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Letterboxd Loose Ends 2021

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

Beanpole

War is hell.

Minari

Not an overtly political film, but its distinctly American story, told mostly in Korean, puts the lie to so much of the right’s empty nativist rhetoric.

Derek DelGaudio’s In & of Itself

Most of the magic tricks are neat. Most of the self-satisfied pseudo-profundity is not.

Kusama: Infinity

As fond as Kusama: Infinity is of its subject, the film does Yayoi Kusama a disservice by framing her story in a typically American binary notion of success. Apparently, prior to the last few decades of her status as one of the world’s most celebrated living artists, Kusama’s visionary talent was uniformly overlooked and/or disrespected, which is a funny thing to say about someone who spent the ’60s and ’70s exhibiting all over Europe and orchestrating antiwar happenings consisting of thousands of people.

The January Man

Took a chance on this one knowing nothing about it but Hulu’s description of it (including the cast), which made it sound like a pretty standard late-80s cat-and-mouse serial killer thriller. What I got instead was maybe the most tonally confused movie I have ever seen, something like the product of a neural network trained on Sea of Love and A Fish Called Wanda. It doesn’t work at all, and I kind of love that about it.

Patriot Games

Whatever terrorist school this useless IRA crew graduated from should lose its accreditation.

Bo Burnham: Inside

Turned it off after 20 minutes, grabbed my phone and verified that a bunch of my Letterboxd friends loved it, watched 10 more minutes, gave up.

A Town Called Panic

Started working my way through Criterion Channel’s art-house animation collection, never heard of this one before, chose it because I wanted something short, hit the goddamned jackpot.

Faust

Love Švankmajer, love Faust, didn’t love Švankmajer’s Faust.

The Bedroom Window

Apparently Steve Guttenberg was once allowed to be in the same room as Isabelle Huppert and I had to see it with my own eyes.

DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story

Next month, my competitive air guitar alter ego will make his national television debut on ESPN 8: The Ocho. Before I absorb the derision of the biggest audience of my “career,” I figured I should see DodgeBall, the movie that birthed The Ocho, and said movie exceeded my low expectations. Who knows, maybe my compatriots and I can do the same for our audience?

Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over

I’m glad Lydia Lunch exists, but man is she exhausting.

Thrashin’

If your milquetoast skateboard gang has a name as uninspired as “The Ramp Locals,” you’re really just begging for trouble.

Knocking

Looks and sounds great, and the lead performance is fantastic, but oof, what a shoddy script. A short film stretched out to feature length with plenty of repetition and a variety of plot threads teased out and then just left to dangle, culminating in a tacked-on shrug of an ending that basically amounts to “the butler did it.”

Malignant

I wonder if everyone who’s so tickled that James Wan funneled big studio bucks into a kooky grindhouse premise would find similar delight in, like, Nickelback covering a Bad Brains song.

Ghoulies

Ghoulies always felt like a glaring omission in my personal horror canon because it was one of the most memorable VHS boxes on display in the video store that was my second home in the late ’80s and early ’90s. And somehow I never noticed until now that the little green guy on that box is wearing an adorable half shirt and tiny red suspenders! Unfortunately he doesn’t wear them in the movie, so that’s a point deduction, and while the titular Ghoulies make me smile every time they show up onscreen, that doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

Ghoulies II

I gather that the first Ghoulies movie didn’t get its name until after it was made. They realized its little Gremlins wannabes are the best thing it has going for it, and I bet they wished they had pushed that button harder. Thankfully Ghoulies II takes full advantage of the opportunity to correct that error, roughly quadrupling their screen time and letting them terrorize a carnival. This movie is not remotely clever and it doesn’t need to be. As its carnival-goers can attest, watching those little dudes vamp is entertainment enough. If I were one of their victims, I would die happy.

The Wolf House

Do yourself a favor and read up on Colonia Dignidad before watching this if you don’t want to feel like you got to class and found out too late that there was a homework assignment.

Demon Seed

THIS MOVIE IS FUCKING INSANE

Parents

From the kitschy way it introduces itself, I fully expected unadulterated camp, but for some reason, Bob Balaban directs Parents with an almost completely straight face, giving center stage to some unwatchable dead-eyed kid who sleepwalks his way through the entire film. (Unsurprisingly, this is that kid’s sole acting credit.) It’s a long 80 minutes.

Niagara

Come to see Marilyn Monroe become the Marilyn Monroe, stay to see the beautiful Niagara Falls backdrop and a Technicolor spin on great noir cinematography. The final act is a dud, but Jean Peters is such a badass, I almost didn’t notice. And comic relief in the form of coked up shredded wheat salesmen is such a weird play, I can’t help but respect it.

Magic Crystal

I know, I know, you’re probably like, “Oh great, yet another martial-arts-infused ripoff of E.T. and Indiana Jones where the MacGuffin is a telekinetic rock that loves to eat ice cream,” but hear me out

The Plot Against America

The final episode of this is scarier than any horror movie in recent memory.

Listening to Kenny G

A decent profile of Kenny G and his position as a uniquely polarizing figure in music, but not nearly as probing as it could be. For a much deeper dive into the notions of “good” and “bad” music, I highly recommend Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste.