Friday, December 31, 2021

The Best Films of 2021 by categorey (Formerly the Film Finds)

 This is going to be weird- I'm throwing up two Best of 2021 lists The second list- which hits tomorrow is the BEST OF THE BEST with no further break downs other than they were the best, favorite and most thought about films of the year. None of those films are on this list because they went beyond classification.

This list on the other hand are those films that would go on to a list of the best film in certain categories. If I was doing a Best Action Film list, these would be on it. And so on across the board. Normally I would group them together and call them the FILM FINDS but I wanted to mix things up. 

Shorts mix with features because a film is a film. The same thing with animation. A great film is a great film. If anyone wants to say these film was on the best of the year list- go right ahead because they are

BEANS-Based on a true story it shows how racism turns people into monsters
THEY ARE TRYING TO KILL US-the vital story of how bad for us food is going to poor communities and effectively killing them
ZERO IMPUNITY is a look at sexual violence across the globe. It will curl your toes
PUNCH 9 FOR HAROLD WASHINGTON-the story of a man who changed the would by kicking open doors and making it so Blacks could be mayor of Chicago which lead to Barrack Obama in the White House
THEY WON'T CALL IT MURDER-The story f five people killed by the police
ALL OF THESE SONS - the story of programs aimed at ending gun violence in communities. 

DANGEROUS- One part family drama, one part thriller, one part action makes for a heady mix with broken bones
ESCAPE FROM MOGIDISHU- True story of the delegations from North and South Korea fighting to get out of a city under siege. Its all about the characters.
THE PROTEGE-Maggie Q is an assassin out to avenge the death os mentor Samuel L Jackson. Great stuff with one of Michael Keaton's best roles.
DIE IN A GUNFIGHT-Romeo and Juliette retold by cool people with guns. I loved it.
TRIGGER POINT- Barry Pepper gets pulled back in to the black ops life when a friends daughter goes missing. Its just entertaining.
ONE GRAVE FOR 3 MEN- hit man is pulled off vacation to clean up a mess and it all goes horribly wrong
BABY MONEY-needing quick money a couple agrees to help with a heist and it all goes wrong
MAFIA INC- based on a Canadian crime family this is one of the best mob films in years
CO-OP- a short about a robber picking the wrong place to ply his trade
JOINT- a rethinking of the yakuza drama as an ex-soldier needs quick cash and goes back to the life
TIME-old assassins do unexpected things
NOBODY- Bob Odenkirk action hero
THE HARDER THEY FALL- one of the best westerns in years is full of characters you love and set pieces that make you go wow.

THE MEDIUM- a film crew profiles a small ton shaman- big mistake
SLAPFACE-awesome examination of the consequences f our action as a witch kills anyone ho rongs a young boy
PEPPERGRASS- more thriller than horror film, this tale of robbery gone wrong is awesome if you accept it for what it is
HELLBENDER- one of the best openings in years leads into the story of some witches raising a young girl in an intentionally sheltered life
BULL-A hitman returns for revenge-what seems to be a crime drama is something darker
ULTRASOUND- the less you know the better it is tale that starts with a man getting a flat tire- you're on your own.
CAVEAT- a man is tasked with watching a young girl who is chained inside her house. Creepy beyond words.

LIFE OF CRIME 1984-2000-a film record of the cost of crime on three friends
GRANDPA WAS AN EMPEROR-portrait of a woman looking into the legacy of her family and finding surprising things
EXPOSING MUYBRIDGE-a loot at the man who gave us "motion" pictures and so much more.
KURT VONNEGUT UNSTUCK IN TIME- meta doc about the director trying for 40 years to finish a documentary about the great author. It somehow makes perfect sense
THE RESCUE-the best thriller of the year is a true one 
JANE BY CHARLOTTE- a daughter looks at her mother and finds surprising things.
ASCENSION- The class divisions in China are worse than you thought
CLAYDREAMS- Magnificent portrait of Will Vinton will move you
THE FIRST 54 YEARS- a warning of the dangers of being n occupier as revealed by the action of Israel in Palestine 
LISTENING TO KENNY G-more than just a portrait of an artist but a look at how we view the people who make art
CITIZEN ASHE-portrait of tennis star Arthur Ashe who changed the world his own way
SKIDROW LOS ANGELES-stunning look at life on the streets. It will break your heart
HOLY FRIT- What does it take to make the world's biggest stained glass window/
BAD ATTITUDE THE ART OD SPAIN RODRIGUEZ- portrait of an artist  who changed how we see the world
FAYA DAYI- stunningly beautiful tone poem
AMY TAN- a look at a writer that speaks volumes about not just the woman at the center but ourselves
18th AND GRAND- the story of an arena where all sorts of magical things happened
NORTH BY CURRENT- portrait of a family becomes something greater as the story turns into something else
ATOMIC COVER UP-the true story of what happened when we dropped the bombs on Japan
LATIN NOIR- South American mystery writers tell their stories and we are enthralled
IRMI- portrait of a woman who has led a remarkable life

THE JOB OF SONGS-Magnificent look at one town in Ireland and the music they make.
GRIDLOCKED- portrait of a band as just guys
SUMMER OF SOUL- joyous celebration of a music fest few knew was happening at the same time as Woodstock
LIKE A ROLLING STONE THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BEN FONG TORRES- portrait of  man whose love of music changed how we her the world
BUDDY GUY BLUES CHASE THE BLUES AWAY-lovely portrait of a man and his music
THE CONDUCTOR-story of a woman who broke the glass ceiling in classical music and changed the world 
BITCHIN THE SOUND AND FURY OF RICK JAMES-focusing mostly on the music this doc sets the record straight about how he changed what we listen to which gets lost in the tales of his personal life

LIVE HEALTH- In the age of covid an online therapist needs connection. Tim Cox kicks it out of the park
TALE OF THE KING CRAB- echoing back to the great epics of Italian cinema this is the story of one man living life his way
MOGUL MOWGLI-moving story of a rapper and his family when illness strikes
NO MAN OF GOD-the FBI man and the serial killer in an acting masterclass
HELLO TAPIR-a young boy deals with the death of his dad and we are made better for it
DEATH AND THE LADY- animated story of a woman who is visited by death
SOUNDTRACK TO 16-the story of what it's like to be 16 told by directors to watch who aren't much older than 16.
SINGLE- the story of a woman who needs to be accepted for who she is
MASS-an acting masterclass will leave you shattered as the parents of a murder victim confront the parents of the killer. I was left without words and never reviewed it.

POUPELLE OF CHIMNEYTOWN is a magical animated film that sings that has moments of pure magic and deep emotion

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Nate Hood on Procession (2021)★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 2021 has been a year of exhausting debate about what “is” and “isn’t” cinema. From MCU stans ganging up on Martin Scorsese for his ultimately innocuous opinion that Marvel movies aren’t real cinema to Zoomers and Boomers yelling at each other over the age gap in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, everyone seemed eager to pick fights. Do movies have a moral responsibility to inspire and enlighten? Are movies just brainless entertainment? 

For me, these questions fall away before Robert Greene’s new documentary Procession. It doesn’t seek to inform or entertain its audience. Instead, it desires to heal its subjects. The film centers on six Kansas City area survivors of Catholic clergy sexual abuse. Years later and fully grown, they’re all still deeply, deeply broken. After seeing them in a press conference, Greene reached out and offered them a unique opportunity at therapy: write, direct, and star in six short films confronting their trauma. 

Greene’s work has long plumbed the power of cinematic simulacrum—both Kate Plays Christine (2016) and Bisbee ’17 (2018) explored historical tragedies by having performers re-enact them. But these performers merely relived the trauma of others. Procession sees its survivors return to the scene and circumstances of their wounding. The results are alternatively heart-breaking, soul-crushing, devastating, and inspirational. 

