Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)

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Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)

Postby Raxivace » Sat Jan 04, 2020 7:11 am

1. What Lies Beneath (2000, Dir. Robert Zemeckis) – Starts out as “Rear Window, but with a ghost” and turns into “Suspicion, but with a ghost and the husband actually being a killer”. Pretty disappointing movie all around, it feels pretty phoned in from everyone.

The only kind of standout sequence is Harrison Ford trying to drown a drugged Michelle Pfeiffer in a bathtub.

2. Marnie (Rewatch, 1964, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock) – Yeah rewatching this movie the Mark character is played a lot more ambiguously than I gave credit for the first time. I'm still not sure its quite one of Hitchcock's absolute best films, but a few things struck me this time about the movie. Firstly, is this the closest that Hitchcock came to a pure character drama since like Rebecca? The suspense sequences are here but they seem kind of downplayed as a story element in favor of the uneasy character drama between Mark and Marnie.

Also Mark being not only a widower feels like a weird story addition to me, but being lusted after by his former sister-in-law leads to one of the odder love triangles Hitchcock ever did. It almost feels like coded incest to me, and raises a lot of questions about Mark's life.

3. The Trouble With Marnie (2000, Dir. Laurent Bouzerau) – Pretty interesting little documentary. I’d say the biggest surprise hear was learning about the debate about writing the rape scene. Originally Hitchcock had a male writer named Evan Hunter working on the script with him, but Hunter hated the rape scene and thought it made the Mark character unsympathetic and irreedeemable (I don't think he's necesarily wrong, but I'm not sure the point of the character is that he's supposed to be a good guy). Hunter was fired and was replaced with Jay Presson Allen, a woman and a playwright, who not only wasn’t opposed to to the rape scene, she apparently didn't even view it as a rape scene (Which I find baffling for many reasons).

Also that weird sister-in-law character I mentioned was apparently a male character in the novel that Marnie is based on, who was in love with Marnie the character instead of Mark. That's a pretty significant change, making Mark the center of the love triangle instead of Marnie, though nobody seems to have an explanation for why this was done. Taking a glance through the Truffaut interview book, neither him nor Hitchcock seem to really dive very deeply into the film either, though Hitchcock does mention something about not being satisfied with how Mark's family is portrayed and not really understanding where they come from (Though he singles out Mark's father in particular, and not this weird sister-in-law character).
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #1

Postby Lord_Lyndon » Sat Jan 04, 2020 9:09 am

Tieman's review of Marnie (1964):
"Marnie" opens powerfully at a train station, director Alfred Hitchcock focusing on an immaculately suited woman and the yellow purse clutched tightly, possessively, under her arm. She's Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren), a part-time thief who specialises in infiltrating companies and robbing them of their savings. When corporate head Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) is fleeced by Marnie, he becomes infatuated with the woman. He follows her, pursues her, and finally uses Marnie's criminality to blackmail her into marriage. After much domestic turmoil, Connery (cast because of his real life misogyny? The misogyny of his James Bond character?) then learns that Marnie is both sexually frigid and has a deep, traumatic aversion to men. Why? After being abandoned by her husband, Marnie's mother was forced into prostitution to make ends meet. It is then implied that Marnie was abused by and murdered one of her mother's "clients".

Upon release, "Marnie" was criticised for being "melodramatic", "unrealistic" and "fake looking". Expressionism was on the way out and audiences were beginning to gravitate toward the literalism of new Hollywood, which was cash rich and busy absorbing European neorealist movements. With the toppling of various codes and strictures, Western films also began to develop a certain explicitness; everything could be shown, and so should be. The hidden was out, the mystery was gone. In came an obsession with the verbatim and the prosaic, everything rendered directly and vulgarly with the explicitness of cash. What you see is what you get.

But "Marnie" was rooted firmly in turn-of-the-century German Expressionism. The film was proudly retro, its plot consisting of a series of dreams within dreams (characters are constantly "waking up"), all told with big, lurid images and Bernard Herrmann's pounding score. And as with the best of Hitchcock, "Marnie" had a voluptuous quality, Hitchcock's colours luminous, his matte paintings proudly artificial, every shot injected with a certain grandeur. Audiences hated it. Hitchcock was having a blast. The film's packed to the brim with phallic trains, symbolic orgasms, roiling waves, vaginal handbags, looming men, huge painted boats (symbollically dwarfing the childhood home in which sailors abused Marnie's mom) and virile horses. Sex is everywhere.

Whilst typically thought of as another one of Hitchcock's "mommy pictures", "Marnie" is as much about fathers and sons as it is about mothers and daughters. Mark's family is structured around the ghostly memory/reverence of a lost son/brother, and whilst Marnie is fatherless and sibling-less, Mark adores daddy and has his own complementary and oppositional deficiencies; he's neurotic, she psychotic, she runs, he interferes, she denies, he controls. Much of the film then watches as Mark turns into a quasi psychologist, determined to pick apart Marnie's fragile psyche in an effort to determine why she's unstable, frigid and kleptomaniacal.

But is Mark a good guy or is he, to be blunt, a rapist? Mark originally wanted to be a zoologist, and displays no emotion other than intellectual curiosity. He sees Marnie as but a specimen to be examined. An insect to be kept. Elsewhere his home library is filled with old-fashioned and misogynistic titles ("Sexual Aberrations of the Female Criminal" etc). Detached and almost apathetic, Mark seems to desire only to keep Marnie close, to possess her, his tight control over Marnie's life and psyche bordering on the abusive. Couple this with the fact that Mark refuses to talk about his ex-wife (what happened to her?) and has effectively seduced his sister in law (reducing her to a sex-starved teenager and loyal lapdog) and you have a very strange character. Though at times compassionate, Mark's mostly a paternalistic overlord who uses literal rape, and psychoanalysis as a kind of invasive meta-rape, on Marnie. Even when he helps her, Mark implicates Marnie and places the blame firmly on women. This of course echoes Hitchcock's reported treatment of Tippi Hedren ("He was a misogynist; not doubt about it" she says in interviews), his attempts to control her, possess her and destroy her career.

Late in the film Marnie and Mark have a confrontation on an ocean liner, the gigantic vessel reminding Marnie of her mother's clients (sailors) and the ships parked, like monsters, outside her home. Marnie wants to be left alone, but the couple have sex instead and Hitchcock stages the event as a rape. The audience is initially with Mark and positioned to believe that a little "manhandling", a little "sexual healing", is all Marnie needed (Mark even uses condescendingly sexist phrases like "boning up on" etc). The idea that frigid women simply need a little rough sex is of course resolutely sexist (the old, sexist notion that if "she" refuses to have sex then something is clinically wrong with "her"). But we don't realise this until poor Marnie attempts to commit suicide immediately afterwards. Even then Mark sees nothing wrong with his actions.

What's problematic is this: whilst admitting that this is an act of rape, Hitchcock goes on to rationalise the act from Mark's perspective. Then, in his final sequence, shot with a strange lens so as to distort Marnie's childhood bedroom, thereby capturing her disjointed, fragmented psyche, Marnie becomes "normal" and "cured", and by extension now available to Mark. Hitchcock's films frequently collide male sexual desire with the denial of female agency and identity ("Vertigo", "Man Who Knew Too Much", "Notorious" etc), but here Mark is seemingly absolved, shifts the blame for Marnie's frigidity onto her mother and positions himself as a white knight. The film's faith in its lead couple then goes uncontested. Or does it? Hitchcock closing moments hint that Marnie's newfound relationship will be "like jail", and a symbolic shot of a basketball recalls a tale by Marnie mother, in which she explains that women give their bodies only in an attempt to get things from men. In Marnie's case, she's stuck with Mark because the alternative is prison, their relationship still founded on blackmail and an abuse of power.

8.5/10 – Masterpiece.

