Movie Review – Model Shop

Model Shop (1969)
Written by Jacques Demy & Carole Eastman
Directed by Jacques Demy

Something changed on his vacation to Los Angeles. Demy hadn’t intended to make a film there but felt the spirit he’d seen die in Paris was now happening in the States. He’d entered into a depression, feeling that the people he’d admired in France were stumbling, unsure of how to present something fresh or even articulate the moment they were all living in. Where Demy’s previous work embraced the artifice of film production, he violently shakes that away here, preferring a more naturalistic style of filmmaking. Non-actors are cast wherever Demy can put them, and there’s an absence of narrative, just wandering, making Model Shop feel like an ancestor of Sean Baker’s Tangerine. Yet, it was another film flop that failed to connect with critics or audiences of the time.

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Movie Review – Bay of Angels

Bay of Angels (1963)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy

From the opening credits, Bay of Angels explodes onto the screen. The energy of this sequence will propel the rest of the film forward, a visual representation of the distance between people, of long winding personal journeys intersecting with another’s, and even the overstimulated rush provided by gambling. Demy’s characters are always caught up in their passions, and women are found at the center of things. For the director, women seem to be the key for a man to feel life; without them, everything seems to fall into abject misery. Of course, that doesn’t mean life is going to be sunshine and rainbows with a woman in your life, but you will, if nothing else, feel something. These celestial figures light up every nerve ending, even if the sensation is searing pain.

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Movie Review – Lola

Lola (1961)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy

The French New Wave was a dominant force in Western cinema in the post-War era. The various filmmakers associated with the movement (Goddard, Truffaut, et al.) left an indelible mark on how movies are made, but at some point, they faded into the background as other countries around the world started revolutionizing cinema in their own way. Jacques Demy was a French filmmaker, a little younger than the New Wave auteurs, whose best work happened after that attention had faded. He made some incredible movies, often inspired by Hollywood pictures but with his own flourishes added. His name would not be as well known as his older peers, but his work would resonate with certain modern filmmakers. Damien Chazelle cited The Umbrellas of Cherbourg as “the greatest film ever made” and heavily cribbed from it and The Young Girls of Rochefort for his La La Land. I think Demy deserves much more accolades for the brilliant remixing of film elements he presented in his work.

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Movie Review – I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Written by Paul Laverty
Directed by Ken Loach

Western civilization is nearing its end. Now it could be around for another 100 years or more. I don’t think we’ll see any Roland Emmrich-style explosive finale or Mad Max-ian wastelands ruled by marauders. It’s a sad, pathetic decline where the poor and working people will just be stepped on harder and harder. Cruelty will be further normalized, and society will be conditioned to accept less than crumbs as acceptable. Anyone speaking out who might bring out even a modicum of change will be pilloried and labeled a “hater,” a “traitor,” etc. And you’ll still be expected to keep going to work and paying bills during this collapse. They won’t let a day go by that you aren’t being squeezed like a sponge for all possible labor at the lowest possible wages. The slavery model in American prisons has been quite lucrative. 

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Movie Review – Wall Street

Wall Street (1987)
Written by Oliver Stone & Stanley Weiser
Directed by Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone is one of those filmmakers I’ve seen many films from but don’t feel I’ve ever dived deep into his work. I remember being hyper-aware of JFK when it was released and then subsequently referenced in comedy across the contemporary landscape of the time. Riding high off the success of Platoon, Stone wanted to write a script with his film school friend Stanley Weiser about the 1950s quiz show scandal. As ideas were tossed back and forth, the film evolved into focusing on Wall Street and the investment boom of the 1980s. The two writers spent weeks observing at a brokerage firm and pulled on their own connections within the tribe of stock bros. Citing inspirations like Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, and the satire of Paddy Chayefsky, they ended up with a script titled Greed, later changed to Wall Street.

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Movie Review – Blue Collar

Blue Collar (1978)
Written by Paul Schrader & Leonard Schrader
Directed by Paul Schrader

The American automotive industry was once a significant piece of the national mythos. It was born out of the personal legend-making of Henry Ford and kept growing from there. The conflict between the companies and the unions dragged on for decades, a constant tension between workers & management that came to its fatal end with the election of Ronald Reagan, a nail in the coffin of American union power. This was Paul Schrader’s directorial debut, riding high off the acclaim from his screenplay for Taxi Driver. By the end of Blue Collar’s shoot, the filmmaker would have a nervous breakdown and reconsider his career choices. Fueled by a trio of actors with big egos and a strong dislike for each other, Schrader was at the center of a work that would prove chaotic on many fronts.

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Movie Review – Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue (1980)
Written by Leonard Yakir and Brenda Nielson
Directed by Dennis Hopper

As we close out our series on American Disillusionment in the 1970s, our eyes return to Dennis Hopper, who we last saw in The Last Movie. That was the last film he directed before this picture. Out of the Blue is a transitory film, moving its focus from the boomer generation’s self-involved anxieties to see what happened to Generation X in their parents’ emotional absence. It’s a painfully nihilistic film that continues Hopper’s career-long struggle with wanting the American mythologized to him while seeing that it is falling apart before his eyes. His take is expectedly reactionary and therefore unable to provide a fully coherent point, but the emotions that underlie the story are genuine. It’s the story of a generation already lost before getting on their feet.

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Movie Review – Sorcerer

Sorcerer (1977)
Written by Walon Green
Directed by William Friedkin

Fate or free will? It’s a question that will likely be debated until the sun’s heat stops shining on this planet. Do we choose our path in life, or do we follow a series of steps before us? What about people who meet early, gruesome ends? If Fate is actual, then what was the point of their lives? To die, to be a supporting player in someone else’s story? We’re born into a world where many institutions and systems are already in place. We have no say in their operation save for being allowed to vote for a few representatives every few years that are funded chiefly by those same institutions. The only power we seem to have is the ability to make people in the same economic class miserable through our actions, letting our personal grievances dictate our global philosophy. It’s bleak as hell, the powerlessness of existence. 

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Movie Review – Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Written & Directed by Richard Brooks

The 1970s saw the Sexual Revolution occur in the United States. Like everything in America, this was more complex than it first appeared, and Americans overindulged to the extent that it did cause some harm to themselves. Sex is good, people should have more of it, but Americans have never been able to engage healthily. It’s either the most insane chaste abstinence or hyper-indulgence in near comical fetish. It should come as no surprise that film & television about sex have just never managed to get anything right because they become so caught up in the specter of Puritanical thinking in which the country is rooted. Looking for Mr. Goodbar was a mainstream attempt to make a movie about women’s liberation and the sexual revolution, and I cannot say whether or not it worked. The biggest problem is that it was written & directed by a man who seemed utterly uncomfortable with what was happening.

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Movie Review – The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972)
Written by Paul Zindel and Alvin Sargent
Directed by Paul Newman

Americans are haunted by their alienation. It begins when you are a child, as your natural inclinations towards curiosity and play are effectively beaten out of you on all fronts. School is one institution that does much of the beating in conjunction with your parents and the Church. Most people learn how to conform and gel with the group so that every chugs along without a hitch. However, there are always some, the ones with the most cruelty visited upon them that they can’t get past it, that remain sunk in the mire of human development. That number grows in times like these, as people increase the rate of everyday cruelty. The callous way so many want to “return to normal” while COVID-19 is still a threat to health, those with disabilities and autoimmune issues are ignored. The increase in public outbursts is another sign of people losing their minds over inconveniences because that’s the only thing they demand out of life, that their treats be easy to access. It’s enough to make you grow to hate the world.

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