Movie Review – The Fisher King

The Fisher King (1991)
Written by Richard LaGravenese
Directed by Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam is a director I can’t quite decide on. There are movies of his I think are brilliant (Brazil, 12 Monkeys), but so much of his work, even the stuff I like, feels messy & cluttered. That’s the charm of Gilliam, though. He’s a filmmaker whose personality is imbued into his work, much like David Lynch. This means his movies are polarizing. People love or hate most of them, with a few managing to find that middle ground of neutrality. The Fisher King seems to be one of the more universally liked Gilliam pictures, and I can see why. The story is grounded for the most part, the fantasies are never presented as potentially real, and the characters experience a pretty traditional arc where they get to live happily ever after.

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Movie Review – Living in Oblivion

Living in Oblivion (1995)
Written & Directed by Tom DiCillo

1990s America was fertile soil for independent film. We all know the ones that got the most attention: Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, Dazed & Confused, etc. This was when the Sundance Film Festival became something many people outside the festival circuit might talk about if they loved movies. By the 2010s, many of these pictures’ elements had become cliche. The quirkiness of an indie film that was once a unique strength had become a joke. What once was seen as edgy was now looked at as old-fashioned. Some filmmakers have proven this true. Look at what Kevin Smith has been up to lately. Yikes. Several directors just kept making movies, whether the big audiences kept showing up or not. Tom DiCillo was already experiencing frustration with making the kind of movies he wanted in 1995 and expressed that in the strange, intriguing comedy Living in Oblivion.

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Movie Review – What About Bob?

What About Bob? (1991)
Written by Tom Schulman
Directed by Frank Oz

For the last few years, there has been a renewed interest in the 1990s, becoming an interest in the early 2000s. This is nothing new. I remember being a teenager in the 1990s and noting the interest in the 1960s turned into the same for the 1970s in the early 2000s. American culture seems caught in a loop of cultural recycling that operates on a 20-30 year scale. What often happens during these nostalgia-driven periods is that the most obvious relics of eras get all of the attention. Unfortunately, that means other media from these periods become increasingly forgotten as time goes by. I wanted to spend a couple weeks looking at some movies from the 1990s that I’ve seen & wanted to revisit or have heard about for years and finally sat down to watch. My hope is that I can highlight some overlooked movies from the 1990s.

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Movie Review – White Noise

White Noise (2022)
Written & Directed by Noah Baumbach

Yeah, so American cinema is a corpse. To end my year on this movie is a sign that I need to slowly withdraw my time & energy from the majority of mainstream films coming out of the United States. Noah Baumbach was never one of my favorite directors, but I have enjoyed some of his recent work, especially his films on Netflix (The Meyerowitz Stories, Marriage Story). And I didn’t balk at the idea of him writing & directing an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s White Noise, a book I’ve read twice and enjoy quite a bit. Baumbach seemed an excellent fit to bring a very unfilmable novel to the big screen. Then the first trailer dropped, and I started to question the tone. And then I watched the movie.

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Seth’s Favorite Television of 2022

While we are in the midst of watching Better Call Saul, I decided to hold out on including it on a list until we finish in 2023. It would be on here if I didn’t. That said, there are some incredible shows I got to see in 2022. In a media landscape that is exploding like the universe after the Big Bang so many things get lost in the shuffle. Have you ever just browsed Netflix and found dozens of shows multiple seasons in that you have never heard of before. Warner Discovery started what could be a horrific trend this year, by shelving completed and close to finished projects for the sake of tax write-offs. I am guessing it is scary time to want to develop your own series, afraid to pursue you passion project as it might become someone’s tax loophole and your potential audience never sees it. In these instances, piracy is an ethical act, a form of curation & preservation that the major media conglomerates are blind to. There were animated series made by queer & BIPOC creators that got trash canned by Warner this year, even physical DVDs pulled off the shelves. Fuck that corporation and fuck the new owners. My hope is we can see creative people using the self-distribution models and smaller streaming platforms to get their passion projects out there. Let the big boys starve to death. They deserve it. On to my favorites.

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Movie Review – Glass Onion

Glass Onion (2022)
Written & Directed by Rian Johnson

I’ve been a Rian Johnson fan since his feature debut, Brick. I was 24 at the time and very into discovering interesting new directors with an emphasis on stylization. Brick was a stylized film noir set among high school students. It’s still a clever movie, especially now that I’ve seen the films Brick is referencing. I didn’t really care for The Brothers Bloom, but Looper had enough creative ideas to keep me entertained. The great discourse around The Last Jedi annoyed me. It’s a perfectly fine movie for a Star Wars picture and one of the few that surprised me in good ways. Knives Out was fun. So going into Glass Onion, I think I had moderate expectations. Rian Johnson isn’t going to be remembered as some pioneering force in cinema; he makes easily consumable pieces of candy that taste alright. 

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Movie Review – Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2022)
Written & Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

When I finally made myself sit down and watch Ana Lily Amirpour’s feature debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, I was very impressed with the mix of style & storytelling. It was atmospheric but restrained in all the right ways. The film was clearly a creator’s unique perspective translated into film, combining elements from various genres, and it just worked. I could see the influence of Iranian cinema in her work, but also pieces from pop culture and things she had come to love throughout her life. It made me excited about what she might do next. Then she released The Bad Batch, and I was overcome with embarrassment. That movie is awful. Maybe her third attempt would bring us back to that original magic; she was just experiencing the “sophomore slump.” Unfortunately, I don’t think she was.

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Movie Review – The Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
Written & Directed by Martin McDonagh

The jury is still out for me on my feelings about Martin McDonagh’s films. I know they are great showcases of his sly storytelling and filmmaking skill. I just don’t know how much I like them or not. It’s a strange thing I haven’t encountered with many directors where I acknowledge that they make great films, but I feel passionately ambivalent about them. I can’t say I have loved his movies, but I have been entertained and impressed by some of them, including this one. Perhaps it’s something connected to his Irish sensibilities, a constant struggle between seeking approval while having a fiery determination to tell anyone giving it out to “feck off.” McDonagh makes movies that are distinctly Irish (even if they aren’t all set there) and very distinctly him.

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TV Review – The White Lotus Season Two

The White Lotus Season Two (HBOMax)
Written & Directed by Mike White

The first season of Mike White’s surprise HBO hit The White Lotus delivered an acerbic examination of the lives of the privileged while vacationing in another culture’s home. That setting was Hawaii, and the interactions between characters, both local and foreign, resulted in some pretty strong dark comedy about colonialism. For the second season, White drops all but one guest and switches the setting to a White Lotus resort in Taormina, Sicily. Once again, we have three sets of guests intermingling with the staff and local people, exploring ideas of ennui, sex, and alienation. The quality here does not skip a bit, but I did find that White was pulling his punches, being a little too gentle with the same people he would have skewered a year ago.

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