RSS feed for Mike
  • Underground

    Underground

    ★★★½

    68/100

    Second viewing, last seen during its U.S. theatrical release (which wasn't until 1997). This is top-tier cinematic maximalism, a mode that's always, at least in my cinephile lifetime, played a distant second fiddle—not even on the same concert stage, really—to its antithesis. Not really sure why it's so much less tiresome than Kusturica's subsequent films, though the three superb lead performances probably deserve much of the credit; I vaguely recall voting for Miki Manojlovic in that year's Skandies, but…

  • La Ceremonie

    La Ceremonie

    ★★★★

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

    73/100

    Second viewing, last seen during its U.S. theatrical run. Back then, my enthusiasm (three stars out of four; estimated rating: 66) was tempered by what I perceived as the film's heavy-handed depiction of class warfare—having the family murdered while they watched Don Giovanni seemed like, uh, overkill. Turns out that detail comes straight from Rendell, even though she's much more forthright regarding her antihero's motives. "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write," the…

  • Seems Like Old Times

    Seems Like Old Times

    ★★★★

    71/100

    A.V. Club review. I saw this dozens of times on primitive cable in the early '80s, so nostalgia may well be a contributing factor. But Chevy Chase was the draw for me back then, whereas now it's primarily Hawn and Grodin's Lucy-Ricky vibe that I cherish. I have not properly appreciated her talent.

    (Also was retroactively startled to discover that one of the bank robbers who kidnaps Chase at the beginning is Mickey from Pee-wee's Big Adventure.)

  • The Box

    The Box

    ★★½

    44/100

    Very occasional reminder that you, too, can be instrumental in making me watch and review incredibly dumb movies like this one, which was suggested and voted upon by the surpassingly wonderful folks who keep me solvent at the moment via Patreon. (On top of the pandemic, I'm about to lose my primary source of professional writing income—until January, anyway—thanks to California's misguided AB5, which limits freelancers to a maximum of 35 pieces per annum for any publication.) My near-daily…

  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

    Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

    ★★★½

    69/100

    Second viewing, last seen just prior to its original theatrical release. Fascinating to watch at this moment in history, in a way that I didn't remotely anticipate: When Grenouille's reign of terror begins in Grasse, we get more or less exactly the personal safety vs. economic health debate that's currently raging in the U.S., with a few sensible folks advocating a curfew while numerous others complain that they'll be ruined if they can't work by night. Alan Rickman's Richis…

  • Not One Less

    Not One Less

    ★★★½

    69/100

    Second viewing, last seen 20 years ago. I jotted down a few notes, then reread what I wrote at the time; every note was accounted for, my opinion has not changed one iota. Still my favorite Iranian film that isn't actually Iranian in any respect.

    My contemporaneous thoughts:
    __________________________________________________________

    Nothing like an obsessive quest to keep a story moving forward; I didn't read the production details outlined in the press kit, but I can guarandamntee you that nobody involved…

  • Wag the Dog

    Wag the Dog

    ★★★½

    64/100

    A.V. Club review. It's for Watch This, so I accentuated the positive (and I do quite like the film overall). By contrast, my drive-by from probably sometime around February of '98 mostly pushed back against contemporaneous raves:

    __________________________________________________________

    Wag the Dog (***) [JUN 2020: out of four stars], despite a brilliant premise and a first-rate cast, never quite takes off; like Maurizio Nichetti's The Icicle Thief, it's consistently clever but almost never funny. At the time, I remarked to…

  • Orpheus

    Orpheus

    ★★★★

    80/100

    A.V. Club review. This film (and Cocteau generally) has been insufficiently influential in my opinion.

  • The Holy Girl

    The Holy Girl

    ★★★½

    69/100

    [Originally written for Nerve.com.]

    Some films — not necessarily the best ones — linger in the memory, expanding and transforming, nagging at you from afar. For months after the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, I couldn't stop thinking about Lucrecia Martel's The Holy Girl, a movie I'd more or less shrugged at immediately following its world premiere. Fleeting images recurred, unbidden, during moments of distraction. I found myself haunted by the film's inconclusive conclusion, in which Martel discreetly, empathetically turns…

  • I, Robot

    I, Robot

    ★★★½

    65/100

    [I posted the following on a message board at the time of the film's release. All misspellings and grammatical oddities were intentional; long story.]

    There is some pretty kind of interesting stuff going on in this picture in my opinion. I am still trying to work out the racial subtext which is complicated in the many different ways not least by the casting of a black man as a raging bigot whose bigotry is at once upended and confirmed.…

  • Laggies

    Laggies

    ★★★

    51/100

    Watched this hours after learning of Lynn Shelton's death—it was the only one of her eight features that I hadn't seen. (Couldn't fit it into my TIFF '14 schedule, and then mixed-to-negative reactions from friends scared me off.) It's also the only one she had no hand in writing/devising, which conveniently enables me to speak no ill of the dead while noting that the film's already highly uneven script pretty much plunges off a cliff around the end of…

  • The Nice Guys

    The Nice Guys

    ★★★

    58/100

    Something snapped into place for me—rather belatedly—during The Nice Guys: I have trouble with broad comedies built around a convoluted detective story. Ask my brain to process anarchic and methodical at the same time and it belches smoke, I guess; maybe I get too wrapped up in following the plot to laugh. That would explain why I was twice bored out of my skull by Inherent Vice (to such an extent that I couldn't even think of anything to…