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #2

Postby Raxivace » Sat Jan 04, 2020 9:54 am

I don't think film really absolves Mark, or tries to suggest Marnie is necessarily in a better place now. The big thing that review misses is that one of the closing shots of the film is one of the parked ships outside the mother's home, which recalls not only Bruce Dern trying to rape Marnie's mother but as Jimbo once noted, thematically links Mark as just another one of those sailors as well, as he assaulted Marnie on a cruise ship.

That parked ship is in one of the opening scenes of the film as well, so I think its just as easy to argue that Marnie has unfortunately fallen right back to where she was at the beginning, making the film a kind of tragedy.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #3

Postby Gendo » Sat Jan 04, 2020 3:47 pm

Seems strange that What Lies Beneath would be Zemeckis. I’ve never been interested in seeing it, but it’s definitely not his type of thing.

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Postby Raxivace » Sat Jan 04, 2020 4:39 pm

Gendo wrote:Seems strange that What Lies Beneath would be Zemeckis. I’ve never been interested in seeing it, but it’s definitely not his type of thing.
Yeah it really isn't. Just by watching the movie you can tell he's really got no passion for this kind of story.

Like that same year he put out Cast Away which is a much better film from what I can remember, and much more in his wheelhouse.
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Postby Gendo » Sat Jan 04, 2020 5:09 pm

I'm a huge fan of Cast Away; seen it at least a dozen times.

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Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sun Jan 05, 2020 6:27 am

Raxivace wrote:1. What Lies Beneath (2000, Dir. Robert Zemeckis)
I know I saw this back when it came out, but I remember literally nothing now other than the title...

Raxivace wrote:2. Marnie (Rewatch, 1964, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock) –
I think you know I feel this is a flat-out masterpiece. I currently have it as my 3rd favorite Hitch (behind Vertigo and Rear Window) and in my top 20 overall. I don't know if I'd say it's Hitch's "purest" character drama since Rebecca, but I think it's debatable. My first thought was that The Wrong Man, just a few years before this, is basically a character drama with just the thinnest premise of Hitch's "man wrongly accused" plot device underlying it. I think a lot of Hitch films are kinda like that though; they have a really thin/flimsy premise that sets the plot in motion, which is then just a means of exploring characters and character dynamics. Marnie might be unique in that even its thriller aspects are driven by character quirks though (Marnie being a klepto). Maybe Suspicion and Shadow of a Doubt are a bit like that too in that all the thrills/tension are generated because of who the characters are.

Tieman's review is excellent overall, but I think it hits the typical pitfall of reviewers who look to films to make judgments on characters. I've said it before, but Hitch is in the Shakespearean mold of observation rather than judgment. The reason so many of his films are ambiguous is because he presents rather than tells. It's rare that his heroes or villains are one-dimensionally heroic or villainous. I don't think any of his characters walks both sides more so than Mark, though. The film may not judge him, per say, but it absolutely connects him with the sailor that raped Marnie's mother. Hitch, of course, loved this doubling technique; Strangers on a Train being his most obvious usage, but it's all over films like Shadow of a Doubt, Vertigo, and Spellbound too, and it essentially draws parallels between things (events, characters) and asks us to make judgments of what separates these two things.

I essentially see Marnie's ending similarly to Vertigo. Vertigo's real tragedy, IMO, is the damn-near nihilistic notion that ignorance and knowledge leads to the same place, death. Scottie tries to save Madeleine and fails, thinking it was his fault that she falls to her death; he learns the truth, conquers his fear, but this time Madeleine/Judy falls and dies for real. So the "hero's" ability to overcome and find the truth still leads to tragedy, only it happens for real this time rather than as a fantasy. With Marnie, Marnie's mother is raped so she acts cold to Marnie, Marnie learns to hate men and take everything for herself. She builds up a similar delusive, protective wall that prevents her from seeing the truth. Mark rapes Marnie, essentially repeating the tragedy that caused the entire problem, and while that breaks through her shell, it just leaves her a fragile, broken child who turns to her mother for comfort, and her mother is as cold to her as she always was, and we get the last shot of the ship hovering over everything. So two blondes, two bell-towers, two deaths; two blondes, two rapes, two psychological scars. In neither film does the "heroe's" "heroic deeds" do any good; in Vertigo's case, it just leads to an actual death, while in Marnie's case it just leads to a repeat of the tragedy and a further broken/unhealed psyche. There are some respects in which I think Marnie is even more interesting because at least Vertigo's ending in unmistakably tragic; Marnie's ending, and really the entire damn film, is just so ambiguous, on ever level, for every character, damn near every event.

I think, when you combine that ambiguity with it being one of Hitch's most visually striking films, that's what pushes it into masterpiece status. Tieman touched on it, but it really is a German Expressionism film, perhaps Hitch's richest and lushest color film along with Vertigo. My mom had it on TV not too long ago, and every time I'd catch a glimpse I'd be struck with the power of the images, so many of which were like still paintings; yet in the context of the film, the way Hitch uses color, especially, to punctuate the drama creates this level of abstraction that in itself seems to mimic the narrative's ambiguity (since abstract paintings themselves have no inherent meaning). Of course, Tieman was also correct that this made the film seem extremely old-fashioned at the time, but I'd take it over pretty much all the "gritty realism" films that New Hollywood was making popular back then. Now the film looks almost avant-garde, even in the context of Hitch's filmography it's pretty striking and original.

So... yeah, I guess you could say I'm a fan. :)

Raxivace wrote:3. The Trouble With Marnie (2000, Dir. Laurent Bouzerau) –
I did not know about this... Guess I'll have to watch it! I don't know if you've read anything by Robin Wood, but he was probably the biggest fan of Marnie and is largely responsible for keeping that film's reputation alive all these years. He famously said that if you don't like Marnie, you don't like Hitchcock, and even (more hyperbolic) If you don't like Marnie, you don't like film. That might've been a bridge too far, but I understand the sentiment.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #7

Postby Raxivace » Sun Jan 05, 2020 7:20 am

Eva Yojimbo wrote:
Raxivace wrote:1. What Lies Beneath (2000, Dir. Robert Zemeckis)
I know I saw this back when it came out, but I remember literally nothing now other than the title...
Yeah its just not all that memorable of a movie, unfortunately.

Did you ever see that movie Personal Shopper? By that Olivier Assayas guy. That's kind of what it reminds me of now that I'm thinking about it some more, but I think I liked Assayas' movie even less than I did Zemeckis' lol.

I think you know I feel this is a flat-out masterpiece. I currently have it as my 3rd favorite Hitch (behind Vertigo and Rear Window) and in my top 20 overall. I don't know if I'd say it's Hitch's "purest" character drama since Rebecca, but I think it's debatable. My first thought was that The Wrong Man, just a few years before this, is basically a character drama with just the thinnest premise of Hitch's "man wrongly accused" plot device underlying it. I think a lot of Hitch films are kinda like that though; they have a really thin/flimsy premise that sets the plot in motion, which is then just a means of exploring characters and character dynamics. Marnie might be unique in that even its thriller aspects are driven by character quirks though (Marnie being a klepto). Maybe Suspicion and Shadow of a Doubt are a bit like that too in that all the thrills/tension are generated because of who the characters are.
Wrong Man is a good counter-example, but I like what you say about the thriller aspects being driven by character quirks.

Tieman's review is excellent overall, but I think it hits the typical pitfall of reviewers who look to films to make judgments on characters. I've said it before, but Hitch is in the Shakespearean mold of observation rather than judgment. The reason so many of his films are ambiguous is because he presents rather than tells. It's rare that his heroes or villains are one-dimensionally heroic or villainous. I don't think any of his characters walks both sides more so than Mark, though. The film may not judge him, per say, but it absolutely connects him with the sailor that raped Marnie's mother. Hitch, of course, loved this doubling technique; Strangers on a Train being his most obvious usage, but it's all over films like Shadow of a Doubt, Vertigo, and Spellbound too, and it essentially draws parallels between things (events, characters) and asks us to make judgments of what separates these two things.
Image

There are some respects in which I think Marnie is even more interesting because at least Vertigo's ending in unmistakably tragic; Marnie's ending, and really the entire damn film, is just so ambiguous, on ever level, for every character, damn near every event.
Yeah that's what really struck me this watch, how like everyone here is hard to get a read on.

