Millennium Actress, 2001 – ★★★★★ (contains spoilers) [Movie Log]

This review may contain spoilers.

Describing this fantastic and surreal anime seems nigh impossible without spoiling it, because from top to bottom, beginning to end, the movie is about itself, a multilayered telling of its own telling—hence “from top to bottom, begging to end” is something of a misnomer, as the film in truth has no such easy terminus, but follows rather the shape of a Möbius strip. It is film about the making of a film about the making of a film star told through the films she has made which themselves reflect her life: In effect, such recursion eradicates any semblance of a fourth wall, as you’re rarely sure of which reality you’re watching, and like the director of the framing documentary, feel yourself implicated in stories as the audience for whom they are performed. At the heart of this ouroboric tangle is a paradigmatic objet a that drives the titular character: Chiyoko holds a key—to what she does not know, but she has promised to return the lost object to its proper place, and so feels compelled to find its missing lock and the man who, in a primal private scene, told her that the key unlocked “the most important thing there is.” Perhaps, however, that does not mean any specific, singular keyway, no particular treasure chest or secret chamber to unlock; rather, as Chiyoko acknowledges at the end of her life, the end of her career, the end of her search, the end of the millennium, and the end of the film—which, shot for shot, is also the beginning of the movie—the key, having been lost a second time and returned to her by the director, has “opened the door to [the] memories” that we have just been watching, movies being a medium of remembering moments lost in time but captured in light.

Via Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

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White Hunter, Black Heart, 1990 – ★★★½ [Movie Log]

“The Eastwood hero almost always does what he damn well pleases,” wrote Ebert in his review of the movie, while (he continues) “[h]ere is a movie about a man who does what he pleases, but it doesn’t make him a hero.” Rather, Eastwood’s awestruck travesty of Huston is less as an Ishmaellike protagonist storyteller—that would be Fahey as the confident and virile Verrill (née Viertel)—than he is an obsessive Ahab, so selfish as to become self-destructive. In something of a deconstructive parody of his archetypical persona, with a workmanlike quality that at times betrays its overarching goal, Eastwood’s film is an economic and mostly effective meditation on the performance of gender and the inherently homosocial nature of masculinity. As such, the film offers insight into the movie it sends up: That, too, is all about the artificiality of performance, where what is captured on screen could never be half as dangerous or exciting as the effort it took to put it there.

Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Via Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

The African Queen, 1951 – ★★★★½ [Movie Log]

A classic for good reason, setting the template for adventure romances to come, the film’s radical simplicity creates a sort of cinematic poetry where the onscreen journey down the river becomes a dual metaphor, both for the relationship between Rose and Charlie—a love beyond control, propelling the characters headlong into the precarious excitement of the future—and for the production of the movie itself, a storied shoot as dangerous and reckless and unwieldy as what appears on screen. Although an uneven ride at moments, especially the all too bouncy score, the result is strangely gripping and enduringly entertaining as the film bucks the sexist, agist, and colonialist expectations of its time with a sly sense not only of its technical achievement, but, thanks to the on their face phony performances of Hepburn and Bogart, a winking and artificial self-parody of the effort.

Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Via Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Bringing Up Baby, 1938 – ★★★★½ [Movie Log]

As screwy as screwball romcoms come, Hepburn and Grant—not to mention Skippy the wire fox terrier and Nissa the leopard, doing double duty here as both Baby and her dangerous doppelgänger—are archetypically terrific, all persiflage and pratfalls with the speed of, well, a big cat on the prowl. As a comedy of errors and mistake identities, the plot is Shakespearean while the humor is madcap Marxian, with Hepburn embodying the brothers—the violence of Harpo and the witticisms of Groucho—to Grant’s Margret Dumont. No doubt in part due to Hawks’ engineering background, the events, outlandish as they are, work like well-oiled gears, each zany scene flowing easily into the next, even as, ironically enough, every character here seems to have a few cogs loose, to say the least.

Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Via Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Woodstock, 1970 – ★★★★★ [Movie Log]

Having 120 miles of film to work with—more raw footage than there is road to drive in the two-and-a-half hours it takes to go from Manhattan to the Woodstock site itself—Schoonmaker, Scorsese, Wadleigh et al. do an astounding and inventive job three days into three-and-a-half hours, using split screen to condense multiple stories and perspectives on screen, though at 224 minutes, the documentary is a bit long, of course; but then again, in a sign of my inevitable aging, I feel that way about most outdoor music festivals.

For a little more—and consider this my version of split screen—Ebert’s review adds more detail.

Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Via Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

The Awakening for #WomensEqualityDay

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Look forward, women, always; utterly cast away
The memory of hate and struggle and bitterness;
Bonds may endure for a night, but freedom comes with the day,
And the free must remember nothing less.

Forget the strife; remember those who strove—
The first defeated women, gallant and few,
Who gave us hope, as a mother gives us love,
Forget them not, and this remember too:

How at the later call to come forth and unite,
Women untaught, uncounselled, alone and apart,
Rank upon rank came forth in unguessed might,
Each one answering the call of her own wise heart.

They came from toil and want, from leisure and ease,
Those who knew only life, and learned women of fame,
Girls and mothers of girls, and the mothers of these,
No one knew whence or how, but they came, they came.

The faces of some were stern, and some were gay,
And some were pale with the terror of unreal dangers;
But their hearts knew this: that hereafter come what may,
Women to women would never again be strangers.

— Alice Duer Miller

 

First Man, 2018 – ★★★ [Movie Log]

Like Armstrong himself—and I mean no disrespect to a deeply admirable figure in human history who died on this day in 2012—the film demonstrates a cool mastery of its craft, though there is little that is particularly remarkable or special about either the movie or the man. Of course, in Armstrong’s case, that small town (and small step) ordinariness—that he was just “a man,” in his own famous words—is precisely what makes his historical importance so extraordinary: Unlike other epoch shifting moments of exploration, the moon landing was not Armstrong’s achievement alone; rather, he was merely one small part of a vast endeavor uniting the world’s efforts and attention. In terms of the movie, however, the focus on Armstrong’s lackluster biography and his lucking into the history books obscures the genuine import of Apollo 11, an impassive and leaden misfire that fails to bring a truly stellar undertaking down to earth.

Since I generally write up a few quick thoughts for each movie I watch, and in the interest of making public more of my thinking and writing processes, I figured that I might as well post the occasional review to this blog as well as to my Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes accounts.

Via Letterboxd – Jake Cowan