Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Spiritus Mundi

Film: Boy and the World (O Menino e o Mundo)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen

There are times when I wish that my interests in film were different than narrative and similar ideas, because a film like Boy and the World isn’t really about the narrative. Oh, there’s something like a narrative here, sort of, but that’s not the thrust of the film. This is much more about the experience and the art, and while the actual narrative is important in the sense of what the movie actually means, the actual story is very much secondary.

Boy and the World (which also goes by its Brazilian name O Menino e o Mundo) is a very simple story. A young boy named Cuca lives in a world that, through his perceptions, is filled with wonder and a sort of magic. He loves nothing more than listening to his father playing the flute. Cuca and his family live in the country, and for Cuca, this is idyllic. However, reality intrudes. Needing money, Cuca’s father leaves to go find work in the city. Cuca is distraught over his father being gone, and while his mother attempts to console him, eventually he packs a picture of his family and heads off to the city himself to find his father.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Off Script: Beyond the Door

Film: Beyond the Door (Chi Sei?)
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop

Success breeds imitation. That’s true in business, in literature, and in any media. When a film like The Exorcist, arguably the greatest horror movie ever made, gets as much hype and press as it did, there are bound to be imitators. Films like The Exorcist seem even more prone to this sort of imitation, since a great deal of that film’s hype came from protests against it. Enter Beyond the Door (Chi Sei? in Italian), an Italian-made Exorcist clone that very much wants to play in that same ballpark.

The truth is that imitators fall into a couple of general categories. Some manage to be pretty good; most are terrible. Others attempt to significantly rewrite the original in new ways to differentiate themselves. Beyond the Door more or less attempts to use the very same formula as its formative film, adjusting only in the details. Instead of a young girl being possessed, we have an expectant mother being possessed—presumably giving us a possessed fetus as well. In a sense, this is a blending of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, attempting to take the most shocking and provocative elements of both films and put them in one place.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Dance Dance Revolution

Film: Isadora
Format: Internet video on laptop

I’ve mentioned here before when I thought it was relevant that both of my daughters are dancers, and very serious dancers. My older daughter, at 18, is a year away from her college degree in dance performance, when what would have been her high school graduating class is fininshing its first year of college. My younger daughter spent this past summer at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, much to the detriment of my bank account. When I come to a movie like Isadora (sometimes called The Loves of Isadora), I have certain expectations and preconceptions. This is, after all, the story of the dancer Isadora Duncan.

I should come clean at the start here and admit that the version of this that I could find—no library in my state seems to have a copy to lend and NetFlix certainly doesn’t have it—had some problems. The primary problem is that the film seems to have been cut off a bit at the sides and a little at the top. Whenever I’m faced with a situation like this in which the copy of the film I am reviewing has particular deficiencies, I try not to let that affect my final opinion. It’s worth bringing up, because it would be easy to suggest that had I seen this in a different format, I may have liked it more.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ice, Ice Lady

Films: 45 Years
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

One of the things I love about movies is that they can present us with a story that perhaps couldn’t be real and yet still presents a very human story. That’s certainly the case with 45 Years, where we get a story that is just on the edge of being believable, but uses that fantastic tale to present us with something that is very real and surprisingly affecting. The audience needs to come to this with a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief. Once we’re willing to do that, the story can play out in front of us.

In 45 Years, we have a couple approaching their 45th anniversary. Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay) didn’t really celebrate their 40th anniversary because Geoff was ill. Now, they are planning a party that will involve a great deal of their small town. While Kate continues to prepare for the celebration, Geoff gets a letter that changes everything. This is the suspension of disbelief part.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Off Script: Cherry Falls

Films: Cherry Falls
Format: Internet video on laptop.

You know the basic horror movie tropes. One of the basic tropes is that for all of their blood and guts, horror movies are incredibly conservative in terms of sexual politics. Anyone who has sex dies. Cherry Falls turns that basic trope on its head. In this film, the opposite is true. Our killer is targeting virgins. It’s a hell of a fun spin on one of the basic rules of slasher movies. In a sense, it’s a bit like Scream in that respect, although it lacks the overall cleverness of Craven’s franchise.

Aside from that change, though, Cherry Falls follows the basic horror movie story. A young couple gets killed, sending shockwaves through the small town of Cherry Falls, Virginia. Meanwhile, life in the high school seems to go on as normal. Jody Marken (Brittany Murphy), daughter of the local sheriff (Michael Biehn) breaks up with her boyfriend Kenny (Gabriel Mann) and mourns the loss of a couple of fellow students. Of course, the killings aren’t going to stop there. Another student is killed brutally, and the police let slip that all of the victims have had the word “virgin” carved into them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Nick's Picks: Party Monster

Films: Party Monster
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the ninth in a series of twelve movies suggested by Nick Jobe.

When Nick gave me a list of 12 films this year, he had pretty much free rein, provided that the film in question was one I hadn’t seen before. Sometimes, Nick likes to throw me something weird and difficult to explain. In the past that has included films like Ink, The Battery, and yes, even The Room. He could have gone with surreal weird like Hausu (which I’ve seen, but this year) or gone to hurt me emotionally with something like Dead Girl or A Serbian Film. Instead, he graced me with Party Monster.

I understood immediately why Nick wanted me to watch this. In the first 10 minutes we get more fourth-wall breaks than I normally see in a month. Nick is a sucker for a broken fourth wall. In this case, those fourth wall breaks come from the people Party Monster is about: Michael Alig (Macaulay Culkin) and James St. James (Seth Green).