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green room (jeremy saulnier, 2015)

Green Room is a coldly efficient picture about punks, neo-Nazis, and violence. Jeremy Saulnier has cited Straw Dogs as an influence, and I suppose Green Room does call on some toxic masculine violence. But unlikely that repulsive film, Green Room is at least an equal opportunity revenge thriller. By the end of the movie, of the two remaining heroes, one is a woman, as if Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs couldn't succeed until he got a woman to join him in brutal violence. It helps that Saulnier doesn't take himself as seriously as Sam Peckinpah did.

The protagonists are a punk band, three guys and a woman, whose idea of a good song to cover is "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" (it is a good song, but perhaps not the best choice when the crowd is filled with Nazi punks). They are gradually joined by another woman against what turns out to be a vicious fascist cult. Before the movie ends, we've seen a variety of killings and near-killings, involving (list not inclusive) slicing up a guy with a box cutter, people getting eaten by attack dogs, a guy being shot in the face, and another guy at the receiving end of a machete. You've been warned.

There are some good casting choices. This was Anton Yelchin's last movie released before he died (there were a few more released after, including Star Trek Beyond). He does a good job in what might be called the Dustin Hoffman role ... his descent into violence is believable, and we see the impact it has on him. Alia Shawkat is one of the band members, and she can do no wrong in my book. Imogen Poots is the outsider to the band who joins their side in the battle, and she is quite the badass.

But the casting everyone talks about is Patrick Stewart as the head of the neo-Nazi cult. He didn't work for me ... I know we're supposed to think "Damn, Patrick Stewart is a bad guy!", but he underplayed his part and thus got lost among all the violence.

You should be able to tell by all of the above spoilers whether Green Room is for you. I liked it. Rather improbably ranked #686 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century.

25 favorite films

Recently, the They Shoot Pictures Don't They website had a poll where users listed their 25 favorite films. They received 1,983 replies, with a total of 5,945 films chosen. They have begun posting the top 1005, spreading things out to keep us in suspense. In the meantime, here were my 25 choices. Each selection received one point, so there was no need to rank them. I'll list mine in alphabetical order:

cloudburst (thom fitzgerald, 2011)

This will be short and not-so-sweet. A few days ago we watched Supernova, which told the story of a long-lasting gay couple. I noted at the time that "Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth feel so right in their parts; they are recognizable as a long-term couple". Cloudburst also stars award-winning actors, this time Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker. Here, too, we get a story about a long-lasting gay couple. But the similarities end there.

Supernova featured real people. Cloudburst features caricatures. The moments when something rings true to real life are few and far between. Dukakis is the foul-mouthed dike, Fricker is the blind partner, and Ryan Doucette has the Brad Pitt role. Yes, Cloudburst plays like Thelma and Louise with the gay subtext moved to the front. But the characters in Cloudburst lack subtlety ... it's as if Thelma and Louise focused solely on Thelma's stupid husband Darryl. At one point I asked my wife where the women of Cloudburst got the money to travel as they do, and she replied that they were retired. Retired from what, I asked, and she said we don't know, they retired before the movie started. Exactly, I stated ... we know nothing about these people beyond their roles as stereotypes. I'd say Cloudburst was a complete waste of time, but apparently some people like it, so YMMV.


Music Friday is taking the week off. Earlier in the week I started seeing Super Floaters in my left eye. Got worse over the next couple of days, saw doctor Thursday morning, he operated Thursday afternoon. All is well, now, but I'm a little behind on blogging.

After the operation:

Operation patch

The next day (today):

Operation patch

geezer cinema: supernova (harry macqueen, 2020)

How many movies have been made about an aging couple where one of them has dementia? It feels like there are a lot of them ... I was rather taken with Away from You, and of course there's The Notebook, which was a big hit although it didn't do much for me. Those were both some time ago, so maybe these don't pop up as often as I think.

Anyway, Supernova tells the story of an aging couple where one of them has dementia, and with that, I've told you pretty much the entire plot. Writer/director Harry Macqueen isn't really concerned with plot ... this is a character study, and while you wouldn't say a movie about dementia is a feel-good picture, Macqueen doesn't stray too far from the basics, which means Supernova is as comforting as it is anything else. The couple in this case are two gay men, which is a slight twist, although nowadays it's not exactly shocking. In any event, Macqueen gets out of the way and lets his two stars take care of the movie.

And they do a great job. Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth feel so right in their parts; they are recognizable as a long-term couple, and it's a surprise that they were originally cast in the opposite part. I'm sure that would have worked, too ... Firth and Tucci are always good. But the switch is so obvious in retrospect that it's hard now to imagine what the original idea would have been like.