Some insensitive viewers might balk at the kitsch or camp of these short films. In one, the eyes of a pedophile priest glow jade green while barking evil commands. In another, someone in a Dollar Store Jesus costume glowers over a rigged pedophilia inquest. But this is a film about the healing provided by the artistic process itself. By recreating and inhabiting each other’s pain, the six become the healing community long denied them. Given full creative control to location scout or build sets, some artificially reconstruct the scenes of their abuse while others return to the actual locations. (One of the hardest scenes to watch sees one survivor have a breakdown when he returns to the idyllic lake house where he was raped by a group of priests.) 

And, incredibly, all six voluntarily cast themselves in each other’s films as both bystanders and abusers. What kind of saintly compassion does a child abuse survivor need to willingly play the role of someone else’s rapist? I’m not sure, but these six survivors have it. Their strength and bravery are nothing short of literal miraculousness. So is this film.

The Most Over Rated and Worst Films of 2021

Every year there are always over rated films. Films that critics fall all over themselves about but which  leave most people scratching their head. 2021 had their share of over rated twaddle. I'm not saying any of these films are bad only that the critical hype around them is out of control.

In my  opinion these are the  Most Over Rated films of 2021:
TITANE - It was supposed to be a deeply troubling film about a woman and a car that was going to scare me for life. It was a John Waters remake of an Ed Wood film remade straight faced by a European director. Its not bad but it ain't high art.

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH - Joel Coen wanted to put the siloquies back into Shakespearean films but instead made a film where no one is really on screen with anyone else and most of the exposition was removed. A mess.

POWER OF THE DOG lost too much on the way to the screen (All anyone talked about in the interviews were the cut scenes). The result is a one note performance by Benedict Cumberbatch and a film that only comes to life in the final 30 minutes

VELVET UNDERGROUND- This is a good film but it leaves soooo much out.

ANNETTE- I have no idea what to make of this months on. It has moments but its just twaddle

BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONEY PORN-it opens with badly filmed graphic sex and then much of the next hour is one character walking across a city. You could cut the sex (we don't need to see it) and chop this down to a tight 20 minute short that does the same thing. Its just a bad film.

AGNES- possessed nun story was a festival darling but a total waste of time. I don't know anyone who liked it and tons of festival slots.

Normally I note a a couple of bad films each year and I'm done with it- however this year my notes are filled with cinematic badness. The worst films this year that I noted are:

MALIGNANT- Illogical horror film makes no sense even on it's own terms. Even worse it's way too long.

FUN HOUSE- Offensive and unfunny horror film is the sort of thing a psychopath in a lock ward might like if it actually made sense.

TERF WARS-a clip doc supporting JK Rowling's anti trans statements loses its focus and makes no sense.

Will Smith in KING RICHARD is terrible. The movie is a crowd pleaser but Smith gives us no reason to like the man or know why anyone put up with his shit. 

GO THROUGH DARKNESS-Okay not that bad but any documentary that sees a father refusing to allow his son to get an operation so he could see because it will make him less able to play a game that might make them money as a good thing is a bad one.

Dave Chappelle's special should be burned and he should be ignored
MEMORIA is what made it to the screen from 8 hours of material. If some of the missing 6 hours was put back in then maybe this might have made sense. As it stands now you have to buy the hundred dollar or so companion book which explains the entire project for this it make sense, which means it violates my basic thought on a film which is all films must stand alone.

WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY alleged whimsical romance about lovers who are changed by fate in the way they look and and then have to find each other again is actually a wildly over long film (almost 3 hours for no real reason) that only a pretentious critic could love


FINAL FREQUENCY-no budget scifi film that never works and looks worse

BLUE WHALE- found footage tale of a killer who makes people kill themselves makes no sense

WHEN WE CONSUME YOU a tale of a whiney brother and sister ho drift to the dark side. I dare you to make it to the end.

CITY OF LOST THINGS- one of the most beautifully animated films of the decade makes zero sense story wise

I DON'T FIRE MYSELF- dumb film about a demoted woman working on powerlines in the sticks. Beyond bad. how did this get a festival slot?

WONDERFUL PARADISE while the blood soaked wedding is a highlight of the year (assuming it was in another film) my chief take away from this film was we must stop the director from ever working again and the programmers who chose this for multiple festivals need to be fired.

TOO LATE manager running a comedy club eats the talent. Literal look at how showbiz devours people who get into it is is an unfunny mix of horror and comedy. The romance rocks but the rest bites.

PERFECT DAVID a character we don't care about does things we don't care about in a film we don't care about

AGNES- see above

REFLECTIONS: A WALK WITH WATER a dull and boring plea about water conservation. You'll want to let all your taps run out of spite

SHAPELESS a film about a woman with an eating disorder is set up (and was sold) like a horror film but nothing horrific (or interesting) happens. More intent on creating a mood we disconnect as it soon becomes apparent this is going nowhere.

RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK-next to last Woody Allen film is just awful on so many levels. He's bitched that no one will give him money because of the Mia nonsense- NO- its because he has been making shit like this for years.  Oh how the great man has fallen.

ARMY OF HE DEAD-over long nonsensical zombie heist film is self indulgent crap

WOMAN IN THE WINDOW- this story f a woman who can't leave her apartment seeing something outside is as bad as you heard. Some books can't be adapted into movies.

SOUND OF VIOLENCE- I kind of liked some of this at the start  but the story of a woman who gets orgasmic by the sound of people dying is so badly done and stupid  that by the end when she turns someone into a living boombox you'll want to pluck your eyes out.

A BLACK RIFT BEGINS TO YAWN- pretentious crap about "something" where nothing happens.

Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)hits the Metrograph tomorrow


I am all over the place with the films of  Tsai Ming-liang. Some I like (YOUR  FACE) some I dislike (DAYS)  and some I’m mixed on (STRAY DOGS).  I know the feeling is shared by many of my film friends, all of whom will always dash out to see the latest film by the master simply because he is going to give us something approximating life in a way no one else is really doing.

The one film everyone seems to love is GOODBYE, DRAGON INN his classic  about a screening of the classic film DRAGON INN on a rainy night in a theater slated to close. While I won’t call it, as Apichatpong Weerasethakul has, the greatest film in the last 125 years, I do think it’s a very good film. With the film getting a run starting Friday at the Metrograph in New York I revisited the film for the first time in a decade or more

The film doesn’t have a plot as such, it’s simply people living. The ticket seller tries to give the projectionist a bun, a tourist tries to pick up some one up and people watch the film. Basically life happens.

I like that we just sort of fall into the film. I love how we effortlessly are placed into the theater and the events. From the opening moments when we are peaking out of curtains we are in the theater with these people. It’s a small trick that made me understand why I like this film more than some of the directors other films, and that our introduction to events is effortless.  He tricks us into thinking we are there. The camera set-ups and shot choices are always places where we could be. That always isn’t the case, especially  DAYS, which left me wondering why we are there. In GOODBYE I understand why, because we bought a ticket and we decided to wander the theater.

Watching the film I understand why the film clicks with so many. There is a not only a life to it but a genuine and real connection to our life through the way we are drawn into the action.

If you’ve never seen it, you should. If you have seen it see it again, especially if you are like me and revisiting it again for the first time in a long time.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020)

 In a world called Chimney Town things are tightly controlled by the inquisitors. No one is to know anything except what they tell them. Stories of life outside the town and star above the smoke are forbidden.  When young Lubicchi makes friends with Poupelle, a man made of garbage, they decide to see if the story of stars is true.

This visually stunning animated film is a must see on a big screen. This is a film that will make even the most jaded animation lover’s jaw hang open at some point. I want, nay I need to see this big so I can really see the wonders.

The basic plot about a boy, his friend and de facto father figure, is a deeply moving one. This dystopian tale has a great sense of place and character that makes the whole place real. It’s a film that plays our heart strings in the best sort of a way. You will be like me, and want to see it again for the characters as well as the visuals.

