The Films of 2021

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#26 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Feb 11, 2021 11:24 am

Ty Burr's review of Saint Maud is worth reading and spoiler-free, and I appreciate how he singles out the empathy and ambiguity in the film as well (one less pathological thinkpiece to be worried about). He also notes its awful distribution campaign.. well, folks can catch this tomorrow on-demand exclusively as part of the EPIX package

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: The Films of 2021

#27 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sun Feb 14, 2021 3:07 pm

Judas And The Black Messiah is a somber, but at turns terrifying look at a part of American history that is most worth examining. And it is a trifecta of tour de force performances, by Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield and by director Shaka King. It lacks the bloat and ponderous negatives even the best bio-pics suffer from, and gets down to brass tacks almost immediately. A stunning achievement of cinema, in both it's thematic clarity and overwhelming prescience to things we see today.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#28 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Feb 19, 2021 10:26 pm

I Care a Lot is a far less successful version of Promising Young Woman’s style of dark comedy. I'll go so far to say it's a lesson in how not to make a satire. Its diatribe isn’t well-directed and its character isn’t examined with the same weight of complexity or ethical interest. The film's self-awareness is winking repetitively from the word “go,” and doesn’t let you forget it, playing into the clichés of oversimplified dichotomies, point-blank diagnostics of human beings as units of money, and stressing confidently careless corruption as the universally-spoken dominant language of human services. It’s all a bit irritating, not only because it’s ridiculous and untrue but because this film, unlike Fennell’s, doesn’t even make a small effort to portray its satirical thesis as layered, ignoring infinite opportunities to make intelligent leaps. But that would of course take risks, an artistic willingness this film treats as an allergy.

There’s an interesting idea somewhere in here. The filmmakers use elder abuse, specifically an immoral and common form of harm that’s become more popularly discussed in the zeitgeist lately, and frame the collection of dying people’s assets for the younger as a reflection of the apathetic seizure of the American Dream as a Hobbesian right. This is further reinforced by the societal celebration of the individualist, where superficial appearances in status and where one stands in the social pecking order translates to respect and malleability across compromised systemic barriers. In theory I appreciated the concept of a gay feminist practice joining 'the game' unapolegetically as a double-edged knife - to suppose that all counterculture demographics need to subscribe to the dominant systems to thrive, or at least think that they do, or that those with progressive qualifiers are not excluded from the allure of heartless economic dogma.

The problem is that there’s no audacity in execution, leaving any commentary trite and superfluous, while the connective tissue of the revealing narrative doesn’t add up either (underground immoral economic systems challenging legal immoral economic systems, but to what avail? Is it really supposed to cause audience cheer when Pike demands the criminals play by her rules?) and we don’t care about anybody or any idea, because none of them have been established or fleshed out in any interesting way. A moment like Pike correcting a man calling bullshit on her enterprise with a “she” -to unveil his problematic assumption that a doctor must be male- reallyyyy exposes the patriarchal default to assign masculine terms for positions of power. How clever! Some might challenge me for even comparing this film to Fennell’s, but I actually think it’s trying to tow a similar line and such a move comes with risks (even if this is averse to taking them) that when you fail, you fail hard. I don’t want to say it’s because the film was made by a man, since J Blakeson’s awful direction and script problems would likely exist regardless, but anybody even mildly woke in today’s climate could have written something better and with more nuance.

I’d be lying if I said that I was never amused, but that semi-interest is resigned to a “heist” at the halfway mark, when taken as a half-assed crime mystery of raised stakes set to a careless tempo. For a while the film essentially plays like a thinned Blood Simple, where dark comic absurdities stem from the conflict of a bunch of people blind to the whole composite, only instead of that excellent mood piece this is diluted to the bone of substance. I think I have less patience for a film like this because it wants to be, and think it is, so much more. If you want a smart movie about women contesting with broken systems through a broken method, just watch Promising Young Woman instead.

