Movie Review – The Misfits

The Misfits (1961)
Written by Arthur Hiller
Directed by John Huston

The Misfits is a heartbreaking film, both from what you see on screen and what was happening behind the scenes. This would be both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monore’s final performances. Montgomery Clift, who would only make three more appearances before his death in 1966, had a troubled background and struggled with his health and sexual identity. It was very fitting that these actors be the ones playing these broken characters, lost in the Reno wastes, trying to figure out where they were going and how to connect with others. While not a violent movie, The Misfits is the bleakest picture I’ve seen from John Huston. Despite its slightly hopefully ending, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what happens next.

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Patron Pick – Old Joy

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. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Patron Pick – Old Joy (2006)
Written & Directed by Kelly Reichardt

Time eats away at friendships. You can know someone for years, become very intimate with them, revealing personal information about yourself, but then some time passes, and all that closeness just fades away. As responsibilities pile up and general maturity sets in, those people you met in your formative years lose the shine they once had. It can be incredibly frustrating when you find yourself getting your life together while old friends continue to live in stasis. They cling to a chaotic, less responsible time out of fear of what could happen to them if they continue developing as people. Sometimes you feel a need to reconnect with people from your past without any real understanding of why. The most painful feeling can be when you find that connection is impossible to rekindle.

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Movie Review – The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence (1993)
Written by Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese
Directed by Martin Scorsese

New York City has played a central role in almost every Scorsese film. I think Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Cape Fear were the only movies at this point that didn’t take place in and around NYC. Mainstream perceptions about Scorsese probably think he’s most concerned with a specific NYC era, but I’ve found he’s interested in the city at all stages of its development. Other than Temptation, this is the film that had occurred the furthest in the past in the director’s filmography. The movie adapts Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence, set when New York City had a very prevalent aristocracy with its own subculture of ritual & performance in public. This creates tension between our characters’ relationships and their inner thoughts, and it’s on that tightrope the whole film rests.

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Movie Review – Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver (1976)
Written by Paul Schrader
Directed by Martin Scorsese

There are a lot of movies that permeated the cultural zeitgeist, referenced endlessly even in children’s programming. These were the first memes that served as shorthand to indicate a connection between the creator and the audience’s knowledge of pop culture. “You talkin’ to me?” is one of those pieces of culture that almost every person has likely encountered in some form; most of them have probably never seen Taxi Driver. There is a reason why these films breakthrough so powerfully and lodge themselves in our collective reference banks. Taxi Driver is a movie masterpiece, a confluence of perfect writing, directing, acting, musical score, editing, and every other film production element. This is not an overhyped film but a piece of cinema that people assume they understand without watching it. In an age where the incel and toxic masculinity had reached a sort of chaotic peak, Taxi Driver delivers an examination on this type of warped individual with almost clinical neutrality. 

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Movie Review – Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
Written by Robert Getchell
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Interestingly, the popular perception of Martin Scorsese is as a director of macho gangster pictures. Yes, he has made a considerable number of them, but after Mean Streets, it wouldn’t return that world until 1990’s Goodfellas. Instead, he showcased a genuine love of the cinema. In the documentary A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, it becomes inarguable that the director is most interested in continuing conversation begun in films he watched throughout his life. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore opens with a young girl walking along a country set in a soundstage, which immediately evokes images of Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz. Yet, Scorsese immediately subverts our expectations by having young Alice give an expletive-laden outburst.

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Movie Review – Jindabyne

Jindabyne (2006)
Written by Raymond Carver and Beatrix Christian
Directed by Ray Lawrence

In 2006, sixteen Australian films were released worldwide, one of the largest international surges of movies from that country. Lawrence’s picture is a quiet one, very mature in its storytelling. He’s clearly comfortable telling stories in his own way, letting moments breathe. It’s quite different from the more commercial style editing of Bliss. Obviously, Lawrence was closer to his beginnings in advertising then, so he told stories in that mode. With 21 years between Bliss and Jindabyne, he’d changed as an artist aesthetically, but this picture finds Lawrence still exploring the conflict of personalities in intimate relationships.

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Movie Review – Lantana

Lantana (2001)
Written by Andrew Bovell
Directed by Ray Lawrence

Ray Lawrence took sixteen years off between his first and second films. His career seems to coincide with the two peaks in international interest in Australian cinema in the last forty years. In the 1980s, there was a sudden spike of interest in the United States around Australian media. Directors like Peter Weir and actors like Mel Gibson became hot commodities. Crocodile Dundee was a pretty massive phenomenon in the States. Even bizarre comedies like Young Einstein starring the comedic actor Yahoo Serious had their moment in the spotlight. Lawrence’s Bliss came out in 1985 and never really swept up Americans, but it was definitely given a high stature in Australia. Jump to 2001, as a new wave of Australian films begins capturing the attention of audiences, and Lawrence gives us the highest-grossing movie in Australian history, Lantana.

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Movie Review – Bliss (1985)

Bliss (1985)
Written by Ray Lawrence & Peter Carey
Directed by Ray Lawrence

In twenty-one years, Australian filmmaker Ray Lawrence made three movies with a sixteen-year gap between his first two. His first film, Bliss, caused hundreds to walk out of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and won the 1985 Australian Academy Award. Lawrence was born in London in 1948 and moved to Australia when he was 11. After he graduated from high school, Lawrence attended and subsequently dropped out of university. This lead to his work in advertising in Sydney and then a move back to London producing commercials. When he finally returned to Australia, Lawrence started his own production company that became one of the top producers of commercials in the continent. It was during his time in advertising that Lawrence met author Peter Carey and they became quick friends. This led to a screenwriting partnership that led to two full-length screenplays. Eventually, they decided to adapt Carey’s award-winning novel Bliss for the big screen.

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Movie Review – Minari

Minari (2020)
Written & Directed by Lee Isaac Chung

I personally find the American Dream to be a complete fantasy, and it basically always was. This fantasy of bootstrap independence leading to wealth & success is a myth. People achieve wealth in the United States on the backs of workers who toil for very little. Now, this is what our culture labels as “success,” but I would that most of us know that the acquisition of money, while definitely alleviating stress tied to providing for our families, crosses a line at some point into exploitation. I would like to define success as creating a life collectively with family and friends. But for so many native-born people and immigrants, the allure of that capitalist myth is so strong they get lost in it and become consumed.

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Movie Review – Nomadland

Nomadland (2020)
Written & Directed by Chloe Zhao

It’s tempting to single out 2020 as an exceptionally rough year, but I argue that life for millions of people has been a generational cycle of struggle for as long as anyone can remember. The United States is caught in a cycle of economic recessions that batter people working in the industrial & service industries worse and worse. Writer Jessica Bruder detailed the American subculture of older workers who live in a perpetual state of migration, taking rough menial seasonal labor while living out of RVs and vans. This community first gained prominence in the wake of the 2008 recession, which saw swaths of homeowners losing their homes due to inhumane business practices. Her book details these people’s tragedies and triumphs breaking their backs to make ends meet and keep traveling up the road to the next spot. Most importantly, it highlights how American corporations have made this migrant labor a key component in their business model. 

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