You will also want to see this film for the philosophical, religious and political threads running through the film. Rarely have there been a finely sketched portrait of an evil regime in a film like this

In its way this is one of the most magical animated films of the year.

If there is any problem with the film is that there are several sequences that go on way too long. However it’s not so much that they are too long but rather they are derivative. In a film that is often brilliantly its own thing, it often resorts to sequences such as the mine car ride, that have been done to death elsewhere. Its not that the sequences are bad, but old hat .

Despite the bumps this film is magical. I laughed, I cried I said wow a whole lot.

Despite my failing words this is one of the best films of 2021

Highly recommended.

Jockey (2021) hits Film Forum today

With JOCKEY beginning it's theatrical run at New York's Film Forum tday I'm reposting  my Sundance review. And FYI JOCKEY is on my Best of 2021 list

One of the best films at Sundance is also one of the most unheralded. JOCKEY is one of those great films that is going to find itself with a hard fought loyal audience who will be spreading the word because people just have to see it.

The film is the story of a jockey who is nearing the end of his career. His back is broken and the doctor say he has to stop or else. He of course keeps going spurred on by a new horse and a young man who may or may not be a long lost son.

There are many reasons the film works chief among them is the cast. Clifton Collins Jr gives one of those jaw dropping performances that makes you want to scream "where have you been all my life?" You feel every emotion in every line and gesture. It maybe one of the best performances I've ever seen simply because it feel like one of the most real. 

Molly Parker is Collins' friend who has helped him keep going. Yea she has an angle but she also has a genuine feeling for him. Its a breakout performance. 

Equally good is Moises Arias as the new jockey and possible son. He is a young buck unsure of what to do and he nails it. He makes us like him even if we don't know his motivations.

The script and direction are spot on. Never going for the high and the lows everything is perfectly modulated. While there was a couple of times where I got misty it was never not earned. I love that the film always remains focused on the characters with a horserace shot in such away that we know everything we need to know without seeing anything.

JOCKEY is a grand achievement and one of the best films of the early film year.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Year end short takes: HUMANS, MINARI, BEAT THE DEVIL and BRUISED

As much as every one has been praising THE HUMANS, I found I was disappointed. Not from the performances or the writing (which I know played better on stage) but from the craft of the film. I could feel the writer/directors hand in every shot to the point it stopped being real. He kept guilding the lilly of the drama which didn't need it

MINARI is the small family drama that many people think should have won all of the Oscars last year.  Finally sitting down to see it recently on cable I found I enjoyed it but I was left wondering about why the mad out pouring of love. Not to sell the film short I’m left to wonder if the critical community was responding to the film being an American  story told largely in Korean.  Again this is not to diminish the film at all, rather I simply think the film was oversold. 

Playwright David Hare talks about his experience wit Covid. The film is a monologue where Ralph Fiennes plays the actor. Allowing that the film was written so it has Hare’s linguistic cadences, Fiennes  has the man down. Having seen Hare on stage in Via Dolorosa a couple of times and seen him speak several times I can honestly say that Fiennes has him down. He has him down to the point that it’s like watching his clone. Performance aside the piece is fantastic and is a must  see for those wanting to see a brilliant piece of theater

Halle Berry directs and stars in a film about a single mom who makes a return to the MMA ring in orfer to get some quick cash and a shot at redemtion. Hile the script is nothing we haven't seen before Berry thee actress and more importantly Berry the director make this something we want to see. Berry has a knack for making scenes that we've seen before work ad engage us. I want to see what she does next.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Unapolegetic plays POV tonight

A look at Bella and Janae who are working to get the community to challenge to power structure in Chicago, particularly the police. It is the story of two young black women fighting go for what they know is right and hoping to change the world.

Very good look at two women who are using different means to get their voices heard. Yes they are marching and protesting but they are putting a spin on things that make you sit up and take notice. Their spirit and slightly atypical ways make this film some thing more than all the other films about protest. Their voices cut through the sameness that has enveloped the protests in the media and are actually making a difference.


UNAPOLEGETIC plays as part of the PBS series tonight and will stream on their website



Based on a play that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2019. The plot concerns a man who kills the president of the United States and then claims that it was self-defense. He argues that the President’s move toward dictatorship was threatening his life.

This is a good but stage bound film that ponders if political assassination has a place. It is clearly a work of modern America when  Donald Trump sought to crown himself king, stacked the deck to remain in office and many pondered if some one shouldn’t kill him to prevent the loss of America’s freedoms. While some will argue Trump had to do what he felt had to be done, there was and still is a feeling that things are broken politically and the extreme wings of both sides  often suggest that murder is a viable way of dealing with those we don’t like.

I liked this film. While it is really less a film about characters than of ideas, it dos get you thinking. It doesn’t provide easy answers even if it leans toward certain conclusions. While the film would be better if it gave us real characters and not constructs, it’s not fatal to the film.

If there is any problem its that this really is little more than a filmed stage play. There are few sets and the camera set ups are minimal.  While I could argue that the ideas make this a film that needs to reach a potentially the larger audience a film will bring the play,  there is nothing in the presentation that makes this a living breathing film or representation of life. It feels like it would have been better on stage where the lack of action and small cast would have been forgiven.

Still the ideas are powerful and worth a look.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Renegades (1930)

RENEGADES stars Warner Baxter as a one of a quartet of hard fighting Foreign Legionares who gets mixed up with spy Myrna Loy in the desert.

An odd mix of the the Three Musketeers with a foreign legion setting and international intrigue RENEGADES is the sort of film that don't do any more, not that they ever really did in the first place. A kind of early sound epic adventure everything you can imagine is thrown at the audience in the the hope of keeping the paying customers entertained. While is can be a tad slow, the film does keep us watching if only to find out where this is going.

Warner Baxter is a fine lead. While definitely not what we would think of as a leading man he still manages to hold out attention. I only really noticed Baxter when I saw all the Crime Doctor films, and it was in researching what else he had done that I finally put together all the other times I had seen him.

Myrna Loy is equally wonderful in the sort of role she never really got again after THE THIN MAN and subsequent films in the series changed how she was perceived. Personally I always love stumbling on one of Loy's pre-Thin Man films because you never know what sort of role she was going to play.

While occasionally creaky RENEGADES is a great deal of fun, especially on a rainy Saturday night. Recommended.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

A Story of Christmas Eve Part 2

This is the second Christmas story of the day. It’s what was happening at the Bully Building while the first story was happening.  If you read the first one and liked it you may like this one. If you hated it stop now just move on this is more of the same. Remember  this was written for friends and intended to pretty much amuse them. Randi, Eden, Nate, Hubert, John, Liz, Shelly and Bully are contributors to Unseen. Pink Bunny is a friend from online who posts to twitter as a bunny, Kitty Pryde is John and Randi’s cat. Marshall is Bully’s little sister and the bears ect are plushies that live with John and Randi.

A word of warning the stories do not tie into each other perfectly. They are meant to be two views of insanity from two points of view.

If you enjoy it great, if not move on and reviews will be back tomorrow.

For now just know that the story is a gift for friends just because I thought it would make them (and maybe you) smile

 John had come up with the idea of a guys night in to counter balance the girls night out that Shelly, pink Bunny, Eden, Randi, Liz, and Kitty Pryde had planned at the all night Santa Tango down  at the Nighthawk. It was going to be Bully John, the Bears, the shark and some of the other plushies hanging out.  The idea was that everyone would hang out, tell bad jokes while they sip cherry wine, pretend to smoke chocolate cigars and do guy things. Instead of the Four Yorkshiremen it would be the ten Brooklynmen.

