Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2016.5
These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of over 900 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood. YMMV.
- Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) — 7/10
- This is a slow—some might say well-paced—and careful introduction to capitalism in the 20th and 21st centuries, as practiced in the U.S. There are few Michael Moore-esque moments, but it’s overall quite an even-handed treatment of the history of the topic. There is an emphasis on the more recent decades—in particular the crash of 2008 and its causes. Definitely an interesting viewing for those unfamiliar with the topic, but perhaps a bit too much time spent on the interviews with those on the bottom, affected by the crisis. I understand the point and heartily approve of humanizing the issue by showing that the “freeloaders” castigated in some parts of government and a good part of the media are just regular people, trying to get by. They might not seem very smart, but neither are most of us. Recommended.
- Deliverance (1972) — 6/10
Four guys prepare a canoe trip down the Cahulawassee River that’s about to be dammed up for good. Bobby (Ned Beatty) is probably the most overtly classist of the bunch. He’s paired up with Drew, who plays guitar and plays a lovely and impromptu duet with a young boy playing a banjo. After they arrange for their cars to be driven to meet them at the bottom of the river, Lewis (Burt Reynolds) and Ed (Jon Voight) lead everyone off to the river. He has trouble finding it though and the locals grin at him “Havin’ trouble?” … “We’ll find it.” … “It’s only the biggest fuckin’ river in the state.”
They start their journey and soon see the young boy on a bridge, but he doesn’t appear to recognize them. He looks slightly mentally handicapped, so it doesn’t surprise them that he seems to have forgotten.
The four guys shoot the rapids, having the time of their lives. (Environmental message: too bad it’s going to be dammed up, right?) As he fishes with his composite bow, Lewis pontificates, “The machines are gonna fail, the system’s gonna fail” and he can’t wait.
Beatty and Voight get out of their boat and are cornered by two other locals. They tie Voight to a tree by his neck with his own belt. Beatty is instructed to strip and they chase him around until he’s exhausted (he’s not in the best shape) and tell him to “squeal like a pig” before raping him. Voight’s next. They untie him and the rapist’s companion notes that Voight has “a real pretty mouth”. Before they can make good on that innuendo, Lewis (Reynolds) shows up with his compound bow and kills the rapist. Beatty lies catatonic in the leaves. They’re all speechless.
They break the silence to argue about what to do. After heated discussion, they vote to bury the body and leave the scene of the crime. The whole area is about to be covered with a lake soon (which is why they’re there—to experience the river one last time). They bury the body and continue down the river, but encounter large cascades and all lose their canoes and fall into the river. They figure out that Drew fell into the river first because he was shot. Or they think he was. Lewis is laid up with a gruesome and clearly painful compound fracture of the femur. The wooden canoe was destroyed but they recover the aluminum one.
At this point, the score between the locals and the city boys is 1 to 1. Voight climbs the ridge near the river, then falls asleep. He is awakened by a local, who shoots at him before Voight can put an arrow in him. Actually, he does shoot him, but also stabs himself with another arrow. Is that 2 to 1 now? He appears to have killed the wrong guy. It’s ok, though, because in the next scene, his self-inflicted wound is also magically gone.
They bury that dude in the river, then find their dead friend—who has no gunshot wound—and bury him in the river as well. Cue some more rapids and canoing and such. A classic, but not really recommended, unless you need to see it because Archer made you do it. I had an Archer’s Peppermint Patty cocktail during the showing.
- Trashed (2012) — 7/10
This is a documentary about garbage, starring and produced by Jeremy Irons. It starts a bit slowly, but picks up pace. It tells a story that is well stitched-together, starting with a discussion of landfills and the sheer unsustainability of them. From there, we move to incinerators and a discussion of dioxins and other emissions from those plants. There are issues with regulation and filtering, but some of the claims are scientifically dubious (e.g. we can’t see them and we can’t detect their effects, but we know they’re bad). Irons visits the museum of deformed babies in Vietnam but comparing the dioxin emissions from a modern incinerator with the sheer amount of dioxin dumped on Vietnam by the U.S. is a bit specious.
From there, we investigate whether it wouldn’t be better to just recycle more and visit various cities, discussing their efforts in this regard. San Fransisco features prominently, but they still generate a lot of garbage, recyclable or no. That they can afford to send it to China improves things only slightly. Finally, Irons shows us efforts to just use less stuff and to produce less garbage. The one lady he talks to, though, seems to impossibly claim that she and her three-person family only produced one bag of garbage in the previous year. This also seems highly suspect and more indicative of a very selective perception of which garbage is produced by a person. I suspect that this lady emptied her pockets of garbage in her friends’ homes in order to make this happen.
Anyway, the message is clear and good and right and seems like the only sustainable one: use less, recycle as much as you can, stop planned obsolescence. But everyone’s gotta play, otherwise we all lose. Most likely, we’re all going to lose.
