Marnie

Terms for psychologists like “Analysts” are common in Hitchcock films. He seemed to be taken with the idea of the mind and its many shenanigans. Some of those caused it to commit crimes, even kill. Of course, since the films of Hitchcock we’ve had similar twists in films like Fight Club. The idea that the mind can take a plot far afield and back again is be dazzling to audiences. Hitchcock was one of the forerunners of this movie making component.

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Marnie is a mess. That is established early on. The question is, is she an habitual criminal or a survivor. Is there a difference in a court of law? I think not. You might be able to get someone off for their childhood trauma but more often than not, there are cases proving that judges and juries aren’t easily dismissing crime because of psychology.

This film is about layering. Hitchcock, from his first hallway cameo in the film, is working in every scene to develop the story of a tragedy. We’re not sure of what it is or the damage it has caused but it looms. We are led hither and yon: first to one possible conclusion and then to another. It isn’t until the ending scene that we have a complete picture of what happened.

Marnie didn’t receive the critical acclaim of other psychological thrillers of its time, like Psycho, but it is a deft painting of a woman with evil tendencies that the audience can’t help but find compassion for. This is a great Hitchcock film! I’m very thankful to Kristen Lopez for making me aware of it. She is set to be a guest on our podcast this week that will air sometime in January. The topic is simply “Hitchcock.” I recommend Marnie to Hitchcock fans and fans of thriller/drama movies from the 50’s and 60’s.

The Last House on the Left

I can see how watching horror could make me not trust strangers very much. Holy smokes, this is a whack in the side of the head, a kick ass horror film that when it starts just doesn’t quit. How about you? How much would you trust wounded strangers? Maybe your answer to that depends on whether you’ve seen this film yet.

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I found myself asking as I watched this, “Can people be this mean?” I’ve hardly ever seen anything so brutal, of course I have though. How about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. That rape scene is probably the most needlessly graphic scene I have ever endured. Let’s just say, this film approaches that in many of its scenes.

After having been a huge fan of Breaking Bad as it was coming out each week, it was a trip to see Aaron Paul in this film. He plays a similar character in that he doesn’t give a fuck. Apart from the leader of his group, I’d say Paul’s character is the most frightening. For that reason, he is also fun to watch. A few times I did get bored as I smelled the fragrance of I Know What you Did Last Summer and other formulaic 90’s horror films.

Basically, it’s this: create an evil character by making him to horrible things to innocent people. Next, have those innocent people fight back. Make murderers out of good people and being the audience’s approval along for the ride. There, I might call that a plot spoiler but there is so much more here worth checking out. I recommend it to fans of the genre. Don’t expect something new or visionary but expect to be blown away by this revenge tale.

The Nice Guys

When you watch comedy duos, the question arises at times of which is the most pathetic. In this film, we do have a sort of comedy duo, although the comedy is far between confused scenes that don’t seem to know what they are.

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I’d recommend the comedy in this film. The other stuff, like plot, characterization, and suspense are quite wanting. The two actors have a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn’t and when they stick to the comedy, it definitely works with me. There is a story though I had a hard time really getting what it was. There is some nudity, since part of the plot involves a naked magazine publisher. So, with the strongest parts being nudity and comedy, you may find the demographic that enjoys the film.

I don’t think it’s possible to see these two in a film and be bored. They are amazing actors who have built a following on solid performances. They command the screen. The ridiculous situations and irony all over the place kept me laughing and entertained. I would have liked to see the film dispense with the mystery plot and simply focus on the comedy of these two. There were times it reminded me of Laurel and Hardy. Nonetheless, the film works in the genre I have said and it wasn’t a complete let down. I recommend it as a mostly engaging comedy for fans of Crowe and Gosling as well as fans of the genre.

Oh, and one more thing this movie has going for it is a very credible presentation of 70’s appearance and nostalgia. From the cars to the wardrobe, a lot of work went successfully into that. It’s a lot of fun.

Watchlist: 5 Films to Review by 1/8/2017

I have one more week of vacation and I intend to review at east these 5 films before I go back to teaching my wonderful students. To comment on my list, you can do so here or click on the image below to be taken to the list on IMDB. I’ll appreciate you comments either place. Thank you in advance.

 

Finished a Watch List – 1/3/2017

Oh what a feeling! I seem to be able to keep up the pace of one film/one review a day. There were a few gem moments in this bunch of films but quite a few discards as well. Little Men was by far the best for me. I hope you enjoy my reviews, linked below in watched order, not rating. BTW, it would make my day if some of you commented here or on the IMDB list page. Thanks!

  1. Morris from America 01/02/17
  2. Certain Women 01/01/17
  3. Miss Stevens 12/31/16
  4. Little Men 12/30/16
  5. The Eyes of My Mother 12/29/16
  6. Sing 12/28/16

Click on the screenshot below to visit my list on IMDB.