Macqueen deserves credit for creating a movie with no real flaws, one that can be enjoyed by anyone, with a couple of excellent star turns to raise things up a notch. There are too many movies that aren't even good at this basic level for me to complain. If ultimately, Supernova isn't much more than two actors at their best, well, that's OK.

sátántangó (béla tarr, 1994)

Definitely a case of Eat Your Vegetables. I never found myself involved in Sátántangó ... OK, I laughed a couple of times, which I suppose is something, although two laughs in 7 hours and 19 minutes doesn't qualify as a laff riot. Yes, I know Sátántangó isn't meant to be a laff riot. I'm just looking for something to say about a movie I'd heard so much about, that I finally got around to watching, and as I expected, it's in the Terrence Malick Genre of Movies That Accomplish What the Film Makers Set Out to Do but That Aren't Meant for Me. (Factoid I didn't know: Malick is 12 years old than Béla Tarr.)

Seriously, this movie was never meant for me, and I can't dismiss it just because I didn't like it. So if you think you'd like to see a 439-minute example of Slow cinema, or if like me you are a wannabe completist who absolutely needs to see the 109th-best movie of all time according to the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They website, then by all means, go for it. Here's a tentative place to start, a Letterboxd list I just created filled with Slow cinema movies:

Slow cinema

Or, if you want to start with Slow movies I loved, check out L'Avventura or 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (some would argue these two movies are not Slow cinema), or Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (which most definitely is Slow cinema).

There was one segment in Sátántangó that I found objectionable far beyond the "Tarr is accomplishing what he set out to do" angle. I knew from reading about the film that there would be a scene where a girl tortures and kills a cat. I wasn't prepared for the actuality, though. As I wrote on Facebook, "The cat scenes were far worse than I expected after reading about them and also reading an interview with Tarr. What a bunch of shit ... oh, we didn't hurt the cat, we had a vet there, blah blah blah. When she put the cat in a mesh net, the cat didn't look like it wanted to be a movie star as it struggled to escape. When she forced the cat's face into the milk, the cat wasn't having any fun. But it's all OK, because it's Art."

In honor of Phil Dellio, I have to post this highlight from the film, since he has used it many times as a way to convince me ... well, not sure what, but it worked, I did finally watch the movie.

music friday: peter frampton, steve marriott, wild flag

Back to usual, as I continue to look at artists I've seen over the years. I don't think any of these people will end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although you never know about Frampton, and the Carrie/Janet combo from Wild Flag might get in with Sleater-Kinney.

Peter Frampton, Oakland Coliseum, 1975, 1977. I saw Frampton on either side of Frampton Comes Alive. He's always seemed like a decent guy, but my memory is that the earlier show was better and the later show was bloated. Here he is from Oakland in 1977:

Steve Marriott, Winterland, 1976. After leaving the Small Faces, Marriott formed the band Humble Pie that made some noise in the early-70s. Peter Frampton was the lead guitarist in those early days. When I saw him he was opening for Robin Trower, so I didn't pay as much attention to Marriott's set as he probably deserved. Here is Humble Pie with Frampton:

Wild Flag, Bottom of the Hill, Great American Music Hall, Fillmore, 2010, 2011, 2012. During Sleater-Kinney's "hiatus" Carrie and Janet joined forces with Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole in Wild Flag. The first time I saw them was in a teeny club before they had released an album. The second time was in a bigger club after the album had come out. By the third time, they were headlining the Fillmore. Then they just kinda faded out, and soon S-K had returned. 

what i watched

Geezer Cinema: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019). Something like Geezer Cinema, where my wife and I take turns picking a weekly movie, is great partly because every other week, I'm exposed to a movie I might not have found on my own. Unfortunately, Midsommar was my pick, and I can't say I liked it. I enjoyed director Ari Aster's earlier movie, Hereditary (which it happens was my sister-in-law's pick from another movie group I'm in), and while I originally thought Midsommar was a Swedish-language art film, once I realized it was a horror film I picked it for Geezer Cinema. Midsommar is 20 minutes longer than Hereditary, and it felt even longer than that, bordering at times on Slow Cinema. I thought it could have been half an hour shorter, and was surprised to find out there is a 171-minute Director's Cut out there. I assume Aster wanted to build suspense slowly, but I never felt it ... perhaps it was too slow for me. Florence Pugh is the best thing about the movie, which is ultimately too muddled for me to care. Bonus points, though, for a mallet that serves as Chekhov's gun.

21 Bridges (Brian Kirk, 2019). Before the pandemic, our Geezer Cinemas took place in theaters, and we must have seen trailers for 21 Bridges a dozen times. We knew it wasn't Chadwick Boseman's best movie, but it was still hard to pass up when I remembered I had recorded it on the DVR some time ago. Boseman is fine ... when wasn't he? ... but he is given little to do. 21 Bridges in a paint-by-numbers thriller, with Boseman as a cop who closes down all the bridges connected to Manhattan so he can find some bad guys. There's nothing wrong with the premise, and there's a nice cast (besides Boseman, you've got Sienna Miller, J.K. Simmons, and Stephan James). But it devolves into shootouts that are mostly uninteresting, and the twists in the story aren't too hard to guess in advance. It's not the worst way to spend an afternoon when you are bored, but you can do better if you're in the mood for some Chadwick Boseman.

film fatales #114: honey boy (alma har'el, 2019)

Honey Boy is an uncomfortable movie, and I think that is only partly intended. The film purports to be an honest, autobiographical story about the childhood of Shia LaBeouf, who wrote the film and stars as "his father". "Purports" is unfair ... only LaBeouf knows how accurately Honey Boy represents his early life. He is unsparing in conveying the traumas of his childhood, and he gives the father a scary edge, although an essential humanity peeks through on occasion.

