Tag: Roman Polanski

Movie Review: mother! (2017)

It’s next to impossible, and I would say almost entirely fruitless, to try to talk about this movie without delving too deeply into spoilers. So this whole review will be a spoiler. That being said, here’s my brief opinion, which I’ll go into much greater detail with below: mother! is a movie so offputting that I can’t really recommend it to anybody, but I also think it’s a unique theatrical experience that, if you’ve got the stomach for some intense shit, I think is worth seeing in a theater. 

Mother 1

Friends, mother! is a trip. Though it touches on a lot of horror elements and is kind of an adaptation of one of the world’s most famous books, it is also unlike anything I’ve seen outside some very old books. Because mother! is really a film-length allegory for much of Christianity, and not only that, but also a critique of that religion’s inherent cruelty. The allegory is cemented early on, with versions of Adam (Ed Harris) and Eve (Michelle Pfeiffer) overstaying their welcome in a house newly renovated by a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) and her poet-husband (Javier Bardem). From there on out, each bit of weirdness can, through metaphors both tortured and kind of great, be explained as versions of biblical phenomena. But this isn’t an adaptation of the Extreme Teen Bible, this is an atheist’s nightmare vision of the foundational horrors in the book and religion.

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5 Jawesome Things for the week of March 9, 2012

These are the five best things that I came across in the past week. This is now a Friday column, which probably makes a lot more sense than a Thursday column.

1. Reading. It’s Fun-damental!

I finished two books this week: Everything is Illuminated and Wonderstruck. You can read my reviews of them by clicking that link back there. They were very good. And now I’m 100 pages into A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Every once in a while I get caught up in some other thing, some not-reading thing. And I slow or stop reading altogether for a few weeks. I start to get kinda out of whack. Messed up feeling. All over the place. The past few weeks I was in a funk of that sort, so when I started to read the energetic and wonderful Everything is Illuminated I was so happy to rediscover reading. Maybe I’ll learn from this experience. Maybe I’ll keep reading for forever now. Probably not, though. Without those absences how would I remember just how great the process of reading truly is?

2. Warmth

Remember how last week I was so happy that it was snowing? This week I was driving around town with the windows rolled down because it was unseasonably warm and that was pretty great, too. Crank up the tunes, get some fresh air flowing, go somewhere, do something. That’s the ticket. Here’s my current happy-time-driving song of choice:

3. Movies that get better as they go along

I watched two movies in the past week that started off ok and improved greatly with each passing minute. The first was Miranda July’s The Future. It starts off as a pretty straightforward indie-comedy thing with a cute young-ish couple deciding that their lives are going to be over by the time they reach the age of 40 (because then it’s only ten years until you get to fifty and by then you can’t start anything new and you might as well be dead). So they live the next month without any obligations other than to themselves and what they really want to do with their lives. It’s a pretty silly premise that would be cloying over the course of a whole film, but luckily July sidesteps it (or leaps over it) by going all out. Things change in these two people’s lives and the changes are dramatic. It becomes quite sad in a very real way. Time stops. Things happen.

The other film was Roman Polanski’s Carnage. It’s kind of a strange title at the beginning of the film. It’s just two middle-aged couples settling a dispute between their two respective kids. It’s too polite. Things are hinted at and said behind each other’s backs. It isn’t until the second half of the film where the insults start flying and I started laughing. It’s the strangest thing. I didn’t laugh at all in the first 45 minutes or so but in the next 40 I was laughing pretty consistently. It has a dark edge to it that is fun and ugly at the same time. Of course, having John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, and Christoph Waltz doing the arguing will help it being awesome. It isn’t a great movie, but it is pretty darn good by the end, if you can stand people being horrible.

4. Game of Thrones on Blu-ray

It looks so good! It has awesome extras! It is one of the best TV shows ever! Exclaim! For your entertainment, the three younger Stark kids singing the opening theme on the second episode commentary track.