To round things out  John had invited a few others but everyone seemed to be busy. Hubert was on the other coast on a super-secret spy mission that no one was supposed to know about involving Northern Canadians trying to tunnel into the US via the north pole using tenacled creatures from another dimension. Nate declined because he was going to be leading Christmas service in the Chuck Jones Home for Reprobate Cartoon Characters.  As for Steve he wussed out because he didn’t want to be in Brooklyn, where the monsters live, after dark.

The whole "boys will be boys" telling lies  as they drank pretend Chateau de Chassilier went down the tubes when Shelly caught wind of the impending testosterone fueled evening and asked Marshal to stay home and keep things in check. It wasn’t that Marshal wasn’t capable of being an active participant to any insanity, she did love her heavy weapons after all, but Shelly felt her presence would just tone things down.

Marshal could feel the air leave the room when it announced she was staying home. However she didn’t mind because she had a few idea of her own to spice up the night. Marshal always had ideas, it was what made her so charming, and actually more dangerous than her brother Bully. She was the crazy one in the family, she just kept it inside  an put forward the thought she was a sweet little girl

Which was why as soon as the ladies had left the building Marshall hit all the guys with whip cream pies. All bets were off and a major tussle resulted. Some how in the middle of it the Christmas tree got knocked over and and john ended up tied up in Christmas tree lights.  The bears saw this and decided that they would sacrifice John to Magumba and started to set up an alter to the  god of the Dickies.  

Things were rapidly spiraling out of control which confused Bully to no end.

Marshall leapt up on the altar and shouted “Before we make a sacrifice we must dine on HoHo’s and YooHoo!”

“Yes!!!” Shouted the bears

John was even more confused and simply tried to say “Wait what?”  as he tried to figure out what in the hell had just happened.

“To the Bodega!” shouted Marshall. Everyone put on their coats and headed out the door, John still wrapped up in the tree lights, a living hopping Christmas tree.

It was at this point three things happened at exactly the same time.

First the door to the house slammed shut just as Marshall realized no one had taken the keys.

Secondly John said “you know Randi is not going to be happy about the mess or any impending sacrifice”

And lastly the monsters showed up – thus proving Steve was correct. (Though to be perfectly honest a great deal of discussion has gone into the matter of whether the monsters would have shown up if Steve wasn’t writing the story. Bully has speculated that this whole incident was wildly inflated by Steve because the fact that everyone stayed home watching RiffTrax, MST3k and the Mads and drinking hot cocoa and falling asleep, missing Santa and being woken up by a phone call about pancakes would have made a non-story. His attitude was he was perfectly fine with the monsters showing up in this version since the chicks dig it)

“OH MY GOD THEY HAVE NEIL” shouted Marshall as one of the beasties grabbed the English author and carried him off.

“Wait what?” Said John again as he desperately tried to parse out when Neil had entered the story.

Marshall debated pulling out her pocket pistol but knew that doing so was going to get them in trouble. If Randi heard gunfire as she was walking to the theater she would come home and ground Marshall because she was supposed to be calming things down, not escalating them into a firefight.

Oh the Humanity.

Springing into action Marshall ran over to john and climbed up to the top of his head.  John was completely confused by this but Marshall didn’t have time to explain. She pulled out her police whistle and blew it long and loud.

The conflict between plushies and monsters ceased as everyone looked to see what was going on.

“knock it off!” she screamed. “this is Christmas eve not a wrestling match”

Everyone took a step back and looked at the tiny stuffed bull.

“What if Santa saw you?”

A murmur of shoot ran through the collective crowd. It was followed by a round of apologies and recriminations and hugs as everyone asked for forgiveness. (Well not everyone, the one monster who carried Neil off was still missing- it was later discovered that Neil was forced to sign copies of every book in every edition  he ever wrong by the monster who was a superfan)

“I suspect that you guys are up for some boardgames and ice cream as we wait for Santa” said Marshall.

The monsters said they were.

“Good” said the bull in charge.”Now hel us figure out how to get back into the Bully Building.

One of the bears, nick named Captain Obvious, asked if they were sure the door was locked. Marshall turned the knob to show it was.

It was at this point that one of the monsters dressed on long brown robes stepped up and said “A Jedi does not need a key”. The other monsters began to groan as Luke tried to use the Force on the door.  When that didn’t work he had to be pulled away as he began kicking the door screaming “A JEDI WILL NOT BE DENIED!” and “OPEN DAMN YOU”

Dave, one of the uglier monsters leaned down and apologized to the plushies “Sorry, he gets in a mood…. And he’s seen Star Wars a couple times too many”

“Haven’t we all" said Bully.

Morty, one of the bigger monsters came over and joined the conversation “what if I pick up the building and shake it, maybe the keys will fall out a window.”

“It’s a nice idea” said Dave “But you’ll never get the building back on it’s foundation the right way”

‘I could if I was really really careful”

“I don’t think it will work. Its just one of the things that just can’t be fixed.”

“Kind of like the last trilogy”

And with that Luke attacked Dave and they started rolling down the block banging into parked cars.

Mrs Lynsky opened up her window and started screaming “Will you monsters be quiet – I just got my kids asleep and Santa’s coming.”

Dave and Luke stopped fighting and sheepishly slinked back up the street.

Outside the Bully building things were getting interesting as several of the neighbors were getting involved with trying to pick the lock. Several near fights almost broke out as several factions debated rather heatedly, the best way to open the door.

Into the commotion Peppa Pig road up on Fat Pony.

Peppa and Pony were confused by the commotion going on around them. When they got to the stairs  she walked up the stairs saying “excuse me” as she went. She then took out her key and opened the door and she and pony walked into the building letting the door close behind her.

The street went dead silent as everyone stared at the door for a good long while.

Marshall continued to stare as she took out he cellphone and called Peppa.



“ Hi Marshal.. Why are you calling me? Why don’t you come in?”

“Could you open the door please?”

“Forgot your key?”

“Everyone did.”

“ Give me a moment”

A few moments later Peppa opened the door  and everyone, John and Bull and the boys, and the monsters and the neighbors all piled in to the Bully Building.

John and bully started to pull the ice cream and fixings out of the fridge and cabinets while Marshal and Peppa took Fat Pony to get more ice cream and stuff, because there were a lot of people and monsters and everyone wanted some.

As everyone worked on Sundays the bears took out the big screen  and set up the projector. They were going to have everyone watch Cinema Titanic’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Santa, who had some how slipped in when no one was looking said that he approved as he curled up off to one side to watch the show.

Bully took the two remaining bowls around to make sure that Neil and the monster who kidnapped him got some ice cream, but seeing that they were no where around quietly slipped one Sunday in his bowl and the other into John’s because that’s what best friends do.

“Don’t tell,” whipered Bully

“I won’t,Thank you” said John

And with that one of the bears hit the button and everyone got lost watching a holiday classic.

A Story of Christmas Eve (Part 1)

Reviews re taking the day off today. Instead I’m presenting two related stories one now and one later on today.

And this means that most of you can skip them and just move on.  It’s not that I don’t think you’ll be interested but more that you won’t know what to make of them. They are stories written for friends and intended to pretty much amuse them. Randi, Eden, Nate, Hubert, Shelly and Bully are contributors to Unseen. Pink Bunny is a friend from online who posts to twitter as a bunny, Kitty Pryde is John and Randi’s cat. Liz is  the infamous chanteuse Liz Whittemore. The references are to people and things that make sense (sort of) to them. Though if you’ve read any of the previous stories I’ve posted over the years you’ll know that the inclusion of angels makes perfect sense. It’s a mix of reality and flights of fantasy.

The second story is what was, in theory, happening when these events were going on. It’s tangentially related and more insanity.

And now a little nothing written to amuse friends in the holiday season.

