Movies Talk

A chance for us to talk about some lesser known movies that we're watching, though feel free to share your favorite box-office hits!

I've been on a Japanese movies kick ever since I started my language class this year. Now that Kuwait's on lockdown (curfew, no flights in or out, no school, no work) since early March and until mid-April, I've been dedicating more time to catch up on my movies list.

I bought Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition trilogy last year on bluray and I feel like I finally have the mental space to start it. Though now that I have ample time, I decided to watch some of his other movies just to prepare myself for his directorial and storytelling style before I delve into a 9-hour trilogy. I started with Harakiri (1962) which I thought was brilliant and subverts the expected samurai genre in exciting ways. I saw two out of the four stories in Kwaidan (1965) but can't say they worked for me. Maybe the remaining stories would hit better than what I saw. I'm about to watch The Inheritance (1962) now. All the movies I mentioned (and plenty more from him) are available on the excellent Criterion Channel streaming service.

I'm also catching up on my Terrence Malick films. I'm more of a Tree of Life-Malick than the plot-driven Malick of Badlands, but I thought A Hidden Life (2019) mixes his two styles in absolutely effective and affecting ways. It's perhaps more brooding, and even more slow and contemplative than most of his other films, but I found the subject matter worthy of that kind of direction. Instead of being a three-beat story, the slow pace forced me to think about the actions of the character instead of simply following a tightly paced plot. Malick's continuous exploration of humanity and themes of innocence continues to astound me.

And the score just wrecks me. This man knows his music.

https://youtu.be/3mR7Y7SqiyU

Heck, I don‘t know where to start with this one. I’ve been watching just scads of unknown garbage and making notes about it on my phone so I can later write reviews for my not-yet-begun site underratedfilms.com. Lots of straight to video stuff, but occasionally a “real” film… very occasionally.

I'll share a few that I actually liked across the last little while (most of it is trash that nobody needs to see ever).

Dead and Buried (1981) - Folks are disappearing in this seaside northern california-looking town. I don't wanna say too much more about it other than I liked it! It has a real vibe and I did not expect it to be such a solid and unique-feeling experience.

The Psychic (1977) - One of the best movies from Lucio Fulci, about a woman who thinks she saw a vision of a murder. Great soundtrack too, by Fabio Frizzi, who we're working with on a future thing.

Demon Wind (1990) - campy as heck, about a guy who goes back to his family cabin and finds out satanic rituals were done there. it's dumb but if you like camp, hooray. It's not boring which is a feat for one of these.

Death Spa (1989) - This movie has inexplicably great artistic cinemetography, and some actual good scenes, surrounded by absolutely nonsense. It's like two folks had two different ideas of what movie to make and then slapped them together. It works though.

Hardware (1990) - Alien meets terminator in a mad max universe with lots of practical effects. I love it! Probably everyone's seen this.

Blind Woman's Curse (1970) - lady yakuza meeds blind witch in a super awesome stylish movie that is pulpy while also feeling weighty.

Drive (1997) - Straight to video Mark Dacascos action movie, maybe the best straight to video action movie I've ever seen. Dacascos knows how to perform martial arts for the camera, and Guyver director Steve Wang knows how to direct and cut action. It's a lesson in like... if you've got a good action director, you can make anybody into a fighter.

Liquid Dreams (1991) - video stores tried to pitch this as an "erotic thriller" with sci-fi edge. in reality you see less nudity in this movie than you do in your average action film from the era. It's really a high concept sci-fi videodrome-ish thing with some alternately forward-thinking and regressive ideas about gender. The main thing is it LOOKS cool and has a unique vibe even among all the sci-fi films of the era. Unfortunately the best way to watch it is VHS and uhhhhh it's kinda hard to find, honk. I think it might be on video on demand now but watching a vhs rip on an hdtv kinda sucks.

Now for "real" movies: if you're on a japan kick, watch seijun suzuki's stuff. His yakuza films are daring, and are what got him blacklisted from making movies, to where he had to self-fund stuff by doing commercials outside japan or whatever. He made the movie Ziguenerweisen after this, and had to put it in self-funded inflatable theaters. Then it won like the palm d'or or whatever and japan was like "oops welcome back." anyway those three movies, ziguenerweisen, kagero-za, and yumeji are like watching someone else's fever dream. good stuff.

I mean:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdyFyZAu2bk

[edit] intentionally not including trailers for these to not ruin surprises. but ziguenerweisen et al are basically unruinable I'd say.

Masaki Kobayashi’s The Human Condition trilogy is excellent. Worth watching, and also definitely worth waiting until you are in the mood for it. It is long and sad, and you need to be ready for both.

Might as well mention that Toho uploaded many of their older films to the Internet Archive a while back.

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@exodus#598 Death Spa (1989) - This movie has inexplicably great artistic cinemetography, and some actual good scenes, surrounded by absolutely nonsense. It’s like two folks had two different ideas of what movie to make and then slapped them together. It works though.

