This weekend was Film Club 3.0’s Lost Weekend 6, held at the Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, Virginia. Scores that I’ve given the film are my personal opinion, and as you may know, I do not like being overly critical of anyone else’s creative work, as I have currently made zero movies. But- here we go.
Captain Fantastic - [ 8/10 ] For me, this was a great start to the film festival. The story wasn’t complicated and I think that I’ll go on to say that it’s not original. However, the execution of the story while taking some pot shots at the status quo of American culture along the way is what really gave the film it’s charm.
Train to Busan - [ 8/10 ] Korean cinema has come a long way. This one, a zombie film, does the zombies right. The film doesn’t spend an enormous amount of time on explaining why there are zombies, because that’s not important to the story. It does a solid job of doing comedy when it’s time for the film to be funny and a solid job of doing drama when it’s time for the film to do that. Where I really give the movie stars is for how it brutalizes its zombies. Many zombie films have them zombies understanding a sort of “personal space” with each other, operating as a sort of polite team. Not here, not at all. The zombies bowl into, trample, and shove into each other. Think World War Z, but with more up close and personal camera work. The ending almost had a homage to the original Night of the Living Dead ending. I would have liked that ending, but it’s not much of a crowd pleaser.
A Man Called Ove - [ 10 / 10 ] This was my favorite film of the festival. Do you remember when the first few minutes of the movie Up made you cry? Imagine that the first few minutes of that movie was stretched out to half of a film. And the other half, instead of the old man joining forces with a chubby Boy Scout, he manages a small neighborhood and tries to kill himself a few times. Imagine those things and you’re on your way to this movie. It’s sweet, it’s sad, it draws out its own story without being plodding. The movie is so emotionally dense that I feel that the back half of the movie had me fighting against doing a proper ugly cry for the comfort of my neighbors in the theater. It really got me. See this one.
Chevalier - [ 7 / 10 ] If there is one thing that I want out of a film that isn’t about telling a specific story is good use of metaphor. Here’s the premise of this movie, a bunch of Greeks are on a boat and out of a sense of boredom start playing a game in which they constantly judge each other on everything, substantial, trivial, or somewhere in the middle. The metaphor is masculine competition, and the story puts it at a meta level where it’s done overtly. Kerry missed out on this one, and I believe that you do have to be a male to fully get this film. I’ve been measuring up every other male at a conscious or unconscious level for my whole adult life and a significant part of my childhood while I’m at it.
Morris from America - [ 5 / 10 ] Cute movie about an African American kid in Germany. There some coming of age type stuff. Pretty humorous. I enjoyed it, but not a stand out. Solid picks for the sound track.
Don’t Think Twice [ 4 / 10 ] Directed and writen by Mike Birbiglia, who I like. Ira Glass has production credits. It’s had a bit of buzz and a solid Metacritic score. I really hate reporting that I didn’t really like it. The characters in the film seem to have rudderless lives and the plot echo that. “Oh, no I’m an adult, but still living as an adolescent and now I’m faced with actual adulthood, but don’t want to give up on my dreams because I’ve been lying to myself about how they’re never going to happen,” - which is nearly all of the characters. I don’t mean to mock the film here, but it really just didn’t click for me. Perhaps if it had dedicated more of the screen time to a single character, maybe that would have given the movie more emotional weight.
The Ardennes - [ 6 / 10 ] Brutal film that plays out like a slow motion Cohen Brothers film with almost no dark humor (or humor of any kind, for that matter). I appreciated the very dark, not-happy ending.
The Wailing - [ 4 / 10 ] Another film from Korea in the line up. Great production on this one. Probably the only film I’ve ever seen that features lengthy, functional magic rituals and constant cell phone usage. Thematically, it does a good job of horror. However, the film desperately needed an editor who was willing to hack out many of the scenes that add absolutely nothing to the plot or character development. It also does a bad job of cluing the audience into what is happening. It may be a lost-in-translation problem, but I’m still not fully clear on what occurred in the film, who was in the know, who were the people or forces that had agency in the story… I heard that the movie should be watched “backwards” and that’s the novelty of it. But, it’s not like Memento which is a good movie in both directions.
A Town Called Panic: The Specials - [ 1 / 10 ] Stop motion animation with jokes I didn’t find funny. My neighbor in the theatre, however, may have cracked a rib laughing so hard at it.
Phantom Boy - [ 7 / 10 ] The main character is a boy who gets super powers from his chemotherapy, which strikes me as an incredibly French idea. The villain also has a face like Picasso, which seems French. And there is a comic relief animal of said villain that seemed needless and French. One of the things that I really appreciated about this film is that despite large tracts of the movie not focusing on a kid that has cancer, it does not let you forget that the movie is about a kid who has cancer and isn’t doing that great. It’s a central theme and it’s important for delivering the emotional weight of the story. It’s a cute movie and it’s worth a watch.