It was partly Hubert’s fault.  He had been emailing back and forth with Kitty Pryde, Bully’s feline sidekick, discussing all of the great things to do in Brooklyn for the holidays and he mentioned Bela Tarr’s seven plus hour Satantango was playing Christmas Eve at the Nighthawk Cinema down the street from the Bully Building. Unfortunately autocorrect changed it to Santa’s Tango so Kitty thought it was a seven hour holiday dance movie.  Kitty then sent out a notice for a girls night out and everyone went to spend Christmas Eve watch some dancing.

The multi-hour bleak look at life was too much for everyone.

Kitty and Pink Bunny retreated to the bar and were downing margaritas. Shelly was sound asleep in the back row of the theater. Randi, Eden and Liz wandered off to god knows where giggling like little girls. Marshall  was the only one to come out reasonably okay since she was too young to drink, she stayed home and played checkers with her brother and watched Klaus on Netflix.

Kitty was feeling rather depressed since she had arranged the night that had fallen off the table. Pink was doing her best to keep her spirits up and kept feeding her fruity drinks.

“We should wake Shelly” said Kitty “She likes fruity fish drinks”

“Let her sleep” Said Pink. “”She’s been working hard making sure Bully stays out of trouble so Santa brings him something”

Kitty drank a bit more.

Pink watched her friend. She felt bad that her friend was feeling bad because the night went banana shaped. She ordered some tuna canapes figuring it was going to help her friend feel better but Kitty hardly touched them.

People came and went while Kitty sulked.

Pink excused herself and went to the ladies room. She whipped out he flip phone and called Marshall.

“Hey cutie-how goes” she asked.

“good. I’m letting Bully win. What’s up? Movie not what you expected?”

“Not really. Listen, did the ladies go back there? They wandered off a bit ago and I don’t know where they went?”

“They aren’t here. I mean they could have gone to the Bully cave, Eden always liked the sound system down there but I don’t hear  any music”


“I’ll let you know if they show up.


Pink flushed for no reason and headed back to her friend. The tuna was gone, as were all the nuts and the chocolate pretzels.

“Easy killer” pink said sliding in next to her friend” you don’t want to lose that girlish figure.”

Kitty laughed. Pink hoped that was a good sign.

Kitty opened her mouth to say something but nothing came out because there was a  big commotion coming down the hall. Voices, musical notes and glowing.

Pink groaned, she knew that light and it wasn’t always a good thing….

Through the door crashed five angels, three women and scraggly looking author. The angels had instruments, the women had big sticks and the author had beard and moustache.

Randi, Liz and Eden stepped over to their friends. “Ladies meet the angels.”

The angels bowed and said hello in thick Irish tones.

Kitty and Pink said “hello”

“And of course you know Neil” said Eden.

Pink jumped down and gave Neil a hug. Neil hugged her back.

“good to see you” he said.

“Its been too long”

“It has”.

Neil leaned down to Pink “why am I here?” he asked.

“Beats me” She replied. She looked up at the three ladies.  “What is all this?”

Pink noticed the angels were setting up their instruments.

“A Punk Irish Angel Folk Band” said Eden.

“ They don’t look particularly punk” slurred Kitty who had wandered over to the band.

“You should see where we’re pierced” said one of the angel’s with thick Irish accent.

“More to the point do you know what it takes to pierce an angel” said another with an equally thick accent. “The pain and suffering would curl your hair”

Kitty paused.

And then with a “Three Two One lets Jam”, the angels started off on bouncy reel. It was, as you might expect a heavenly thing.  No one who heard it could not be moving. 

Liz moved to the bandstand and started to belt out an Irish punk folk classic

Randi leaned down to Kitty, “you wanted to dance so we found them playing outside the park and invited them to come and play.”

People started coming out of the theaters and the ushers were dancing. Actually before long everyone was dancing.

The manager half wandered, half danced over. “What is all this?” he said indicating  the angels and the dancing.

“Angels” said Randi.

“I can see that. This is movie theater….”

“Not any more. At least not tonight” said Eden as she adjusted her crown,  and step danced to the bar.

The manage shook his head and just went with it.

Neil looked around. He felt out of sorts. “ What am I doing here?” he murmured.

“Dancing” said pink as she took his hand and began to move him around the floor.

Randi took Kitty’s hand and the started to move around the room.

Kitty’s mood brightened.

By the time the third song had kicked in the movies continued to run but no one was watching. Everyone was dancing

Everyone except Shelly who was still curled up in the back of the theater for she was a really tired little otter.

I should point out that somewhere along the way Santa slipped in.  No one was quite sure where or when but he was there a good long while blowing sax.  At one point he stepped off the miraculously appeared band stand to dance with Kitty. As you probably figured it was a tango.

Somewhere just after dawn, when the sun wasn’t quite up Shelly woke up. Looking around the theater she wondered where everyone had gotten to. 

Shelly stepped out of the theater. The hall was eerily quiet. There was no one around.

She knew something had happened since the lights were on, but what?

She moved slowly down the hall waiting for something to jump out at her. 

A line of glasses and bottle of champagne started in the floor. Shelly decided to follow it.  It lead to the bar…

Slowly opening the door she expected to find a scene of carnage but not what she found….

Bodies everywhere. It looked like a dance party had exploded and bodies were everywhere. Shelly was worried that they were dead but then she heard the sound od Pink Bunny snoring and she knew everyone was sleeping.

Shelly waded into the room. Who were all these people? Why were there angels on the bandstand? More to the point what the hell was Neil doing here?

Unsure of what she should do she stepped outside and called Nate. Nate was a minister and he’d know how to handle a room full of sleeping people and angels.


“Shelly? Are you okay?”

“There’s a room full of people and angels and I don’t know what to do.”

“Who are the people?”

“Eden, Pink, Kitty, Liz, some people from the neighborhood and Neil”

“Neil? What the hell is Neil doing there?”

“ I don’t know. We went to the movies last night, I fell asleep and when I woke up I found a room full of angels. What do I do?”

“ See who wants to get pancakes and go to the diner. Just be sure to call Bully and John….”

“And Marshall”

“And Marshall. When they’ve had coffee you can find out what happened.”

“Okay. Thank you”

“Merry Christmas. Shelly”

“Merry Christmas Nate”

“And take a picture- I need to see this.”

“Will do."

Nate hung up

Shelly snapped a picture. Then said “ Who wants pancakes?”

The angels stood up and indicated they were in.

Slowly everyone else slowly got to their feet and said they were in too.

And with that everyone filed out of the Nighthawk and headed down to the Purity Diner. The angels playing Christmas tunes as they went.

As they walked Shelly called Bully and he said he was in  and that he had something really cool to tell them.

And it wasn’t long before the party continued as everyone from the Nighthawk met up with everyone from the apartment and half of Park Slope at the Little Purity Diner for a big Christmas Day brunch that lasted until late in the evening with no one going home and everyone just hanging out with all their friends… even Neil who final understood why he was there.

Friday, December 24, 2021

PEBBLES (2021)

India’s Oscar submission is the story of an abusive father who goes to pick up his wife after she wa beaten the night before. Taking his son in tow he goes to retrieve her at the end of a long bus ride but finds she has returned  home already.  The son is pissed at his father’s behavior tears up the  bus far home and they are forced to walk back.

Mannered and deliberate film is not for all audiences. If you want a fast moving film that moves like the wind and has snappy dialog this isn’t for you. This is a film that is very intentionally focused on life as it is lived in a part of India. It’s a film that is focused on the cycle of abuse and poverty that many people are caught up in.  It is a film that requires our attention and focus.

I liked this film but I didn’t love it. My primary problem is that the father is a rather hateful person. While we know why the way he is we still don’t want to spend time with him. That said the performance by Karuththadaiyaan is masterful as we watch him try to cope and figure out what to do about life and himself. It’s a performance that is almost entirely all physical movements and it’s a masterclass in how to act on screen and have it seem real.

If you like mannered and deliberate film this one is for you.

The Tragedy Of Macbeth (2021) opens Saturday


Joel Coen  takes on the Bard of Avon's Scottish play with wildly mixed results.

