VOD Log: Three Identical Strangers

Reenactments in documentary film need to be done carefully without looking like a cheesy TV production — or omitted altogether.  Errol Morris set a standard for the former in The Thin Blue Line, and Ken Burns for the latter.  Three Identical Strangers misses the mark and would better have left them out.

Which points to the weakness in the film — I think better documentarians might have presented the material more poignantly.  Still, the content here is powerful and profound.  7/10; sandwich between Crazy Rich Asians and Thoroughbreds on the 2018 List.

Comparison Notes (all recommended and better): The aforementioned Thin Blue Line, Making a Murderer, The Civil War, Searching for Sugar Man

Tumble off with Stan & Ollie [u]

First, a paean to Laurel & Hardy as the shining binary star of early Hollywood.  I have fond memories going back to childhood of their short films, though they were much harder to come by on broadcast television than the ubiquitous Stooges.  Laurel & Hardy were utter genius, and every time I think of them it still makes me smile.

*  *  *

For Stan & Ollie to work, Coogan and Reilly had to nail Oliver Hardy & Stan Laurel.  And — to the extent that it is knowable without consulting a scholar — they did.  No easy task.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch Stan & Ollie, but I revisited the trailer and sensed that as well as providing insight into the legendary duo, the film would be touching — and it was, especially in the finish, which raised the film from a mostly-7 to 8/10.  And I am happy to do so.  I’m glad I went to the movies.  It’s nice to watch a movie that makes you think and makes you feel.  2019 has set off on the right left foot.  8/10

UPDATE: Scratch that about 2019 setting off on the right left foot.  Apparently Stan & Ollie is a 2018 film, which puts it in 5th place, behind Upgrade on the 2018 List.  Never mind where and when it might have been released (see 2016 End Note).

The Best and Worst of 2018

2018 was the worst year in movies since I’ve been doing my blog (2012), and probably since long before that.  An abysmal year, with almost nothing released that anyone will care about or remember in five years time.  Makes you appreciate 2017 so much more.  So here goes — *Asterisk denotes the film I saw at home via VOD:

Black Panther — 2/10 and Honours for Worst Movie of the Year

You Were Never Really Here — 3/10

Anna and the Apocalypse — 3/10

Disobedience — 4/10

Slender Man — 4/10

Mission: Impossible – Fallout — 4/10

Annihilation — 4/10.  I’m amused how this highly touted and highly hyped film has already been utterly forgotten.

Halloween — 4/10

Destroyer — 4/10

Welcome to Marwen — 4/10

Bad Times at the El Royale — 4/10

A Quiet Place — 5/10

BlacKkKlansman — 5/10

Double Lover — 5/10

Mid90s — 5/10

Game Night — 5/10

Beast — 5/10

The Mule — 5/10

Blockers — 6/10

American Animals — 6/10

The Sisters Brothers — 6/10

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot — 6/10

Sorry to Bother You — 6/10

Blaze — 6/10

A Star Is Born — 6/10

Widows — 6/10

The Old Man & the Gun — 6/10

The Rider — 7/10

Eighth Grade — 7/10

Leave No Trace — 7/10

Crazy Rich Asians — 7/10

Thoroughbreds — 7/10

Searching — 7/10

Cold War — 7/10

Hereditary — 7/10

Roma* — 7/10

First Reformed — 7/10

The Favourite — 7/10

Can You Ever Forgive Me? — 7/10

Upgrade — 8/10

== TOP 3 ==

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3. A Simple Favor — 8/10

2. Free Solo — 8/10

1. Isle of Dogs — 8/10 and Clearly the Best Movie of the Year

End Note (in 3 parts): Yup, Top 3.  Those are the only films of note this year, the only ones that come this time next year I will remember with a fond heart.  Special mention to Upgrade, a surprise entertainment — I almost fashioned a Top 4, but that just didn’t have a ring to it.

Obviously, I have to choose the best prospects of the movies which are released in any given year.  So maybe I’m just missing out.  Maybe 2018 was a better year for films than I am realizing.  Maybe Bohemian Rhapsody and Mary Poppins are really that good.  Maybe I’d like If Beale Street Could Talk, but I’ll probably never find out.  Maybe Green Book or Vice — but I just have zero desire to see any psuedopolitical movies.  The real politics we are dealing with are much more compelling.

It’s hard not to think that the down-swing of films this year is connected to the explosion of television VOD.  But then, that didn’t hurt 2017.

A Toasty Cold War

I went into Cold War hoping to receive some limited salvation from this abysmal year in movies at the hand of Paweł Pawlikowski, the director of Ida, one of the best movies of the last 10 years.  Something, maybe, to eke out at least a Top 5 of 2018.  No such luck.

The problem is that despite the magnetism of the femme fatale Joanna Kulig, the movie is a narrative jumble, especially in the latter half as transitions from one stage to the next seem unfounded and disingenuous.  I wasn’t entirely buying the love story at the heart of the movie either — the chemistry did not work 100%.


For all the narrative issues, I blame Amazon, not the director.  Bezos didn’t stick his fingers in Ida, and the result was a lot better.

The dreaded square-frame-for-no-reason rears its ugly head again too.  It was not at all distracting here, but unlike with Ida, it did not seem to add anything either.  Nonetheless, I liked the singing, I liked the music, and I liked the dancing.  All very nice.  There were some luminous moments to be certain.  And the star’s magnetism throughout, even if she’s a bit spoiled.  The post-war Polish setting provided some edification as well.  And finally, maybe I’m giving someone too much credit, but I think there’s a clever double entendre with the title as a cherry on top.  7/10

Comparison Notes: the aforementioned Ida4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 DaysLa Dolce Vita, Barbara, Wings of Desire, Under the Skin, A Star Is Born (2018), La La Land, Leviathan, Blue Valentine

VOD Log: Roma

Netflix does Roma a tremendous disservice by releasing it simultaneously to its own streaming service and theaters.  Yes, I see that it officially was released in a highly “limited” way to theaters beforehand, but that does no good for people who live in such far-flung locations as San Diego.  By releasing in that way, it very well assures that the only way realistically to watch it is at home.

Which is a shame, because of all the films of 2018, Roma is the one that perhaps most of all needs to be seen on a big screen.  There are many sweeping long shots with lots of small detail that are absolutely miniaturized on even a 4K 55″ set as mine is.


Roma′s visual depth is one of its strongest features, despite being in black and white — this is a very cinematic film.  But I can only go by my viewing experience, which was handicapped.  That, and trailer perjury — there is no Pink Floyd in the movie — knocks Roma, as seen at home, down to as many as two pegs from where it might otherwise have been.  One thing it does is reaffirm why I go to the movies.

Having said all that, the movie did hold my interest, and I liked a number of the scenes.  Roma had a good, almost Iñárritu-like flow to it, and even on my small screen the visuals were conveyed, though tamped down like so much pipe tobacco.  7/10

Comparison Notes: La Dolce Vita, Wings of Desire, Bicycle Thieves, La Cérémonie, The Housemaid