One thing we haven't talked about really yet is how obsessed this movie is with horses, which seem significant for how much animals/animal-behavior comes up in the dialogue, Mark's job etc. Like Marnie shooting her horse seems like it must be symbolic of something, but I'm not quite sure what.

I think, when you combine that ambiguity with it being one of Hitch's most visually striking films, that's what pushes it into masterpiece status. Tieman touched on it, but it really is a German Expressionism film, perhaps Hitch's richest and lushest color film along with Vertigo. My mom had it on TV not too long ago, and every time I'd catch a glimpse I'd be struck with the power of the images, so many of which were like still paintings; yet in the context of the film, the way Hitch uses color, especially, to punctuate the drama creates this level of abstraction that in itself seems to mimic the narrative's ambiguity (since abstract paintings themselves have no inherent meaning). Of course, Tieman was also correct that this made the film seem extremely old-fashioned at the time, but I'd take it over pretty much all the "gritty realism" films that New Hollywood was making popular back then. Now the film looks almost avant-garde, even in the context of Hitch's filmography it's pretty striking and original.
Well you know I'm absolutely with you in finding the gritty realism of New Hollywood kind of boring.

It seems kind of obvious in retrospect, but one thing the special feature I mentioned pointed out is that Hitch went very much out of his way not to have any reds in the film except for in the parts that cause Marnie to really freak out (Like the one horse rider having the red...polka dotted shirt, IIRC). It's such a good touch.

So... yeah, I guess you could say I'm a fan. :)
I definitely like the movie a lot more than I did the first time around. I'll probably move into the "This is a masterpiece" status myself eventually, but I think I need more time to stew on a few aspects of the movie still, and probably a third watch.

I did not know about this... Guess I'll have to watch it! I don't know if you've read anything by Robin Wood, but he was probably the biggest fan of Marnie and is largely responsible for keeping that film's reputation alive all these years. He famously said that if you don't like Marnie, you don't like Hitchcock, and even (more hyperbolic) If you don't like Marnie, you don't like film. That might've been a bridge too far, but I understand the sentiment.
It was on my copy of the "Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Series" blu-ray. If you have that lying around somewhere go give it a look.

I think I've read more about Robin Wood than I have anything by him. I'd like to really dig into his Hitchcock writing at some point. He's actually featured as a talking head in this doc, and it even ends with that quote from him!
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #8

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:29 am

Raxivace wrote:
Eva Yojimbo wrote:
Raxivace wrote:1. What Lies Beneath (2000, Dir. Robert Zemeckis)
I know I saw this back when it came out, but I remember literally nothing now other than the title...
Yeah its just not all that memorable of a movie, unfortunately.

Did you ever see that movie Personal Shopper? By that Olivier Assayas guy. That's kind of what it reminds me of now that I'm thinking about it some more, but I think I liked Assayas' movie even less than I did Zemeckis' lol.
I have not. I didn't care for the other Assayas films I saw so was never in a hurry to see Personal Shopper.

Raxivace wrote:
There are some respects in which I think Marnie is even more interesting because at least Vertigo's ending in unmistakably tragic; Marnie's ending, and really the entire damn film, is just so ambiguous, on ever level, for every character, damn near every event.
Yeah that's what really struck me this watch, how like everyone here is hard to get a read on.

One thing we haven't talked about really yet is how obsessed this movie is with horses, which seem significant for how much animals/animal-behavior comes up in the dialogue, Mark's job etc. Like Marnie shooting her horse seems like it must be symbolic of something, but I'm not quite sure what.
I'm also not sure if this goes without saying, or if it really needs to be said: just how many films are like that? I mean, sure, there are ambiguous films, but in most of them I feel like once you get the right angle on them they're somewhat comprehensible. Eraserhead makes no sense, until you read it as the nightmares of a man terrified of being a husband and father, e.g. But with a film like Marnie it doesn't SEEM like it should be that ambiguous because it's not, afterall, an art-film the way something like Eraserhead or Last Year at Marienbad are; yet for how difficult to interpret it it is, and how much interpretation it demands and then thoroughly frustrates, it might as well be.

Yeah, I haven't dwelt too much on the horse thing either. My initial thought was that it might connect to Mark's job, but wasn't he more about insects or something? On second thought, it could just be symbolic of Marnie's whole psychology; here's this thing that she's spent so many years trying to control that's starting to get out of her control, so she tries to just kill it to avoid facing it... or something like that. One thing about that film I don't like is the awkward montage during that horse bit.

Raxivace wrote:It seems kind of obvious in retrospect, but one thing the special feature I mentioned pointed out is that Hitch went very much out of his way not to have any reds in the film except for in the parts that cause Marnie to really freak out (Like the one horse rider having the red...polka dotted shirt, IIRC). It's such a good touch.
The reds are the most obvious example, but there are also these shots that are against these massive single-color backgrounds that are quite striking. Even if they're not symbolic of anything (the way red is), it still makes for aesthetically potent visual.

Raxivace wrote:
So... yeah, I guess you could say I'm a fan. :)
I definitely like the movie a lot more than I did the first time around. I'll probably move into the "This is a masterpiece" status myself eventually, but I think I need more time to stew on a few aspects of the movie still, and probably a third watch.
I hope you get there. Be nice to have another ardent fan out there. [yes]

Raxivace wrote:
I did not know about this... Guess I'll have to watch it! I don't know if you've read anything by Robin Wood, but he was probably the biggest fan of Marnie and is largely responsible for keeping that film's reputation alive all these years. He famously said that if you don't like Marnie, you don't like Hitchcock, and even (more hyperbolic) If you don't like Marnie, you don't like film. That might've been a bridge too far, but I understand the sentiment.
It was on my copy of the "Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Series" blu-ray. If you have that lying around somewhere go give it a look.

I think I've read more about Robin Wood than I have anything by him. I'd like to really dig into his Hitchcock writing at some point. He's actually featured as a talking head in this doc, and it even ends with that quote from him!
I do have that, but haven't watched anything from it yet (my marathon was done on the old DVD box set).

I think his main book on Hitch was called Hitchcock Films Revisited. TBH, it's a pretty hit-and-miss read, in part because it contains criticism he wrote over many decades, some of which was after his approach to criticism radically changed (when he got much more into feminism, queer studies, etc.). Still, he also wrote some of the most insightful stuff I've read on Hitch, too, so it's worth picking up.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #9

Postby Raxivace » Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:29 am

Eva Yojimbo wrote:I have not. I didn't care for the other Assayas films I saw so was never in a hurry to see Personal Shopper.
It's bad (And I think a contender for worst film in the Criterion Collection), though I've seen a troubling amount of people praise it.

I'm also not sure if this goes without saying, or if it really needs to be said: just how many films are like that? I mean, sure, there are ambiguous films, but in most of them I feel like once you get the right angle on them they're somewhat comprehensible. Eraserhead makes no sense, until you read it as the nightmares of a man terrified of being a husband and father, e.g. But with a film like Marnie it doesn't SEEM like it should be that ambiguous because it's not, afterall, an art-film the way something like Eraserhead or Last Year at Marienbad are; yet for how difficult to interpret it it is, and how much interpretation it demands and then thoroughly frustrates, it might as well be.
Yeah the fatherhood fear thing makes most of Eraserhead make sense (I'm sorry but I don't believe Lynch when he says that's not what the film is about. It may not explain absolutely everything there like the Moon man or that woman with the cheeks but it explains a hell of a lot), but there doesn't seem to be any skeleton key for Marnie that settles the film.