Shot in black and white and the Academy ratio this is a throw back to the golden days of Hollywood, German expressionism, Carl Dreyer's THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC and the theater, the film looks great. In actuality this film is almost certain to be nominated for numerous technical Oscars. Coen and his team have created a visual world that delights the eye at every turn. There are eye popping images all through out the film, anything with the witches, the cauldron scene, and the glorious shot of the death of Macbeth. Its a delight.

The performances are largely top notch. Denzel Washington is amazing in the lead. His madness makes me hoping that he wades into King Lear soon. The real discovery here is Kathryn Hunter as the Three Witches. Its a haunting performance that ill almost certainly bring her awards gold, including an Oscar because despite everything else going on she is the one actor you will remember above all others.

And as for the rest of the film, its all a series of problems almost all of them Joel Coen's fault.

At the post press screening at the New York Film Festival Coen spoke about designing the film so that the film constantly reminds us that the film is based on a play. He sought to meld the play as written with cinema. The trouble is the result is a film that is kind of dead.  Using long frequent close ups, like Dreyer did in JOAN OF ARC, he films the characters speaking to the camera/audience. It's an interesting idea but with the tight aspect ratio mixed with the lack of movement in the frame results in a the cinematic equivalent of having a character stepping forward and declaratively speaking their lines. Its a mode of stage acting that has been made fun of for decades (and resulted in my walking out on Christopher Plummer doing King Lear) because it's silly. Coen said that he wanted  to shoot the characters speaking to the camera, especially with the soliloquies, because he said most times they are done as voice overs and he didn't like that. Perhaps it doesn't work in some cases but filmmakers like Kenneth Branagh make them gripping living cinema. This is inert.

This close up way of doing things results in a wildly off kilter performance by Frances McDormand. She doesn't act her role but performs her role as if it's a showy one woman show of her greatest roles. I found much of it laughable and was biting tongue lest I be killed at the press screening. She is in a grand stilted stage production while the rest of the cast seems to be in a real cinema world.  I don't blame her entirely, since her husband's choice of framing the action essentially has her (and the rest of the cast) acting in a vacuum.

 The  framing of the action is a major flaw with the whole film. The close ups could be okay, but pretty much every other shot is a tableaux making everything static. The few actors in any scene are posed in artificial locations. Since he keeps the number of actors on screen small all the times the tableaus result in no one being connected to each other. As I said everyone is acting in a vacuum, or a large scale Zoom call. These are isolated people not humans interacting with each other.(Look at the scene where Macbeth is woken up to be told he has been promoted. It's separate shots assembled with no one sharing the same space unless thy are standing next to each other). This means we never really know who these people are and what their relationship is.

It's a situation made worse by his rewriting and tweaking the source material. There are deletions in the text that eliminates a lot of the exposition.  Its not always clear who everyone is. I say this not as a Macbeth newbie but as some one who has loved the play for four decades. I've seen too many productions to count and a good number of film versions but  despite being able to talk about the plot at length, I was frequently lost. Its not the cross cutting or the rearranging, it's  simply that where in a good production you can tell who everyone is, Coen has removed small bits that only allow you to know who is who if you know who says what line. He has killed any sense of who anyone is other than Macbeth and his Lady. He also reimagines the role of some characters such as Ross, who now becomes a kind of deus ex machina, moving some events forward (such his role at the end)

I can not imagine how lost someone who doesn't know the play will feel if this is the first version they encounter. Its everything that is wrong with most bad stagings of the play.

Coen's spatial problems continue  within the physical space of where things happen. Characters walk around the castle randomly, often going into the same set that is supposed to be a different location. Lady Macbeth wanders around doing "out out foul spot" in places that don't match other shots- and or a jutting cliff that just appears outside the castle. Yes, you can do that on stage, but you can't do it in film unless you construct it differently and lay a groundwork. Yes, Coen is going for effect but the effect is confusion. A continuing thought was "Wait where am I?"

Coen also grossly misreads Macbeth's character. Instead of a slowly corrupted good man, he's portrayed as a guy instantly ready to kill the king. Where did that come from? I understand you want him to be ambitious, but homicidal from the get go? That seems to be a rewrite of the early part of the play. What Coen doesn't seem to understand is that by making Macbeth ready to kill he lessens Lady Macbeth. She is some how diminished and less of a monster. Actually he makes the character completely unnecessary. She is supposed to be a catalyst to push him over the edge, but that's all gone. Why have her in the play at all then? The whole plan is staged as if Macbeth as planning it from the start (the letter). It removes the notion of real tragedy because he's a monster (Richard 3 eat your heart out) 

This feels like its a film made by a filmmaker who read Wikipedia and a few theories about the play and went with that

While I know this film delighted many at the New York Film Festival, this is a film that will never really leave the art house. Yes the cast will get it seen but I doubt outside of a handful of Shakespeare fans, few will ever return to or recommend this beautiful misfire.

Visuals aside this is the worst screen adaption I've run across, and there are some misguided film versions out there.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

PARALLEL MOTHERS (2021) opens tomorrow

Pedro Almodóvar​'s latest never quite pulled it all together. It's not a bad film but the central section of the film probably should have been jettisoned for a singular focus on the wraparound story.

The film is abut Janis (Penelope Cruz) who approaches an forensic anthropologist about opening the mass grave near her families home. Her grandfather was taken in the night and shot  and buried in a grave during the early days of the the Spanish Civil War. Janis and the anthropologist have an affair and she becomes pregnant. While in the hospital she meets and becomes friends with young Ana (Milena Smit) who is also having a baby. The film focuses on the two women's relationship and lives before coming back to the opening of the grave at the end.(no that is not a spoiler)

The main story of the two women is good but it isn't anything we haven't seen before. Its the story of two woman going through what life throws at them and coming out on the other side stronger.  Its a story that has some laughs and tears but not a lot of surprises.

On the other hand the missing relative story is way more interesting. It opens up all sorts of doors that have all sorts of resonances about our connections to the past, how those sort of things can happen and why it takes decades to talk about it. The material is unlike anything Almodóvar dealt with before and it was handled with a passion the result of the film doesn't quite have (the final shot is deeply moving). Its a passion Almodóvar showed at the NYFF press conference when he spoke at length about the importance of remembering and coming to terms with it. With the growth of his last two films PAIN AND GLORY and THE HUMAN VOICE I was hoping he would continue to have expanded his horizons by doing a historical drama instead of revisiting past glory.

And please don't  think PARALLEL MOTHERS is bad, it's not, its just not the great film the bookends promised.

The First Attack Ads: Hollywood vs. Upton Sinclair (2021)

Portrait of the California governor’s race in 1934 when Upton Sinclair ran for governor  espousing the EPIC (End  Poverty in California) which was like FDR’s New Deal on Steroids. While Sinclair had the support of the people, the republicans, the money people, and the Hollywood Studio heads feared what would happen and put together what is the first modern attack campaign against Sinclair.

While I had always heard of the attack ads against Sinclair I had never seen them before. They were short films cut together as if a documentary in such a way that they highlighted the down side to Sinclair’s proposed policies. They used clips from movies and carefully edited documentary footage to make it seem like voting for Sinclair was going to bring about the end of life as we know it. While it is common practice now it was unheard in the 1930’s.

This is a super little film. It’s a film that deftly ties the whole story together, even bringing in recent film MANK which used the attack ads as plot point.  What I loved about the film is that while the spine of the film are the films from the governor’s race, the film gives us context for political attacks over the years both before these ads and after right up to Trump’s attacks on President Biden. We also get notes as to where some of the footage was pulled from.

Highly recommended, this film is required viewing if you want to understand how modern politics came into being.

