Sunday, August 11, 2019

What I Watched In July

Even if I wasn’t fascinated by the Folk Horror sub-genre, I would have been interested in MIDSOMMAR (2019). Writer/director Ari Aster’s previous film HEREDITARY (2018) was an incredible debut feature and signaled that a significant talent was on the scene. As a follow up he has chosen to play in THE WICKER MAN (1973) fields and has devised a smart, fascinating horror tale that uses classic tropes to examine interpersonal fears. At its core the film is about a breakup and the personal horror of the white-hot emotions of that universal moment. The film is steeped in feelings of loss, grief and disconnectedness so much so that they bubble underneath the surface at all times. Even the supposedly close collegial bonds between the male characters is shown to be discard-able in search of self-satisfaction. The casual cruelty and self-centeredness of the American characters (of course) lead to their downfall because, unlike their rural Swedish hosts, they do not see each other as a cohesive ‘family’. The film’s central romantic relationship is on the verge of collapse from the opening minutes of the film because the boyfriend feels overburdened by the emotional needs of his mate. He hasn’t the moral courage to end things so makes things worse for both people by dragging out the pain. There is never any doubt he will stumble but the details are the important part of the journey the film takes us on. How could his false face hide him in the constant, bright midsummer sunlight? This tale gives its audience much to chew on and discuss afterward which is far more than most efforts in the genre.

Finally, the producers of Spider-Man films have branched out beyond the same four or five villains! Since the 1960’s the character has had one of the most interesting rogues’ galleries of any superhero and the movies have concentrated on Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, The Lizard, a shortchanged Sandman and a lame version of Electro. I was thrilled when Marvel’s previous movie used The Vulture and now, we finally get a version of Mysterio in SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019). I say ‘a version’ because this is a very different character from the original illusion creating criminal first seen back in Spider Man #13 fifty-five years ago. But the MCU wisely uses this character as part of its ongoing story crafting another very good part in the larger tapestry they are weaving. As usually, my favorite elements are the smaller details off to the side of the main plot. Also, I love that Mary Jane is clever enough to figure out Peter’s identity and the byplay with the Ned is a joy. The expansion of Happy Hogan’s role in the story is well played and the casting of Marisa Tomei as May was a brilliant choice as she continues to bring the right touch to every scene. There are nits to pick with some details but overall, I can hardly wait to see which of Spider-Man’s huge roster of bad guys makes it to the big screen next.

I’ve enjoyed Tarantino’s films in general and his latest is another cinematic joy. Much virtual ink is being spilled over the pros and cons of ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019) but I’ll just say that, near the end, when a certain actress’ voice came out of that driveway intercom I actually teared up. That’s how it should have happened. That’s what would have been right. 

The film could have been slightly shorter but I loved every minute of this visual feast. Rumors say that QT might have a four-hour cut up his sleeve and, if so, I’ll be happy to check that out as well. 


SILVER BLAZE (1937) – 7 (not bad riff on this classic Sherlock tale)
SPIRIT OF ’76 (1990) – 6 (rewatch)
LAS VAMPIRAS (1969) – 6 (Mil Mascaras vs female vamps and John Carradine)
MIDSOMMAR (2019) – 8
ALIEN FROM THE DEEP (1989) – 4 (rewatch)
THE GUMBALL RALLY (1976) – 6 (rewatch for the first time in 30 years!)
THE BLACK CAT (1941) – 6 (rewatch)
THE SEVEN FROM TEXAS (a.k.a. HOUR OF DEATH (1964) – 7 (solid early Euro-Western)
GODZILLA 1984 (1984) – 8 (rewatch)
THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK! (1946) – 6 (interesting chiller from Universal)
COSMIC MONSTERS (1958) – 5 (rewatch)
MONTANA (1950) - 6 (Errol Flynn western)
THE SONG OF THE THIN MAN (1947) – 7 (the last of the series) 

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