revisiting the virgin suicides (sofia coppola, 1999)

In 2011, I wrote:

It’s an interesting movie, and I liked it a lot, as I did Lost in Translation, which makes Marie Antoinette all the more disappointing. Phil Dellio was reminded in a way of Dazed and Confused, but my comparison would be HeathersHeathers is more smart-ass than The Virgin Suicides, and wonderfully mean-spirited. Yet I think I liked The Virgin Suicides more. The tale is told from the point of view of a man looking back on life as a boy, yet Coppola does a terrific job of turning the idealized girls into real people, and gives us at least as much insight into their lives as to the boys. Of course, all the insight in the world isn’t going to explain the events noted in the film’s title. Coppola offers a fine blend of the real and the slightly surreal, and does a great job with the soundtrack.

I question my use of the word "like" in the above. I might think The Virgin Suicides is "better" than Heathers, but the truth is, I like Heathers a lot more, and have re-watched it several times. I agree with the rest of what I said in 2011. The Virgin Suicides was Sofia Coppola's feature directorial debut. The cast is interesting. Kirsten Dunst is a standout, of course. The film was one of the first for Josh Hartnett. You can get a hint of why the sisters had a difficult life when you note that their parents are played by James Woods and Kathleen Turner. Danny DeVito has a cameo as a shrink, who is part of the most quotable moment in the film, when he asks one of the sisters why she is in the hospital after a suicide attempt ... "You're not even old enough to know how bad life gets." To which she replies, "Obviously, Doctor, you've never been a 13-year-old girl." It's right up there with Winona Ryder in Heathers writing, "Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count."

coco (lee unkrich and adrian molina, 2017)

Coco is a multi-award winning film, including an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It filled absences in many of my "Blind Spot" Letterboxd lists of popular movies I haven't seen. It is a landmark in Latino cinema, "the first film with a nine-figure budget to feature an all-Latino principal cast." I am pretty picky about animated features ... I love Miyasaki, like a lot of Pixar films, but am not a fan of a lot of the animated musicals that are ever-present. Coco comes from Pixar, and it is one of their best.

I watched in Spanish ... dubbing for animated films doesn't bother me, but ordinarily I'd have opted for English. But I knew they had made a specific Spanish-language version of Coco, and given its setting in Mexico and its emphasis on Mexican culture, Spanish seemed like the proper choice. (The only voice actor to appear in both versions is Gael García Bernal.) I can't make comparisons, but at the least, I was very satisfied with the Spanish voices.

I was also satisfied with the songs, which is often where I check out. I don't know if it was the way the Spanish-language versions felt less intrusive or something else, but I didn't gag. Meanwhile, the way Coco shows not just that Family Is Good but that Family Is Difficult was done in a pretty powerful way. Honestly, I didn't expect to like Coco ... now I can't wait to watch with my grandson.

music friday: blondie and rockpile

On this date in 1979, we saw Blondie and Rockpile at what was then called the Oakland Civic Auditorium. Blondie was the obvious headliner, but I came away more impressed with Rockpile. Roberta Bayley was quoted in Will Birch's Cruel to Be Kind: The Life and Music of Nick Lowe, "Blondie got that number one record, but they weren't quite prepared for playing bigger places. Rockpile were often blowing them off stage, and at Oakland lots of people started leaving the venue before Blondie came on. 

The openers were listed on posters as "Nick Lowe and Rockpile". I suppose that's fair ... Lowe already had a couple of albums under his own name, while Dave Edmunds hadn't had a Top Ten single in the States since 1970. Rockpile (Lowe and Edmunds along with Billy Bremner and Terry Williams) only released one album under their own name, but several Lowe and Edmunds albums at the time were de facto Rockpile.

Blondie, of course, was on top of the world in 1979. They were still touring behind the incredible Parallel Lines, which hit #6 on the U.S. charts and spawned six singles, including the smash "Heart of Glass". And they had Debbie Harry.

Here's a Spotify playlist of some of the music the bands were making around that time:

geezer cinema: prey (dan trachtenberg, 2022)

Prey has gotten a lot of attention, in spite of (because of?) it's opening only on the Hulu streaming site. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) and starring a cast of unknown-to-me actors, Prey is a prequel to Predator, which doesn't matter as much as you might think. I liked the original, never saw any of the endless sequels, so you could say I'm coming to this one fresh. And fresh is what it is. It will forever be thought of as part of the Predator franchise, but you don't need to be familiar with the other movies to appreciate Prey, the quality of which makes it stand on its own. Amber Midthunder has the star-making leading role as Naru ... she had a small role as a bank teller in Hell or High Water, and she was a part in the confusing TV series Legion (I only lasted through one season). Midthunder dominates her scenes in Prey, and is the best reason to see the movie.

Prey takes place at a Comanche village in 1719, and it benefits from its setting. In Predator, a rescue team led by Arnold Schwarzenegger goes to a Central American rainforest and encounters the Predator ... in a sense, they, like the alien, are intruders on the scene. But the Comanche people are defending themselves in Prey, and Naru plays the Arnold role. Another twist is that Prey is, among other things, a coming-of-age story for Naru.

The film looks great, and there are some excellent set pieces involving the Predator. For once, the character development is welcome, rather than just thrown om to make the movie last longer. This helps Prey as a movie, since the depths of Naru expand the film's reach. I admit, though, that I'm temperamentally inclined towards the kinds of overpowering action many of today's movies offer, so while Prey has depth, it didn't always have me on the edge of my seat.