Will we be among The Beguiled?

Lots of pros in The Beguiled.  I dug the lush homestead and the tight story.

Cons: Colin Farrell is a fine actor, and did a fine job here.  But there could be a more enigmatic, a more beguiling, if you will, character there.  His character was easy to read early on, which made the direction of the plot, i.e. its gradient, too easily discernible at any moment.

I look forward to Sofia Coppola’s films.  She may not always knock it out of the park, but she has an idea what she’s doing, and her films have a unique feel to them — if this one less than others.

* * *

A small movie like this must open up more dimensions, unless the one it chooses forges an exceptionally strong vector.  Still, compelling and entertaining.  7/10

Comparison Notes: the considerably more potent films Dead Calm and Misery

Twin Peaks Pt. 8. Yes, THAT episode.

Everyone’s written about episode 8 of the Twin Peaks revival.  So what the heck, I’ll throw in my two bits.

As I previously expressed, I was concerned at the outset of the series that it would be both worthy of the original, and up to David Lynch’s lofty mindset.  I considered a series of three escalating mile-markers:

(1)  Is it passable?  Does it meet the bare minimum?  Does it reach the standards of contemporary TV drama set down by, say, the last couple seasons of Fargo, or other of the better TV dramas out there?  Lynch was to direct the entire series, all 18 episodes — something he did not come close to doing with the original.  After not directing film since Inland Empire (2006).  Directing is a lot of work, especially considering the scale of Twin Peaks.  And after all, Lynch is no spring chicken.  That enormous cast list, all those moving parts.  A lot to juggle.

So my biggest concern was that the show would be any good at all.  Not a total embarrassment.  Though a little skeptical at first, that threshold was attained early on.

(2)  Now that it’s passable, is it good?  Is it excellent, even?  Does it reach that tier set by the best of Breaking Bad or Fargo season 1?  Can we hope that it ascends to the level of Mad Men or Better Call Saul?  As I said in my prior post, “Lynch’s mojo is solidly in place, and bright, novel storytelling abounds.”

After the first 4 hours and into episodes 5, 6 and 7, we knew it was good.  Real good.  So warp-factor 2 achieved!

(3)  Episode 8 brought things to a new level: the highest stratosphere of entertainment and art ever presented on television.  This 3rd level is a level, we know, beyond the first two, but also in the realm of the unknown.  As in, we have no f-ing idea what it’s going to be.  Safe to say no one saw Part 8 coming.  That complete unpredictability is thrilling to behold.  Having no idea what’s coming next, but that it’s gonna be good, something ‘wonderful and strange’ — is the ultimate promise of Twin Peaks, a promise more than fulfilled.

Reaching this third tier is more than I could have ever hoped for.

* * *

The most cogent analysis and succinct recaps have been told by Noel Murray of the Times.  I highly recommend you read his episode 8 recap;:

There’s nothing to point to in the history of television that helps describe exactly what this episode attempts.

Considered that way — as something to see and hear, and to react to on a primal level — this hour was phenomenal.

Esquire‘s Corey Atad wrote in his recap titled “Last Night’s Terrifying Twin Peaks Will Be Remembered as One of the Best Episodes of Television Ever” — also highly recommended as further explanation of ep. 8:

David Lynch has unearthed something—unlocked it. He’s devoted his entire career to exploring the roots of evil in men, in both the real world and the unreal. His films are often terrifying. Twin Peaks has been terrifying. Still, I’ve never witnessed anything quite like what Lynch gave us in “Part 8” of The Return.

From its long drive through the night, to its cascade of blotches and sparkles and flames, to its flickering store lights, to its silent expressionism, to its 1950s utopian hellscape of crushed skulls, cigarette-toting vagrants, and bug-frogs, “Part 8” brought to television screens a work of art that escapes narrative confines. Where other shows—and films, too—have used the weird and surreal as window dressing for straightforward storytelling, The Return brings the true avant-garde to bear on a story where clarity is beside the point, and perhaps impossible.

By “clarity,” think “obviousness”.

* * *

Lynch has surpassed all expectations that I may have had.  He hit Twin Peaks full-stride, and is delivering some of his best stuff ever.  I think he’s had a lot of unfinished business stewing in him all these years, because I can’t believe all this material is spontaneous.

The Times post touches on something else: Lynch is turning out to be a great humanitarian.  Twin Peaks is more than entertainment; it serves a higher purpose in benefit to mankind.  Picasso — and many other artists — did this too.  Episode 8 brings to mind Guernica.

Film Brief: The Little Hours

The Little Hours is an odd little film, a period piece featuring contemporary foul language.  Mick LaSalle, SF Gate:

Though very funny, “The Little Hours” remains low-key and subtle in its effects. There’s no winking or nudging, no straining for laughs.

He thought it more funny than I, but there were a number of good laughs, and I liked the tone.  Tone is important.  Stephanie Zacharek, Time:

The Little Hours coasts along breezily on the oddball rhythms of its actors. The cast also includes John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon, who cap the whole crazy enterprise in a surprisingly tender coda. It doesn’t hurt that Baena and cinematographer Quyen Tran shot the picture in sun-washed Tuscany. Looking for a break from the Black Death, or even just the summer heat? The Little Hours is just the thing.

7/10

It Comes at Night, or does it? And does anybody care?

A24 Films continues in the tradition of The Witch of substituting long-staring camera shots and dramatic dream sequences for actual plot points.

A number of critics have disseminated that the plague or sickness in the film is never identified.  Some great cleverness is afoot, they argue.  I say poppycock: the filmmaker is simply incompetent, or worse, taking the easy way out.  It Comes at Night may have been a fine short film, but there is way too little here for a feature.

One critic — solidly in the minority — gets it:

The movie is far too solemn and high-minded to indulge in anything resembling scares or thrills, instead doubling down on the queasy atmosphere and lots of long, slow-tracking shots in which nothing happens.

Put another way: The Trigger Effect was a good movie.  Toward the end of the picture our heroic father attempts to break into a house to save his young child.  It Comes at Night is just that small part about trying to break into a house.  You have to think a little bigger sometimes people.  You’re making a movie.

One last thing: the non-ending of It Comes at Night fits this non-movie well.  3/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): the much better films 10 Cloverfield Lane and Blindness (2008)

VOD Log: We’re the Millers

The terrific TBS promo for We’re the Millers had a lot to do with my desire to see the film.  This promo does not exist anywhere on the internet, that I can find, other than the fragment pasted below — and that’s a shame.  TBS should be proud of its promos.  I do have a small problem with it — there is no girl playing a saxophone on the beach in the movie.  There’s not even a beach.  The musical backdrop, indeed, has no relation to the film at all — which technically amounts to perjury.  However, I certainly can’t ding a movie based on a television network’s independent ad campaign for it.

We’re the Millers falls in the sub-50% zone on Rotten Tomatoes.  One critic wrote that “The filmmakers lack the courage of their convictions.”  Maybe so — but I know that going in.  Put another way, I judge a movie on what it is, not on what it isn’t.  I’m not expecting high art or tense edginess.  I’m expecting Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in a fairly mindless comedy.

And it works on that level.  There’s something likable about these characters, and this story — raunchy and banal as it often is.  It comes nowhere close to comparable films Vacation or Due Date, but for what it is, it succeeds — barely.  6/10

Availability: iTunes