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

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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)

Indie Log: Metro Manila

Metro Manila - poster
For some reason — maybe the poster artwork — I thought Metro Manila was going to be a highly stylized, slick action pic.  But it’s hardly anything of the sort; rather, it is a brutal, straightforward depiction of a family attempting to survive abject poverty in a place where it is readily commonplace.

Especially regarding the wife, Metro Manila avoided plumbing the ultimate depths it might have.  But make no mistake: this is a great, suspenseful foreign indie.  8/10

Availability: Netflix

She Uses Tangerine [Updated]

Tangerine - poster

Yes, that’s a play on the Flaming Lips.

Tangerine is the most talked-about indie of the year, and for good reason.  It splashes vibrant, ruddy, glowing color all over the gritty urban streetscape of Hollywood.  Then, as night falls on Christmas Eve, that patina is washed away, leaving only the ugly naked truth — and a few more laughs.

I’m going to draw an unlikely comparison to Boyhood, because movies are ultimately about the story.  And the story of Tangerine wasn’t bad, but neither was it great.  The same story with more bland, milquetoast characters would probably get a thumbs down — not just from me but most critics.  The audacious characters of Tangerine drive the narrative.

Tangerine - text blockYou can talk about how different, and how novel, a movie is — and I loved the novelty of Tangerine — but ultimately the story must be there.  So probably the best comparison of all: Beasts of the Southern Wild.  It’s like this whole new world you’ve never seen before.  This is what movies are supposed to do!  So how can you not be over the moon?  How can you not be wildly enthusiastic with your recommendation?  Because story matters.

Every once in a while I wish that some truly profound David Lynch – Inland Empire moment might burst forth to offer true, glowing transcendence — but it was not to be.  Still though, there is something endearing about Tangerine.  Like Beasts of the Southern Wild, my opinion has been raised upon reflection.  But also like Beasts, a more developed story would launch Tangerine into the stratosphere.  7/10

Update: A note I forgot to include: the film was shot almost entirely with three iPhones.  Inspiration to low-budget filmmakers everywhere.

Film Brief: Detropia

detropiaA documentary is no different than any other movie: it has to be entertaining.  A good documentary presents an interesting, compelling story, and in so doing its messages are conveyed in an impactful way.  For those who have seen Michael Moore’s seminal Roger & Me, Detropia (2012) will feel rather pointless.  There’s just enough value to this picture to save it from being a complete waste of time, but overall it could have been so much better.  A great movie concept is in there somewhere, but it was hardly realized with Detropia.  3/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): 8 Mile, Roger & Me, Killing Them Softly [prior post]

GET OFF MY LAWN!

Clint Eastwood could well be the most prolific filmmaker in Hollywood.  He has acted in 67 titles, and directed 36.  His acting performances are consistently excellent, notwithstanding his ‘art piece’ at last year’s Republican National Convention.  The movies he has directed are more of a mixed bag.  Some are exceptional, and some fall short — J. Edgar was a disappointment, for example.

Today I wanted to highlight probably his best film, Gran Torino (2008).  As is my general custom, I shall not go into in an in-depth review or analysis — there is enough of that already out there.  I just wanted to point out that this is a wonderful film which does all the things that you want from a great movie.  A near-masterpiece; 9/10, but right on the cusp of a perfect 10.

Gran Torino Still

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote:

Tough has never been enough for Eastwood. It’s a credit to the film’s twist ending that Walt exorcises his demons without easy violence or bogus redemption. A lifetime in movies runs through this prime vintage Eastwood performance. You can’t take your eyes off him. The no-frills, no-bull Gran Torino made my day.

Mine too.

Gran Torino Poster