- Quills (2000) — 8/10
This is very pretty movie about the Marquis de Sade, played wonderfully by Geoffrey Rush. Kate Winslet is also very good as the winsome and coquettish laundry girl Madeleine, who works at the asylum that the Marquis calls home. Joaquin Phoenix plays Abbé Coulmier, who is sympathetic if not at all approving of the Marquis. Michael Caine plays Royer-Collard, a torturer assigned by the Emperor (Napoleon) to make sure that the Marquis’s works are no longer published.
As is so often the case, Royer-Collard, though holier than everyone and not averse to using a dunking chair for months on end to “cure” patients, takes a girl not yet sixteen as a wife (Amelia Warner as Simone) and visits her nightly, reminding the poor thing of her wifely duties as he takes her brutally from behind.
The Marquis soon finds out about this situation through the rumor mill, the effluent of which runs inexorably toward his cell. Being in charge of the theatre troupe at the asylum—staffed by an enthusiastic bunch of jolly fellows—the Marquis changes his standard fare to a new piece he’s written about Collard, regaling the attending nobility in lush detail of the holy man’s nightly visits to his unwilling bride. This is not especially well-accepted since the man (Collard) himself is in attendance. He allows it to continue and the play is only broken up when an inmate, excited by the florid language, attempts to take Madeleine behind the stage. She defends herself with a hot iron, avoiding the rape, but the whole incident is blamed on the Marquis and his incitement of lust with his material.
The Marquis is confined to his cell and told he is not allowed to write or publish anymore. His quills and paper are confiscated. He writes his next book with a chicken-bone quill, wine ink and bedsheet paper, duly smuggled out, transcribed and delivered to the publisher by Maddie. More restrictions follow and the Marquis is left only with the clothes on his back. He shatters a window pane and uses blood and glass shards to write his next book on his clothes. After this, the Abbé takes his clothes, leaving him naked in the cell.
In the meantime, Collard’s wife has discovered Justine, a book of libertine lust by the Marquis, and is aloof and distant to Collard, despite his clearly alluring manner and bedroom savoir faire (that was sarcasm). Caine plays him very well as an incorrigible and sanctimonious hypocrite. She ends up running away with the architect, but only after we’ve seen just how well she’s learned her lessons from the Marquis’s books.
Collard is super-pissed and needs no more reasons to take shit out his frustration on everyone else. Maddie is first because she’s super-saucy and the Abbé has to jump in to save her from a whipping. She thinks they’re all dicks and doesn’t see the difference between the Abbé and Collard, doesn’t see why society prefers the Abbé’s cruel God and whatever the fuck Collard is to what the Marquis has to offer, which is at least escapist and fun.
At any rate, the Abbé sends Maddie away for her own protection. Maddie exhorts the Marquis to tell her just one more tale before she leaves and he devises a plan to use a gossip chain composed of his fellow mentally unstable inmates—“Who knows? Maybe they’ll improve it”—to read to her in the laundry room, where she scrawls it down. The Marquis’s lovely prose is dumbed down considerably but it works after a fashion, until one of the inmates, a pyromaniac, is too taken with a bit of the story with fire in it, grabs a candle from the adjoining room through the hole whereby he’d whispered his stories and sets his bed afire.
This starts an alarm throughout the asylum and many inmates escape into the halls, including the giant who’d attacked Maddie and who (A) hadn’t forgotten what he was after and (B) is once again aroused by another of the Marquis’s stories. He ends up grabbing Maddie and killing her, much to the chagrin of the Abbé. The Marquis is imprisoned in deep hole in the ground, covered in chains. Collard is firmly in charge and the Abbé firmly in his sway. The Abbé descends into the Marquis’s cell with helpers and, though expressing regret, has his tongue cut out of his head, embalmed in a jar and presented to Collard.
Collard is happy, the Abbé whines that he’ll never sleep again and the Marquis is busy writing his next story in his own feces. The guards call the Abbé back down to the dungeon, where he tries to give the Marquis last rites before killing him. In this, too, the Marquis thwarts him, as he takes the cross into his mouth and swallows it, choking himself to death rather than kissing it.
A year later, we see a new Abbé introduced to Collard, who is now fully in charge of the prison—and making money hand over fist publishing exclusive copies of the Marquis’s work and most likely pocketing most of the handsome profits himself. The end. The Marquis kind of won, in that he never gave up or gave in, in that he was the most moral of all the agents in the story, in that his stories are published, in that Collard’s entire life is now subsumed to his (the Marquis’s) oeuvre and he’s too vain to even notice. The former Abbé is imprisoned in the Marquis’s former cell and is quite mad. The true winner was Collard’s wife, who got away scot-free and presumably lived a much better life than she would’ve had she stayed in either the convent or with Collard.
- Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado (2016) — 5/10
- Though there were a few bits of good material, most of it was kind of bland. I didn’t particularly like his delivery, which seemed to wait a bit too long for a reaction, either because he didn’t have enough material or because he thought his material was funnier than everyone else. The crowd wasn’t very enthusiastic, despite his buttering them up considerably at the beginning. Not recommended.
- Fargo: Season 2 (2015) — 9/10
Even better than the first season, with a lot of strong performances. The strongest, however, is delivered by Patrick Wilson as State Trooper Lou Solverson. Plus, Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan.
“Babysitter: Camus says knowin’ we’re gonna die makes life absurd.
“Wife: Well I don’t know who that is [dismissively], but I’m guessin’ he doesn’t have a six-year–old girl.”
She was almost pissed that the girl had even brought it up. It was well-acted, the dismissiveness, it felt true. People don’t want to discuss anything but what they already know. They’re only happy reiterating to cement that knowledge as truth.
Life has meaning.
What meaning? To procreate. To make more life.
“Babysitter: He’s French.
“Wife: Ugh. I don’t care if he’s from Mars. Nobody with any sense’d say something that foolish.”
And with that, she’s just dismissed any intellectual curiosity the girl might have had. (Though hopefully not extinguished.)
“Babysitter: (Looks away, disappointed.)
“Wife: We’re put on this Earth to do a job. And each of us gets the time we get…to do it. And when this life is over and you stand in front of the Lord, well you try tellin’ him it was some Frenchman’s joke.”
You won’t have to, though, because he’ll already know. Seriously, you look at this world and think that God is on your side and not that of Camus? So sad.
I felt bad for the babysitter because there she sat, having watched over wife and her child all night while they slept. All she would have liked in return is a discussion, an engagement of the mind, a chance to take the ideas she’d learned out for a walk, see how they work in real life. And this other woman? Utterly incapable of taking that walk with her. Not only incapable, but unwilling. She already has all of the answers, she has a surety.
There is a purpose. Existentialism is just a long word.
Why must there be a purpose? Otherwise she’d have to consider that having brought a child into a world without purpose to be a crime against that child, perhaps against the world. NO. The child is a gift to the world. A gift that will be raised by a woman who knows all the answers. The child is not a gift to the woman herself, and the woman wants to feel good about herself for having brought the child into the world, so the world MUST make sense. Putting aside that the world—her God—has also given her cancer from which she will likely die. Instead of seeing this as a cruel joke of happenstance—or, if you like, a capricious and demented God—she IGNORES it.
That’s the arrogance of mankind, to at the same time think that there’s an omnipotent being and also that he gives a shit about each and every one of us. The sheep assuage their feelings of loneliness and uselessness with these thoughts, in a haze of deliberate ignorance. Every opportunity is taken to plaster more mud on the shield against any information to the contrary.
These are the people who are best suited, best trained, to function in the society that we have on offer, though. Don’t color outside the lines, don’t think outside the box. They are happy. Camus was also happy, but it took him a while to get there. That is, when he realized that nothing meant anything, he also realized that any struggles were meaningless but if he took them up anyway, they were his own, to amuse himself until he could shuffle off this mortal coil.
No-one has any obligation to continue—unless progeny enter into it. But whence this desire to promulgate? This conviction that it’s the only goal, the only way to impart meaning? It springs from the same society, the same propaganda, to which the believer is so aptly suited. Those with children are always so righteous about the rightness of their choice, the entitlement to the happiness of their offspring. They need to be, in order to recruit others to their cause in shaping a world in which they can survive. Anyone purporting that life has no real meaning—or, rather, that meaning comes from within and is individual and malleable—is the enemy. Such enemies could, at any time, decide that they don’t feel like playing anymore, don’t feel like putting the sum total of their energy into making the world habitable for even more people, none of whom have any real meaning.
In the context of the show, the wife is dying of cancer, and dozens and dozens of people have been killed. The guy who killed most of them got away with it. The lady (Peggy) who triggered the avalanche of death thinks she’s the victim. The world is absurd, no? How could an intelligent person come to any other conclusion than that? But no, she thinks that God made the world for man and that her job is to squirt out kids so that they … can squirt out more kids? Talk about low expectations. No vision. Better to accept absurdity and no meaning. This is not to say: do nothing. Kill yourself. No, no, but find your own purpose … and it doesn’t matter what it is as long it makes you happy, passes the time until you can shuffle off this mortal coil—or, at the very least, until you can sink into Lethe for a few hours, until you have to start passing time again.
Being an existentialist does not mean you have no purpose.
I seem to have gotten off the track of my Fargo review, I fear. Meh. As I said at the top, lots of good performances, but Patrick Wilson as Lou Solverson and Zahn McClarnon as Hanzee Dent are a revelation. Highly recommended.