For more information on the film go here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Rambling thoughts on Ron's Gone Wrong (2021)

Barney is an outsider. His family fled an Eastern European dictatorship. His grandmother is old country and lng ago set his friends on fire at a party. His dad works to sell novelties no one wants. THey are barely getting by. He is the only one in school to not to have a robot pal. In a desperate hope to make him feel better Barney's grandmother and father buy a robot, Ron off the back of a truck. He doesn't work right and while he can do amazing things the CEO of the manufacturer wants Ron gone.

I didn't see RON'S GONE WRONG like everyone else.Having always been on the outside and not one of the cool kids I related to Barney way too much. It made the film painful to watch since what I was seeing was bits of my life- or at least the emotion I felt growing up - dredged up. Give the film points for getting the emotion right. But damn it messed me up.

An aside here. If you are not sure what the hell this film is blame Disney. Inherited in the Fox deal, the film's release date was moved, with the result the Happy Meal Toys came and went months before the film came out. Disney then dumped it into theaters with no fanfare before it ended up on Disney + and no HBO because Fox signed a contract long ago. 

I'm all over the place about this film. I love that the film is ballsy enough to dwell in darkness. I love that it deals with poop jokes, politics, hatred for Google/Apple, that it pisses on social media, cellphones and fake internet friends and best of all has a mostly down beat ending until the cheat final shot. How the hell did this get made when the villain is effectively Steve Jobs? Actually I could ask this about lots of things becase the film is beating the shit out of current society with a large mallet.

Also give the film bonus points for being about the characters. These aren't you typical movie kids these are damaged kids who are walking wounded. I mean the poopgirl thing scars her. We care about the characters becase they are fully realized. Ron also gives us an emotional battering when he saves Barney and then decides to save everyone at the end. There are heavy costs here and we feel for them because we have been given enough to truly care about the characters.

What I don't like is that the film also feels like it was messed with by the studio since with all the things that are atypical there are lots of typical Hollywood jokes and turns that infer a script doctor coming in. The gee whiz everything is okay and we're all friends turn for example. Another is the final shot infering that maybe Ron isn't gone.

That said I'm in awe that this film exists. This shouldn't have come from any Hollywood studio in the current bean cunter decided creation of properties they can sell. They want there kids films to be friendly. I say this as someone who was on the Disney list for press until I wrote a review that said that one of their family films, THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN was about death (I never got another invite for anything again). This film should have been pulled apart by Disney and redone. That it exists in this form is a case for celebration.

Despitw the flaws, RON'S GONE WRONG is worth a look. And look for it to be considered a grand classic in 10 or 15 years as the kids of today disover it on cable and streaming since it tries to show life as it is.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Memoria (2021) starts on the 26th

Dennis Lim, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Tilda Swinton

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's MEMORIA is a major miss. A long  rambling unexplained dream with a WTF moment in it produced interesting reactions in the audience I saw it with.

The film follows Jessica (Tilda Swinton) who is living in Columbia, working as a botanist, visiting her sick sister in the hospital and trying to figure out the weird banging sound she keeps hearing in her head.

The reality is this film is a weird dream where Swinton wanders through the landscape trying to get answers when she occasionally asks questions. Very little is said. What is said is often referencing things we don't know anything about. There are very long takes where nothing happens, we watch a man die and come back to life for no real reason. It is full of pregnant pauses and pretentious lines that are punctuated by an occasional loud bang or the sound of car alarms going off. 

Weerasethakul and Swinton had been trying to put a project together for years and this is it... or rather it's part of it. Apparently so much material was shot that a book was put together that explains the missing material and acts as a behind the scenes guide for the film. How much material was cut out? I was told over 70% which means that roughly seven hours of additional scenes are missing. Its no wonder that the film makes no sense.(Think of it as a version of those old 8mm highlight versions of films that they used to sell before VHS. Those never made sense) It's so bad that a couple people after the screening were discussing how the Q&A made the film make more sense. Additionally both Dennis Lim and a woman I was talking to after the film said that the film was so much better the second time once you have read the book.

I need to read a 50 Euro book to understand a film? Really? In my world any film that needs an instruction manual is a failure. If a film can't stand on its own then there is something wrong with it. MEMORIA's need for a companion book instantly puts into the heap with films like WHITE WHITE WORLD, the bad bad film that played Tribeca a decade ago and required you to read the press notes so you could see the plot that the director had to cut out when he was editing his great looking film.

And don't get me wrong MEMORIA looks good. It also sounds great with one of the most aggressive soundtracks (in the right sort of ay) I've ever heard. The sound and image keep us watching even as the narrative completely disappears into the void.

Actually the soundtrack kept the audience awake with the occasional deafening bang making many in the audience leap out of their seats as they were awakened from their snoozing. I'm serious here, many were snoozing, or at least drifting off, their eyes closed and their heads tilted. And I know because how they jumped was something sdifferent than an audience leaping from a jump scare.

I also suspect the audience probably wasn't into the film when it ended because no one applauded. I've been to too many screenings with press conferences not to realize that some one almost always applauds unless it's a turkey. Additionally every audience will applaud a filmmaker and guests when they come out and the audience I saw the film with sat stone silent. I will not speculate as to their thoughts after the Q&A since Weerasethakul spent some of the time partially explaining what the film was supposed to be.

Again, what the film is as opposed to what it's supposed to be is the make or break point for me. This film had to be explained to a room full of writers who usually get what the director was getting at, and this time they didn't seem to. Even the "shh don't tell anyone WTF as that???" moment caused several people to ask questions concering it forcing Weerasethakul and Swinton to discuss it all the while saying to everyone don't mention it. (if you want to know what it is read some reviews or just watch the NYFF Q&A which is, or will be, on line.)

This truly is sound and fury signifying nothing. It is a Cliff Notes version of a longer project that doesn't do it justice. Honestly based on what I was told about the original long version of the film that was described by the filmmakers and the people who've read the book make me want to see that film, not this shortened version

A major miss.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Venom: Let There Carnage (2021)


When the run time for Venom Let There Be Carnage was announced I was certain there was either a mistake or the film was going to suck. How could a big huge comic book film run 90 minutes? I was doubly wrong,, it is 90ish minutes ad it kicks serious ass.

The film has Venom and Eddie bickering. Venom wants brains and Eddie wants to remain low key. Things get complicated when Cledius Cassidey  demands to see Eddie. He’s hoping to get a message to his lost love. It all goes sideways and Cassidey gets infected with his own symboite.  Cledius and Carnage breakout from prison and goes off to find his lost love. Meanwhile Venom and Eddie have separated and both are miserable. Can they get back together?

A wickedly funny action comedy this movie just goes. The film assumes you’ve seen the first film because outside of cassidey, screech and the cop annoying eddie there is no character explanation. People are. There is a development of course as all the characters arc- even the doctor engaged to eddie’s ex arcs and becomes someone we like (hell even Venom does). By assuming you know what the hell went before the film can just move and be and the result is one of the best Marvel related films. Outside of the post credit sequence, the film doesn’t have to be anything other than it’s own thing and as a result this film works beautifully. It scares me to think what will happen when the film folds into the rest of the MCU.

I love the interplay and the one liners. Venom’s running commentary when Eddie’s ex truly dumps him was similar to what happened in my head when I got dumped.

In all honesty I don’t know how this ended up as a PG13 film because it is violent and gory in cartoony way, but it works.

Highly recommended- Venom Let there be Carnage is one of the great surprises of the year.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Night Cap 12/19/21 - Problems


Far be it for me to say what a person can or can’t do, but at this point JK Rowling needs to shut up and go away.

If she wants to write and put out stories feel free but she needs to keep her opinions to herself.  I wouldn’t care but she is trying to tell stories about a wonderful world where we can all come together, except she want people to be how she sees them which is wrong. (Three years ago I wrote a long piece on when you can and can’t separate an artist from their art which can be found here)

People need to be who they are.

