Movie Review – La Strada

La Strada (1954)
Written by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, and Ennio Flaiano
Directed by Federico Fellini

Some of the best filmmakers, living & dead, talk about coming to their projects based on a feeling or intuition. Fellini found La Strada through a tone he felt, described by the director as “a diffused sense of guilt, like a shadow hanging over me. This feeling suggested two people who stay together, although it will be fatal, and they don’t know why.” Images came to Fellini while he meditated on this feeling: snow falling on a quiet ocean, clouds, a nightingale singing. As with many of his greatest films, Fellini was profoundly inspired by his wife Giulietta Masina; pictures of her as a child helped him see La Strada’s central character. And his hometown of Remini, a place that became mythologized in his movies, provided the director with inspiration. He recalled the story of a pig castrator that was a known womanizer. The man impregnated a mentally handicapped woman in the town and cast her aside, claiming the baby was “the devil’s child.”

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Movie Review – I Vitelloni

I Vitelloni (1953)
Written by Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, and Tullio Pinelli
Directed by Federico Fellini

There are names in film that evoke a plethora of reactions. I’ve noticed within the filmTok sub-community of TikTok an effort to mock “film school dudes,” a class of people who often do deserve the mockery. The loudest ones certainly carry themselves with an air of superiority and pretentiousness. One way that people seek to make fun of film school dudes is to point to different directors as “red flags,” implying these filmmakers are problematic. This is where they lose me, choosing to point to directors like Martin Scorsese or Coppola as figureheads of toxic masculinity. If you watch their films and look beyond the surface presentation, you’ll quickly find these movies are brutally dissecting ideas of masculinity and pointing at the attitudes of their fathers & grandfathers as horribly destructive. I sometimes see Fellini’s name brought into the mix, and I couldn’t disagree more. The film bro may not understand Fellini and walk away with a pompous view of his masculinity, but that is more indicative of Americans’ lack of critical thinking than the actual work Fellini was doing.

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TV Review – Saturday Morning All-Star Hits

Saturday Morning All-Star Hits (Netflix)
Written by Kyle Mooney, Ben Jones, Dave McCary, and Scott Gairdner
Directed by Ben Jones & Dave McCary

Nostalgia is one of the most dangerous sentiments people can have, made even worse when an entire society becomes regressively lost in it to avoid confronting present-day problems. Unfortunately, America is currently a society obsessed with nostalgia, with each generation suckling at memories from their childhood and yearning to return to that state of unknowing. “Make America Great Again” implies a better time, and even those who wear this proudly do so without acknowledging that it would not have been better for adults in their economic class. The pull of nostalgia is most potent during times of societal collapse and is one of the many tendrils of fascism that very slyly closes around the throat of the future. Kyle Mooney and co-creator Ben Jones have managed to create a streaming series that bathes in the aesthetics of nostalgia but doesn’t succumb to the lies that it was better “back then.”

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TV Review – The West Wing Sucks Part 2

Language and meaning are one area where American politics reveals its most significant deficit. It’s not a rare occurrence to see “man on the street” interviews wherein some reactionary calls Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi a “communist” or “socialist.” As someone with political leanings that actually are communist, I find this both funny and terrifying. And while the political illiteracy of the Right is blunt & obvious, the same aspect in liberals is there but subtler. It hasn’t been until recently that I have seen the actual depth of liberal depravity. They are rushing to join their reactionary brethren by joining the culture war distractions about transgender people and CRT. Instead of making arguments that bring attention back to the real problems (wage inequality, climate collapse), they do shadow plays about issues that will only lead to a fascistic response.

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Movie Review – Meet the Browns

Meet the Browns (2008)
Written by Tyler Perry and Reuben Cannon
Directed by Tyler Perry

By 2008, Tyler Perry had directed four films following the financial success of Diary of Mad Black Woman. That film was number 1 at the box office on its opening weekend and would make $50.7 million worldwide. This propelled the money machine that has been going ever since, though it has slowed a bit in recent years. I chose Meet the Browns as my next film for a couple reasons. The first was that it introduces Mr. Brown and his daughter Cora who are important to the next movie in the series. The second is that Madea’s role is a cameo but communicates some wild new ideas about her that weren’t present in Diary. The plot is also very much in line with the critique from The Boondocks of colorism in Perry’s work. 

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Movie Review – The Diary of a Mad Black Woman

The Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005)
Written by Tyler Perry
Directed by Darren Grant

Tyler Perry is one of the most commercially successful Black filmmakers in American history. That is a fact that we cannot deny. His personal net worth exceeds $800 million; that metric means a lot in America. What about Perry’s films has profoundly affected movies in the United States? What draws audiences to his work? I want to explore that, as well as the controversy surrounding him and his divisive Madea character. We’re going to unpack Perry’s ideology and see how the nature of Madea interacts with that. We won’t be watching every Madea film, but we will watch many of them. I credit the lovely May Leitz and her excellent tier list of Madea movies for inspiring this series.

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Movie Review – The Northman

The Northman (2022)
Written by Sjón and Robert Eggers
Directed by Robert Eggers

Robert Eggers has carved out a niche for himself as a filmmaker that attempts to recreate the feel of specific periods in humanity’s past. With The Witch, he captured the colonial paranoia of the fear of the wilderness. The Lighthouse evokes the birth of psychoanalysis and the expansion of the Western mind’s interiors. He does this once again in the Viking-centered The Northman, a picture that transports into the mind of the 9th century. Here the landscape is imbued with mystic power, and humanity believes that through faith & ritual, they can connect with these volatile elements. While not as profoundly esoteric as Eggers’ previous two features, The Northman is still a film overflowing with aesthetic richness and exploring complex themes.

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Movie Review – The Souvenir Part II

The Souvenir Part II (2021)
Written & Directed by Joanna Hogg

The Souvenir was not the sort of film we expect sequels for anymore. It’s an intimate, funny & poignant story about a young woman coming into her own and dealing with her first tragic love. The second film is about the ripples in that relationship and the death that ended up rippling through a young filmmaker’s life. It became a significant influence on her art. All of this is directly autobiographical, based on Hogg’s own experiences coming into her own as a filmmaker and the effects her ill-fated relationship had on that work. 

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Patron Pick – Syndromes and a Century

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will 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.

Syndromes and a Century (2006)
Written & Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

I’m still not sure how I feel about the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. This is the second of his films I’ve ever watched, the previous being Memoria. I don’t dislike his movies; it’s more a matter of adjusting expectations of pace & tone. Weerasethakul’s work is so calm and slow-burning that it can often feel like nothing is happening. However, what he’s doing is using that stillness to communicate ideas about how we live our lives. Weerasethakul wants his audience to become more contemplative, to absorb the details we often gloss over as we rush through life. That’s made very apparent in this picture’s tone and mirrored structure.

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Movie Review – Enough Said

Enough Said (2013)
Written & Directed by Nicole Holofcener

James Gandolfini was often typecast as a tough guy, but that wasn’t really who he was outside of The Sopranos. He was an accomplished stage actor who performed in various roles, so moviegoers never quite got to see the full extent of what Gandolfini was capable of. Enough Said was released posthumously and acts as a hint of the directions his career could have gone had he not passed away. There’s not much similar to Tony Soprano beyond the actor and the character’s relationship issues. However, they are nowhere near as volatile as what Tony got up to. Instead, this is a sensitive, nuanced, character dramedy intended for a mature audience that wants a little more out of their movies.

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