been a much better film. Indeed, I think a remake could be successful.

  13. Moonstruck (1987)
    Dir. Norman Jewison
    Starring: Cher, Olympia Dukakis, Nicholas Cage, Vincent Gardenia, Danny Aiello, etc.

    I remember liking this film when it originally came out, but there was one line from it that I never understood. Throughout the movie, Rose Castoriani (Dukakis) struggled to understand the reason her husband Cosmo (Gardenia) is cheating on her. Finally, she concludes that it’s because he’s scared of dying. For a long time, that idea totally mystified me.

    Until now.

    I’m not sure if others are interested in knowing how I understand that idea, but before I go into that let me say a few words about my recent viewing of the movie.

    First, I think the films hold up fairly well. It may not be an all-time great film, but it is at least a good film and entertaining. The performances of Cher and Dukakis are a big reason for this, particularly their humorous facial reactions. For me they also succeeded at creating really likable characters.

    The pacing of the film is also very good. There is really not unnecessary moments and the film moves a long quite well. In terms of the events of the film, it seems like a lot happens over a relatively long time, but the entire film takes place over the course of three to four days.

    Finally, I like the Castorini family overall and their house, particularly their kitchen. It’s probably among my favorite kitchens featured in the movies.

    OK, so how is death connected with Cosmo’s infidelity. Before I do, I
    want to note that my explanation helps me make sense of the idea. That is, it may not apply to the character or anyone else.

    OK, let’s begin. I want to start first with something Cosmo says, after he pledges to Rose that he’ll stop seeing the other woman and go to confession. “A man understands one day that his life is built on nothing. And that’s a bad, crazy day.” One possible thing that occurred on this day in question is that Cosmo realizes that he achieved pretty much everything he hoped for, but it’s not as good as he expected, and there is not else to hope for. The next big thing he can anticipate is death. (It’s possible he didn’t achieve everything he hoped for, but got to the age where he realizes things aren’t going to get any better than it already is, and that death is the main thing that awaits him–and it feels much closer to him than ever before.)

    Because of this, he turns to another woman. This is an attempt to push himself back in time–specifically, far from the point of realizing that there’s nothing to look forward to, except death. I don’t think this is about physical age so much as getting to a point in time in life–specifically, the time when one has a lot of ambition and hope accomplishments that one will receive in the future–e.g., getting married, having kids, being successful in one’s career, etc. While working towards those things, the anticipation can create hope and optimism.

    But one gets to a point where one can no longer anticipate those things–either because one has achieved them or one realizes one never will. At that point, one’s mortality becomes more palpable.

    By the way, Cosmo can’t really turn to Rose, because Rose has been one of the things he’s hoped for and received. She’s been with him this whole time. To try to (artificially) go back to a different life phase, he needs a different woman, preferably younger–one that can create the illusion he can anticipate something hopeful in the future.

    The odds of this working is not very good, but even if it did work, there would still be a point where he had to face death again. There is no plan that will enable one to never face death.

    1. I rewatched this again a few months ago too. Mostly to evaluate it as a romantic comedy. What do you think? Romantic comedy, or romance with comedy in it, or something else?

      I didn’t really get the mortality thing either when I saw this in the theater, but then I was 18. Then I studied literature and of course it made a lot more sense — it’s a recurring theme. The Norton Anthology could very well be titled YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.

      Mona could as easily have been a red Porsche or a garish tattoo or a cattle-driving dude-ranch vacation. Those wouldn’t have quite fit the movie, so I’d say the writer made a good choice.

      Tangent: Moonstruck and Pretty Woman are similar in a lot of ways, which I find interesting, because that’s another film I don’t consider a romantic comedy.

    2. What do you think? Romantic comedy, or romance with comedy in it, or something else?

      This question didn’t occur to me, but as I think about it more, it seems like a decent question. I think labeling it a romantic comedy is accurate, although I might lean towards calling it a romance with comedy. Off the top of my head, I’d say this because I think the film, overall, exudes romance–the emphasis is there. On the other hand, the film’s tone is also imbued with a light, comedic sensibility. Yet, overall, the comedy seems more subtle–found more in the reactions. As far I know, there aren’t many (any) very witty lines in this–and witty lines, the type we may associate with sit-coms or stand-up comedians, and/or more overt slapstick moments seem close to essential in rom-coms.

      I don’t know, I could be wrong about this, though.

      Then I studied literature and of course it made a lot more sense — it’s a recurring theme.

      But how did this study explain the connection between infidelity and a fear of death? Also, I never really understood how a sports car, tatoo, or anything else, would be connected with a fear of death. (With the cattle drive, I thought it was connected more with a lack of meaning than a fear of death, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the film.)

      Tangent: Moonstruck and Pretty Woman are similar in a lot of ways, which I find interesting, because that’s another film I don’t consider a romantic comedy.

