A Midsommar′s Day Dream

Swedish Tourism must be having fits over Midsommar.  It is absolutely going to increase visitation — but only of those the Swedes would rather stay away.  I wonder if a portion of the normal, sane tourists who might otherwise come may be scared off — or maybe just scared off from traveling north from Stockholm.

One of the strong points of Midsommar is a sense of authenticity:  that these type of festivals do exist, and that to a large extent the events depicted do in fact occur as shown — if not to the same extremes.  The dress, the dance, the food, the architecture and decor, even the tea they drink all feed into the sense that we are observing genuine Swedish custom.

* * *

Midsommar is completely compelling for 2 1/2 hours — which is not easy.  Never boring.  Not exactly edge-of-your-seat-Bound/Dead Calm riveting, but it has good rhythm and flow.  It does not fall into that too-common A24 trap of long, patient, dramatic pauses that drag to eons of nothingness.  Stuff definitely happens.

Writer/director Ari Aster had the same problem with Midsommar as he did with his first film, last year’s Hereditary: closing.  Luckily, with Midsommar, the closing issue is limited mostly to the conclusion, which I did not think befit the rest of the film — though most would think it quite satisfactory.  Not out-of-the-box enough for me.  With Hereditary, the problematic conclusion crept into the entire final third of the film.

I do give Aster credit for making a follow-up to Hereditary that in no way feels like a follow-up.  Midsommar has a completely different vibe to it than Hereditary, to the point you would never know they were both produced by the same man.  Indeed, Midsommar is full of original elements — a creative fire by Aster that never kindled in Hereditary.

There are a couple other small issues with Midsommar which may leave it short of being a “great film.” I’ve thought a lot about Mother! in relation to Midsommar.  And I think Mother! was, in its own very unique way, a “great film” — yet I only gave it a 7/10.  Any “great film” must be at least an 8.  So I am hereby updating Mother! to 8/10.  Since it was already at the top of 7’s in 2017, its rank on that year’s list is unchanged.

Back to Midsommar: it’s the best movie of the year so far, a sun-washed summer delight.  8/10

Comparison Notes: There’s comparison notes up the wazoo on this one: Ex Machina, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (I assume), Get Out, Dead Calm, Mother!, Annihilation, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Housemaid, La Cérémonie, Antichrist, The Ruins

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Film Brief: The Last Black Man in San Francisco

The Last Black Man in San Francisco got to me very mildly on an emotional level — a pretty good accomplishment considering there’s almost no story.  And besides having very little story, it’s not as beautiful as it’s made out to be, and definitely not exultant.  If you’re looking for a movie which continues to surprise and delight you, this is not it.

David Lynch tells budding filmmakers to put down an idea on an index card, then another, then another.  When you have seventy of those, you have a movie.  I think Last Black Man had maybe five tops.  4/10

Comparison Notes: House of Sand and Fog, The Pursuit of Happyness, Fruitvale Station, 99 Homes, Do The Right Thing, Everything Must Go (Will Ferrell), All is Lost

VOD Log: Revenge

Revenge is a French I Spit on Your Grave set in the desert.  It’s not as good as that movie by a long shot — among other things, it’s plagued by problems of both logic and execution — but it’s not without it’s positive attributes.

My first reaction upon finishing Revenge was that I was mildly entertained, so a marginal thumbs-up, but I reflected on those numerous, nagging logic gaps, and then on the overall feel of the film.  It was striving for something that it just couldn’t accomplish.  Between the poster and the trailer, I thought I would really dig the look of the film’s desert setting — but that setting, and the movie itself, felt off and flat.

4/10

Comparison Notes: first and foremost, the previously mentioned I Spit on Your Grave; Eden Lake, Straw Dogs, Last House on the Left (these 3 in Riveting Rentals), After Dark, My Sweet

Film Brief: Ma

Think of Ma as a cross between a very meek, held-back Cape Fear and Revenge of the Nerds.  It’s got a lot of problems, mainly the meek part.  It definitely does not go for the jugular.  All the more surprising given the Blumhouse stamp.  Titles MIA for no good reason don’t help, and makes one wonder if Blumhouse was so ashamed of this product that it kept its imprimatur hidden.

Despite overall meekness, there were some potent moments, and I was reasonably engaged and mildly entertained — so a marginal thumbs-up.  6/10