• The Palm Beach Story

    The Palm Beach Story

    ★★★½

    Among writer-director Preston Sturges' world of remarkable side characters there inhabits a magnanimous wienie king, a flirtatious millionaire sister, and her emasculated European lover. The motley crew of oddballs, grifters, and loveable buffoons in THE PALM BEACH STORY emphasizes how warmhearted such a hustle of a movie could be. It is only the Coens and their penchant for farce who pick up Sturges' embrace of secondary characters decades down the line. Of course, when a movie relies on the aforementioned…

  • The Devils

    The Devils

    ★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    My first rendezvous with Ken Russell, and wow. Stands erectly in an orgiastic display of proto-Gilliam filmmaking and gets drenched in howling symphonies of desire before devolving into a balls-to-the-wall variant of THE CRUCIBLE. Whatever the movie attempts to comment re: religious fury gets buried by mountains of flesh and sex. Oliver Reed's performance as Grandier feels singularly towering while Vanessa Redgrave's twitchy, hunchbacked Jeanne exudes a lifetime of sexual repression. One dies a martyr, a representation of flawed goodness, while another lives to be eternally damned, masturbating with the bone of the martyr.

  • Raise the Red Lantern

    Raise the Red Lantern

    ★★★★

    I dislike the movie's dreary ending, but Zhang's stately direction of this tale of patriarchal traditions and interpersonal intrigue tickled my fancy in a way that media hasn't done since the second season of Game of Thrones. Songlian, the fourth and most recent mistress to Master Chen, arrives at the family compound and learns about the special treatment received by the mistress with the master's affections, as symbolized by raised red lanterns outside her wing of the building. She desires…

  • Klute

    Klute

    ★★½

    Forget about the "paranoia trilogy", I'm starting to believe that Alan J. Pakula is more or less a Hollywood hack whose biggest strength is being a fast pass for an actor's Oscar-winning performance. And I mean that in the most derogatory way possible. His movies seem to be conceived with some complex talking points in mind but are ultimately wrung to infuriating dryness. This incidentally works to remarkable effect in the journalist procedural to end all journalist procedurals ALL THE…

  • A New Leaf

    A New Leaf

    ★★★★

    A cynical opportunist meets a clumsy romantic. One wants the other only for her considerable wealth, until he learns that her love has imparted something even greater -- immortality. Matthau is hilarious and May's intelligent script dances with a warm, effervescent sense of screwball joy that makes even a realist like myself believe in movies as the greatest medium for conveying the human experience.

  • Punishment Park

    Punishment Park

    ★★★

    Docu-drama of politics under an authoritarian (read: Nixonian) state. Tribunal scenes showcasing the frenzied rhubarb between activist and establishment types are very strong in their vivid and surprisingly just representations of political "discourse" in America. The actual Punishment Park concept as an allegory and its outdoor sequences, especially those of the fatalistic prisoner-killings, leave much to be desired.

  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

    Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

    ★★½

    Very much mixed on this one. The number of ways one could intellectualize Melvin Van Peeble's fascinating avant-garde Black-man-on-the-run film into a remarkable work of art surpasses the number of letters drawing out "badass" in the title, but I was repelled by how flimsy the narrative and repetitive the soundtrack were to give myself into the experience Van Peeble has to offer. I did, however, find myself mesmerized at the film's adventurous sense of rhythmic editing. The associative pairing of…

  • New Jack City

    New Jack City

    ★★½

    On one hand, NEW JACK CITY is an epic tale not unlike 1983's SCARFACE; smart, braggadocious drug kingpin Nino Brown, played by a magnetic Wesley Snipes, is the Tony Montana of this story as we watch him take control of Harlem's drug trade by cornering its crack cocaine market. However, the SCARFACE comparisons begin and end with Nino. On the other hand, this movie squeezes a miniseries worth of crime content into a briskly paced feature-length film. There's betrayal, lust,…

  • Diary of a Country Priest

    Diary of a Country Priest

    ★★

    I awoke to one of those days where the sunny chirping of the warblers outside camouflaged the chilly wrath of some weather god. A hearty meal became my refuge. For brunch I made myself bacon and arepas; for dinner, spaghetti and meatballs. I watched DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST on a full stomach. So perhaps my diet is to blame, but it's safe to say that Bresson and I hardly operate on the same wavelength -- cinematically, spiritually, or gastronomically.…

  • Sherlock, Jr.

    Sherlock, Jr.

    ★★★★★

    Physical comedy's zenith. Buster Keaton's work here feels instinctively genius and effortlessly mind-blowing, even a hundred years later. Yes, the show-stopping stunts will be this film's legacy, but there's much to appreciate in the more subtle aspects as well. Having replayed the capital-b Big stunts dozens of times, during this rewatch I found renewed appreciation in the humor of the transitory shots, like the bit after Sherlock Jr. takes the boom barrier down from the roof into the fugitive's car.…

  • Amarcord

    Amarcord

    ★★½

    Still can't believe my freshman year film professor showed my class the titsucking scene.

  • Ha Ha Ha

    Ha Ha Ha

    ★★★½

    Narratively dense yet loosely layered exploration of Hong's usual subjects of interest (insecure male artist types and their interactions and conversations with members of the opposite sex), though this iteration boasts some of the director's funniest scenes to date: "When I feel normal, 95% of what you do is lovely." People have noted how Hong's structural emphasis on repetition leads viewers to reflexively concentrate on the subtle differences between scenarios, and this property is exploited for hilarious comedy here. Cheers!