Morris from America

As a coming of age story, I’m not sure this is much different from what we’ve seen in the past. Then again, Morris is one of two black people studying German and attending a German high school. That factoid does make it quite different, even though the basics of sexual curiosities and partying are the same. Unfortunately for this film, I saw a much better coming-of-age film at the end of 2016 called Moonlight. This one paled in comparison.

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There are spoliers ahead. Morris and his dad are in Germany. His father tells him they are the only two black men in the area. Morris, being around 14 or so, has to learn the German language and get along with a pretty abusive group of teens. You can feel his frustration day by day. He has his rapping that keeps him entertained. When a school talent show comes up, he decides to try out. The result is anything but productive.

The father and son have a unique relationship. The father will not deny when he has said curse words and punished his son for rapping them. His reasoning is slightly different though for his son. He wants his son’s raps to be rooted in reality and not in hip hop profanity. It’s almost as if however the father wouldn’t mind the profanity if the son really were living out the lyrics.

I have to be honest, I had a hard time finishing this one. There is a girl, as his father says there always will be, she is very odd. She asks Morris how long his dick is at one point and then next minute she’s kissing another guy in front of him. She’s a very dangerous person. At the same time, she seems to care for Morris so it’s complicated. As a coming of age drama with some comedy, I’d recommend it to young adults. There is some rave dancing and drug use and some of this is interesting to watch and listen to. Ultimately though, I think just a handful of people will enjoy and “get” this film. I can’t really tell you their exact demographic but I’m sure they’re out there. As for me? I would pass on this one.

Certain Women

There’s a type of movie that doesn’t adhere to the Hollywood formula. I call it an “art film.” Certain Women falls into that category for me. It doesn’t care to explain the three stories pasted together. Yet, the name as a banner is speaking to me saying, “There is a deeper meaning here for you to find.” I felt a similar way about Birdman and many independent films I’ve seen.

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The cinematography is pristine. All stories encapsulate parts of America. The second film especially really makes you feel like you’re camping among the characters. There are three women who take their place, each in her own story. The acting women are big names in film so the humble independent feel of the film belies that.

The film feels intentionally slow. Luckily for us, the actresses are so good, time travels quickly through these stories. I’m not sure what the director means by “certain women” but I was left feeling as if these three certain women can change the world. It could be reasoned that the fourth woman is the one watching the film. Certain women can change their world. They don’t need to be perfect, just resolute in their vision. It could be argued that each of these women are like that. I recommend this to fans of the actresses as well as people interested in the change women can bring to the world, however small.

Top 15 Films From 2016

I reviewed some great films in 2016. This list comprises my favorites.

Kubo and the Two Strings
Moonlight
The Edge of Seventeen
La La Land
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Train to Busan
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
The Accountant
Under the Shadow
Don’t Breathe
Sing Street

I use IMDB to make lists of films I watch. These are the “Big Fifteen” of 2016 imho. Click on the screenshot below to be taken to my list on IMDB. Happy New Year, see you at the movies.

Miss Stevens

The high school dramedy must be one of the biggest genres to break into with a film. People watch films like The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High over and over again until their dying day. This film doesn’t come close to breaking in. In plain English, it’s awful. I call it a “wanna-be” high school dramedy.

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This film is about a high school English teacher who volunteers to take three high school teens to a drama competition. It is an overnight and she has her own hotel room as somewhere in the hotel the three unstable teens have their own rooms. I should have known when this was explained that this film was not based in reality.

There are numerous times when the teacher smokes while with the kids. She often leaves them unattended. She appears to be giving the most disturbed young man a chance to grow and go off his medication. When she doesn’t like his reactions, she blames him and tries calling the Principal back home. She is the one to blame because she is the one in charge.

In between all the “drama” (literally) we see all sorts of dysfunction. Writing as someone who has worked in the public school system for 17 years, I can tell you this movie is a legal nightmare and definitely not healthy for any of the characters involved. “Well, Damien it’s a comedy!” You might say. It’s not in the least bit funny. If you have a different view, let’s start a conversation in the comments. As for me, I can’t recommend this to anyone except to give an example of what high school dramedy should NOT look like.

Little Men

How quick we humans are as young people to judge our parents actions. Young men as a general rule think they know everything, so why aren’t grown-ups asking? It’s because youth has a lot to learn, in spite of their energetic ideas and passions.

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In this story, we have two young men, pre high school it would appear. They are friends because ones mother is a seamstress in a tailor/dressmaker shop that the other parents own. It was handed down by one boy’s grandfather which makes that boy just slightly more wealthy than the other boy. It is in fact enough to matter.

There is a clear distinction between the filthy rich and the poor lining the homeless shelters but the lines that exist in the middle class are not as defined. The “landlord” son has different ideas from his parents when they decide to sell the store. That’s when things get quite ugly with the other boy’s mom. It shows a separation of values based on income and education.

This is a truly gritty, well-made drama. It was a nice surprise for me at the end of 2016. I recommend it to fans of Kinnear as well as lovers of well-produced dramatic films.