      Yeah, I can definitely see that, and while it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Pretty Woman, I think the reasons I list above would apply there as well. (From what I recall, there’s more comedy in Moonstruck than PW.)

      1. I’ll answer that later although I don’t think I need to because you do get to it in your musings. I’m just commenting now because I’m reminded of something I heard Alex Trebek say (in person!), which I know isn’t going to clear anything up for you but it’s a good memory.

        Jeopardy! held contestant tryouts at the Hilton Hawaiian Village several years ago. I didn’t think I had a shot and I don’t really care for Jeopardy’s gameplay, but I thought it would be fun to at least try out.

        The first part of the tryout: the proctors give you a numbered answer sheet. Then someone reads questions, and you just provide your answers. “Number 1: This person was the first woman U.S. secretary of state. Number 2: This is the capital city of Oregon.”

        The questions came quickly and there were a few parts where I knew the answer but couldn’t bring it to mind — so I jotted down keywords and returned to those numbers when I answered other questions quickly enough to go back. It was stressful.

        They collected the answer sheets and took them in some back room to be assessed. There were maybe 200 people or so in the room, and while we waited, Alex Trebek came out to speak to the auditioners. He doesn’t always do this, but he was vacationing in Hawaii, and I imagine showing up at the tryouts makes it a business trip.

        Someone asked something about which profession seems to be most successful at the game, and Trebek said, “I know you’d think it would be teachers, and teachers do very well, but what I’ve found is it seems to be people who studied the humanities in college — because they’ve studied and pondered mortality.”

        There are some mental gymnastics involved, but I made it work beyond the practicality of humanities majors studying a wide range of subjects. 🙂

        Trebek was pink from being out in the sun. He wore white walking shorts, sandals, and kind of a garish aloha shirt. He certainly looked relaxed. I’ll always be grateful I got to experience him this way in this setting.

        Yes, I did ask him a question but you’re going to have to put few glasses of wine in me for me to give it up. I’m quite embarrassed by it.

        PS: I was selected for the contestant pool. They dismissed all but 12 or so of us and I was one who remained. Never called for the actual game, though.

    3. but what I’ve found is it seems to be people who studied the humanities in college — because they’ve studied and pondered mortality.”

      What? (chuckle) This is kind of weird and surprising. Do you agree with this? I took a lot of humanities courses, and I thought about death, although I would say I thought more about the meaning of life. But in either case, I didn’t get the sense that others who studied humanities thought a lot about these questions.

      PS: I was selected for the contestant pool. They dismissed all but 12 or so of us and I was one who remained. Never called for the actual game, though.

      Wait, you were part of the 12 that remained, and then eventually you were the only one standing? That is really cool.

      By the way, great story. (My memory is not great now, so I guess you could have told me this before, but I don’t remember it.)

  14. My Man Godfrey (1936)
    Dir. Gregory La Cava
    Starring: William Powell, Carole Lombard, etc.

    This didn’t hold up for me, and I’ll explain the reasons below (with spoilers).

    First, Carole Lombard’s character was annoying and ultimately unlikable. More significantly, I didn’t believe Godfrey actually fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. I don’t think the film didn’t a good job of establishing this, and I actually thought it did establish that Godfrey did not love Lombard’s character in that way.

    Second, the social commentary felt flat for me–perhaps it was too dated and too Hollywood. The film did make me curious to re-watch Sullivan’s Travels.

  15. City Slickers (1991)
    Dir. Ron Underwood

    I’m not sure I can evaluate the film, and I’ll explain why. I saw this film because it was set to leave netflix soon, and I thought this was something my son would enjoy. For most of the film, I focused on my son’s reaction, specifically, whether he was enjoying it or not. He laughed a lot, and at certain points he would say he was enjoying the film (in response to my asking). In a way, a lot of my enjoyment of the film stemmed from his enjoyment.

    Putting that aside, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the film; a part of me feels like the film would have been a bit flat, although that’s partly because I already saw the film. Also, I think the way I have perceived and dealt with my own midlife crisis hindered my experience of the film, maybe lowered my estimation of it. Specifically, “the one thing” philosophy rings hollow for me.

  16. Licorice Pizza (2021)
    Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
    Starring: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, etc.

    Occasionally, I employ the following strategy when choosing a film to watch. I tell myself that I will watch the film for a few minutes, and if the film doesn’t suck me in, I’ll give up. That’s the approach I used on this film, and I was skeptical that this approach would work, partly because I felt under the weather (although I’m often skeptical this approach will work).
    Well, it worked on this film, to my surprise.

    In the opening scene, we see a line of high school students, waiting to take their school picture. A student is walking past the line, offering combs to the students to use. (This takes place in the 70s.) A red-headed kid asks for one and attempts to charm the girl. This interaction doesn’t take long, but for some reason I was hooked; and the film kept my attention throughout the movie.

