The Favourite movie of the year is…

…not The Favourite. However, the period aspect of it is well done, and it engages from start to finish: its greatest accomplishment.  I also very much liked the use of super-wide angle lenses.  The story stumbled in the home stretch, and the end left me dissatisfied.  In other words, there could have been more, but it wasn’t bad.  I suppose you could say that about any movie in the 3 to 8 range.

How’s that for cogent analysis.  7/10

PS To clarify, The Favourite may well be “the” favorite film this year, in the sense that it is sure to rack up many awards including very possibly the big one.  It’s just a couple pegs south of my favorite.

Comparison Notes: Dangerous Liaisons / Valmont / Cruel Intentions, Mother, Requiem for a Dream, Ridicule (1996), The Little Hours

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Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? struck a chord with me — it brought back those times being down-and-out and/or drunk in New York City.  I wanted a little more plot-wise with this true-life story, but then it is a true-life story.  I would have welcomed more about the earlier parts of our heroine’s life and career.  Still: this is one of the better movies of 2018, on the high end of 7/10.

PS Kudos again to Fox Searchlight.

Comparison Notes: Norman, The Visitor (2007)

5 Years for Widows — Was it worth the wait?

To produce Widows, the living director (to distinguish from the dead actor) Steve McQueen waited five years after making the best film of 2013, 12 Years a Slave.  Was that Kubrik-esque gap to foretell a film of the magnitude or gravitas of 12 Years?  Hardly.  Next to the grand 12 Years a Slave, McQueen’s latest project is a severe letdown.  The gulf between the two films is probably explained by their respective writers: McQueen for Widows, someone else for 12 Years.

But 12 Years a Slave is a high bar.  On an absolute scale, Widows is a good movie.  It has some structural issues, and the whole “heist” sequence brings the film down.  On the plus side, it features solid dramatic timbre, and there’s a good sense of watching real characters in real, desperate situations.  Lots of pluses, lots of minuses.

So, considering all the story elements, this could have been a lot worse.  Conversely, though, if those story elements are switched up, Widows comes out much higher.  6/10

Halloween 2018: Sweet Dreams

This year’s Halloween is too cheesy, and with too many logic problems, to be scary.  There is a scant acknowledgment of its cheesy/B-movie nature, but that side is hardly embraced.  Worse, the first third is slow and bor-ing.  This 2018 redux is very poor at building any real tension.  I was concerned that watching it would give me nightmares: no need to worry about that here.

I’ve noticed so many of the mass-market horror/terror films lately are trying to be “scary” without having any cojones.  There’s a spate of timidity in these pictures.  Being little more scary than your local haunted house works great for kids, but lands like a dull thud for those of us who’ve already seen more than a couple slasher-hackers.

It would be so refreshing to sense in contemporary productions an appetite to push it to the edge.  That’s why films like Oldboy, Under the Skin, I Spit on Your Grave, A Clockwork Orange, and The Last House on the Left stand out so well.  And that’s why I’ll take a film like Straw Dogs that arguably goes too far over an anemic piece like Halloween.

Or, again, embrace the potential dark comic goldmine at your fingertips.  Think about the sheer glee of Natural Born Killers, Scream, or Mars Attacks!  Halloween 2018 does deliver a modicum of entertainment value, especially with the intro sequence and when that classic soundtrack plays, but this is a disappointing installment by the Blum House Boys.  4/10

Comparison Notes: other than those mentioned above: Alien, other Blum House films, the original Halloween, Movies that’ll get ya

Bad Times at the El Royale, and at El Teatro

The pacing — especially in the early going — of Bad Times at the El Royale is terrible.  With the rather simple story at hand, an hour could easily have been lopped off.  Either that, or throw some more taters in the soup.  Maybe a little celery.

Put another way: the remarkable setting — as hinted at in the lush and lovely poster above — is largely wasted.  I can only imagine what David Lynch or Quentin Tarantino would have done with both the motel and the pine trees behind it.  Of course, I needn’t speculate: we have Twin Peaks,  and we have The Hateful Eight.

It makes you appreciate Tarantino.  Even at nearly 30 minutes longer than El Royale, The Hateful Eight, largely set in a single lodge room, is never boring.  Only if that could be said of this poorly thought out knock-off.  4/10