Still, part of the discomfort comes from the feeling that Honey Boy is just a public therapy session for LaBeouf. He's working things out on the screen. He wrote the script while in a ten-week rehab program, and it's good that he has this outlet to get inside his problems. But at times I felt like a voyeur.

Director Alma Har'el, in her first fictional feature, keeps things relatively clear. She is dealing with scenes in the past of young Otis (the stand-in for LaBeouf as a kid, played by Noah Jupe of the Quiet Place movies) and present-day scenes of a grown-up Otis (here played by Lucas Hedges) working his way through rehab. And the grown-up Otis has dreams that we see as fantasy scenes. It's not always coherent, but perhaps it shouldn't be.

The acting is the best thing about the movie. Obviously, there's LaBeouf as the father. Jupe as the 12-year-old Otis is excellent, letting us see the frightened boy inside, but also the kid with enough going on to work in movies supporting his dad. Laura San Giacomo underplays nicely as Otis' therapist in rehab. Natasha Lyonne is in the credits as "Mom", but we only hear her voice.

Honey Boy is not an easy film to watch, and your opinion of LaBeouf will enter into your response to the movie. I recommend it, hesitantly.

[Letterboxd list of Film Fatales movies]

la casa de las flores

La Casa de las Flores is a telenovela made by Manolo Caro for Netflix. I just finished Season 1, which came out in August 2018 (there are two more seasons). It was my first telenovela, although it is often referred to as a "millennial telenovela", which is what it sounds like (think Jane the Virgin). I've often heard that watching telenovelas is a good way to improve your Spanish, and we've got a (fingers crossed) trip to Spain coming in October, so I went for this one. And it's an eyeopener.

La Casa de las Flores centers on an upper-middle class Mexican family, de la Mora, that owns a popular flower shop called "La Casa de las Flores" and a cabaret of the same name. Outwardly, the de la Moras are an exemplary family: patriarch and matriarch, two daughters and one son. Of course, the surface is deceiving. The father has a mistress of long standing ... they have a daughter who seems to be a pre-teen. The mother regularly smokes weed she grows herself. The eldest daughter was once married, and has a son ... her marriage ended when her ex came out as a trans woman. The younger daughter has been living in New York with her African-American fiancé. The youngest son is beginning to accept his bisexuality.

In the first minute of the show, the mistress hangs herself in the flower shop. It turns out she was doing shady things with the father's money, and he ends up in prison, setting in motion the plot for the first season.

La Casa de las Flores is a solid mixture of humor and emotion, all presented in the exaggerated manner of telenovelas. I did not recognize any of the actors. Verónica Castro, who plays the mother, is a major star in Mexico, as a singer and as a telenovela star, and her addition to the cast was a major coup for Caro. The emerging star, though, is Cecilia Suárez, who was in a couple of scenes in Sense8. It's silly to call her "emerging", of course ... she was in her late-40s when the series began, with a long, award-winning career in film. She is called the muse of Manolo Caro, appearing in nearly all of his works. She plays Paulina, the eldest daughter, and the performance of Suárez has led to the character becoming a cult figure. Paulina's speech patterns are impossible to forget once you've heard them. Wikipedia explains:

The character's languorous speech pattern, which is often slowed down even further to enunciate syllable by syllable, became popular among viewers, spawning the '#PaulinaDeLaMoraChallenge' on social media. In the challenge, fans upload videos where they imitate Paulina's voice, often with some of the character's lines. The challenge was started by Mexican actor Roberto Carlo, with the stars of Cable Girls being the first to take it up. When Netflix and Suárez responded with their own version of the challenge on Twitter, it became a trending event on the website, based on popularity and coverage; at this point, there were over 69,000 fan videos of the challenge. The response to the challenge is one of the only times that Suárez has spoken in Paulina's voice outside of the show. She initially said Netflix restricted her from using the voice, but clarified this as being "a suggestion" that she follows to not break the magic of the fiction. Scholar Paul Julian Smith has noted that videos of Paulina's memorable lines recorded from the show have been uploaded to the Internet by fans and received hundreds of thousands of views.

After watching an episode, I found myself imitating Paulina, even though I'd be speaking English and she spoke in Spanish.

I can't compare La Casa de las Flores to other telenovelas, since I haven't seen any of them. But I'm guessing the addictive quality of the show is shared with others in the genre. You never know what it going to happen next. Add to that the "millennial" trend, and I couldn't get enough of La Casa de las Flores.