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geezer cinema: scott pilgrim vs. the world (edgar wright, 2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a wildly inventive movie derived from a series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley. There's never a dull moment, and you don't know what Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver) will come up with next. For many people, that's enough.

Michael Cera is the titular hero, who falls for Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Ramona has baggage, in the form of seven "Evil Exes", all of whom Scott must defeat if he is to win Ramona. The exes include Chris Evans as a skateboarder, Brandon Routh as a vegan with super powers, Brie Larson as "Envy", and Jason Schwartzman as a rich record mogul. The cast also features Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, and Aubrey Plaza. There are characters named Stephen Stills and Knives Chau (a 17-year-old girl with a crush on Scott).

It's all a bit much, but we're definitely talking Your Mileage May Vary. Some will look at that great cast and the general lunacy, with the feel of video games and music and youth culture, and jump right in. I looked forward to it, and enjoyed it as it was playing, but I was ultimately disappointed. #429 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time, and I suppose that's not completely silly. (Actually, watching this clip, I realized I'm being way too cranky here. It's a fun movie.)

[Letterboxd list of all the Geezer Cinema movies.]

3-iron (kim ki-duk, 2004)

This is the tenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 10 is called Korean Cinema Homework Week:

Following Parasite's incredible hot streak and the pleasant surprise of it winning Best Picture at the Oscar's, a lot of people were curious as to where start when looking into more South Korean cinema. Thankfully, Katie Rife, senior writer at The A.V. Club, offered up some recommendations for those looking for some guidance. Take a look!

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film from Katie Rife's Korean Cinema Homework list.

I had seen about half of the movies on the list, and was happy to check out 3-Iron from Kim Ki-duk, who directed Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring, which I watched a few months ago. I said of that movie, "Nothing is 'real' at all on some level, but it doesn't play as fantasy", and that holds to some extent for 3-Iron. 3-Iron seems more 'real' at first, but as the movie goes on, it feels more fantastic. The plot, as established at the beginning, has young Tae-suk (Jae Hee) as someone who breaks into people's houses when they aren't at home, settling in, fixing things, doing laundry, eating, then leaving before they return. It seems rather ingenious, and when he is caught by Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), an abused wife, she comes with him and joins on his sprees. This is clever, and if a bit like a tall tale, Kim presents it in a relatively realistic way. But Sun-hwa's husband wants revenge, the police are corrupt, and gradually Tae-suk demonstrates skills that are at least a little magical. None of this is hard to follow, but the magic sneaks up on you, and to be honest, by the end of the film, I wasn't quite sure if I'd actually seen any fantasy at all.

The two main characters never talk, leaving the actors to work via facial expressions ... it's fine, especially since the two are gorgeous to look at. Kim has little interest in the mainstream, and from what I've seen, the mainstream probably has little interest in his work. But at least based on the two films I've seen, he mostly avoids the abstract, even as he walks a line between real and fantasy. #573 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. Among the movies chosen to meet this challenge were Oldboy, Memories of Murder, Mother, The Host, The Handmaiden, Snowpiercer, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and Burning.

by request: aparajito (satyajit ray, 1956)

This is the ninth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 9 is called Ray, Ray, Ray, or Wray Week:

One of my favorite running bits, this challenge is a superficial as it seems. There's little that ties these films together, except for the inclusion of folks with similar names. If for nothing else, it allows for a nice range of selection, so finding something you're interested in watching shouldn't be too hard.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film directed by and/or starring Nicholas RaySatyajit RayRay Winstone, or Fay Wray.

P.S. I know Satyajit's is technically pronounced like "rye", but just shhhjustgowithitshhh.

Yes, it takes me forever to get to requests. I keep a list ... it's pretty long ... and eventually I'll get to them all. Aparajito wasn't really a request. It dates back to when Phil Dellio, Jeff Pike, and I did a Fifty Favorite Films project on Facebook. At the time, I told myself I was going to watch all of the movies I hadn't seen that were on Phil or Jeff's list. I've done pretty well over the years ... I only have two more to go on each list. In Phil's case, that's really 1 1/3 to go, because one of his 50 was the Apu Trilogy. A few years after the project, I finally saw the first film in the trilogy, Pather Panchali, and now, more than four years later, I've seen the second. At this rate, I'll get to the third film in 2024.

