Film Log #3 – 12.2019

In an effort to curtail my cycle of binge watching (and re-watching) programs available on streaming services, I’ve made a more concerted effort to support the local video store – Vulcan Video. Their mid-week 2-for-1 deal keeps me returning fairly regularly.
With that in mind, I figure I’d log a somewhat quick rundown of the films I’ve recently experienced (because, you know, there aren’t already enough people recreationally writing about movies).

Denis Villeneuve was a successful French Canadian filmmaker in his own right before he made his first Hollywood feature, Prisoners (2013). Since then, he’s gone on to direct Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049.
Villeneuve, along with brilliant DoP Roger Deakins (check out his impeccable filmography), uses every opportunity to showcase his command for creating a shot, a moment, a scene. Due to the aesthetics, score, and overall production- it’s very easy to feel his films. This is by design of course, but it’s worth noting just how good he is. Villeneuve simply seems better than most at utilizing all aspects of the medium to ensnare his audience.

With Prisoners, we find two families within a middle-class community struggling to keep it together after the recent disappearance of their daughters. This film could have spun its wheels down the same cliche highway as the many other hostage, family, crime dramas- but Prisoners is different.
Prisoners barely touches on the abductor’s story, instead opting to focus on the psyche of the terrorized loved ones of the abducted (as well as the cop trying to get to the bottom of the case).

This was a great film that was perfectly executed in the performances and production. The film was an exceptional ride, albeit a little on the dark side, and the only criticism I have is about the ending. It left me wanting more. I wanted an extended denouement that wrapped up what I felt was being teed up since the very beginning.

Anyhow, it was still very much a worthwhile experience.
I recommend.
I will gladly watch it again.

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I was very motivated to see Jonathan Glazer’s films. Sexy Beast was a captivating film that illustrated a gripping story circling very strong characters.
Glazer’s next two films, Birth and Under the Skin, screen more like film exercises or extended shorts than they do full-length features with a fully-formed narrative.

Where Birth seemed like an opportunity for Glazer to coax a tremendous performance out of Nicole Kidman, Under the Skin feels like an excuse for Glazer to showcase hyper-cool visuals akin to the work he’s done on music videos.

Scarlett Johansson plays an alien being of sorts that more or less lures men into a weird building where they are somehow consumed. It’s a strange picture. I wouldn’t say that I was at the edge of my chair, but neither was I totally disinterested. The film basically moved along like a 6-2 baseball game in the 7th. You’ve seen some cool stuff, perhaps you’ve enjoyed it overall, but there’s still a part of you that’s simply counting the outs until it’s over.

I’d recommend if you want to watch Scarlett Johansson lure men on screen for 2 hours.
I most likely won’t revisit this movie.

I’m not going to say anything unexpected here. This film was fine. Some people are upset about the length or the uneasy special effects and some folks are losing their minds saying that this film is the pinnacle of cinematic achievement. I can handle the length and wonky visuals of these elderly actors performing awkward violent acrobatics, but my final opinion is that, though this film is fine in its own right, its real value lies when it’s shouldered beside its brothers: Casino and Goodfellas.
So much previously-learned information is distributed in a new way that we, the viewing public who has been raised on mobster movies, are given the sweet gift of having another layer of the Cinematic Mafia Onion peeled back (or added depending on how you look at it).
Experiencing these old stories rehashed with different or new or now considerably older faces was what brought me the most enjoyment.

To that point, it’s easy to wish that The Irishman were made in the mid 90s, but the book wasn’t published until the early aughts, and what good is it to wish a silly wish?

While watching The Irishman, I felt very similarly to how I felt while watching The Old Man & the Gun. I was watching actors perform at an age where they had nothing to prove and were clearly enjoying themselves as they went through makeup and wardrobe and positioned themselves in front of a camera and a crew on their final rides into the sunset.
That’s about all I have to say on this film.

If you’re wanting to see a great Scorsese film, he’s got better films.
Same can be said for the actors.
If you want to see a great mafia film, there are certainly better mafia films.
If you already like all of these things and already have an appreciation for most of the films from this auteur and these actors, well, this film was made specifically for you (and you’ve probably already seen it and I bet you loved it).

I’d recommend this film only if you’ve already seen the mafia film canon.
Otherwise, go see one of the many classic mafia films.

The Inventor is a stranger-than-fiction account of how a young, ambitious Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of Stanford in order to fake it until she sort of made it.
The story is bizarre. Other than a brief employment with uShip, I don’t have much experience with tech people or the ass backwards “culture” that industry manufactures, but from what I’ve gathered, rich folks with even the faintest connections in the the tech industry seem to randomly throw millions of dollars around hoping that one of these million dollar ideas will be the next trillion dollar idea and this lady, Elizabeth Holmes, somehow convinced many, many investors that she was just the person to lead these investors to that trillion dollar Promise Land.

Not one to usually complain about length, but this film could’ve been edited down significantly.
I’m not going to see it again.

Like many docs, if you’re going to spend time on a film, there are so many other films to watch before this one. But if you’re looking for a “true” story about how one young woman pulled the wool over on some corporations and tech investors while exhibiting some Zuckerberg-ish behavior – then I’d say that you’ve found the right film.

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