As a final cap to this rant, I do want to say a few words about Rosamund Pike. I can’t tell if she’s been unfortunately typecast to her Die Another Day ice queen following Gone Girl, where she plays a character far more complex and interesting than she appears to be on the surface; or if she actually has difficulty stretching her range and Fincher simply brought out the best in her/played to her strengths/cut a hundred takes of a scene and put the optimal edits together to formulate his own performance from disconnected movements. Either way, she’s not very good here but her character isn’t much to work with, to be fair.

This is an antihero who isn’t developed enough to detest satirically or to align with in conflicted attraction. At a certain point in the last act, we’re asked to sympathize with her as a victim of her society, as a woman, as a resilient symbol of human autonomy- but it’s a misjudged characterization at a misjudged time (about an hour and a half too late in the narrative) to attempt to draw shades. If a certain event had played out differently in her apt., she’d be a responsible culprit-by-proxy and lose any and all shreds of credit given to her, but the film has mercy and this fateful insert actually wishes for us to blame everyone but Pike. Her behavior at the convenience store after a certain setpiece is that of a "tough woman" who we’re told, in every ounce of film language, “should” appeal to her audience based on self-actualized independence from social norms. But this isn’t Ema where the titular character’s singular identity causes us to respect and understand her morals as holistic breaking down the binary codes we live by to show us new spiritual light. Pike plays by these rules (she literally declares the same "eat or be eaten" cynical bifurcation of action used in countless movies), she is the cause of her own and everyone’s pain, and fails to earn any care the film has for her- which, turns out, is actually a lot more than she deserves.

Oh and give me a break on every part of that ending
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not only the stupid logical team-up that dissolves all the weight placed on emotion, which drove the action of the entire narrative!- you can't have your cake and eat it too on this one, J)- but that final scene is all kinds of wrong, plagiarizing Layer Cake of all movies! Okay, karma catches up to her, but... it turns out she was right about Macon Blair's erratic behavior being dangerous. How does this work- justice as unjust, or a lack of justice justified and then invalidated before our eyes. Because he's a man, as expressed after he spits at her outside the courthouse? What the actual fuck is this trying to convey- and a "complex" pessimistic 'everyone sucks' anti-message doesn't work because it's not in step with the pretty conventional cinematic cues we've been fed.
I don't even know what to think or feel about this film's purpose, but I do know that I hated it.

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FrauBlucher
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Re: The Films of 2021

#29 Post by FrauBlucher » Sun Feb 21, 2021 12:19 am

I watched The United States vs. Billie Holiday. I agree with much of the critical response as the film is uneven. I thought the early part of the film was strong and then the middle and the later parts tend to meander and loses it's focus. Andra Day's performance makes it worth watching. She is amazing. If you're a fan of Holliday's music, as I am, it will no doubt not disappoint musically, but as with many biopics the director and writer take liberties with so called creative license which disappoints me here

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cantinflas
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Re: The Films of 2021

#30 Post by cantinflas » Sun Feb 21, 2021 4:38 pm

Image

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tenia
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Re: The Films of 2021

#31 Post by tenia » Sun Feb 21, 2021 5:38 pm

Zack Snyder's version of Zack Snyder's Army of the dead by Zack Snyder and directed by Zack Snyder.

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soundchaser
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Re: The Films of 2021

#32 Post by soundchaser » Sun Feb 21, 2021 7:18 pm

That color scheme genuinely hurts my eyes to look at. What light on earth casts a color like that?

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#33 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:42 am

Apples is a debut by Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou (and was Greece's entry for this year's Oscars though apparently it didn't make the short list), in a plot that sounds like a Lanthimos inspiration but instead resembles a stripped-down, deliberately paced, slow meditation on the isolated feeling of introverted loss. The premise here is that a pandemic is causing amnesia, causing people to forget their identities, so they enter rehab programs to learn to start anew. The recovery piece is interesting because of what's not said or shown, rather than the action of what is, like building up social skills again or crafting new experiences from refurbished identities. The invisible tragedy permeates these moments of uncomfortable silence when the awareness that invaluable memories have been erased is felt by us and, we sense, our protagonist. Occasionally this is postured at with more obvious winks like when he sings a familiar song, and the film struggles to emerge as a profound examination of these exciting themes, partly by failing to decide on how to wear them evenly- sometimes overstated, sometimes minutely, but all under the umbrella of a soft tonal rhythm. I didn't love this film, but I imagine that it will accrue fans on this board once more people see it. It's worth praising the execution of these ideas against the grain of expectations- even if I personally find them more compelling when tackled in a riskier and more consistent fashion, there is a very honorable vision to defer from loud possibilities toward melancholic contemplation.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2021

#34 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:03 am

I thought I had posted about Apples when I saw it a few months ago, but it appears — appropriately enough — that was a false memory.