Yeah, I haven't dwelt too much on the horse thing either. My initial thought was that it might connect to Mark's job, but wasn't he more about insects or something? On second thought, it could just be symbolic of Marnie's whole psychology; here's this thing that she's spent so many years trying to control that's starting to get out of her control, so she tries to just kill it to avoid facing it... or something like that. One thing about that film I don't like is the awkward montage during that horse bit.
I didn't catch specifically what the animals were, I'd have to check, but I remember him talking about "predators" and such a lot this time around which uh certainly took on a new significance for considering where his character goes!

Hey, do you think Mark murdered his wife or anything like that?

I hope you get there. Be nice to have another ardent fan out there. [yes]
Well it helps to have someone to talk about the movie with that doesn't immediately dismiss Hitchcock as misogynistic... Something young people seem a little too willing to do these days.

The other day I heard a podcast where one of the hosts said fucking De Palma had better female characters than Hitchcock did. Specifically that Angie Dickinson in Dressed to Kill was "more empowered" than Hitchcock's female leads. Maddening.

I do have that, but haven't watched anything from it yet (my marathon was done on the old DVD box set).
Give it a watch at some point and let me know what you think.

I think his main book on Hitch was called Hitchcock Films Revisited. TBH, it's a pretty hit-and-miss read, in part because it contains criticism he wrote over many decades, some of which was after his approach to criticism radically changed (when he got much more into feminism, queer studies, etc.). Still, he also wrote some of the most insightful stuff I've read on Hitch, too, so it's worth picking up.
I just ordered a copy off of Amazon.

If there are any specific sections you think I should take a look at, let me know.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #10

Postby Raxivace » Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:30 am

Oh god I just saw that Zizek has a Hitchcock book.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #11

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:06 am

Raxivace wrote:
Yeah, I haven't dwelt too much on the horse thing either. My initial thought was that it might connect to Mark's job, but wasn't he more about insects or something? On second thought, it could just be symbolic of Marnie's whole psychology; here's this thing that she's spent so many years trying to control that's starting to get out of her control, so she tries to just kill it to avoid facing it... or something like that. One thing about that film I don't like is the awkward montage during that horse bit.
I didn't catch specifically what the animals were, I'd have to check, but I remember him talking about "predators" and such a lot this time around which uh certainly took on a new significance for considering where his character goes!

Hey, do you think Mark murdered his wife or anything like that?
I may have been mixing him up with some other character that was an entomologist, because the "predator" bit rings a bell too, but wasn't there something in Marnie about Mark being an amateur something-or-other having to do with animals? I forget the exact term, though.

I don't recall any specific hints about Mark murdering his wife, but it's possible.

Raxivace wrote:
I hope you get there. Be nice to have another ardent fan out there. [yes]
Well it helps to have someone to talk about the movie with that doesn't immediately dismiss Hitchcock as misogynistic... Something young people seem a little too willing to do these days.

The other day I heard a podcast where one of the hosts said fucking De Palma had better female characters than Hitchcock did. Specifically that Angie Dickinson in Dressed to Kill was "more empowered" than Hitchcock's female leads. Maddening.
Hitchcock probably was a misogynist, but his films are a different matter. A huge problem there is the classic "strong female character" vs "strong character, female" distinction. Hitch didn't have many of the former, but he had plenty of the latter. Far more than most filmmakers (from any time, really). I'm also baffled by some of the comments there: "Even in a seemingly character study film like Marnie, Hitchcock's more interested in the psychology than he is the character." Like, [gonemad] [gonemad] [gonemad] So how do you separate the "psychology" from the "character?" I could see that argument to a certain degree in Spellbound, but even there Hitch is mostly concerned about how the characters frustrates our attempts at understanding them via psychology.

I'd almost like to turn the issue around in that thread: name filmmakers with more films of more developed, nuanced female characters than Hitchcock. It would be doable (even off the top of my head: Bergman, Haynes, Almodovar, Kieslowski... OK, doable, but I think if you were to go down the list of the greatest directors you'd realize how quickly you start to struggle to find names. It doesn't help that it seems the ideal most have in mind are females that fit into the mindless action roles that were typically for men (Ripley from the Alien franchise is one of the better examples, but even she's far less interesting than Marnie or most of Hitch's leading women).

Raxivace wrote:
I think his main book on Hitch was called Hitchcock Films Revisited. TBH, it's a pretty hit-and-miss read, in part because it contains criticism he wrote over many decades, some of which was after his approach to criticism radically changed (when he got much more into feminism, queer studies, etc.). Still, he also wrote some of the most insightful stuff I've read on Hitch, too, so it's worth picking up.
I just ordered a copy off of Amazon.

If there are any specific sections you think I should take a look at, let me know.
It's not a terribly long book so it's possible to read all of it. I'd have to go pick it up and scan through it to try to remember which parts were which. Of course read the ones on Marnie. I also think it was from that book where I realized just how far back (and how common/extensive) Hitch's "doubling" device was. I think he did an entire chapter on that.

EDIT: Oof, 448 pages is much longer than I remembered! I'll try to flip through my copy to see if I remember the better bits. Basically, all of the older stuff is consistently good, and I think his newer stuff was more variable. Of the newer essays, I do recall liking the one he wrote on Rope. I also think you can skip or scan over the introduction. I recall most of it being a kind of personal essay Wood wrote about how and why his perspectives changed. It's interesting as biography but doesn't say much about Hitch. I also recall the intro being quite long too.

Raxivace wrote:Oh god I just saw that Zizek has a Hitchcock book.
Yeah, I only remember it because it has a silly title like "Everything You Wanted to Know about Freud but Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock" or something like that (maybe it was Lacan instead of Freud?).
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #12

Postby Raxivace » Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:55 am

Eva Yojimbo wrote:I may have been mixing him up with some other character that was an entomologist, because the "predator" bit rings a bell too, but wasn't there something in Marnie about Mark being an amateur something-or-other having to do with animals? I forget the exact term, though.
Looking at the interview scene again, he just says he wanted to be a zoologist before getting his current job, but that he still tries to keep up with his field.

After that he starts going on about animal instincts, man's ancestors in the animal world, female predators as the criminals of the animal world, how he gets animals to like him etc. It really does feel reminiscient of Norman Bates and his stuffed birds tbh.

Even the way Connery plays Mark so calmly as the lightning from the storm starts flashing behind him and such adds this vaguely sinister feeling to the scene on a rewatch.

I don't recall any specific hints about Mark murdering his wife, but it's possible.
Everything about the dead wife is just so odd. Like at the film's beginning Mark mentions the pre-Colombian art items he has are the only things of his wife's that he's kept. Or how the wife's sister is so into Mark.

Just what is it that isn't being said, exactly, about the dead wife? It's just such an odd detail to keep in the movie since it doesn't seem to impact the plot in any real fashion. Like you could easily do this story without Mark being a widower.

It doesn't help that it seems the ideal most have in mind are females that fit into the mindless action roles that were typically for men (Ripley from the Alien franchise is one of the better examples, but even she's far less interesting than Marnie or most of Hitch's leading women).
This is the thing that frustrates me most about these complaints, I think. I'm much more interested in characters like Marnie.

Also tbh I've never understood the fascination with the Ripley character. She always seemed a little bland even by genre movie standards to me, both in how she's written and even the performance to a degree.

It's not a terribly long book so it's possible to read all of it. I'd have to go pick it up and scan through it to try to remember which parts were which. Of course read the ones on Marnie. I also think it was from that book where I realized just how far back (and how common/extensive) Hitch's "doubling" device was. I think he did an entire chapter on that.
Well I'll definitely check out the ones on Marnie and doubling.

It's been a long time since I've seen Rope so that might be due a rewatch before I read a chapter on it.