    Here’s a quick breakdown. Gary (Hoffman) is a fifteen year old, 70’s version of Tom Sawyer–a schemer/hustler, who manages to convince others to go along with his schemes. He is quickly smitten by Alana (Haim), who is about ten years older. (She’s working for the photographer in the opening scene mentioned above.) They proceed to have a complex relationship. Gary is drawn to her, and while Alana may be drawn to him, she keeps him at arm’s length ostensibly because she’s much older.

    In line with the Sawyer reference, the film features a series of adventures involving Gary’s schemes, with Alana, Gary’s brother, and some other friends. (Gary’s brother and the other characters stay mostly in the background.) To me, these series of adventures seem haphazard and anecdotal, not really connected in any large theme or narrative structure. In some ways, I felt a bit confused about their purpose for being in the film. A part of me wondered if these incidents were autobiographical.

    In any case, I thought overall film was interesting, particularly the two leads and their relationship. I should mention that both are far from glamorous–they were more normal-looking, but that made them more appealing and interesting to me.

  17. This has been on my list since its days in the theater or wherever it debuted. I’ve been waiting for it to show up in one of my subscription streams but haven’t actively been checking.

  18. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
    Dir. Joseph Kosinski
    Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, etc.

    Here’s my explanation for my 39/100 rating: I don’t think this was a good film, but I did watch it until the end, and it wasn’t a big chore. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more, if I didn’t hear so much positive feedback from this film.

    Here’s one of my biggest problems with the film: the mission’s degree of difficulty was ridiculous. Also, Maverick and Rooster getting shot down and then finding a way to get back up in the air again–also ridiculous.

    The characters were also kind of dull (Jennifer Connelly’s character was superfluous).

  19. Glass Onion: a Knives Out Mystery (2022)
    Dir. Rian Johnson

    Mildly entertaining, but a tad disappointing. I think I’d still feel this way if I saw this on a boring Saturday night.

    1. I must remember incorrectly that you didn’t care for the first film, or why would you see the sequel? I enjoyed the first one so I’ll check this out but it’s far down the list right now.

    2. I enjoyed the first one, and I liked it more than the second film, for what that’s worth. To me, the second film is good pick when you’re bored and in the mood for this type of mystery.

  20. One Cut of the Dead (2019)
    Dir. Shinichiro Ueda

    I’m hesitant to say much about the film because my friend who recommended this recommended that I go in blind–and I tend to agree with this recommendation. I will also say that in spite of my trust in this friend’s taste, I almost gave up about twenty minutes into the film. Ultimately, I don’t think the film was great–it’s pretty decent example of a movie in the 65-68 range–but it possesses attributes that make it worth seeing. (I certainly don’t regret seeing it.)

    I’ll say more give more general details in the next section, but here are some hints that reveal little, but give you a vague sense about the movie. First, the title provides an important clue about the type of movie it is. Second, I would say that the film would be appropriate for young teenagers and possibly a little younger than that.

    Why didn’t I like this more? (Spoilers) I think that’s an interesting question. I could cite several reasons: the film could have developed the characters and their backstories a bit more, especially the main family, and then tied this into the plot. Maybe some of the set pieces could have been more clever and inventive–some felt a little flat to me.

  21. Everything, Everywhere All at Once (2022)
    Dir. Daniels
    Starring: Michelle Yeoh, etc.
    72/100 (possibly higher)

    I must admit that I found the film disorienting and too frenetic, to the point where I grew a bit frustrated and almost gave up. (Indeed, I did stop watching the film, only to come back to it later.) To get a sense of my reaction, think of Spike Jonze’s upping the ante on his next film after Being John Malkovich.

    Here are a few random comments (spoilers)

    • The drama and emotional impact of this movie, specially the mother-daughter relationship, surprised me. The film seemed too silly and zany for something like this. Much of the credit goes to Yeoh’s acting.
    • Yeoh’s acting, both dramatic and comedic, were a pleasant surprise in this. I don’t know if I’d call it great–versatile for sure–but I could see her getting a best performance nomination. Interestingly, I thought the martial arts sequences were the least interesting part of the film, which isn’t to say these sequences were bad.
    • I’d like to know what inspired the Daniels to envision and cast Jamie Lee Curtis? I don’t think Curtis is a really good actor, but she had the right look and was pretty funny at times . (Kudos to the costume designer as well.)
    1. I was most taken by the unexpected theme emerging at the end. Going to watch it again with the directors commentary. It deserves a second viewing for sure.

    2. Regarding seeing the film again, I’m not sure I know which theme you’re referring to. Is it winning via a more compassionate, healing approach?

      1. (spoilers)

        My wanting to see it again and my fondness for the theme (your suggestion is more specific than what I meant, which was just the power of kindness) are two separate things. I want to see it again because there’s so much going on. I like it because of kindness.

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