5. Awake

This is based strictly on the pilot episode of the NBC series starring Jason Isaacs (hello!) who plays a man that got in a car crash which killed either his wife or his son, leaving the other behind. A silly sentence, you say? Yes, I respond. It is a silly sentence. Doesn’t make any sense, but it works. When Isaacs goes to sleep in one world (for example, the one where his son survived the crash) he wakes up in the other (where his wife survived). He, being a police officer as roughly one half of all TV characters are, has to solve cases in each version of his life, but they overlap, leading to strange coincidences and his partners questioning how he knows certain details. The challenge of this show will be in continuing the incredibly compelling storytelling that they achieved in the pilot episode. I know the crime element will get more air time as the series goes on and they have to do less exposition, though that exposition was handled remarkably well with the aide of two psychiatrists, one in each version of his life. The visual storytelling is really great, too. The mother’s side is warm and nicer to be in, while the son’s side is green and gray, a cooler color palate. This almost makes up for Fox cancelling the show creator’s previous show, Lone Star, last year. Let’s hope he can keep it up and keep it good. Here’s the whole darn thing!

Those were the 5 Jawesome Things for the week of 3/9/2012. What were your Jawesome Things? Leave a comment!

Movie Review: Repulsion

I must get this crack mended

I saw Rosemary’s Baby two years ago around Halloween time because it was a horror film I hadn’t seen before and it came highly recommended. I liked it fine, but I didn’t get many scares out of it. In fact, there are only two scenes I remember from the film, the rape scene and the final scene. So I was kind of hesitant to seek out more Roman Polanski directed horror films, believing that they’d be similarly, well, unscary. Turns out I’m a huge idiot. Repulsion is one of the scariest films I have ever seen. It’s intense and paranoid, like the rest of Polanski’s films, and it’s got that little bit extra to make it super great.

Catherine Deneuve is a young Parisian woman who lives with her sister. When her sister goes away for the weekend she slowly goes insane. That’s it. There’s a murder or two and a gross rotting rabbit and some interesting architecture. And what must be the scariest thing I’ve seen in a while, a man that appears mysteriously and rapes Deneuve. The guy is just there. The idea is, I think, that her attractiveness makes her daily life a trial. She keeps it all bottled up and relies on her relationship with her sister to keep sane but when she leaves Deneuve just can’t handle the attention. She walks around the city staring blankly ahead, not taking in any external stimuli. She has too much going on inside of her to take any notice of the outside world. When we finally start to experience her delusions alongside her halfway through the film it is both jarring and unsurprising. There’s clearly something wrong with her. The last hour or so of the film is a masterpiece of increasing tension.

Recently the podcast Battleship Pretension had a show about the difference between horror and suspense. Repulsion was the final film in my Shocktober month and, along with Martyrs and The Wicker Man, one of a few films that were actually good. BP defined suspense as the building of tension and horror as the release of that tension. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification of their points and you should really listen to that show to get a full understanding, but I think Repulsion is a perfect example of a movie that does both the suspense and the horror aspect perfectly. There’s nothing horrifying about the first hour of the film. It is, however, very suspenseful. We keep getting hints that she’s not quite right. We’re waiting for her to break. When she does break the film shifts into pure horror mode. There’re shocking images and ideas all over the place. What makes this movie masterful, though, is the way the horrors tie into her personal problems. She manifests a rapists that enters her apartment each night (Martyrs takes a bit of this), her walls literally crack around her, and hands reach out from the wall to grope at her. It’s all so terrifying.

The movie is a predecessor to a few of my favorite films. It does the woman having a nervous breakdown thing that Black Swan does. That film also borrows the close-following camera while the character walks around the streets. I already mentioned the way that Martyrs takes an aspect of the characters personality and makes them bodily real. The final aspect I noticed was the couple of times Deneuve scratched at her face, a move that William Friedkin gave to Ashley Judd in his under-seen gem Bug. It’s telling that all of these films have the same basic idea going on at their core. Repulsion is the best of them because it does all of these things so well. It’s a perfectly crafted film. It does everything right. You can’t ask for much more.

Top 100 Films: The _1’s

Here we are. The end of the list. Tomorrow I will be posting the entire list in order for your personal files along with some fun statistics. But today check out the final entry in the list proper. Horror, action, western, comedy, drama, canonical, crazy. This list has it all. More than any other segment I think this group is categorized by the ambition of the films. Each is going for something more than your typical movie, and they all get there.

Before you see the rest of the list, please consider subscribing to my blog. There’s a button on the side under “Subscribe here!” and you’ll be updated as soon as I post something new. I’ve changed the feed link, too, so if you’re already subscribed you should make sure you have the up-to-date feed.

91. Scream (1996)

Directed by Wes Craven. Starring Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox

Now Sid, don’t you blame the movies. Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!