Yeah, I only remember it because it has a silly title like "Everything You Wanted to Know about Freud but Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock" or something like that (maybe it was Lacan instead of Freud?).
It was Lacan but yeah.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #13

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Tue Jan 07, 2020 3:00 am

Raxivace wrote:
Eva Yojimbo wrote:I may have been mixing him up with some other character that was an entomologist, because the "predator" bit rings a bell too, but wasn't there something in Marnie about Mark being an amateur something-or-other having to do with animals? I forget the exact term, though.
Looking at the interview scene again, he just says he wanted to be a zoologist before getting his current job, but that he still tries to keep up with his field.

After that he starts going on about animal instincts, man's ancestors in the animal world, female predators as the criminals of the animal world, how he gets animals to like him etc. It really does feel reminiscient of Norman Bates and his stuffed birds tbh.

Even the way Connery plays Mark so calmly as the lightning from the storm starts flashing behind him and such adds this vaguely sinister feeling to the scene on a rewatch.
Ah, OK, not sure what film I was getting the insect thing from.

Good catch about the similarity with Norman Bates! I often thought that in The Birds Hitch essentially used the birds to symbolize the instinctual, animalistic aspects of mankind that we try to "cage up" via society, and that the violent outbreak of the birds was symbolic of how human nature is bound to have its own violent outbursts in reaction to societies strictures. So it's possible he's using that same animal symbol in Marnie as a way of showing how Mark is attempting to understand and control Marnie's unconscious nature that explains why she is how she is.

Yeah, there's a lot in Marnie that's "vaguely sinister" in general. It almost reminds me of Suspicion in that respect, though without the overt threat of anyone being a murderer. It also has a touch of that almost mystical and mysterious allure of Vertigo (though dialed down to a large degree).

Raxivace wrote:
I don't recall any specific hints about Mark murdering his wife, but it's possible.
Everything about the dead wife is just so odd. Like at the film's beginning Mark mentions the pre-Colombian art items he has are the only things of his wife's that he's kept. Or how the wife's sister is so into Mark.

Just what is it that isn't being said, exactly, about the dead wife? It's just such an odd detail to keep in the movie since it doesn't seem to impact the plot in any real fashion. Like you could easily do this story without Mark being a widower.
It's a good question... probably better pondered on a rewatch where one can pay more attention to it.

Raxivace wrote:
It doesn't help that it seems the ideal most have in mind are females that fit into the mindless action roles that were typically for men (Ripley from the Alien franchise is one of the better examples, but even she's far less interesting than Marnie or most of Hitch's leading women).
This is the thing that frustrates me most about these complaints, I think. I'm much more interested in characters like Marnie.

Also tbh I've never understood the fascination with the Ripley character. She always seemed a little bland even by genre movie standards to me, both in how she's written and even the performance to a degree.
Absolutely. The best characters are the most fucked up characters in general, male or female. I know I've mentioned it before, but you really should see Haneke's The Piano Teacher, which, now that I think of it, shares a few similarities with Marnie (more as a character than an overall film), but it's that same "fucked up and fascinating female character."

I actually think with Ripley it's Sigourney's performance that sells it for me. I always thought she had this combination of focused intensity but vulnerability that was interesting, especially with the motherhood elements introduced in the second film. She really isn't given a lot to work with in the writing. Maybe Sarah Connor from T2 is an even better example, especially given the contrast with her character in the first film.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #14

Postby Raxivace » Tue Jan 07, 2020 6:34 am

I've read Wood's first chapter on Marnie and its some good stuff. He actually does address the thing about Marnie killing the horse here, noting that some of her lines in regards to the horse are oddly sexual ("Oh, Forio, if you want to bite somedbody, bite me!") and that the killing of the horse is Marnie reliving the killing of the sailor. Apparently, a line Marnie tells the dying horse is repeated at the end in the flashback, with Marnie's mother comforting the younger Marnie ("There-there now.").

The biggest issue I had with this chapter was that Wood seems to think that Hitchcock stages Mark as the moral center of the film, though in the endnotes it seems he disowns that idea. It has me curious about his second chapter anyways.

Eva Yojimbo wrote:Ah, OK, not sure what film I was getting the insect thing from.
Wood's chapter mentions a part later on in the film where Mark DOES talk about insects- specifically ones that come together to take the shape of a flower as camouflage to fool birds*. That's probably what you were thinking of.

*This seems like an ambiguous metaphor to me. Obviously flowers are often seen as a feminine symbol, but "bird" can also be a slang term for women as well. Who is the one doing the fooling in the implied analogy here? Is it Marnie trying to hide from Mark by "camouflaging" herself with the shell that Mark is trying to crack? Or is it Mark trying to disguise himself as a helpful nice guy to fool "birds"/women?

Good catch about the similarity with Norman Bates!
Thanks.

Wood actually seems to argue Psycho parallels as well, though he argues that Marnie's mother is a stand-in for Norman's (Which I can see), with Marnie as some mix of Norman and Marion.

Yeah, there's a lot in Marnie that's "vaguely sinister" in general. It almost reminds me of Suspicion in that respect, though without the overt threat of anyone being a murderer. It also has a touch of that almost mystical and mysterious allure of Vertigo (though dialed down to a large degree).
I can see both of those comparisons. Marnie's ending certainly stands up to scrutiny a lot better than Suspicion's does though!

Absolutely. The best characters are the most fucked up characters in general, male or female. I know I've mentioned it before, but you really should see Haneke's The Piano Teacher, which, now that I think of it, shares a few similarities with Marnie (more as a character than an overall film), but it's that same "fucked up and fascinating female character."
It's been a while since I last saw a Haneke anyways, so I'll try to get to it here soon.

I actually think with Ripley it's Sigourney's performance that sells it for me. I always thought she had this combination of focused intensity but vulnerability that was interesting, especially with the motherhood elements introduced in the second film. She really isn't given a lot to work with in the writing. Maybe Sarah Connor from T2 is an even better example, especially given the contrast with her character in the first film.
Sarah Connor did strike me as the slightly more interesting character, especially in T2 where she's kind of lost it a bit.

T2 is another one I should try rewatching at some point. I think I told this to Lyndon, the Lord of Pitter's and the First of his Name, that when I watched T2 the first time a decade ago I liked it a lot, but when I tried watching it 5-6 years ago I couldn't get through the first 20 minutes for some reason. I wonder what I would think of it now.

EDIT: Another thought occurs to me. Marnie and Mark's names both start with "Mar". "Mar" of course, can mean "sea", as in the word "marine". Considering how significant sailors and boats are in the film, is this a coincidence?
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #15

Postby Raxivace » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:38 am

Another thought I want to get out there is how the "observational" instead of "judging" dichotomy and people who can't see the difference manifested a few years back in the controversy around The Wind Rises of all things. Now its not often I'll defend Miyazaki, but I thought those really silly takes that he suddenly, as if compelled via magical curse, somehow turned pro-war, pro-Imperial Japan, and ultimately made a film about how kickin' rad the Zero Fighter was may be the most ridiculous controversy in modern film writing culture and those critics vastly missed how the Jiro character was portrayed in the film.

Its almost as if they needed some didactic scene at the end where Jiro has a Dr. Frankenstein self-pitying rant and goes "Damn my creation! How arrogant I was to invent these aeroplanes! Damn them to hell!"

Now to be fair I think a character like Mark in Marnie is portrayed much more ambiguously than how Miyazaki portrays Jiro, but man if people struggle with something like The Wind Rises even then perhaps Marnie is doomed to be controversial forever. Though at least controversy keeps a film alive.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #16

Postby Raxivace » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:25 pm

So, Wood's second chapter on Marnie. I didn't like this one quite as much though there's interesting thoughts here. I think he's generally closer here in how complicated Mark's usage as a character in the movie is (Though when he says Hitchcock is sympathetic to Mark, well it reads more like Wood is projecting his personal feelings about the male characters (Namely Mark and the sailor) onto the film and Hitchock to me.), though I like how he tries to untangle the messy sexual politics here.