London Road - [ 3 / 10 ] The film is based on a stage production that has all of it’s lyrics taken from actual news or interviews of the residents of an area that was hit with a string of murders. The story only touches on some important themes, but falls short of going the distance that I want. Two examples, the film does comment on how the murdered prostitutes are not at all treated as equals to the other residents of the area or that they’re properly people at all, and the film shows that the residents put so much effort into making their neighborhood look good, but no effort into helping the women who had been the focal point of the murderer, opting to drive them out or leave them invisible. I don’t think that the pulled punch of these themes is a deliberate choice, but the best that could be done as the production is limited itself by constructing its components from the interviews. Had it not shackled itself to that novelty, it’d have had a stronger voice.
Under the Shadow - [ 8 / 10 ] Here are some aspects of this film that I liked:
- It’s a horror film in which a woman is terrorized, but relies on no white knight to save her.
- It’s based in Tehran and while said woman is being terrorized by supernatural threats, she runs afoul of the Islamic religious police for not having her head covered.
- The plot spends nearly no time at all trying to explain why she’s being terrorized and by what specifically.
- That crack in the ceiling. I don’t want to say more and spoil anything for you. Check this one out. It’s worth seeing.
Man vs. Snake - [ 8 / 10 ] This was this year’s Finder’s Keepers. I went into this thinking that it’s going to be a dumb documentary that some dumb documentary maker thought was going to be a good idea and I’m going to waste a couple hours of my life on. I had really low expectations for this one. And I was happily wrong about what I had expected. Despite the film being about a guy who has had a record score on a arcade game that nobody played and is solidly obscure, it brought a few tears to my eyes. The subtle comedy that’s placed around the Walter character really added to it. It’s worth your time.
Swiss Army Man - [ 3 / 10 ] Let me take a deep breath before I start writing about this one.
I saw the trailer for this one and thought that it was going to be the kind of bizarre that is impossible to not like. The movie starts with a guy on a desert island about to kill himself, but is interrupted by the corpse of Daniel Radcliffe who he then uses the corpse farts to save himself from the island and then forms a friendship with that corpse. The first quarter of the movie I thought was funny, absurd, and a kind of gross that I could get behind. Then at some point, I realized that this is a brilliant metaphor for one man’s journey out of a deep depression towards the life that he had hidden himself away from through a the growing hope represented by the corpse he’s dragging around. With a level of fantastic that rivals Big Fish, I came to believe that I was watching a masterpiece. Hidden under the veneer of dick and fart jokes laid a beautiful story of mental health, personal growth, and a rejuvenation of the desire to live life to it’s fullest and accept the true love that has always been there ready for you.
And then the ending happened and wrecked the whole thing. Don’t waste your time.
Schneider vs. Bax - [ 4 / 10 ] Billed as a comedy slash spy vs spy sort of film, this one didn’t do enough of either. Maybe you have to be German to really get this one.
The Neon Demon - [ 4 / 10 ] I saw the trailer for this one and just knew it was going to be a crazy film. And crazy it was. The style, the visuals, the absolute artistry of it? Terrific. The plot was opaque. There were characters presented in a way that suggested they should be meaningful, but didn’t add anything of substance to the advancement of the story or character development. The movie had the first cousin of the Legend of Zelda Triforce on the screen several times for some reason. The mountain lion that appeared in the trailer that I was looking forward to was included meaninglessly. Someone told me that the director of the film gave a couple of interviews that “explain the whole thing”. Look, if I need a director’s commentary to explain what the story is actually about, it’s not a well told story.
I had expected this one to be a sister to Black Swan, but what I got was … well, I’m not sure. Visually, it was wonderful. It was strange and bizarre, but I’m just not sure what I was supposed to take away from it.
Miss Sharon Jones! - [ 7 / 10 ] A great documentary about Sharon Jones. If you like biopics and / or soul music, check this one out.
The Bigger Splash - [ 4 / 10 ] Hopefully the DOP on this film got paid a lot. It’s beautiful. The story is one that’s been told before, and this re-telling didn’t add anything to it. Another film that could have used liberal editing.
The Brand New Testament - [ 6 / 10 ] A fun film about the daughter of God (who live in Brussels). It gets funny, it gets cute, it gets bizarre.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople - [ 10 / 10 ] This one ties A Man Named Ove as my favorite for the film festival. It starts out with a tried and true plot opener, a city kid (and better still an orphan) gets dropped off on a farm and is now an absolute fish out of water. The first quarter of the movie is a light hearted and funny relationship development between the boy and his foster “aunt”. And then the film suddenly stabs the audience in the heart and begins the remainder of the film. The movie spends plenty of time showcasing beautiful New Zealand while utilizing that uniquely New Zealander comedy that is more overt than British, but not as brash as American. If you saw What We Do in the Shadows, you know what I mean.