My thoughts are basically in line with twbb’s lukewarm response: Nikou’s debut is definitely indebted to Lanthimos (with whom he has worked as an AD) in terms of aesthetics, pacing, and the general line of absurdist humor, but the film’s transgressive moments never feel as dangerously off-kilter as Dogtooth, while the emotional payoffs never quite reach the heights of The Lobster. As noted above, though, there are enough bittersweet moments that land for the film to have lingered in my memory since October, and I hope Nikou continues to develop, though perhaps on a trajectory that distinguishes him a little more clearly from his more famous countryman.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2021

#35 Post by knives » Fri Mar 05, 2021 10:21 am

With some severe reservations I kind of liked Coming 2 America. Brewer’s musical sensibility really helps this out with bright colors and delightful editing. That said it replaces the original’s Cukor inspired texture with a modern brashness that I don’t enjoy. The movie has the caustic approach of Murphy’s post Harlem Nights work and is never worse than when Murphy is present. In his scenes everyone hates each other and is so cruel I wanted to turn away. Snipes as villain is the only one who brings some joy to this grumpy approach. I also think the actor playing the son does a good job bringing a different tone to his character.

I also appreciate how the film limits the callbacks to the first act and really tries to forge its own identity with unique thematic concerns that seems a serious part of the modern pan-African conversation. I am a bit down on some elements here, but I do admire the effort and think it is far better than it should be.

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Brian C
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Re: The Films of 2021

#36 Post by Brian C » Sat Mar 20, 2021 1:57 am

In my quest to see as many of the Best Picture nominees theatrically as possible here in northwest Montana (now up to 3!), tonight I went to see Florian Zeller's The Father. I'm of two minds about it.

The first is that it strikes me as a deeply compassionate examination of dementia, attempting to simulate the confusion and frustration that people feel when they realize their mind is betraying them (or even worse, when they don't quite realize it). There have been so many movies where we've watched this happen to characters, always from the point of view of a bystander, invited to muse to ourselves just how tragic it all is. Don't get me wrong, there have been some fine films that work in the conventional way, but this movie does something a lot different, and if it's a bit maddening at times, well ... exactly.

On the other hand, I can't help but feel that the film's method is inherently limited in actual practice. Viewers won't take very long to figure out what's going on here and what the film is aiming to do, and after a period of adjustment, I think it becomes sort of a conventional "oh how sad!" movie in spite of itself. I really, really hate to say that it ended up feeling a little bit like a gimmick, because I genuinely admire the attempt to tell this story from a different point of view and really empathize with Hopkins's character in a way that I haven't seen before. Nonetheless, we have the luxury of knowing that if we just stay a little patient, everything will eventually become clear enough, which works at odds with the film's intent. And as the film continues to dole out clues about what's really going on, those clues can't help but feel like they're for our benefit and not the character's, and it feels schematic. By the time we reach the end, we're completely back in more conventional territory, and I couldn't help but feel like I had been let off the hook a little too easily.

Which is not to say that the film is not effective on the whole. Hopkins has always been hit-or-miss for me, with his tendency towards grandstanding and theatricality feeling more appropriate for some roles than others. Here it feels like a good fit, as a man who senses that something isn't right and overcompensates to hide his confusion and fear. And Olivia Colman is kind of amazing in my view, creating a good-natured, open-hearted character who seems to be carrying around a lifetime of hurt. I really admire how she subtly shows us that her father may not have been very kind to her even before his illness took hold, as she tries to do right by him even though she knows that she'll never truly be able to meaningfully reconcile with him. There's a moment where he (maybe momentarily lucid or not) simply thanks her, and her fleeting but deeply felt reaction is worth an Oscar all by itself.

