Life in The Florida Projects

The Florida Project is a bright star among the cinematic landscape of 2017.  A sort of Beasts of the Southern Wild or American Honey set in Florida’s Disney World central tourist area, Project is refreshingly original and largely a delight.  I think there should be a “The <fill in the state> Project” featuring life on the edge in every state.  Beasts filled that role for the Louisiana bayou; Tangerine for the streets of Hollywood (practically its own state), and Certain Women sketched Montana nicely (although I’d love to see a sequel).

The Florida Project stars a precocious young girl, Moonee, and her mother Halley; an important dynamic of the picture is that they’re both on about the same maturity level.  Which is to say that Halley is far from being wise beyond her years.  She screws up a lot — but this is her survival game.  So Halley is nonetheless endearing — if not nearly so much as her daughter Moonee.

Back to the American Honey comparison: this movie was more real, with no hint of contrivance at all.  Fresh, honest, and, as I said, mostly a delight.  The only downside was a little lag/drag in the second half.  Another comparison: like Beasts, The Florida Project works on you to gain your sympathies.  I was a little on the fence between 7 and 8 until I watched the trailer again, which reminded me how much I loved these characters and the world they live in.  8/10

Comparison Notes: see above.

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Happy Groundhog Death Day

Surprise!  Rotten Tomatoes gets it right!  The consensus:

Happy Death Day puts a darkly humorous sci-fi spin on slasher conventions, with added edge courtesy of a starmaking performance from Jessica Rothe.

So, yeah… I liked this movie.  Fun.  I’m on the cusp of a 7, but my main issue was it never really scared me, and achieved dramatic tension only a couple brief moments.

Something that normally irks the heck out of me is no starting credits, but with this it’s understandable… the title is practically a spoiler.  And it’s compensated for by two factors: The Universal stuttered roll-out, and fun end credits.  On the high side of 6/10.

Comparison Note: Emma Roberts’ TV show Scream Queens

Blade Runner Revival: Big on Atmosphere, Short on Story

I never would guess that a sequel to Blade Runner starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford would make the original look like some kind of masterpiece by comparison.  The deeply flawed original, at least, had some compelling narrative elements and methods, and a unique design sense.  The sequel has a lot of great visuals and impressive loud bassy sounds (at least in my Dolby 7.1 theater), and even a few entertaining scenes.

But mostly, it’s a lot of conversations that amount to nothing — much like P.T. Anderson’s Inherent Vice.  Like the Anderson flop, almost nothing happens in 2049.

Without those visuals and dynamic audio — the ambience of the film, and a little fun dramatic wrangling, we’re talking 2/10 and at nearly 3 hours, a colossal bore.  As-is: 4/10.  Still boring, but not as bad as nails on a chalkboard.

* * *

A couple more comments about this movie.  First, it’s another one critics swung and missed at.  Same incompetence which would lead to panning Oldboy or the English version The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I reckon.

Now the whole thing about Replicants being some evil force, without ever depicting, and indeed barely explaining, why they’re such trouble.  With The Terminator, you know the cyborgs are bad.  In Alien, the robot is out for corporate interests at the expense of the crew.  In The Matrix, humans have been enslaved by the machines.  But Replicants don’t seem like much of a threat.  That is the utter failure of both Blade Runner and its sequel.

One more thing:  I appreciate slowness.  A movie taking its time.  David Lynch can just hold the frame whilst holding the audience in his grip.  Kubrick, with his slow scrolls and pans, kept you enrapt.  2049‘s director Denis Villeneuve is no David Lynch, and no Kubrick.  You see, that only works if you are already in the midst of compelling tale.  And if you are a competent director.  I liked Prisoners, but boy Villeneuve is in a slide.  To the abysmal Sicario, and lame Arrival, add 2049 to the growing pile of overrated claptrap by Villeneuve.

Comparison Notes: Recommended: Her, Ex Machina, The Fifth Element; Not Recommended: Inherent Vice

Get Lucky!

Besides the fact that this guy is really old, there’s not a lot going on here.  But the old guy is Harry Dean Stanton, and I like him.  Seeing some other old timers was nice too.  The script is too full of contrived pontificating, but there is sweetness as well.  6/10

PS The director apparently has no direct familial relation to David Lynch.

Comparison Notes (recommended): Nebraska, The Straight Story, Bagdad Cafe

Film Brief: Battle of the Sexes

If you’re looking for a respite from all the Friday the 13th movies this season, I’ve got just the ticket.  There’s something very vanilla about Battle of the Sexes, with direction — by two people — that adds up to a perfect cross of competent and after-school amateur hour.  But the movie does a decent job showing how prevalent and readily accepted sexism was in the early 70’s, to the point that it almost seems contrived.  And these well-played characters were fairly endearing, so 6/10.

Note for period filmmakers out there: don’t show skyscrapers in your movie that won’t be built for 10 years.  NG (not good).

Comparison Notes (recommended): Frost/Nixon, Foxcatcher, Best of Enemies