Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Hunt (2020, Craig Zobel)

"Why do you own 7 guns?"
When I heard about this movie, I thought it sounded in absolute poor taste. Certainly, I wasn't going to go to the movie theater to see this film. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, this was Saturday's film. For the first time, I ended up at the AMC in Arcadia, CA.
"Just calm the f*** down!"
The movie opens with a group text. The film title is written in one of the texts, which made for an interesting transition. Its strength is so many strong characters. There's a rumor on the internet that a bunch of "elites" are shooting up "deplorables". Athena (Hilary Swank) thinks using that word is better than "rednecks". I felt that the film showed the ignorance of people who resorted to name-calling and violence.
"Ava DuVernay liked one of my posts."
Even though the film is littered with familiar faces like Emma Roberts and Ike Barinholtz, The real star of this film is Crystal (Betty Gilpin). With her street smarts, she sees through everything and is physically prepared to take anyone or anything on. The couple at the gas station played by Reed Birney and Amy Madigan also make for a nice balance of comedy and horror.
"Who has the hand sanitizer?"
I have been writing about animal abuse on-screen and behind the scenes in my "vegan alerts". Sometimes I'll note abuse to humans if it is so horrific or if it can't be ignored. Never before have I felt that there was such a level of abuse toward humans that it felt like they were being treated like animals or worse.
"Don't First Amendment me."
What could have been an absolute mess, though, was handled with such eloquence. The action scenes were all choreographed so well and increased the tension. It was a whip-smart socio-commentary that was both brutal and humorous. It showed that with hate, it is possible for both sides to cut deeper and deeper until there is nothing left. People can think they are right and that the other side is wrong; hopefully in the real world, we will not resort to anything like this.
"It's f***ing great."
Beyond this film, it was crystal clear that without some kind of discussion and without empathy, we are just brainless morons fighting and destroying each other. And is that what anybody wants?

Rating: 8/10

Vegan alert (light spoilers):
-Guy on plane requests fish
-Pig in a crate and used for bait
-Deer heads at gas station and Athena's house
-Story about box turtles being smashed with hammer
-Athena uses butter and gruyère on her grilled cheese
-Reference to cow falling on head

Vegan points:
Don (Wayne Duvall) makes a reference to vegans.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Faithful Man (2018, Louis Garrel)

This is a public service announcement. With all the closures and cancellations due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19, more and more people are staying at home. Netflix is okay and all, but I recently resubscribed to MUBI. It wasn't because of the panicking; they actually had good films programmed.

Director Louis Garrel has a very famous father: director Philippe Garrel. It must be hard to live in his shadow. As an actor, Louis has been doing well for years. This is Louis' second feature that he's directed. The first: Les Deux amis (2015) is pretty unknown to me, even though I'm a French film fanatic.

A Faithful Man stars model-turned-actress Laetitia Casta (who also played Brigitte Bardot in the Gainsbourg biopic directed by Joann Sfar). In France, I once bought an issue of Vogue just because it featured Casta with the most amazing fuchsia hair on the cover. Whether blonde, brunette, or otherwise, Casta's presence is electric. Her character, Marianne, and Louis Garrel's Abel live together. What starts out as a very standard film quickly turns out to be the blackest of black comedies.

Co-written by Jean-Claude Carrière (co-writer of several Buñuel films including Belle de jour and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), the film is very sophisticated. It turns in a weird direction when it shifts to the POV of Ève (Lily-Rose Depp). Ève has a crush on Abel and turns up at every corner, trying to prove her love for him despite the fact that he is in a relationship with someone else. Lily-Rose Depp, like Louis Garrel, also has famous parents: Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp. Bearing a very striking resemblance to her mother, especially in this film, she is like a young Paradis that never aged at all. Lily-Rose holds her own, but I would have liked to see her character developed in a more interesting way.

Thanks to MUBI for bringing his second feature to the very small screen. It expires at midnight tonight for U.S. audiences, so get on it!

Vegan alert:
Animals at farm (intended for slaughter)

First Cow (2020, Kelly Reichardt)

"What a sweet girl you are."
First Cow opens with Alia Shawkat (credited as "Woman with Dog") going for a walk along such a beautiful backdrop and discovering human bones buried in the dirt. We are never brought back to present day à la Gangs of New York, but I suppose that is fine. The movie's negative is 35mm and the aspect ratio is 1.37 : 1; for some reason when it was projected, it had a square 16mm look.
"Tastes like something my momma made."
I was struck how in touch with nature this film was: the plant life and the tenderness shown toward animals (when they weren't being killed or exploited). The narrative was strong albeit a little slow. The premise is that two opportunists, Cookie Figowitz (John Magaro) and King Lu (Orion Lee) steal milk from the only one cow (Evie) in town to make biscuits. At first, they're careful and then they get greedy. In addition to living among fur trappers, cruelty to humans is also explored: a baby is left in a bar for an undetermined period of time and a story is told about a man who received twenty lashes for mutiny. 