Pair it with Killer Workout (a.k.a Aerobicide) for a neon spandex filled slasher double feature.
Killer Workout has none of the better qualities of Death Spa, but it does have a terrific soundtrack.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY23oOKC9x8

Two that really stuck a chord with me recently:

Night of the Comet (1984) - An excellent zombie-ish flick with some brilliant moments of comedy and some inspiration from The Day of the Triffids, which is always cool. I really love the visual style and the color palette that dominates most of the film.

Rock and Rule (1983) - This is a weird one, brought to you by the studio better known for Care Bears. I love the style, the animation and the music. There's a lot of heart here, and it really shines through.

I just received the screener for DELTA ZOO, a documentary about a Top-Secret Lithuanian “Super Warrior” Unit that was self taught via action movies on VHS (it JUST hit several streaming services this weekend, I think) https://youtu.be/ADD9Ul5R-ik

I love night of the comet! I even have a t-shirt for it. The younger sister who uses the uzi is also an uzi wielder in chopping mall, another classic of a similar sort.

Interested in this Lithuania situation!

@abstruse_cutie#730 we have similar taste in movies apparently! I love tony scott, I’ve never seen revenge though.

yeah, I'd probably take a look at that one! looks like one of those “good” movies though… gotta get myself psyched up into the right mood for that!

@abstruse_cutie#730 Whoa, loving these shots. I gotta see this movie if only for the cinematography. (Maybe a stretch, but the fog shot reminds me of our own photo for Manami Matsumae’s solo album.)

Also gotta check out Seijun’s movies, I only vaguely heard about Tokyo Drifter from his works.

I’m reading some Jim Harrison this week with my friends, so I had to watch Edward Zwick’s Legends of the Fall after I finished from the novella. It’s an enjoyable movie if only because I loved the novella (though more for its prose than any particular plot detail or character). The melodrama can be a bit much sometimes, which the book handles much better through Harrison's masterful writing, but the movie was nevertheless engaging and thoughtful; enjoyable and heartbreaking where it should. A well-done performance by Anthony Hopkins, though I gotta give it up to Brad Pitt's hair for ultimately lifting up the whole thing.

https://youtu.be/jyR5NFhivdM

One funny thought I had after finishing the movie was how much the rural West feels nostalgic to me despite never even visiting America, and despite my childhood surroundings being completely different than anything resembling the West. I think that years of watching random Western movies on a muted television while listening to music in middle- and high-school finally lodged in my brain as Nostalgia.

What I will say is keep rural America in your nostalgia zone and don‘t do any actual research on it, you’ll have a better time :P

I have a similar nostalgia for a time and place I had never visited, when I watched The Warriors as a youth. When I saw that movie I was like... I definitely lived there! That's an environment I was in! I had been there once when I was a very young child, but I never saw anything like that, so... nostalgia is pretty mysterious.

Alright, I've mentioned it elsewhere, so may as well mention it here… for the past year and few months I’ve been emailing folks a link to a movie, one that’s relatively obscure, and also super rad, IMHO.

So if still looking for something to watch during your quarantine, let me know and I can add you to the list! Actually, I’ll forward the most recent email... which actually contains a bunch of links to several movies I've passed along for the past several months... meaning there's a bunch to download and watch and enjoy!

After that, you'll get the next email that goes out. PM me your address I guess? Don’t worry, I won’t share it. There’s some “rules” to follow, btw, which is described in the email you’ll be receiving.

@fortninety#827 I am super intrigued by this, but don't seem to be able to send a PM on here? Mind if I shoot a message your way on twitter?

@fortninety#827 I'm interested as well! Not sure how to PM here… My email is mo at bravewave dot net

yeah, we don't have direct or personal messages working on here… some day we may!

Hmmm… sorry about that, I simply assumed that there was PM functionality to this forum. Oh well; anyone and everyone can simply send me a PM via Twitter (https://twitter.com/fortninety) or shoot me an email via matt at fort90 dot com.

So I just forwarded the email to those who responded… if you didn't receive it, please let me know!

We‘ve been spending the pandemic watching mostly classics that I haven’t seen before– The Wicker Man (1973), Goodfellas, Starship Troopers…. uh, Space Jam…. but we also watched one weirder one lately: Dogtooth, one of the earlier movies from Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek director who made The Lobster and The Favourite.

Dogtooth is about a family where the father and mother have kept their children isolated from society into their late teens/early twenties, limiting their exposure to the outside world so completely that they have no idea it even exists. Every time a new word slips into the household, the parents assign it to something within the house to prevent new meanings from getting into the kids' brains. So the children call a saltshaker a "telephone," and have no idea that real telephones exist. The family members have extremely strange and tense relationships and they pingpong back and forth between extreme violence and a bizarre kind of upper-middle-class "serenity". The father has extremely strict sexist beliefs that end up causing CHAOS he cannot control!! It's wild stuff.

It's fucking depressing and extremely disturbing but very very good. The shots all have this surreal, flat style--lots of very rigid, brightly-lit shots of people interacting in the strangest way possible with their faces off the side of the frame. Very glad I saw it.

Yoooooooooo this movie is one I saw the trailer for and then was like HECK I can‘t watch this. I’d really like to be able to but it looks so TENSE and INTENSE that I just feel like I might curl up into a ball if I watched it. I am intrigued all over again though… dang it.