He also notes that how Marnie describes the flashback in words seems to contradict what we're actually shown, that there's "discrepancies between the text and image" (Seems very Godardian to me). I had to go back and actually look again at the scene myself, but he's right. Marnie says Bruce Dern was hitting her mother, but it was the mother that was hitting Bruce Dern (Though Dern threatens to hit her if she doesn't stop. I think Wood downplays this a bit too much). Marnie also says she hits Dern with "a stick" though clearly its the metal poker thing.

Wood's whole argument is that the Dern's sailor character was basically completely innocent, that he wasn't trying to molest the young Marnie at all but instead was killed for trying to comfort a crying child. This seems to lead to Wood's idea that the Mother and her anti-sex views (Again the parallels to Norma Bates in Psycho) and the effects they had on Marnie are the real problem here, not that Marnie was ever molested.

I have to admit that's certainly a take. The one thing I would say say though is that while Wood sees the mother's freakout over the sailor trying to comfort Marnie as evidence of issues on the mother's end, we never actually see just how exactly the sailor employs the mother's services as a prostitute. She could have very good reason to freak out, if the sailor was particularly violent behind closed doors or something (Perhaps Dern's threat leans into that idea, moreso than merely self-defense).

Still gonna have to think on this argument for a while...
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #17

Postby Raxivace » Thu Jan 09, 2020 2:07 am

4. The Strawberry Blonde (1941, Dir. Raoul Walsh) – A sort of turn of the 20th century love triangle…square, I guess, between James Cagney, Olivia de Haviland, Rita Hayworth, and Jack Carson. I thought this was going to be a fairly light-hearted movie based on its title and general premise, though this one takes a turn as the love quadrangle shenanigans are mostly resolved before the end of the movie and the story takes a hard bittersweet turn as Cagney gets roped into shady business dealings, sort of ends up responsible for causing his father’s own death, and ends up in prison for several years. He at least gets out eventually and settles as a dentist while married to de Haviland, while Hayworth and Carson end up trapped in an unhappy marriage together. Not really what I was expecting based on the general premise and that title!
I haven’t heard too many people talk about this one before, but I found it be a pleasant surprise.

5. The Palm Beach Story (1942, Dir. Preston Sturges) – As far as screwball comedy/romances go this is a pretty fun one with great chemistry from the whole cast (I was particularly surprised by how well Mary Astor worked in such a talky, overtly comedic role here after being more used to her in The Maltese Falcon). Really only bad thing I can say about it is that I saw Sullivan’s Travels first and I think that’s the overall thematically richer film, though this is still expertly crafted classical Hollywood product on basically all fronts.

6. Shiki-Jitsu (AKA Ritual, 2000, Dir. Hideaki Anno) – The story of a filmmaker who meets a mysterious young woman who claims everyday that “tomorrow is [her] birthday”. As they grow closer together, the filmmaker learns more of the woman's past.

On one level this is a solid little character drama, though thematically this really does feel like a coda of sorts to Evangelion, to the point where some of Eva's theme's are made pretty explicit here.

The director character so clearly a stand-in for Anno himself (He even is a guy that used to work in anime but is switching to live-action! And is pretty disillusioned in a way that feels pretty close to the attitude that Anno was giving off in interviews and such around the time of End of Eva and this film) that there’s a legit argument to be made that this is even more personal of a film for Anno than Neon Genesis Evangelion is.

It also makes me wonder if Anno was much more familiar with academic film theory than I previously gave him credit before.

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Comparisons between Anno and Godard feel like a cliche from me at this point, though this really does seem like it could come from some of the latter's later work.

Before I thought Anno may have just intuitively hit on some of these ideas in his work (Particularly since escapism, running away etc. are key ideas not only in NGE but in this film as well on both plot and thematic levels), but wording the idea in this kind of way in the above screens seems to key in pretty closely to what film theorists have been debating for like the last 90 years at least- debates that seem more relevant than ever with movies such as Rogue One and The Rise of Skywalker using CGI to simulate actors that have passed away (“The dead speak!” indeed), to the use of de-ageing CGI in Scorsese’s The Irishman, to all of this talk about “deepfakes” that seem to take the manipulation of Photoshop to the next level.

As much as I enjoy Anno’s anime work and stuff like Shin Godzilla, it would be interesting to see him try another low-key film like this or Love & Pop. Maybe he will, after Rebuild 4.0 and Shin Ultraman. Who can say what the future holds?

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #18

Postby Raxivace » Fri Jan 10, 2020 3:28 am

7. Joker (2018, Dir. Todd Phillips) – This was…fine. A perfectly decent character study/drama that takes heavy influence from Scorsese. I have to say the fears about it radicalizing people seem fairly ridiculous to me, while at the same time the very high praise it’s received in some circles also seems like a bit much. I like its attempt to take on explicitly political themes and its attempt to have ambiguous elements in its narrative, though with the former I’m not sure how much it really leaves to discuss and with the latter it feels a bit overt (Or perhaps “Lindelofian”) with how self-conscious it is about its ambiguity. The King of Comedy for example similarly has elements of an unreliable narrator but doesn’t cue you in quite as hard as Joker does.

Still, if the clump of comic book movies we're in is never going to end I would hope more of them feel like actual movies like this, even if I think Joker doesn’t quite stand up to the kinds of films it takes inspiration from.

8. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;Surrection (2019, Dir. Goro Taniguchi) – Gee with a title like that, I wonder what the movie could be about. What could this title possibly mean in regards to Lelouch, the character that everyone was debating about whether he was dead or not at the end of Code Geass?

Anyways despite title goofery, it’s a fun and suitably over-the-top little epilogue to the main story of Code Geass. The new villains are a bit whatever but are suitable enough for Lelouch to hammily laugh at and deliver some robot battles, and its nice to have stuff like the love triangle with Lelouch, C.C., and Kallen given more of a conclusion than the show did. In general I just liked being able to see a lot of these characters again, though its odd that it took well over a decade for this to come out.

The biggest problem I had with the movie (Beyond some shaky animation in parts) is that it doesn’t follow as a sequel to the original TV series but instead the recent film trilogy cut (Which I haven’t seen), so small details don’t quite line up like Shirley being alive in this film when she died in the series. That’s not a dealbreaker or anything (Especially since it seems the TV show and the trilogy version are largely identical) but a little annoying.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #19

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Fri Jan 10, 2020 2:46 pm

Raxivace wrote:I've read Wood's first chapter on Marnie and its some good stuff. He actually does address the thing about Marnie killing the horse here, noting that some of her lines in regards to the horse are oddly sexual ("Oh, Forio, if you want to bite somedbody, bite me!") and that the killing of the horse is Marnie reliving the killing of the sailor. Apparently, a line Marnie tells the dying horse is repeated at the end in the flashback, with Marnie's mother comforting the younger Marnie ("There-there now.").

The biggest issue I had with this chapter was that Wood seems to think that Hitchcock stages Mark as the moral center of the film, though in the endnotes it seems he disowns that idea. It has me curious about his second chapter anyways.
Actually, if we take the horse/sexuality metaphor a bit further, it's even possible to connect it to the idea that Marnie desires control because that's exactly what she felt was taken away from her when her mother was raped. She basically refuses to be "ridden" like her mother. Yet she still loses control of the thing she's trying to control. I dunno, it's a bit tenuous, but not too outrageous IMO. He had a good catch with the "There-there now" repeat. Again, we know Hitch loved doubling motifs like this. This also makes me realize how little I truly remember from that book!

Raxivace wrote:
Eva Yojimbo wrote:Ah, OK, not sure what film I was getting the insect thing from.
Wood's chapter mentions a part later on in the film where Mark DOES talk about insects- specifically ones that come together to take the shape of a flower as camouflage to fool birds*. That's probably what you were thinking of.