I said about Pather Panchali, "It falls into the category of 'admired more than loved'. Maybe the languid pace gave me too much time to think, but I wasn’t as drawn in emotionally as I expected." The first part of Aparajito, which picks up soon after the first film, has a similar feel. After the father dies, there is some new tension, as the mother needs to figure out how to continue the lives of her and her son. When Smaran Ghosal takes over the part of Apu from Pinaki Sen Gupta when Apu reaches adolescence, the film changes more than just the actors. Apu goes to school, which begins a separation from his mother, and later goes to Kolkata to further his studies, leaving his mother to live alone. Karuna Banerjee brings a soulfulness to the mother ... her sad eyes tell an infinite story on their own. And Ray isn't afraid to milk the emotion, which means I was finally drawn in to that side of the tale. Aparajito is a big story about tradition and progress, told on an intimate level as the story of a mother and her son. Ray doesn't exactly pick a side ... you can't stop progress. But we feel the mother's sadness as equal to the pleasures Apu finds in a larger world.

Ray uses long takes, but the scenes are often short, as if we were learning the story of these people in a piecemeal way. In the second half of the movie, I finally started understanding why the films have such a high reputation. #581 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.

Among the movies people chose to meet the challenge were Johnny Guitar (N. Ray), The Music Room (S. Ray), Sexy Beast (Ray W.), and King Kong (F. Wray).

music friday

Continuing the theme of artists I've seen live over the years, with a slight nod towards the events of the week.

We saw Randy Newman in 1976. To put that in perspective, this was five years before Randy got his first Oscar nomination. The video is from later, but the album it comes from was the most recent for Newman when we saw him, Good Old Boys.

Dana Carvey isn't known as a musician, although his "Choppin' Broccoli" will always be a favorite. When we saw him, he was opening for ... I think Mink DeVille, although I could be wrong about that. He was maybe 22 years old, known in the Bay Area but almost ten years from Saturday Night Live. He didn't go over too well that night ... hard to be an opening act anyway, much less a stand-up comedian when the crowd came to hear music. My wife wrote him a note on a napkin to let him know at least one person appreciated him. Fast forward to 1996, long after SNL made him a star and Wayne's World solidified his stature, when Carvey was given a weekly show on ABC, which featured an enormous array of soon-to-be-famous talents like Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, and Robert Smigel. The show was canceled after seven episodes, with one episode not even shown. It was considered controversial at the time. Here is the first skit from the first episode:

We saw the Tom Robinson Band in a club in 1979. I was such a fanboy for guitarist Danny Kustow that I brought a sign gushing over him ... I got to go backstage after the show, where the band signed it.

I also saw the Dead Kennedys in 1979, opening for The Clash, a performance that was noteworthy for Jello Biafra jumping into the crowd and emerging with most of his clothes torn off.

geezer cinema/film fatales #97: never rarely sometimes always (eliza hittman, 2020)

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is the 66th movie in our weekly Geezer Cinema that we came up with when both of us were retired. Back then, the idea was to get us out of the house, but that doesn't happen anymore, so we watch at home (a couple of weeks ago, we saw our 65th, which meant we'd seen more at home than at the theaters).

I realized that over the last 66 weeks, I've shown a real taste for movies about young girls. Booksmart, Little Women, Emma!, Babyteeth, and now Never Rarely Sometimes Always, all about young girls, all chosen by me for Geezer Cinema. OK, I liked these kinds of movies long before we began Geezer Cinema, but it's fun to see how our selections differ from one another ... action pictures are more often chosen by my wife, movies about young girls more often chosen by me.

This is the third feature from Eliza Hittman, who also writes her films. She made the decision to cast Sidney Flanigan as Autumn, a 17-year-old in small-town Pennsylvania who gets pregnant and goes to New York City for an abortion. It's Flanigan's debut as an actor ... she was working as a janitor when filming began. Hittman saw something, and she sure was right ... Flanigan is excellent throughout the film. Also, Talia Ryder, who plays Autumn's cousin who accompanies her to New York, does not even have a Wikipedia page as of this writing. (She is also great.) The only name in the cast that I recognized was Sharon Van Etten, who plays Autumn's mom, and even there, I know her as a musician, not an actor.