- Minions (2015) — 6/10
It has its moments, more toward the end as the characters slowly find their pitch. Kevin, Stuart and Bob are adorable and their language is an adorable mix of vaguely recognizable snippets of European languages (e.g. “Entschuldigung, la Boss!”). The story is of the minions tribe from the very beginning of time to the modern day—well, the 60s or so. The minions don’t appear to age, procreate or die. They just are. Though they seem to enjoy food, they don’t seem to need a clear source of food. They are trapped in a barren, icy cave for what seems like hundreds of years.
Eventually, three of them set forth in search of a new boss, heading for the Villain-Con, where they want to meet and start working for Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock). She ends up hiring them, gives them the job of stealing the crown jewels in England, which they do, but they also somehow crown themselves king (well, Bob does). Scarlett is livid, but Bob cheerfully gives her the crown and she schedules her official coronation. A bunch of other stuff happens, the minions burble, Scarlett is defeated and the minions are saved, in the end, by a very young Gru.
- Behind the Candelabra (2013) — 7/10
This is a made-for-HBO movie about the life and times of Walter Liberace (played by Michael Douglas). We pick up the story of his life after he’s become famous and just as Scott Thorson (played by Matt Damon) enters his life. They are introduced by a mutual friend, played by Scott Bakula. Liberace’s long-time manager Seymour is played by Dan Akroyd.
Scott quickly moves in with Liberace and they seem quite happy together, with Scott slowly becoming accustomed to life as a live-in boyfriend. After seeing himself in a TV performance, Liberace wants plastic surgery and visits a plastic surgeon who clearly practices on himself, played by Rob Lowe. When Liberace suggests that Scott get surgery as well, so that he can be made to look like a young Liberace, Lowe is on board and suggests additionally that Scott needs to lose a bunch of weight (which he’d gained since moving in).
Their relationship continues for years until Liberace meets someone new and has finally grown tired of putting up with Scott’s growing drug habit (started by Lowe’s diet medication, which was most likely amphetamines). There is a blow-up, a lawsuit but Scott eventually leaves relatively quietly. Years later, he sees Liberace one last time, before he dies of complications caused by AIDS.
- Self/less (2015) — 6/10
Ben Kingsley is Damian, an extraordinarily rich developer and builder in New York City. Kind of an asshole. Used to getting what he wants. His wife is long gone, his daughter is estranged, running publicity campaigns against the kind of real-estate development that he does. He has cancer and is not long for this world. He looks into “shedding”, which is a fictitious technique whereby the mind is moved into a new body. He visits the facilities and wonders why they seem simultaneously sophisticated and fly-by-night.
Soon after, he experiences a close call and feel the reaper’s cold breath on his neck. He calls the “shedding” company and they give him instructions to go to a certain café in New Orleans and order a certain drink—chicory coffee. He is allergic and knows he will suffer a shock. The ambulance picks him up, but it’s going to the secret hospital where his consciousness will be transferred to another body, while the world thinks him dead.
After the procedure, which looks remarkably like an MRI, he wakes up in Ryan Reynolds’s body. He trains, becomes accustomed to the body and learns to stick to his medication because otherwise memories from the body start to melt back in. It takes him a really long time to realize that the body into which he was placed was not grown, but taken. His curiosity—and newfound niceness—takes him on a journey to St. Louis, where there’s a landmark he recognizes from the other memories. Lo and behold, he finds his body’s former family, but the “shedders” are close behind because they really don’t want him messing with the program.
It’s unclear why he’s messing with the program—through some misguided empathy?—because he continues to take the drugs to suppress the other man’s (Mark) memories. He seems to feel sorry for Mark’s wife and daughter. Mark only agreed to the procedure because he needed money to pay for his daughter’s illness. She has in the meantime been cured—so that worked—but she thinks her father drowned. Now he’s back, but with a different mind in his body. The wife is played by Natalie Martinez, who’s either not a very good actress or not able to make very much with the terribly generic “wife” role. I didn’t really like her in Under the Dome either.
In his quest for help, Damian/Mark visits his old, best friend, who turns him in because SURPRISE his friend has already used shedding to resurrect his son. Feigned surprises all around. Mark/Damian is on the run again, with wife and child in tow. They leave there, do a bunch of bad-ass stuff with cars, then track down the current location of the clinic, where Damian/Mark kills the head doctor, after having prevented a transfer to his body with a bit of metal in his mouth. (Really?)
Damian once again abandons the family, sending them to his personal island. He has a change of heart, lets Mark take over and exhorts him in a post-mortem video to seek out and reunite with his family. The end.
- Fed Up (2014) — 6/10
- This is a documentary about nutrition in the United States, narrated by Katie Couric. While it has some good information, I found a bunch of the human-interest stuff far too heavy-handed. Watch Food Inc. instead.