*This seems like an ambiguous metaphor to me. Obviously flowers are often seen as a feminine symbol, but "bird" can also be a slang term for women as well. Who is the one doing the fooling in the implied analogy here? Is it Marnie trying to hide from Mark by "camouflaging" herself with the shell that Mark is trying to crack? Or is it Mark trying to disguise himself as a helpful nice guy to fool "birds"/women?
Yeah, that's probably it.

Good question, and knowing Hitchcock it could very well be "both." Again, it seems like the answers to almost every either/or question was has about this film ends up with a both/and answer. Hence the ambiguity.

Raxivace wrote:Wood actually seems to argue Psycho parallels as well, though he argues that Marnie's mother is a stand-in for Norman's (Which I can see), with Marnie as some mix of Norman and Marion.
Hitchcock loved his domineering mothers, but I'm not sure if this is any more specifically a Psycho parallel than a (say) Notorious parallel or The Birds parallel. Maybe one can say that in both the sexual neurosis manifests in very physical ways (killing VS theft).

I wonder if it says something that, if we consider that parallel further, that Hitch thought the outlet for a sexually fucked up male was to kill his female victims, while for a female it was to steal from her male victims.

Raxivace wrote:Sarah Connor did strike me as the slightly more interesting character, especially in T2 where she's kind of lost it a bit.

T2 is another one I should try rewatching at some point. I think I told this to Lyndon, the Lord of Pitter's and the First of his Name, that when I watched T2 the first time a decade ago I liked it a lot, but when I tried watching it 5-6 years ago I couldn't get through the first 20 minutes for some reason. I wonder what I would think of it now.

EDIT: Another thought occurs to me. Marnie and Mark's names both start with "Mar". "Mar" of course, can mean "sea", as in the word "marine". Considering how significant sailors and boats are in the film, is this a coincidence?
I remember when T2 came out in theaters and it was all anyone at school was talking about for a while. I saw it myself (before having seen the first) and loved it immensely. I saw it so much as a kid (one of those films I probably had memorized) I'm not even sure I could view it objectively now.

Hmmm, interesting thought with the names. It's certainly possible (we also knew Hitchcock liked significant names; ala Marion CRANE). Of course, "mar" also means to disfigure or spoil too, which could fit in with Marnie's psychology of how she sees men (and perhaps herself).

Raxivace wrote:Another thought I want to get out there is how the "observational" instead of "judging" dichotomy and people who can't see the difference manifested a few years back in the controversy around The Wind Rises of all things. Now its not often I'll defend Miyazaki, but I thought those really silly takes that he suddenly, as if compelled via magical curse, somehow turned pro-war, pro-Imperial Japan, and ultimately made a film about how kickin' rad the Zero Fighter was may be the most ridiculous controversy in modern film writing culture and those critics vastly missed how the Jiro character was portrayed in the film.

Its almost as if they needed some didactic scene at the end where Jiro has a Dr. Frankenstein self-pitying rant and goes "Damn my creation! How arrogant I was to invent these aeroplanes! Damn them to hell!"

Now to be fair I think a character like Mark in Marnie is portrayed much more ambiguously than how Miyazaki portrays Jiro, but man if people struggle with something like The Wind Rises even then perhaps Marnie is doomed to be controversial forever. Though at least controversy keeps a film alive.
What you say in your middle paragraph here is, IMO, exactly what most people want to see in films. I've said it before, but critiquing films that don't have obvious perspectives is much more difficult, and people find it easiest to critique films on a moral level because it's a natural extension of critiquing people on a moral level. When a film just observes, or even presents thing from a characters' perspective, people get uncomfortable because they're not being told who and how to judge.

Besides Hitchcock and Shakespeare, I think two TV series did this extremely well: All in the Family and King of the Hill. Both managed to find the flaws and absurdities on both sides, but also find the positive qualities, and which it dwelt on could change moment to moment. The simple fact is that, even back then, most racists/sexists were more like Archie Bunker than the one-dimensional villains we see them as on TV and in movies these days, and I do think it makes people uncomfortable when characters with such obvious failings (sometimes moral) are not only not condemned by the show/movie, but are actually shown having good and positive qualities; but that's much more accurate to life.

I don't mind the controversy since, like you said, it keeps it alive. It also makes it great to talk about with people who are capable of parsing these things.

Raxivace wrote:So, Wood's second chapter on Marnie. I didn't like this one quite as much though there's interesting thoughts here. I think he's generally closer here in how complicated Mark's usage as a character in the movie is (Though when he says Hitchcock is sympathetic to Mark, well it reads more like Wood is projecting his personal feelings about the male characters (Namely Mark and the sailor) onto the film and Hitchock to me.), though I like how he tries to untangle the messy sexual politics here.

He also notes that how Marnie describes the flashback in words seems to contradict what we're actually shown, that there's "discrepancies between the text and image" (Seems very Godardian to me). I had to go back and actually look again at the scene myself, but he's right. Marnie says Bruce Dern was hitting her mother, but it was the mother that was hitting Bruce Dern (Though Dern threatens to hit her if she doesn't stop. I think Wood downplays this a bit too much). Marnie also says she hits Dern with "a stick" though clearly its the metal poker thing.

Wood's whole argument is that the Dern's sailor character was basically completely innocent, that he wasn't trying to molest the young Marnie at all but instead was killed for trying to comfort a crying child. This seems to lead to Wood's idea that the Mother and her anti-sex views (Again the parallels to Norma Bates in Psycho) and the effects they had on Marnie are the real problem here, not that Marnie was ever molested.

I have to admit that's certainly a take. The one thing I would say say though is that while Wood sees the mother's freakout over the sailor trying to comfort Marnie as evidence of issues on the mother's end, we never actually see just how exactly the sailor employs the mother's services as a prostitute. She could have very good reason to freak out, if the sailor was particularly violent behind closed doors or something (Perhaps Dern's threat leans into that idea, moreso than merely self-defense).

Still gonna have to think on this argument for a while...
One thing that occurs to me about Mark is that he's possibly like Shinji; essentially a character cast into the "savior" role whose actions end up subverting the expectations of that role. I also think in Mark's case it's more ambiguous (that word again) how much he subverts it. It's not as if he completely fails like Shinji, but the film gives us enough to link him with the attacker and doesn't give us a happy ending even after Mark's "success" ("is it even a success?" is the real question). Again, it feels more akin to Vertigo's double tragedy, just not as clear in this case.

That's more good stuff about how the flashback contradicts what's shown; we shouldn't forget that Hitch was one of the first filmmakers (I think) to make a film entirely around the idea of an unreliable narrator/flashback (Stage Fright), and even though he considered that a failure I have to think the idea still appealed to him. I think that "take" is plausible, but I'm not sure how how likely. If Marnie's an unreliable narrator that also makes it much harder to tell. But it might help explain why there is a contradiction between what's said and shown, as if Hitch was pointing to an alternate reason, and that perhaps Marnie had just rationalized it as all stemming from that night.

Raxivace wrote:The Palm Beach Story (1942, Dir. Preston Sturges) –
I loved this one, though there's no getting around the fact that Sullian's Travels was Sturges's cream of the crop theme-wise; the rest of his great screwball films are mostly just that. Outside Howard Hawks, I don't think anyone made them better.

Raxivace wrote:Shiki-Jitsu (AKA Ritual, 2000, Dir. Hideaki Anno) –
Yeah, it's hard to not think of Godard when watching those bits of the film. I seem to recall reading/hearing that Anno had never seen a Godard film before watching NGE, but it's possible he either saw some influenced by Godard, or perhaps watched some Godard after NGE. I originally posted a review of it for a feature on Cinelogue about underrated films; we picked 10 and chose 2 to review. I reviewed Shiki-Jitsu and In Absentia by The Quay Brothers (which is a film you should watch too as it's only 20 minutes). Anyway, because it was for a different audience you can skip the first 3-or-so paragraphs where I just offer an intro to who Anno is.

