Cinema: July 2019

  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night (地球最后的夜晚). A wonderful effort from Bi Gan. The celebrated long take is indeed impressive. Did seem too slow-paced at times. At one point, the protagonist (Huang Jue) mentions that he fell asleep in the cinema and ended up in a cave. That did happen to me too (although the cave was on the screen). The Tarkovsky‘s and Lynch‘s influence seemed apparent. 8/10
  • Babylon. The sound quality was horrible, not sure if it is the fault of the cinema, or the film. The story seemed authentic and convincing. 7/10
  • Toy Story 4. Not as good as previous installments, mostly due to the creators’ decision to allocate little time to many of the original toys (that were great and funny). 6/10
  • Midsommar. Ingenious, atmospheric, humorous, psychedelic, and unique. Ari Aster is a new master of smart horror, directing one of the best films of the year the second year in a row. 9/10
  • Three Peaks. Omen in the mountains. 6/10
  • In the Aisles. There is something here. 7/10
  • Crawl. Kaya Scodelario is very convincing and impressive. One might think that this kind of alligators-eat-humans movie does not allow for a demonstration of acting skills, but the whole film is worthy mainly due to her. 7/10
  • The Farewell. This is an American film directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina as the main character (both are Chinese-Americans). Indeed, the contrast with Chinese films (some of which were “reviewed” in the previous months) is visible. The film, story, and actors are absolutely incredible though, especially the chemistry between Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen. All praise is well-deserved. 9/10
  • Wild Rose. There is nothing especially interesting about the story, and it is hard to sympathize with the protagonist, but some songs are very good and touching, and Jessie Buckley is amazing. 7/10
  • The Art of Self-Defense. This is a hilarious comedy that half-way turns into a satirical thriller. Alessandro Nivola steals the film, but all the cast are amazing. The line “I see now how her being a woman will prevent her from ever becoming a man.” (recalled from an article by Tom Philip) was indeed a memorable one and a good example of the film’s satire. 9/10
  • The Lion King. I don’t think I watched the original film, but this one is nothing special. The Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) were memorable though. 6/10

Cinema: June 2019

  • Non-Fiction (Doubles vies). Talking, talking. Always good to see Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet. 6/10
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The “original” film was already pretty bad (though the first part saved by Bryan Cranston), but this one is non-sense. There is some humor though. 3/10
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. The amount of violence and cheering from the theatre audience for various cunning killings is a diagnosis for this country, I think. But I admit that, as a work of art, this is close to the top of the genre. The story is not as good as in the second film, and there is a certain amount of self-plagiarism (not counting the killings, of course). The amusing interruption in fighting due to it being on the premises of “Continental” is not as fresh (the original scene with Common was the highlight of the second film for me). However, there are other original additions, lots of dark humor. Mark Dacascos does a great job. As with the previous films, I admire the “honest” fight choreography for Keanu Reeves, even though the “bad guys” are mostly helpless. Overall, noir action at its best. 8/10
  • Walking on Water. Interesting. Intense.
  • Dark Phoenix. Indeed, the weakest in the series. Unnecessary. Which is sad. 4/10
  • The Dead Don’t Die. Bill Murray or Jim Jarmusch appearing separately in film credits is already a “must see” sign. Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch appearing together now seems a recipe for brilliance. Indeed, I consider Broken Flowers as the finest work of both of them. Plus Tilda Swinton and Adam Driver—close to the film of the year. Humor is everywhere. With the political and social satire, numerous cinematic references, the overall incredible cast, and a typical slow-paced Jarmusch’s style—“must see” is rewarded with ease. (“The Haters Don’t Die”.) 9/10
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco. A wonderful film about friendship. Beatifully shot. A great debut for Joe Talbot. Great job by Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors. The music is incredible too. 8/10
  • Late Night. Emma Thompson is so brilliant here. She is unbelievable. Simply the other league of acting. 8/10
  • Men in Black: International. Not that bad as ratings say. The humorous atmosphere of the series is present, the leads are adequate. Yes, the script contains some dull parts/conversations, but not bad. 6/10
  • The Souvenir. I struggle to find any reason I should recommend this film to anybody. It rarely happens that I become so bored in the cinema to start browsing on the phone. A young filmmaker. A drug addict. A pathetic boring love story. There are some glimpses of light occasionally, but overall… Well, the only reason is to see Tilda Swinton as a gray-haired old woman, which she is too young to play, after a sexy samurai-undertaker in The Dead Don’t Die. 4/10

