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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This special reward is available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 monthly levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Written by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan
Directed by Richard Linklater
I never stepped foot in Europe until 2021, at 40. Although, I did have friends & acquaintances in college who found their way to the small continent, primarily through study abroad programs. So, I don’t know anyone who just floated around Europe for a few months. Yet, director Richard Linklater works his movie magic, and I feel like I know what that would be like after watching Before Sunrise. Beyond the unfamiliar circumstances, there are some universal experiences here. Mainly thinking we know what it means to love a person and coasting on that interpretation or misinterpretation. The pair in this movie lives in limbo, entirely convinced & devoted to this single day of love but also firmly planted in reality, knowing this is a lark, a fun fantasy for a day that cannot last.
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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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This special reward is available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 monthly levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.
Written by David Guion and Michael Handelman
Directed by Francis Lawrence
The collective American memory is a fickle thing. There have been pieces of art that reached astronomical levels of fame within the culture a hundred years ago that have been completely lost to the masses. I tend to think this is intentional. It’s dangerous to have a society where people remember. In remembering, we will make connections, and when that happens, those in power don’t have long on their thrones. Like a dream fading in the first few minutes of waking up, we’ve forgotten about Little Nemo in Slumberland.
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How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman
Directed by Ron Howard
Why? This is a question I often ask when going back and looking at older films, especially those adapted from popular IPs. These days it’s surprising when a film playing in the theater isn’t a cash grab on a well-known character or a single piece of an endlessly sprawling cinematic universe. In 2000, we were by no means in a golden age of cinema, but at least you could see something and be surprised by it. For years, Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, had refused to sell the film rights to his children’s books. He’d okayed some cartoon shorts but held fast that he didn’t want movie theaters to be showing bloated versions of his simplistic texts. Then he died in 1991. “Take that, you book-writing bitch!” Hollywood seemed to cackle. By 1998, the boys in LA had convinced Geisel’s widow to sign over the film rights of The Grinch. She stipulated in a letter that whoever plays the Grinch must be of the stature of “Jack Nicholson, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, and Dustin Hoffman.” All this makes me want is a Nicholson-led Grinch. Can you imagine?!
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Atlanta Season 4 (2022)
Written by Stephen Glover, Ibra Ake, Jamal Olori, Stefani Robinson, Janine Nabers, Francesca Sloane, Karen Joseph Adcock, and Taofik Kolade
Directed by Hiro Murai, Angela Barnes, Adamma Ebo, and Donald Glover
Atlanta was always a show that was hard to describe. Yes, there were main characters: Earn, Vanessa, Darius, and Al/Paper Boi. But the series was also an experimental anthology, breaking away from those serialized stories to tell one-offs. Both types of stories always felt infused with a sense of magical realism that turned the show into a fantasy, an exploration of being Black in America in the Southeast but imagining beyond the limitations of reality. Atlanta never tried to capture Black voices outside of this particular place, I’m sure it spoke to aspects of the Black experience, but it clearly was a show about the place and time as much as the people. The third season, which saw our four primary characters touring Europe, was met with less enthusiasm than usual. That makes sense, it was the season the least connected to Atlanta, but I still found it to have some episodes that were masterpieces. It was nice to get back to the city in season four, and the creators involved didn’t skip a beat.
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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1 (Amazon Prime)
Written by J. D. Payne & Patrick McKay, Gennifer Hutchison, Jason Cahill and Justin Doble, Stephany Folsom, and Nicholas Adams
Directed by J.A. Bayona, Wayne Che Yip, and Charlotte Brändström
When Amazon announced they would make a prequel series set in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, my first thought was, “Why?” I enjoyed Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies when they came out, but I couldn’t stand The Hobbit trilogy and was perfectly happy to let that cinematic world be as it is. But that’s the thing with capitalism; why let a story or I.P. just be when you could keep mining it for more content and eventually result in the public hating everything about it? How could we skip that opportunity? So, with some fragments of stories & unfinished tales plus a hell of a lot of creative agency to change things, we were finally given the billion-dollar bloat that is The Rings of Power.
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Donkey Skin (1970)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy
Among the masses, Charles Perrault’s name has never quite had the recognition of the Brothers Grimm. Perrault was a French author during the 17th century who is most well known for founding the literary genre of the fairy tale. His fairy tales, of course, were derived from regional folktales, including Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. Jacques Demy grew up hearing and reading the stories Perrault had collected centuries earlier. Since the early 1960s, Demy had been trying to work out a script to adapt one of the fairy tales. There isn’t a director I can think of that would be more suited for this type of film, Demy’s commitment to style while staying true to honest storytelling is something that makes a fairy tale pop off the page.
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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 Bekah Lindstrom.
Motivational Growth (2013)
Written & Directed by Don Thacker
American independent film is a complicated industry that’s been through many transformations since movies were invented. The late 1990s to the mid-2010s were a Golden Age at the start but eventually became a time of diminishing returns. The 20th century ended with so much promise, especially with the advent of digital cameras, but by 2015 movies were being churned out that lacked a lot. Motivational Growth is one of those American indie flicks with an interesting premise, but the execution is ruined by a filmmaker who believes he’s cleverer than he actually is. He’s completely unsure of the tone, so the movie veers from body horror to dark comedy, back and forth again and again.
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Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
Written & Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Your life is all you know. We might imagine other possibilities, whether looking back in regret or curiosity about past choices, or contemplating what the future might hold. But, regardless of all of this, we only exist in the present, in now. We can’t ever go back and change things, and the future is eternally unattainable as it inevitably becomes now. Lately, the Multiverse has become a concept in the zeitgeist, made possible by numerous films touching on it. In their latest film, the duo known as Daniels have constructed a story that embraces this cosmic, near-incomprehensible concept’s fantastic and highly human aspects.
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