Spitball Army

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Screenings: Clarence (2015)

January 3rd, 2018 · No Comments

6.3
[on-demand]

As inspiring as his educational aspirations are, the most eye-opening moment of this doc comes during a 2007 mentoring session where the questions asked of him by the young people are themed around their socially-prevalent concepts of “gang,” “pistol” and “jail.” Mr. Garrett, being at least 65 years their senior, has no experience (outside of his years of military service) with any of them, and the implication of that is alarming. But Clarence is a true “force of nature,” and to see him, at 86 years of age, fight to strum a guitar, complete a standardized test, and stay awake during a lecture is humbling, if not completely sympathetic.

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Screenings: Ingrid Goes West (2017)

January 3rd, 2018 · No Comments

5.8
[blu-ray, Netflix]

A social media nightmare where everyone is connected more by their phone than by personal interaction, and redemption is delivered once one inspires a unique hashtag that goes viral. Aubrey Plaza is more pitiful than likeable, as usual. O’Shea Jackson Jr. offers the only sympathetic character, but is relegated to being a doormat by the film’s end.

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Screenings: Million Dollar Legs (1932)

January 2nd, 2018 · No Comments

6.1
[TCM]

While it shares several elements with the Marx Brothers’ 1933 DUCK SOUP (a fictional country with a funny name, an exotic femme fatale in a slinky dress, political overtones, rapid-fire word-salad dialogue, musical numbers), MILLION DOLLAR LEGS is definitely more unhinged than anarchic. All of the women in Klopstokia are named Angela, and (bonus) you get to hear one female character call another a “cooch dancer.”

Woof Bloogle Gik.

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Screenings: Lady Bird (2017)

January 2nd, 2018 · No Comments

9.2
[theater]

“Six inches for the Holy Spirit!”

I can’t think of another film that so accurately captures the weird mix of approval-seeking and eye-roll cynicism that exists within the student body of a Catholic high school. The mother-daughter relationship as portrayed by Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan is similarly spot-on, thanks to their sensitive acting turns, but also due to writer-director Greta Gerwig’s crackling dialogue. Splendid.

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Screenings: All the Money in the World (2017)

January 2nd, 2018 · No Comments

8.4
[theater]

My guess is that Ridley Scott rushed to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in the crucial role of J. Paul Gerry because he knew what a solid film he had just completed and wouldn’t stand for it to be overshadowed by a media scandal. Turns out that he has made a gripping and confident thriller with a strong narrative and complex characters that doubles as a damning meditation on the corruptibility of wealth. And Christopher Plummer knocks it out of the park; that is, you’ll hate his fucking guts.

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Screenings: My Journey Through French Cinema (2016)

January 1st, 2018 · No Comments

6.6
[blu-ray]

Comparisons of this film to A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES are inevitable, and Tavernier’s – even though not stated in its title – is definitely more personal. Practically every filmmaker and film touched upon has a connection to Tavernier, either through collaboration, mentorship, or inspiration (he has a long memory). He doesn’t seem to want to impart a mere history lesson, and that accounts for what seem to be the numerous omissions. There is, however, an informed emphasis on Renoir, Melville, Carne, and Godard, and a very welcome ongoing discussion of the uses of music in French film (notably that of Joseph Kosma). The clips are many and of generous length, and the majority of the films mentioned are currently available in digital editions (primarily through the Criterion Collection).

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Screenings: The Trip to Spain (2017)

January 1st, 2018 · No Comments

9.2
[streaming, Netflix]

Steve is even more self-absorbed than he was the first time I saw this (if that’s possible), and Rob even more endearing: the scene where Steve is mansplaining the history of the Moors in Spain to their two female companions while Rob (in an obvious attempt to deflate Steve’s pomposity) gives an overlapping running commentary as Roger Moore is absolutely hilarious. Of course, a TRIP movie would be nothing without the pair’s duelling impersonations: Marlon Brando as the Grand Inquisitor and Mick Jagger performing “Hamlet” are two standouts.

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Screenings: A New Leaf (1971)

December 31st, 2017 · No Comments

5.3
[blu-ray]

I so wanted to love this movie, which is perhaps why I liked it less than if my expectations had been absent. But Walter Matthau has rarely been more drolly wicked and funny without actually cracking jokes. The scene where he walks around the city saying farewell to all the trappings of his privileged life, accompanied by the sounds of tweety birds and a sappy string orchestra, is priceless.

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Screenings: Dawson City – Frozen Time (2016)

December 30th, 2017 · No Comments

9.2
[blu-ray]

Wow.

The portion of this film that most closely resembles the previous work of Bill Morrison (such as DECASIA) comes at the very end and is relatively brief. But it is a dramatic coda to a “you wouldn’t believe it if I told you” tale that begins in the unspoiled Canadian frontier of the 1800s and ends at the Library of Congress in the late 20th century, managing to encompass the Yukon Gold Rush, the science of nitrate film, the displacement of an indigenous tribe, the meteorite rise and eventual decline of a mining boom town, the origins of the Trump family fortune, the early formative days of cinema showmen Sid Grauman and Alexander Pantages, the fate of hundreds of forgotten silent films, and the fortunate caution of a backhoe operator. This is one heady swirl of an historical documentary and, by its end, I wept.

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Screenings: Person to Person (2017)

December 29th, 2017 · No Comments

4.1
[DVD, Netflix]

Quaint and slight and redeemed in small measure by a chase through an over-abundant record shop – the record stacks completely out-classed the chase.

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