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Letterboxd Loose Ends 2018

Film reviews I’ve written on Letterboxd that are fewer than 100 words are collected here.

Fist of Fury

Bruce Lee’s electrifying fight scenes may be the primary draw, but Nora Miao’s amazing outfit is a close second. I didn’t expect this to be the case, but Gordon Chan’s loose remake with Jet Li, Fist of Legend, is a superior film in nearly all respects.

Star Wars

A video essay about how Star Wars was saved in the edit inspired me to finally watch Harmy’s Despecialized Edition, which had been sitting on my hard drive for years. Not having seen the original practical effects in decades, I expected them to look a lot rougher than they did. Their toyetic artifice is definitely apparent, but knowing how much of a leap forward they were in 1977—the industry drafted behind this achievement for well over a decade—inspires far more awe than the digital revisions that came later.

Annihilation

Listen (shh) to what the flower people say
Aahhh
Listen, it’s getting louder every day

Police Story

This movie has everything: police slapstick, domestic slapstick, courtroom slapstick, office slapstick, and most importantly, several exquisitely staged set pieces overflowing with thoroughly mind-blowing action. Jackie Chan may be the most committed entertainer in the world, and Police Story is among his finest endeavors.

Forbidden Planet

Considering when Forbidden Planet was made, its special effects are astonishing, and its psychological concept is ambitious. But that concept is explicated through far more dialogue than action, moving back and forth between just two fairly modest locations, and the result is kinda boring.

Altered States

This dizzying array of Cronenbergian psychobabble, pulp horror, and avant-garde psychedelia doesn’t quite hang together, and its ending is pure garbage, but overall it is more than bonkers enough to recommend it. Pairs well with The Manitou.

A Bay of Blood

This stylish proto-slasher is stupider and trashier than the more highly regarded gothic works of Bava’s horror ouevre, and more enjoyable for it. A Bay of Blood is a must-see for anyone interested in how giallo films paved the way for slashers, especially since Friday the 13th borrowed from it liberally.

Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson’s films are all effectively stop-motion animation, and part of what I find off-putting about most of his live-action work is the resulting reverse-uncanny-valley effect. I had been over his schtick for years by the time Fantastic Mr. Fox came out and made me realize that the world of proper animation is where Anderson belongs. Isle of Dogs is a welcome return to that place.

You Were Never Really Here

Someone finally made the meditative arthouse thriller the Pizzagate crowd has been waiting for.

Incredibles 2

I can’t decide if its ideas are muddled or merely complex, but as a pure action movie, Incredibles 2 is a lot of fun. I’m disappointed that the filmmakers couldn’t find a way to avoid the strobing effects that exclude epileptic viewers. For a company as creatively industrious as Pixar, that struck me as a lazy choice.

As for the preceding short film, Bao, bravo to Pixar for stepping away from the Eurocentric boys’ club, but yeesh, maybe apply that diversity to something less cloyingly trite?

The Salesman

Asghar Farhadi’s sensitivity to the contours of domestic conflict—in a universal sense but also as it relates to certain segments of Iranian society—is extraordinary. This was also true of A Separation, his previous film, and in the case of The Salesman, his focus on the complicated residue of assault rings true in a way that makes the film necessarily and rewardingly difficult.

Happy Gilmore

That whole unlikely-victory-of-an-ill-mannered-buffoon-enabled-by-TV-ratings thing lands a little differently now.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Discretion is the better part of valor. Heroism ≠ leadership. I think I enjoyed this even more the second time.

Eight Grade

Hello, I am a seasoned veteran of all manner of deranged horror films, and I watched most of this through my fingers.

Three Identical Strangers

There’s a helluva story here, but this documentary is more interested in entertaining than enlightening, and at least one of the conclusions it draws is downright insulting.

The Secret of the Kells

The underlying narrative seems sound, but the mythology driving it is vague and the stakes aren’t really made clear. It’s a short movie but I had to watch it in two sittings because I was getting restless. Visually, however, The Secret of the Kells is an unparalleled stunner, worthy of its namesake.

Sorry to Bother You

What a mess. I’m sympathetic to what Sorry to Bother You has to say about the intersection of capitalism, exploitation, and racism, but all of its statements, like all of its jokes, are blared from a megaphone and continue long after their point is made. Its amateur-hour vibe is far more tedious than charming, its gonzo satire is self-conscious, and its progressive politics are undercut by its lone female character functioning primarily as a trophy.

Apostle

The director of The Raid putting his spin on The Wicker Man sure sounds like fun, and Apostle starts off with promise, with a wild-eyed Dan Stevens lurching around a muddy village of Victorian cultists. But the movie kneecaps itself before the halfway mark, rushing to resolve the most interesting aspects of its plot in favor of making a gonzo, gore-soaked spectacle of the superfluous remainder.

Halloween (2018)

It may be the first in the series (other than the original) to have a director and screenwriters with name recognition, but this is just another Halloween sequel, thankfully nothing less but certainly nothing more. It’s pretty boring.

Also, is there any greater talent in Hollywood who is as routinely wasted as Judy Greer is?

The Haunting of Hill House

Has its moments (including what is possibly the highest quality jump scare of this decade), but taken as a whole it’s overwritten, too long, too polished, and too corny.

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion

Mostly irredeemably sadistic trash, but its periodic flashes of artfulness—and Meiko Kaji’s withering glare—are enough to recommend it.

High School

What a time capsule. A 1968 high school faculty struggles to maintain the conformist status quo with a changing world beating at the door. When Vietnam finally comes to the fore after hovering in the background for much of the film, it’s a wrenching indictment.

The Favourite

Best dance sequence since Ex Machina.