So on the whole, I'd say it's a rewarding watch. And at the very least, it tries something different, which I appreciate even if I'm not sure it pulls it off.

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hearthesilence
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Re: The Films of 2021

#37 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Mar 20, 2021 7:50 pm

Todd Haynes's new film The Velvet Underground is set for 2021 release through Apple TV Plus.

The new issue of Uncut has an interview with Haynes, as well as a boatload of Velvets material (interviews with John Cale, Doug Yule, Jonathan Richman, Lenny Kaye and more).

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Never Cursed
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Re: The Films of 2021

#38 Post by Never Cursed » Sat Mar 20, 2021 9:47 pm

Maybe old news to some, but Wild Bunch revealed much of their 2021 release slate in January. Among the films:

Arnaud Desplechin's already-mentioned-on-this-board Deception, an adaptation of the Philip Roth novel of the same name starring Denis Podalydès, Léa Seydoux, Emmanuelle Devos and Anouk Grinberg (and lensed by Yorick Le Saux). First image here

Claire Denis' romantic drama Fire, starring Juliette Binoche, Vincent Lindon, and Gregoire Colin, which will apparently premiere (if possible) at this July's Cannes (note that this is a different project than her previously announced The Stars at Noon, starring Robert Pattinson and Margaret Qualley, production on which was halted as a result of the pandemic but may resume soon)

Quentin Dupieux’s mysterious tunnel suburb satire(?) Incredible But True, starring Alain Chabat, Léa Drucker, Benoit Magimel, and Anaïs Demoustier

Julia Ducournau's thriller (and sophomore feature) Titane, starring Vincent Lindon (again)

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Re: The Films of 2021

#39 Post by aox » Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:09 pm

Brian C, how would you compare The Father to Haneke's Amour? Your write-up reminds me of what was written contemporaneously.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2021

#40 Post by knives » Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:15 pm

aox wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:09 pm
Brian C, how would you compare The Father to Haneke's Amour? Your write-up reminds me of what was written contemporaneously.
Funny you went there as his comments had me thinking of Still Alice which is the closest to Shimizu’s identification as empathy I’ve seen in a film.

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aox
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Re: The Films of 2021

#41 Post by aox » Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:47 pm

knives wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:15 pm
aox wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:09 pm
Brian C, how would you compare The Father to Haneke's Amour? Your write-up reminds me of what was written contemporaneously.
Funny you went there as his comments had me thinking of Still Alice which is the closest to Shimizu’s identification as empathy I’ve seen in a film.
Image

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Brian C
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Re: The Films of 2021

#42 Post by Brian C » Sun Mar 21, 2021 12:35 am

I don't think The Father and Amour are very similar films, subject matter aside. Been a long time since I've seen the Haneke, but as I recall that was much more about the burden of caring for someone with dementia, where The Father is more about what it's actually like to be the person dealing with it.

Haven't seen Still Alice.

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Re: The Films of 2021

#43 Post by beamish14 » Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:24 pm

Clint Eastwood's Cry Macho has been slotted for October. At 90, Eastwood is likely the oldest person to ever star in and direct a studio film. I'm really curious as to who his insurance-mandated backup director is. Stephen Frears was Robert Altman's on Gosford Park and Paul Thomas Anderson fulfilled that job on A Prairie Home Companion.

I'm reading the N. Richard Nash novel this is based on. It's currently OOP, but isn't too hard to find from larger public library systems.

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It's a Dog's Life

#44 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Mar 24, 2021 2:35 am

A female Hong Kong filmmaker made a documentary about stray dogs in Istanbul, Stray. Filmed from a dog point of view and without dialogue. The dogs main human friends are a trio of homeless Syrian refugees. The link contains a trailer, but I couldn't really get a feel for how the feature film would play out. Interesting project and Istanbul itself is such a magical photogenic city.

