The Exorcist, 1973 – ★★★★ [Movie Log]

With a thought-provoking screenplay, taut direction, jarring editing, and heart-rending performances across the board, THE EXORCIST is undeniably a great horror film—if not exactly a horrifying film, or at least not for me. The uneasy balance Friedkin and Blatty strike between mundane, drab realism and the irrationally supernatural, between the stark and brightly lit certainty of knowledge and the obscure shadows of doubt, the love of a mother between the subjective and objective genitive, creates an extremely tense, anxious atmosphere. Yet in the end—as opposed to, say, HALLOWEEN, where the disappear of the slasher’s body signals Michael will return, that evil will persist forever—this is at bottom a hopeful movie: The devil will return, but God will be there, too; the father may disappear, but a Father will return to take his place.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). 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.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

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A Quiet Place, 2018 – ★★★★½ [Movie Log]

As taut a thriller as it is lean, Krasinski’s debut exemplifies the acousmatic horror of the ever vulnerable ear, which we can never close, and the always blind eye, which never finds what it searches for—that’s a Lacanian reading, at least. Yet, from a more Derridean perspective, it is a family drama that illustrates the hauntological, how the traces of our past trauma dangerously, inescapably echo into the present. What is more, from a Foucauldian vantage, the film also exemplifies the modern surveillance state—ironically represented in a rural farm, rather than a more standard high-tech urban setting—here seen not as panoptic, but as panaural: The gaze can only land on one thing at a time, but the ear hears everything, the ear is always listening. That’s what makes it work, despite the overall simplicity and short runtime of the piece: It has layers and depth, like a poem saying a lot in just a few words.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). 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.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Night of the Comet, 1984 – ★★★★ [Movie Log]

In a flash the end of the world comes and in the wreckage all that remains are a couple of valley girl cheerleaders and a horny trucker to carry on the burden of human civilization—and honestly, things could be worse. Sparsely made, stylishly filmed, and with its tongue firmly in cheek, the movie fuses standard B-movie schlock with a bright neon 80s aesthetic to ironic effect reflective of its era, flipping gender stereotypes and pulling the rug out from underneath anthropocentric self-seriousness. Besides the titular tail of the comet, our big-haired heroines must survive grotesque mutant not-quite-dead-yet pseudo-zombies, teenage male anarchists, and humorously mad scientists, yet the film never loses its zany irreverence or sense of humor: Girls just wanna have fun after all.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). 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.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Caligula, 1979 – ★ [Movie Log]

Vile, dreary nihilism that no combination of explicit sex, gory special effects, polished acting, or sheer audacity can elevate beyond sheer, simple, shameful trash. While I can admire the effort to create an erotic epic that might do for cinema what Joyce’s ULYSSES did for censorship and literature, there just is not much more here to admire than the film’s shocking existence—and it certainly does shock, even if it never even remotely entertains. Who knew that necrophilic incest would be so boring?

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). 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.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Julius Caesar, 1953 – ★★★★ [Movie Log]

While the sets pale in comparison to the sword-and-sandal epics that would follow, and the costumes look like something you might wear for Halloween, a Shakespeare adaptation really lives and dies by its performances—and with actors as legendary as the characters they play (well, almost), the film breathes life into 500-year-old dialogue and a 2000-year-old story.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). 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.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

Tea with Mussolini, 1999 – ★★★ [Movie Log]

They say it takes a village to raise a child—though in lieu of a whole Tuscan town, it seems all a boy really needs is a group of elderly English ladies and their wealthy American friend. Likewise, rather than a fully fleshed out narrative or a meaningful sense of urgency or danger, it seems all a movie really needs is an ensemble of legendary actresses enjoying themselves. Whatever the very real terror of the historical events displayed, the film more or less keeps the bleak shadows just offstage, merely hinting at the brutality of the fascists and Nazis, wallowing instead in an amiable Italian fantasy of nostalgia. In reality, while these women are based on a group that the young Zeffirelli really did know while growing up, the director never saw them again after they were taken to an internment camp—the obscured, repressed type of camp, belied by the campiness that actually appears on screen.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). 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.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, 1966 – ★★★★ [Movie Log]

A bawdy, farcical comedy that draws parallels between the libertine debauchery of Ancient Rome and the anarchism of the Sixties counterculture. Sondheim’s music is as theatrical and lyrical as always, Lester adds his typical madcap flair, and Mostel is a wrecking ball of energy, though the whole affair seems rather tame and lightweight today—a decidedly unroman sentiment.

Note: Listen, I watch more than my fair share of movies. They are as often incredible examples of ideology and political economy as they are works of world-expanding art. At best, they are thought-provoking, and at worst, they are mediocre entertainment (especially when they fall into that uncanny valley of “so awful it’s fun”). 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.

Vía Letterboxd – Jake Cowan