Credit to the actors, and to Hittman, because she elicits such fine performances. It's not that Flanigan and Ryder ooze confidence ... that wouldn't fit their characters. But we never worry that the young actors are going to lose the thread.

Hittman's script, and the style she uses, avoids the kind of preaching you might expect from an "abortion movie". Never Rarely Sometimes Always is only peripherally about abortion. It's about the life of a 17-year-old girl in trouble. Hittman hints at possible traumas in Autumn's life, but that's all they are, hints. The trip to New York, and the procedure, is shitty ... the effect of the abortion is rough for Autumn, this is not a pretty movie. But something in Flanigan makes us believe she will survive. And her cousin will be there with her ... the relationship between the cousins is believable, you know Autumn's cousin has her back without asking. In fact, there isn't much dialogue at all between them. It's as if they are so close they barely need to talk.

[Letterboxd list of all the Geezer Cinema movies.]

ok, maybe it wasn't my fault

Yesterday, in a self-pitying post, I blamed myself for how fucked up this country is. This morning, writing in advance of any final vote tallies but with the sense that Biden will be the next President and the Senate will remain Republican, I see where the real blame lies. 

It depresses me that this quote is still relevant, almost 50 years after Hunter S. Thompson wrote it. I'd love to get to the point when it was no longer timely to post this, which I have done many times over the years. I don't think I'll live that long.

“This maybe the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it—that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.”

As I write this, while he is trailing in the actual vote count with 86% of votes counted, Trump has received more than 66 million votes. That's 66 million Americans and counting who think we need four more years of this man. Those aren't people who looked at our country in 2016 and thought the businessman was the right choice to make our country great again. No, these are people with four years of evidence of how the businessman runs the country, and they said yep, that's what I want.

because you're different

This will be short. Talking about today, Election Day, is best done before we hear anything. I blame myself for everything, no matter how it turns out. I talk a big game about taking care of the underprivileged, but in my darkest heart I am still that childish fearful anarchist who anticipated the social apocalypse. Reading about the possibility of right-wing fascist racists taking to the streets if their guy loses, I am not like those reasonable folks who say they go low, we go high. If Trump wins, I hope the streets burn. I'm an old retired guy married to a fine woman who made sure we were taken care of in our dotage. I'm not going to be the one setting the fires ... hell, I've barely been out of the house for months. But I am so dumb that I romanticize destruction. Blame me when it all goes to hell.

marnie (alfred hitchcock, 1964)

Like a lot of people, we thought to watch a Sean Connery movie this weekend, and our choice was Marnie. It's been a very long time since I'd seen it, and my recollections were mostly negative ... Tippi Hedren was awful, Hitchcock's use of rear projection seemed lazy ... I didn't know her yet, but even Kael called it "Hitchcock scraping bottom". I know that its critical reputation has grown over time ... it's #357 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. All of which intrigued me, although I was prepared to roll my eyes at what Fernando F. Croce in 2006 described as "the daring formal experimentalism of painted backgrounds and rear-projections".

Well, I think backtracking critics are stretching it ... it still looks lazy to me. But I was wrong about Tippi Hedren, who is the best thing about the movie. She's great, and I admit to being complete surprised by this. The bizarre Hitchcockian treatment of the female lead is still creepy ... I think we're supposed to side with Connery's Mark when he tries to "cure" Marnie (at one point, he says, "I'm fighting a powerful impulse to beat the hell out of you"). This isn't Vertigo, where Hitchcock put his creepy obsessions on the screen and then made James Stewart a near-psycho so we wouldn't think his behavior was proper. But Tippi Hedren saves the picture. Her Marnie is sympathetic, and we feel her hurt.

Hedren rescues the movie, and I'm glad I finally watched it again. But I can think of at least 10 Hitchcock films I prefer to Marnie.