It's an interesting character exploration which is where director Kelly Reichardt excels. The characters are not limited to humans and the scenery is simply gorgeous.

Vegan alert:
-Squirrels hunted to eat and their lifeless bodies shown on table
-Jerky reference
-Men wear fur coats and caps and leather
-Man fishing with net
-Cow tied up on barge
-Man leads a squealing pig with rope (very possibly to slaughter)
-Man has oysters and clams for sale at market
-Girl is forced to carry a heavy pail of milk
-King rips parts off of sea creatures for food
-Men have a cow milking conversation
-Stolen milk
-Honey featured
-Reference to beaver pelts and later pelts are shown hanging up in the market
-Visiting captain (Scott Shepherd) is "sick" of salmon
-Totillicum (Gary Farmer) says that beaver tail is delicious
-Cream references

Vegan points:
-Cookie picks mushrooms and turns a salamander right side up.
-Discussion that trails off: "God would have put cows here if he would have wanted..."
-While milking a cow is inherently anti-vegan, Cookie would always talk to the cow and pet it while he was milking her.
-A man pets a duckling.
-The cow, Evie, appears in the credits.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Lost Transmissions (2019, Katharine O'Brien)

"Don't let go. I'm drifting out of orbit."
I really enjoyed Lost Transmissions which included a subdued performance by Juno Temple and a screaming, schizophrenic Simon Pegg. Writer/director Katharine O'Brien was also the co-writer on The Automatic Hate, one of the top films of the 2010s.

I didn't really notice how against type Temple was playing until the Q&A. They discussed how she was more internal, which didn't strike me, because she was very present and still very full of different emotions. Temple plays Hannah, an upcoming American singer/songwriter that doesn't want to get caught up in the music "industry" and still wants to retain her sense of self. She still has issues and literal scars, but for the most part, she has overcome them. However, she still has a devil-may-care attitude: mocking Theo when he asks her to "whisper" the lyrics and sitting on the mixing board.
"They're not nails; they're claws."
Theo (Simon Pegg) thinks "they" are communicating underneath the static of the radio. Despite having lots of work, he thinks he has a "flatlining career". Other people refer to Theo's "insanity" and it's clear that he has issues as he insults people, trespasses on others' property, and goes in and out of mental hospitals. With a story personal to writer/director Katharine O'Brien, she talks about how this story was based on a friend of hers.
"Ghosts are memories that electrons have."
With cinematography by Arnau Valls Colomer, the film features Juno Temple's Hannah in the studio at the end. A beautiful double reflection occurred which Temple referred to as a "split reflection". Moments like this made me realize how smooth everything came out. They also used LiveGrain to give the film a more analog feel.

Jonathan Bates wrote most of the original songs and co-wrote "Sleepless Days, Sleepless Nights" with Juno Temple who also performed the song.

 In the Q&A, Juno Temple talked about how she didn't think she could be a method actor or she'd be dead fifteen times over. Another interesting fact is that she said she color-coded her script based on her character's emotions.

 A very interesting film, both it and its soundtrack is due to be released Friday, March 13, 2020.

Q&A with actress Juno Temple and writer/director Katharine O'Brien, moderated by Jeff Goldsmith

Vegan alert:
-Hannah puts milk in her cereal
-Hannah wears wool sweaters
-Man with fur coat
-Theo wears a fur cap
-Hannah's wool animal print sweater dress

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

House of Games (1987, David Mamet)

"Save your money, Joe. Semper fi."
I was really impressed when I saw House of Games directed by David Mamet ten years ago: March, 2010. I just rewatched it at the Aero in Santa Monica, CA, as part of their noir film festival. Apparently, I bought the VERY last ticket, as I just happened to be at the Aero Sunday afternoon as well. I didn't necessarily think of the film as noir, but it worked for the programming.
"Oh, babe, you're mucking up my timing."
I have to say that the beginning felt a little bit stunted. I didn't remember all the details and Mamet fooled me once again, even though I got suspicious toward the end. Some things that perturbed me this time (light spoilers):
-It looked like the bartender was reading a script
-Mike (Joe Mantegna) talks to Margaret (Lindsay Crouse) so loudly about George (Ricky Jay) that he must have heard him
-Joey (Mike Nussbaum) and Mike explain a tell to Margaret so loudly while the cop is in the bathroom that he must have heard
-Mike and his pals borrow more than twice the amount of money they'll make back for a job
-Mike tells Margaret she'll have a strong urge to confess to a crime in front of the cabbie
"The bitch has killed us."
Vegan alert:
-Margaret has silk underclothes
-Waldorf salad (not vegan with mayo)
"Didn't I tell you? What did I just say?"
Q&A with David Mamet (writer/director) and Eddie Muller (host)
March 9, 2020