From my visit to Istanbul in 2008, I don't recall stray dogs, but we noticed how the city cats were treated well. Often when we fed stray cats*, there was evidence others have been feeding them. At the mosque next to the Galata Bridge, a cat just sat on the steps as people constantly passed by, and eventually just casually strolled into the mosque. The new humane canine approach in Istanbul only took effect in 2004. I was in neighboring Georgia in 2018 and they also have a enlightened dog policy of sterilizing, medically treating and ear-tagging stray dogs, then allowing them to live their lives. It was impressive how integrated the dogs were in society -- Georgian dogs were well-adjusted, not angry or afraid. People passing by would often give the dogs a brief scratching or toss them some food. First time I experienced a country with uniformly happy, healthy, friendly stray dogs. The linked article notes that Istanbul strays were often better socialized than American pets in most cities (citing LA as an example). Armenia was reportedly on the verge of adopting the same Georgian model. [Romania really needs to adopt a humane policy to curb and assist its excessive and neglected wild dog population]
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* part of our int'l travel routine is to swipe some cold cuts or other bounty from the hotel buffet -- large zip-loc bags are your travel friends -- and feed stray cats along the way (and dogs, and birds -- restaurants love to give you free bread -- and occasionally horses and camels -- apples last a long time). I like the idea of using 3 and 4-star hotel excess food to keep the local outdoor cats surviving and happy. But it also allows you to meet locals who also take an interest in cats or just want to help you. You become interesting and less isolated, more approachable, more part of the places your visiting.

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Brian C
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Re: The Films of 2021

#45 Post by Brian C » Sat Mar 27, 2021 2:24 am

Surprisingly, Minari is playing theatrically here in NW Montana, so I took the chance to go check it out. I'm having trouble coming up with much to say about it, other than it's ... fine. There's an earnestness and open-heartedness to it that I find appealing, but also feels like a limitation in the sense that there's a rosy sheen covering the film that prevents it from feeling too sharply observed or lived-in. It feels like something that has roots in a stage play, for better and worse; it has a way of giving characters dialogue that's very on the nose that I found just a trifle irritating.

I guess that whatever the film was going for stayed just out of my reach.

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Re: The Films of 2021

#46 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Mar 27, 2021 3:14 am

I had a similar takeaway as you, Brian. The film isn't actively doing anything wrong, but it's asking us to subjectively peer around through multiple angles of character perspective without giving us either entryway into those characters' personalities or reasons to care about engaging with them on an observational level. The only exception to this, as I noted in my Oscar writeup, were the scenes between the boy and his grandma (who I thought was pretty great and will be happy to see her take away sup actress). For this arc I felt like the story was being told through a child's-eye-view, and their moments were involving enough where our breaks from them back into apathetic no-man's-land vantage points revealed the flaws in narrative construction even more. If the film was shot entirely from the perspective of the kids (which it almost is- even outside of these scenes with grandma, but not enough) it could've been really affecting- though since it isn't I'll cosign that stage play reading. I'm happy for Steven Yuen, but never sensed any connection to his character- nor did I feel the film was invested in his role (he was basically playing the aloof Richard Gere role in Days of Heaven, of which this could have been more charitably inspired by) so I'm puzzled by the best actor nom.

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Re: The Films of 2021

#47 Post by PfR73 » Sat Mar 27, 2021 1:25 pm

beamish14 wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:24 pm
Stephen Frears was Robert Altman's on Gosford Park and Paul Thomas Anderson fulfilled that job on A Prairie Home Companion.
And Richard Linklater was going to do so on Hands on a Hardbody, which he was prepping when he died. Linklater wrote about it in a memorial he wrote for the Austin Film Society newsletter after Altman's passing:
Richard Linklater wrote:Last summer his producer came by my office and told me all about the film they were hopefully going to be making in Austin in the near future. We talked for a while about it, and then he told me that because of Altman's age, the insurance company requires there to be a stand-by director in case something happens where he can't finish the film. Stephen Frears and P.T. Anderson had filled this role for recent films and would I be interested? I never thought twice. I'd do whatever I could possibly do for a guy who's given me so much, and I said a quick prayer to the film Gods that I may some day be old and making a movie and in a similar situation.
Altman was going to make a film here in Austin...quite often I think about how much I wish that it had gotten made.

