Movie Review – The Last Wave

The Last Wave (1977)
Written by Peter Weir, Tony Morphett, and Petru Popescu
Directed by Peter Weir

Australia has been a land profoundly defined by its colonialist nature. The divide between the descendants of European settlers and the indigenous people is the story at the continent’s core. The Last Wave attempts to examine how even “well-meaning” Australians are simply never going to fully understand the complexity of Aborigine society, and that is simply how it is. This is related to the cultural roots of the settlers in punitive, authoritarian religious movements while the Aborigines live under a much more esoteric system of beliefs. But, more importantly, the film is about how Aborigine spirituality prepares its people far better for the chaotic shifts of the universe than the dogmatic Christian religions.

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Movie Review – Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Written by Cliff Green
Directed by Peter Weir

The Australian New Wave was an explosion of cinema from the Land Down Under that lasted from 1970 through 1990. Many of the filmmakers involved branched into cinema outside their home country like George Miller (Mad Max) or Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof-Fence). Peter Weir is arguably the most successful of these directors, having had a very lucrative career in Hollywood through the 1980s. However, the gap between Weir’s projects grew as the years went on. His last film was The Way Back, released in 2010. I plan to look at his film catalog to figure out his familiar themes and techniques as a means to fully appreciate his work. 

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Movie Review – Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza (2021)
Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Since I first fell in love with Magnolia, I always get very excited when a Paul Thomas Anderson film comes out. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about his work, but there is something exciting and surprising about his work. In the twenty years, Anderson has become very eclectic in his style, delivering intense historical pieces like There Will Be Blood and The Master while disappointing some fans with the loose adaptation of Inherent Vice. Licorice Pizza signals a return to Los Angeles, mainly San Fernando Valley, where Anderson made his earliest acclaimed work. I wondered if the director could return to this setting now that he’d gone in such a wildly different direction for so long.

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TV Review – Scenes From a Marriage (1973)

Scenes from a Marriage (Criterion Channel)
Written & Directed by Ingmar Bergman

While I am very much aware of Ingmar Bergman, I sadly admit he is a blind spot in my personal cinema education. The only other work I’ve watched is the theatrical version of Fanny and Alexander, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. With HBO releasing a modern remake of Scenes From a Marriage, I thought it would be an excellent time to watch the original and expand my knowledge of the Swedish director’s filmography. The only thing I really knew going into the six-episode mini-series was that it had such a profound effect on Europeans that it caused a spike in the divorce rate due to its frank portrayal of marriage and the difficulties associated with the union.

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Comic Book Review – The Eternals: Cosmic Origins

The Eternals: Cosmic Origins (2021)
Reprints material from Eternals v1 #1-4, Avengers Spotlight #35, Avengers #361, and What If? #25-38
Written by Jack Kirby, Mark Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio, Danny Fingeroth, and Bob Harras
Art by Jack Kirby, Ron Wilson, Rich Buckler, Jim Valentino, and Steve Epting

This is probably not the best place for a newbie to start with The Eternals. The collection is an odd mishmash of pieces that often end with a directive to go to another collection where the story continues. Here you get a sampling of the ways Jack Kirby’s Eternals have been presented from their debut in the 1970s to the mid-90s when Marvel had sort of gone off the rails. The Neil Gaiman/John Romita Jr. Eternals mini-series was not included here, which would probably be the best place for one unfamiliar with this branch of the Marvel family to go to first. All that said, The Eternals is an interesting property in the Marvel Universe as it is one of the most purely Kirby things ever dreamed up and has a parallel in DC Comics during Kirby’s exile there.

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Seth’s Favorite Films of 1971

McCabe and Mrs. Miller (directed by Robert Altman)
Robert Altman is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s a shame this movie doesn’t come up more often in discussions about westerns. It isn’t a cowboys vs. Indians shoot ’em up. Instead, it’s a bleak & hopeful melancholy love story. John McCabe (Warren Beatty) is a gambler that stumbles into a small Western Washington town. He quickly takes a position of prominence and control in a place populated mainly by lethargic miners. To keep control, he builds a brothel and pays for three sex workers from a few towns over to live there. One of them, Constance Miller (Julie Christie), has excellent business acumen, and the two become partners in building up the town. Unfortunately, their business decisions make them a target of more prominent, more powerful men, which can only lead to tragedy. In addition, opium comes to their home, and that serves to further complicate things. Altman referred to the picture as an anti-Western, and it’s clear because it completely subverts all the tropes you expect from such a movie.

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TV Review – When Was SNL Funny? Part 1 (of 9)

Since 1980 in the United States, there has been an unending argument that will likely never have a definitive solution. It is centered around when the late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live was actually good. For Boomers, they reminisce about the 70s original cast, Gen Xers might cite the mid-1990s with Sandler & Farley, while Millennials point to Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. Most people agree the early to mid-1980s is a garbage fire (more on that in a later post). I wanted to determine when SNL was “good,” so I needed to watch samples from all 46 seasons to determine where the funny was.

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Patron Pick – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Written by Lawrence Hauben & Bo Goldman
Directed by Milos Forman

The United States has had a profoundly complicated relationship with mental health for the entirety of its existence. Mired in the regressive repression of religion, it was seen as proper to punish those with mental illness for behaviors outside of their control and often their understanding. What existed even further beneath the veneer of tough Christian love was a focus on conformity and the expulsion of the aberrant. Those who would not conform to societal norms were verboten, sent off to die inside mental hospitals where they would be brutalized into complete psychological oblivion. This ideology inspired author Ken Kesey to write his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Late nights sitting up with patients at the Menlo Park Veterans’ Hospital led Kesey to believe these people were not insane. Instead, they did not behave within the conventions society had deemed proper, and so they had to be extricated from public existence. 

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Movie Review – The Man Who Fell to Earth

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Written by Paul Mayersburg
Directed by Nicolas Roeg

The year before Star Wars was an important one for science fiction. Once George Lucas released his blockbuster science fantasy film, anything set in space or alien worlds would be changed forever. Three major science fiction films were released in 1976: Logan’s Run, Futureworld (the sequel to Westworld), and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Each movie represents a kind of science fiction story that didn’t see much traction in the 1980s, though DNA from the Westworld franchise can be seen in films like The Running Man and Jurassic Park. The Man Who Fell to Earth was made by a very esoteric filmmaker, Nicolas Roeg. For my Horror Masterworks in October 2020, I rewatched and reviewed his Don’t Look Now. This would be his fourth theatrical feature and become a cult classic like the rest of his work.

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Movie Review – Fantastic Planet

Fantastic Planet (1973)
Written by René Laloux and Roland Topor
Directed by René Laloux

One of the most challenging things in science fiction is appropriately conveying the alien-ness of another world. So often, writers lean into cliches or just create bland, uninteresting worlds. Think of the lifeless creatures from Independence Day or the generic Grays that populate so much of science fiction. It always stands out when a filmmaker makes me feel like I am experiencing a culture, a species, a world entirely unlike my own. I have to find a way in and try to make sense in the context of that species, not necessarily my own. Fantastic Planet definitely presents a world like that but does seem to lean into elements of human behavior to tell its allegory rather than go complete alien civilization.

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