The slasher movie about slasher movies has a billion layers going on. The amazing thing is that they all work. It’s a great slasher, a great meta-movie, and a great meta-slasher-movie. The script by Kevin Williamson is the real star of this movie, with great laughs and screams all over the place.

81. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

Directed by Banksy. Starring Banksy and Thierry Guetta

I think the joke is on… I don’t know who the joke’s on – really. I don’t even know if there is a joke.

This maybe-documentary is not clear about its verisimilitude. What is clear is that it’s a fun movie to watch. Whether Thierry is a real guy or a Bansky creation almost doesn’t matter, because he’s such a compelling weirdo that you can’t look away. As a movie about art it can be a tiny bit preachy, but that’s subverted by the silliness that’s going on throughout.

71. The Proposition (2005)

Directed by John Hillcoat. Starring Ray Winstone and Guy Pearce

I was, in days gone by, a believer. But alas, I came to this beleaguered land, and the God in me just… evaporated. Let us change our toast, sir. To the God who has forgotten us.

Unlike the previous two films, The Proposition is a deadly serious film. One of those new westerns that shows just how horrible the west, or in this case, Australia, would be to live in. Written and scored by Nick Cave, it’s bleak and unpleasant, but masterfully so. And, as you can see by the screenshot, it is a beautiful film to look at.

61. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Directed by Charlie Kaufman. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Samantha Morton

I will be dying and so will you, and so will everyone here. That’s what I want to explore. We’re all hurtling towards death, yet here we are for the moment, alive. Each of us knowing we’re going to die, each of us secretly believing we won’t.

Some say that Kaufman’s first directorial project suffers from a lack of focus. There’s nobody to tell him no, and the film spirals out of control as it gets bigger and bigger. I don’t disagree. I think that’s what makes it such a great movie. Synecdoche, New York is a messterpiece of the highest order.

51. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood

I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

I did not like this movie when I first watched it. It was too slow and the ending made no sense. When I got a Blu-ray player it was one of the first movies I got for it because I heard that it really benefits from being presented in the best possible format. And while I haven’t seen it projected yet, the Blu-ray really made me appreciate everything that was going on. It deserves a place in the canon of sci-fi movies and movies in general.

41. Chinatown (1974)

Directed by Roman Polanski. Starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway

But, Mrs. Mulwray, I goddamn near lost my nose. And I like it. I like breathing through it. And I still think you’re hiding something.

Polanski is the king of paranoia. Nicholson is always a step behind everybody else and we as an audience feel the same growing paranoia that he does as he tries to uncover the truth. The stakes get bigger and bigger and we get more and more uncomfortable. It’s great.

31. Princess Mononoke (1997)

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Starring Yôji Matsuda and Yuriko Ishida

Look, everyone! This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you! It’s eating me alive, and very soon now it will kill me! Fear and anger only make it grow faster!

Based on Japanese folklore and the idea of industrialization and the way it destroys nature, Princess Mononoke is a profound and beautiful film. There’s a lot of melodrama but everything feels earned and true.

21. The Lady Eve (1941)

Directed by Preston Sturges. Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda

You see Hopsi, you don’t know very much about girls. The best ones aren’t as good as you think they are and the bad ones aren’t as bad. Not nearly as bad.

Henry Fonda plays against type here as a hapless snake scientist who falls for a con-woman on a boat back to America. He never has the upper hand in the first half of the movie. The second half turns the tables a bit, and it works most because of the acting because the script asks a lot of the audience. Also, it is hilarious.

11. City of God (2002)

Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund. Starring Alexandre Rodrigues and Matheus Nachtergaele

A kid? I smoke, I snort. I’ve killed and robbed. I’m a man.

City of God is a movie about how much it sucks to grow up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a gangster movie of sorts, but the exotic locale and the juxtaposition of people just trying to survive against the people wringing all the power they can out of a crappy situation is an interesting enough dynamic for me to overlook my problems with the genre. It also helps that it is kinetically shot and the main character is a photographer. Hey, I’m easy.

1. Magnolia (1999)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Tom Cruise and Julianne Moore

I’ll tell you everything, and you tell me everything, and maybe we can get through all the piss and shit and lies that kill other people.

While the overwhelming feeling that one associates with Magnolia is probably sadness, I think the ending does a lot to prove that there is room for happiness in a world that is mostly screwed up. Anderson handles ensembles with grace and care, giving each person their due attention. Check this out for more on Magnolia.

The rest of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section