• Munich

    Munich

    ★★★★

    In my August Spielberg 21st century festival, I've seen Steven's darker stuff from the first Bush admin--which was dark--in "A.I.", "Minority Report", and "War of the Worlds", which showed much of the emotional trauma we all felt after 9-11 and the very poor decisions that came afterward. I tend to find that the grimness and bleak world view of those films took over and sabotaged his choices as a film maker, because he was trying to get it right.

    In…

  • Minority Report

    Minority Report

    ★★★

    Spielberg here is again choosing to address the current policies of the Bush era violating our privacy with the NSA and Patriot Act with this dystopian little thriller/action piece with Tom Cruise.

    Adapting Phillip K. Dick's dystopian "Wrong Man" theme with all of the 2054 investigation elements to it. This film has lots to recommend it, but perhaps it's because Spielberg was working with, but all the chase scenes and investigation feel worn to me now and hold little surprise.

  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence

    A.I. Artificial Intelligence

    ★★★★★

    Spielberg and film in general always work best when they weave in some of our darkest fears and most wondrous dreams: who hasn't wanted to ride a bike across the silhouette of the moon, who hasn't been petrified at the thought of snakes, bugs, rats, or dinosaurs who could open kitchen doors?

    This film, the concept by Kubrick but production carried out by Spielberg, does much of that, weaving in the fears 20 years ago of climate change that we…

  • Irma Vep

    Irma Vep

    ★★★★

    A Slow-Cooked Homemade Backstage French Stew of Irma Vep:

    I'm a big fan of backstage stories about the making of film or theatre: they teach, allow us to explore themes a straight up performance can't quite do, and allow us to live in at least two different worlds simulaneously. That's why I love "Kiss Me Kate", "Noises Off" Winterbottom's "Tristram Shandy", and this delightful 8 hour slow cooked stew, "Irma Vep"--especially because it has the remarkable meta audacity to bring…

  • The Vampires or, The Arch Criminals of Paris

    The Vampires or, The Arch Criminals of Paris

    ★★★★★

    The primary job of this Irma Vep Film Festival is to give me a long offramp from politics, futbol, and heat: it'll be 105 degrees today, and I'm all set to stay cool in various places and enjoy this long series from 107 years ago, then the Asayas film from 1996, then tomorrow the brand new HBO Series with Alicia Vikander.

    I'm also taken with the idea of a journalist setting out to investigate a corrupt crime mob--the "Vampires" as…

  • SubUrbia

    SubUrbia

    ★★★½

    This film ages much better in 2022.

    I saw it when it came out, and it was almost a documentary and it seemed depressing to see these young slackers in a suburb with racist and bigoted notions and the frustration of both talented and slacker types with both the creativity and frustration of America in our time.

    They're post-industrial Texas slackers like those Rick had caught before.
    And even though it's Bogosian's stuff translated to suburban Texas, the characters and…

  • Heads I Win/Tails You Lose

    Heads I Win/Tails You Lose

    ★½

    I'd call this a solid film experiment based on a very simple idea--especially one that in the digitial age is almost archaeology since digital streamed films don't have trailers like this.

    In the same way that Pollack's floor paintings or cut up Beat poetry can be freeing and find new ideas, this is a good thing for Rick to try: a film made just of leaders from other films.

    And when you consider that at roughly the same time, Spike…

  • Stalker

    Stalker

    ★★★★★

    TOXIC DYSTOPIAN ADVENTURE CAMP/ SPA DAY FOR DESPERATE MEN:

    The obvious first: Tarkovsky is the greatest poet of slow revelations of landscapes to both teach us to slow down and join the slow crock pot/hot tub of the film, as well as it teaches us to discover things as we look, the way staring at a landscape reveals more the more you look.

    The first section in sepia, which many complain is hatefully slow, I found magnificent for two reasons:…

  • The Ninth Gate

    The Ninth Gate

    ★★★★½

    WHO WOULDN'T WANNA BE IN THIS FILM?

    Moody little Polanski neo-noir detective film with old Satanic books, sexy femme fatales like Lina Olin who show up to trade sex for a book, plenty of smoking, and Polanski's most recent French wife as Satan on a motorcycle.

    Since it's a Depp film and this festival focuses on him, if we start that with Johnny, where he looks like a Hollywood Dreamboat but is actually a colored glass candle lamp showing horrific…

  • 24 Hour Party People

    24 Hour Party People

    ★★★

    I've always enjoyed this film, though it's really just a vehicle for Steve Coogan to improvise and make jokes to bounce off everyone around him. Or to polish his straight man work cutting into Rob Briden's antics.


    Hundreds of towns have exciting mythologies about bands and sounds that developed within their city limits, and I'm sure that for New Order fans from Manchester, this mockumentary with lame "band" clips is very exciting. And some say Steve Coogan plays, this one…

  • Smithereens

    Smithereens

    ★★★½

    Three stars for pioneering work by Susan Seidelman, who caught bowery NYC lightning in a bottle with this trend-setting punk Ur-indy film.

    Everything about how it looks and the music is wonderful.

    The lines are mostly silly and tedious, telling us far less than we'd see just watching the characters.

    It's surprising to see--since I lived through this same time--how accurately they get the clothes, so that even in a hip punk club in Mannhattan, plenty of Disco Ducks in…

  • Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

    Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

    ★★★

    A documentary of contemporary Bucharest--masks and all, since it's 2020--disguised as a sex comedy about a nice young woman teacher who has a homemade porn film uploaded featuring her.

    And the gamble Radu offers is that by dangling Sex, all other details of this woman's day walking around Bucharest becomes foreplay.