She also needs to get a new PR person because whomever she has now is making a major mistake letting her shoot off her mouth as her new multimillion dollar film is coming out. With each statement fewer and fewer people want to see the films which few people want to see to begin with because it's not from her books.

I apologize for commenting but she keeps popping up in my feeds and I’m tired of it.


The whole insanity regarding West Side Story is getting out of hand.

First everyone has jumped on the film because last year, well after the film was finished the Ansel Elgort was accused of improper behavior and wanted him removed from the film.  Nice idea but economically not possible.

This year everyone jumped on the film wondering why he was cast when there were charges against him outstanding…completely forgetting they complained about it last year or totally unaware that the film was finished before the charges surfaced.

Now everyone is jumping on the film because the film under performed. My thought was who in their right mind ever thought West Side Story was going to be a blockbuster? The audience for the film is not really going to go to a covid theater. More importantly other than theater or film geeks I don’t know anyone under a certain age who cares about the project. This was not a film that people were going to get excited about. It’s not even In The Heights which a hot modern day composer.

(Addendum: As this posts there is talk on Twitter about Disney intentionally killing any Fox projects like West Side and now Nightmare Alley which it is allowing theaters to be removed from theaters so Spiderman can get more play)


I rewatched THE RISE OF SKYWALKER for the first time since the theater.  It's not very good.

It needs to be three hours longer. Too many plot threads are left hanging. Yea it has emotional moments but only becase of 45 years of characters floating around.

The biggest problem is the zombie emperor which is just stupid as a stick- especially when he lightnings all the ships. This is little kids playing in the sandbox not adults telling a story. 

I understand how it killed my need to ever see any more Star Wars films in me.


My Sundance dance card is done. I have 25 films scheduled based almost entirely on what I want to see and not what I think I should see.(though I think there are two of those only because thy were in slots needing to fill.) Stay tuned to see how it all plays out.


Going to be diving into NY Jewish Film Festival soon. They announced their slate and it looks great.

NYJFF is always the first fest of the new year so I'm excited.


Merry Christmas everyone

Shadow Bird (2021)


Every morning in the time between being fully awake and asleep a young girl dreams of spending time with her shadow bird and the mysterious Timekeeper, a man with a clock for a heart. When they don’t appear one morning she must venture into the forest to see what happened to them.

Beautiful dream of film is the sort of cinematic treat that you will want to disappear into. It’s a magical tale whose spell you will hope will never end. This is the very definition of movie magic.

I loved this film. I loved it so much that when it was done I emailed Liz Whittemore to thank her for insisting that I see the film. I foolishly wasn’t planning on covering the film but Liz  put me in a virtual headlock and wouldn’t let go until I said I would watch the film. She was absolutely right- this is a film that will make you feel good.

I know with a lot of shorts I will say that I want the film to be expanded but in this case I don’t. Everything is so perfectly modulated that expanding it would almost certainly result in the loss of the magic. This is a perfect 25 minutes and I don’t want that ever to change.

Highly reommended.

Saturday, December 18, 2021


Two YouTubers who explore forgotten places travel, to France to see a town that was cvered by a flood years before.  They are disappointed to find it a tourist trap and in ruins. A tells them he knows a perfectly preserved house in a hidden part of the lake... stupidly they go off the beaten trail and end up ay over their head.

Essentially  a real time story of an underwater haunted house DEEP HOUSE grabs are attention and pulls us along.The pair only have so much air and once they get in they have to struggle to get out...not to mention to stay calm since heavy breathing shortens their air supply.

Once the pair hits the water I was hooked. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I like that the film doesn't really stretch things out. I love that this is not something we've ever seen before. Basically I love that the film takes worn out subgenre and makes it into something new.

From a technical pint you are going to want to know how the hell they did this. Most of the film is underwater so filming must have been difficult. I would love to see a making of piece on the film because for once here is a film where it's not all CGI and green screen. The film is also full of stunning images and the directors know how to use the blackness of the water to create claustriphobia and 

If there is anything wrong with the film it's that the film doesn't quite stick the landing. For a film that seems truly fresh and new (even if it's window dressing) the ending disappoints. Its not that it's bad but more that it comes off as kind of cliche. (And we don't need the end credit scene). 

Quibble aside there is so much gd here there is no way I can not recommend this film. Its pretty much a stunner.

Friday, December 17, 2021


Cassandra is thrown out of her sisters apartment and left to fend for herself. She falls hard for a DJ as a strip club and begins a decent into the dark side.

While I love the look and of the film and the cast I’m mixed with some of the writing which makes things a bit bumpy. For example Cassandra falls in love rather quickly. She does so despite our not really seeing any reason for her to do so.Yea the DJ listens at first but there is nothing there to indicate why she would fall under the spell. The film also isn’t wholly clear as to why Cassandra is off on her own since her family seems rather loving and accepting.

For me this was a mixed viewing experience. While I wasn’t keen on much of the drama, I am rather high on the craft of the film. Director Bryan Wizemann and his cast have put a kick ass film together. It has a tactile feel at times that most other filmmakers never achieve. There is also a look to the film that is compelling. The images, the shot choices made this a film that kept me glued to the screen even as I was not so sold on the drama. The cast also is largely sterling with everyone, and especially Morgan Saylor shining in roles that were slightly under written.

Frankly as mixed as I am on the writing everything else in this film makes me want to see what everyone does next. While that may not sound like much, but it is ultimately everything. There is no higher praise that I can give a filmmaker than expressing a desire to see what they do next. A long time readers know I love to find new directors to put out there. Bryan Wizemann is a director who has impressed the hell out of me. I want to see what’s next.

If you want to see a well made film with a great cast give YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME a try

President `(2021) opens today

Observational portrait of Nelson Chamisa's attempt to become President of Zimbabwe after Robert Mugabe was forced from office. 

This is an excellent look at the state Zimbabwe in the aftermath of a coup. While it is a bit hopeful the reality is the corruption has run deep and the deck is stacked. It is also a film you can't stop watching because it pulls you along.

While I could quibble about the length, I won't, However I will say that the only really flaw is that the film could explain Mugabe a bit better than it does.


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Nobody (2021)

 Bob Odenkirk plays a man going through his dull routine running a manufacuring plant. Life is the same every day, with his wife tolerating him and his kids thinking he's kind of a wuss. When prowlers break into his house he lets them get away when they threaten his son. His son isn't pleased and thinks he should have fought back. Feeling the need to get a cat bracelet back Odenkirk tries to track down the robbers based upon the tattoo he saw during the skuffle. He gets the watch back but not the braclet and while on the bus home it is taken over by a bunch of rowdy Russians. Needing to release his rage he beats them into the hospital and wanders off. Unfortnately one of the men is a crazed mob boss who wants revenge. This starts a war and it is revealed that Odenkirk's character is a former opertive specializing in wiping out problems the  government wants to disappear.

Some of the best sequences in any film of any sort this year are linked with some kind of bland bits. The set up of the film is glorious. The action sequences are magnificent, the charaters are wonderful. the problem is the film doesn't move fast enough in the linking bits. Its as if they turn ff the excitment as they move the pieces arond. It's not bad but I found I wanted to zip through the film to get to the next great bit.

The characters are great. Odenkirk nails both the dull guy and the man of action. RZA is kick ass as Odenkirk's brother. And who ever thought to finally make Christopher Lloyd an action hero firing guns needs to get an Oscar. Why have we been denied this all these years. I love that  the bad guys are BAD. I also love that the film gives time to build the secondary characters such as Odenkirks wife and boss, and even the minor thugs.

The action is bone crushing. You will audibly reactto much or if. And people stay hurt and bloody. Teeth are broken and people want to go to the hospital. Wounds carry over.  Its a wonderful change of pace from the "I ain't got time to bleed" nonsense.

Honestly I want a sequel.

If you love action films this is a must.