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Re: The Films of 2021

#48 Post by beamish14 » Sat Mar 27, 2021 4:57 pm

PfR73 wrote:
Sat Mar 27, 2021 1:25 pm
beamish14 wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:24 pm
Stephen Frears was Robert Altman's on Gosford Park and Paul Thomas Anderson fulfilled that job on A Prairie Home Companion.
And Richard Linklater was going to do so on Hands on a Hardbody, which he was prepping when he died. Linklater wrote about it in a memorial he wrote for the Austin Film Society newsletter after Altman's passing:
Richard Linklater wrote:Last summer his producer came by my office and told me all about the film they were hopefully going to be making in Austin in the near future. We talked for a while about it, and then he told me that because of Altman's age, the insurance company requires there to be a stand-by director in case something happens where he can't finish the film. Stephen Frears and P.T. Anderson had filled this role for recent films and would I be interested? I never thought twice. I'd do whatever I could possibly do for a guy who's given me so much, and I said a quick prayer to the film Gods that I may some day be old and making a movie and in a similar situation.
Altman was going to make a film here in Austin...quite often I think about how much I wish that it had gotten made.

Wow. I knew that he'd been developing Hands on a Hard Body, but not about Linklater. Altman had a number of projects he was working on at the time of his death. One was Voltage, a workplace satire about engineers from a novel by Robert Grossbach, whose novel Easy and Hard Ways Out almost became a film for him called Epoxy Resin decades earlier. He wrote the script with Alan Rudolph, and Elliott Gould would've had his first major role in one of his films since California Split.

PT Anderson was on the Prairie Home set frequently for obvious reasons, but Frears didn't do much besides occasionally call Altman and ask "Are you still alive?" (this is according to its producer)

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Re: The Films of 2021

#49 Post by Finch » Sat Mar 27, 2021 10:30 pm

Violation (2021)

Gaspar Noe could learn a thing or two from the directors of this film. It's not a total home run but it gets under your skin and stays there. It taps into the vulnerability of particularly male audiences and doesn't provide an escape route. I find it fascinating how the film reverses the script on how male and female sexuality is used, and I suspect this accounts to some extent for the film's current ridiculously average imdb score. Male nudity is not only full frontal and lingering but it's in the context of complete helplessness that is normally reserved for women characters.
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I am also intrigued by the choice to have the post-rape scene be a scene where Miriam, in her need for closeness and comfort, nearly rapes her boyfriend (or husband?). As far as I know, films like this one normally depict rape victims as devoid of sexuality in the aftermath but here the reaction is a lot more complicated. Miriam also doesn't get any catharsis from what she does to Dylan (all of which is nauseating in the best possible way, by which I mean it's presented in wide shots and long static takes and very matter of fact-ly). This is not, as Tarantino might say, movie violence but "real life violence".
The animal metaphor is on the nose but I found this a mostly pretty thoughtful film that refuses to provide easy answers.

"B"

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Re: The Films of 2021

#50 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Mar 28, 2021 12:30 am

Bad Trip isn’t going to persuade anyone over to Eric Andre’s camp who isn’t already there (though from what I understand standup isn’t his strong suit- while sketch comedy most certainly is) but this was the best Jeff Tremaine production I’ve seen, skewed significantly to Andre’s surrealist brand of humor. I’m not often a fan of hidden-cam cringe pranks so my own mileage varied considerably, but while not every bit lands, the ones that do absolutely kill. I found a lot of the smaller gags to worked well while the more obscene gags didn’t- but even within those, Andre’s quiet absurdist rationalizations would trigger laughs- like when he nonchalantly decides to go back into the gorilla cage as if a terribly intense event, albeit an unfunny one, didn’t just take place. Lil Rel Howery (aka the best part of Get Out) is a welcome sparring partner to form the central duo, and although Tiffany Hadish is admirably committed, it’s an aggressive part that’s a bit tougher to warm to and drags the film down with unnecessary narrative baggage. Anyways, this is essentially a version of Borat’s irreverent humor taken to the far end of the gross-out/offensive shock spectrum, but with some graceful improvisational wit, so you should probably know if this is for you without any writeup selling it. I laughed at a few parts a lot, and not at all during probably half, but enough so on the former to come out of this pleased overall.

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