Cinema: May 2019

  • Sunset (Napszállta, László Nemes). The story is mysterious, and remains so at the end credits. The cinematography and direction, hand camera style, varying focus from close-up shots to blurred shots, dark colors, the overall dark atmosphere—all is really wonderful. Juli Jakab, who you follow for most of the film, did a good job, I think, although the role did not require an especial emotional variety, mostly hidden and restrained. 7/10
  • Hail Satan? (Penny Lane). Highly recommended. About The Satanic Temple. The word “Satan” can be misleading to those unfamiliar with the topic; it was for me. The topic is important and relevant. I found their values align with mine to a great extent.
  • Ramen Shop (情牽拉麵茶, Eric Khoo). Vegetarians may have a hard time (I had a bit), but the film is very light and enjoyable, having a tragic touch. 7/10
  • Long Shot (Jonathan Levine). The story is too extreme to be true, but very funny most of the time. 7/10
  • Aniara (Pella Kågerman). Underrated. One of the best recent science fiction films. From start to end. Wonderful Emelie Jonsson. 8/10
  • Booksmart (Olivia Wilde). Overrated, but one of the best examples of the genre. Beanie Feldstein raises obvious associations with “Lady Bird”, but the topics and genres are different. A number of funny moments; stupid are present too. 7/10
  • My Son (Mon garçon, Christian Carion). Guillaume Canet doing things. 6/10
  • Photograph (Ritesh Batra). Too sweet to be true, but appreciate the ending. 6/10
  • Shadow (影, Zhang Yimou). From the master Zhang Yimou. The league of its own, so distinct from the “western” cinema. Visually stunning with unique atmosphere, “impressionistic” battles, original story, marvelous music (Zai Lao). Overall, another world. 9/10

Cinema: April 2019

  • The Hummingbird Project (Kim Nguyen), 7/10. Alexander Skarsgård absolutely steals the film. His Anton Zaleski is great. Lots of funny moments, but the script could have been improved.
  • Ash Is Purest White / 江湖儿女 (Jia Zhangke), 8/10. A very atmospheric film. For me was also interesting as learning about the Chinese culture. The story is simple, but Zhao Tao’s lead is splendid, and again there are lots of incredibly atmospheric scenes with a marvelous soundtrack, which at times reminded me Eduard Artemyev’s work on Tarkovsky’s “Solyaris”.
  • Sorry Angel / Plaire, aimer et courir vite (Christophe Honoré), 8/10. Very honest, bitterly funny and romantic, with a great soundtrack (e.g. Ride, Cocteau Twins). The year is 1993. Was recalling “Philadelphia”.
  • The Mustang (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre), 9/10. Read a letter from Laure. Matthias Schoenaerts is unbelievable in this one. There are subtle moments that equestrian specialists would appreciate, I believe. Emotionally intricate: touching fragile scenes, the rough prison set-up, atmospheric nature scenes. So far the best of 2019. Or near.
  • Hotel Mumbai (Anthony Maras), 7/10. At times hard to watch. Well made, indeed. One could realize how similar that looks to school shooting scenarios.
  • Us (Jordan Peele), 5/10. What did Jordan try to create? A comedy? Indeed, the audience was mostly laughing for some reason. A horror movie? Felt more like a parody. An intellectual thriller? I wish I could believe the story. No, unfortunately. Smart symbolism? I heard it may have some particular meaning for Americans. Well, not me to judge. Lupita Nyong’o is the only bright spot.
  • Gloria Bell (Sebastián Lelio), 7/10. Julianne Moore is a treasure as usual.
  • High Life (Claire Denis), 9/10. Dark, oppressing. Recalling 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sunshine. Also Event Horizon. Stuart A. Staples’ score is incredibly good and fitting. Cinematography is wonderful. As is direction. There are so many interesting and experimental shots. Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche were convincing.
  • Little Woods (Nia DaCosta), 7/10. It is a decent film. Nothing special. “True story”. Depressing rural atmosphere. Wonderful Tessa Thompson and Lily James. At times, a bit theatrical. I think I liked the music in the film.
  • Peterloo (Mike Leigh), 1/10. They just talk, and talk, and talk. For 2.5 hours. Never the end. The characters and acting so stereotypical and exaggerated. It is about an important event. But it is supposed to be a film (i.e. art). Feels more like a poorly-made feature for a “History” channel. The ending is a fitting embarrassing conclusion to this whole thing. Why would you want to film a Peterloo massacre with no budget and with a PG-13 rating?
  • Teen Spirit (Max Minghella), 7/10. Elle Fanning and especially Zlatko Buric are very good in this film. Although the topic would normally be of little interest to me, it’s really enjoyable, and the songs, I think, are well made. The independent film touch is beneficial. Some atmospheric scenes. Also, Elle’s Polish seems impressive.
  • Never Look Away / Werk ohne Autor (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), 9/10. More than 3 hours, but never boring. Cinematography and direction is incredible here. Acting not so much, and is secondary. The overall story too. The colors are so beautiful. The art school set-up is very interesting. Just learning about the German art of the time. Some experimental art. Painting scenes are so magnetic. I cannot recall anything better in this respect. Also, Max Richter’s score is notable.
  • Avengers: Endgame (Anthony RussoJoe Russo), 4/10. At times, there is good humor. At times, stupid. Mostly bum-bum, though well-made, with some pretentious and pathetic “philosophical” conversations. The whole story, “time travel” is laughable. They put all these characters in one feature—in the end, a kindergarten. But, I understand, this just follows a comic book. This is how it is and what people enjoy. Well, the universe is “saved”, let’s celebrate. A complete waste of talent for Brie Larson.

But a more important question is how did I miss the below to finally watch Darya’s film? In America. I do work a lot, but I think there could have been a little bit more advertising of the event. Little Woods and Teen Spirit were in the program too.