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  • The Lady from Shanghai

    The Lady from Shanghai

    ★★

    "A lot of people admired his work, but he had no regard for anyone other than himself, quite honestly."

    "He didn't mind how much he hurt other people, but he got hurt."

    While I was watching this, I was thinking about the above quotes about Welles from this interview with a woman who worked for him during the production of Casino Royale. Rita Hayworth's character is bad and hateful because she's... willing to have sex with anyone other than Orson…

  • It Felt Like Love

    It Felt Like Love

    ★★★★★

    I guess from the ratings I'm seeing on Letterboxd, people are writing this off as just another coming of age movie, but it felt crushingly authentic to me, with a strong focus on the POV of the protagonist, quietly and mostly silently indirectly broadcasting her feelings to the audience and the world around her. I spent the runtime commiserating in sympathy with Lila's teen angst when I wasn't cringing at her attempts at adolescent posturing or being fearful for her…

  • The Return of the Living Dead

    The Return of the Living Dead

    ★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    One day when I was in second grade, I had a conversation during recess with a classmate wherein he told me gleefully about how he had recently seen a movie called Night of the Living Dead that had a scene in it where a girl took off all her clothes and danced naked in a graveyard. Well, isn't that just naughty and silly! I filed that bit of knowledge away, and then a few years later when I actually saw…

  • Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

    Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

    ★★★

    I didn’t really know anything about Rare Exports other than its basic premise and country of origin, and going into it I was anticipating a cheap and nasty genre movie. Instead to my surprise, I found out that this is a kid’s adventure movie, so Spielbergian in nature that without Raiders of the Lost Ark it wouldn’t exist; here meddlers are profaning the mysteries of Old Testament Santa rather than Yahweh. It’s cute and well-crafted and character focused, and my…

  • The Girl Can't Help It

    The Girl Can't Help It

    ★★★★

    The way that the title song kicks in during the introduction is pretty great. It's such a strong performance from Little Richard that it kind of launches into space after the buildup provided by the delightful humor of the opening speech. Most of the rest of the music in The Girl Can't Help It doesn't really meet the level of that song, but that's OK. The immediacy of pop culture is what it's all about, anyway. (Even though there's some…

  • Wiener-Dog

    Wiener-Dog

    I quit watching partway through the first vignette. Too much glee in being transgressive for me, I guess, and I’m not even talking about all the dogshit. The rapist Muslim dog thing came off to me as less satiric and more straightforward puerile racism, from the strain of white people humor that trades in racist stereotypes as a way of expressing anxiety about race. No thanks.

  • Gimme Danger

    Gimme Danger

    ★★★

    Just a pretty standard music documentary when all is said and done, at least with talking heads from the surviving people involved. It’s about some great music, but doesn’t go into much detail about it. For instance, it tells the story about the biker bar gig outside of Detroit that was recorded on Metallic K.O., but I don’t think it even mentions that the bootleg exists.

     Lester Bangs’s enthusiastic essay about the band in Psychotic Reactions and Carbuertor Dung primed…

  • Black Girl

    Black Girl

    ★★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    I knew from the first shot and the first minute that I was going to like Black Girl. First the austere opening shot of the ship coming to port, no score, just the alarm call of the ship's horn in the distance; then a little later that first stunning high contrast close-up on Mbissine Thérèse Diop's face as her character's leaving the boat.

    The ending left me bemused. Going in I expected this to be a tragedy; then in the…

  • Bill Cunningham New York

    Bill Cunningham New York

    “Don’t take a picture of us!”
    “I’ll break that fucking camera.”

    I quit watching 43 minutes in. When the film started, I wondered how the pedestrians Cunningham was photographing felt about being part of his activity. He clearly wasn’t getting them to sign releases; not everyone he was photographing was going to know who he was or want their picture in the Times even they did. Then the above gets uttered by two young black women who catch a creepy…

  • Kanal

    Kanal

    ★★★

    Some impressive location shooting and visuals, but too many miserable pauses shared by indistinguishable characters. Daisy ended up being the only character I was really rooting for. There were some effective visual reveals, but also some moments that seemed bathetic or too obviously ironic. The composer running around with his ocarina in the sewer was probably the lowest point in that regard. The shot that ends with a pan to a pile of bodies was probably the most affecting moment for me, although Daisy and Jacek’s dialogue about the graffiti in the sewer was also another highlight on the strength of Teresa Iżewska’s screen presence.

  • High Noon

    High Noon

    ★★★★

    I avoided seeing High Noon for a long time. I’m not a fan of Westerns especially, although there are a few classics I like a lot (Red River and Fort Apache are two that come to mind), and High Noon is such a known cultural reference that I figured its reputation had to be overblown and it would be pretty hokey and stodgy.

    But no, it’s actually a pretty solid genre picture, and its politics aren’t hokey at all; they’re…

  • Abuse of Weakness

    Abuse of Weakness

    ★★★★

    Sort of a semi-sequel to the semi-autobiographical Sex Is Comedy, this time about a film that doesn't get made.

    It was uncomfortable watching this knowing that what was on the screen was close to reality for Breillat. The focus is on Huppert's character's ordeal to the point where the details of events are left implied. There's a bit with a gun that seemed to appear out of nowhere making me thinking something was trimmed in editing that maybe shouldn't have…