Of all the relatively obscure auteur directors in the world, Japan’s Hideaki Anno has to be the most fascinating. In the mid 80’s while in his early 20s, his drawings so impressed Hayao Miyazaki that he was hired to work as a chief animator for Miyazaki’s Nausicaa. That same year he became one of the co-founders of the notorious Gainax Animation Studios, whose reputation is somewhat that of an autistic younger brother rebel to the much more mature Studio Ghibli. After the success of 1988’s Gunbuster and 1990’s Nadia, Anno fell into a four-year depression, resulting in his disillusionment with anime and the Otaku sub-culture. His mental state manifested itself in his watershed masterpiece of personal art-therapy that was 1995-1996’s Neon Genesis Evangelion.

It’s difficult to overstate Evangelion’s impact on anime as an art-form and the industry as a whole. It was a work that revitalized the very medium and culture that it criticized. It simultaneously deconstructed and reconstructed the sci-fi mecha genre, turning it into an immense, mythological allegory for loneliness, depression, psychological trauma, and the dark sides of the human condition. It set a new standard for intellectual substance, artistry, cinematic craft, and experimentation in anime that still resonates today. It singlehandedly inspired the superflat postmodern movement. It resulted in an immense franchise that’s been called the anime equivalent to Star Wars. But, most importantly, it connected on a profound level with a whole generation of viewers who saw their own lives reflected in Anno’s deeply self-critical portrait of what he described as “self-imposed autism”—an escape into a self-constructed fantasy as a means to deal with an untenable reality.

It had to have been strange for Anno to see Evangelion, a work he himself said that was driven by his desire to “burn his feelings into film”, to become such a monstrous success. It’s the classic case of having that which was so intimately yours become everyone’s. Perhaps because of that, his post Evangelion work has been fraught with difficulties and mixed critical responses. His 1998 Kare Kano aka His and Her Circumstances was a considerable success, but ended in disaster when Anno left the production after a disagreement between himself and the original manga’s author. Anno’s first live-action film, 1998’s Love & Pop, was a fascinating exercise in experimental cinema verite filtered through a Godardian lens, but it’s been little seen, even after its DVD release by Kino. In comparison, 2000’s Shiki-Jitsu (The Ritual) is a much more mature, sophisticated, and focused effort, one that more closely revisits the same motifs and themes of Evangelion.

It opens with Shunji Awai’s character meeting an eccentric and bizarrely dressed young girl (Ayako Fujitani, whose autobiographical novella “Tohimu” was the source for the film; she’s also the daughter of Steven Seagal!) on the train tracks who insists tomorrow is her birthday. This insistence becomes the titular “ritual” of the film, a self-imposed loop that the girl finds it impossible to break out of, like a defective, skipping record. Iwai, a real life director, plays “The Director”, and turns the girl into the subject for his first live-action film. As he tellingly says in one voiceover monologue: “Images, especially animation, simply embody our personal and collective fantasies, manipulating selected information, and fictional constructs even live-action film, recording actuality, does not correspond to reality conversely, reality, co-opted by fiction, loses its value. 'The inversion of reality and fiction.' None of this matters to me anymore. My consciousness, my reality, my subject, all converge in her. Certainly, she longs to escape into fantasy. Certainly, I long to escape from fantasy."

It’s that subject that dominates throughout and echoes strongly with Evangelion, drawing an obvious parallel to Anno himself as a director obsessed with escaping from fantasy, yet finding a way to express that desire in a medium that exists in the realm of fantasy. While this kind of postmodern metafiction has become a cliché in too-self-serious, artsy-fartsy fiction, what separates Shiki-Jitsu and Anno from the pack is the emotionalism behind it all. For Anno, this kind of self-awareness isn’t merely fodder for intellectual masturbation, but an integral aspect of his psychological affliction, recovery, and how he’s able to use his very means of fictional escape to face reality. As Rei says near the end of The End of Evangelion: “(your dream) is the continuation of reality… (your reality) is at the end of your dream.”

Given that paradoxical relationship of fantasy and fiction as both a means of escape and of facing reality, it’s appropriate that one of Anno’s favorite motifs are trains. They’re devices that allow you to escape while forcing you to confront the origins of psychological trauma that triggered your desire to escape. The girl even takes to drawing train tracks in chalk inside her place, and when the two discuss train-tracks they have equally provocative reasons for liking them. The Director likes them because they’re fixed. “As long as you ride them you needn’t choose a path,” while the girl likes them because “the two rails will never come together, and yet the two are one.” Outside of trains, Anno’s Ozu-like pillow shots are frequent in the film, but the subjects of modern architectural milieu (factories, buildings) is more in line with Antonioni’s, as is his theme of modern isolation.

Shiki-Jitsu is nothing if not a visual tome of psychological symbols manifested in real life, standing as landmark clues that hint at the girl’s traumatic past that provoked her to escape and live inside her constructed fiction. Her spacious dwelling is awash in frames-within-frames, obstructions, passages, stairs, all set in stunning, deep focus compositions, Escher-like in their labyrinthine, pictorially complex architecture. It’s also filled with a variety of objects from toy trains to mannequins and her signature umbrellas (a “shield from reality” in the vein of Evangelion’s AT Field). It’s decorated in an appropriately paradoxical precise minimalism and gaudy, chaotic excess reminiscent of the sets of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, which can easily be seen as a representation of her own headspace that she permanently lives in.

The Clockwork Orange comparisons stretch even further, such as the juxtapositions between wide-open exteriors that are strangely devoid of life and the hermetically sealed interiors. Anno also favors Kubrick’s penchant for perspective distorting wide-angle lenses, which emphasize the loneliness of the characters being swallowed inside ominously immense spaces, as well as the claustrophobia that results from those empty spaces. He also favors tracking shots that are constantly shifting perspective, adding a restless, uneasy tone. In one section, where the girl is showing the director around her place, Anno directly alludes to Clockwork by speeding up the film as the camera virtuosically weaves in and out of the variably lighted spaces, creating a kaleidoscope blur of kinetic movement.

Kubrick often said he only shot films so he can edit them, and perhaps Anno’s greatest cinematic strength is his editing prowess. His penchant for montage, which frequently recalls the theories of Eisenstein, feeds into the theme of the fractured, manipulated, and constructed form reality takes in fiction. This gives an extraordinary power to the moments when Anno allows his scenes to play in long takes, which accumulate in tension as they wear on. The penultimate scene, The Girl’s confrontation of her mother, plays out on a closed set reminiscent to the Evangelion series’ end. It’s a scene that’s both devastatingly realistic in its one-take, static composition and hyper-realistically inauthentic, admitting its own theatricality at the moment it’s reached the core emotions beneath the film’s surface.

But one trait Anno possesses that Kubrick lacked is a great empathy for his characters. Like Bergman, Anno’s cinema serves as a medium for exercising his mental demons, and his characters play like fractured representations of himself. He also writes and directs as someone who’s been there himself, but one who also recognizes the necessity of breaking out. A constant in Anno’s work, these are very fragile characters desperately searching for love and acceptance, but find themselves lost in a world that’s denied them, forcing them into their reclusive, fantasized walls. But Shiki-Jitsu is methodical in its pacing and patient in its revelations. It slowly peels back the layers of its characters and the pathos behind them, often in the form of symbolically imbued objects, like the ringing phone that echoes with The Girl’s traumatized memories of her mother’s criticism and rejection.

But while Bergman was usually able to contain his expressions inside relatively traditional narratives, for Anno, fictional narratives have a limit to their ability to capture reality, to express thought and emotion. That’s where his subversive experimentation takes over, not as stylistic or intellectual exercises, but as means to explore the realms where fiction fears, or even fails, to tread. While Shiki-Jitsu is a bit more limited than Evangelion in this respect, it’s no less startling. The animated sequences are judiciously timed and add to the surrealistic tone without intruding on the verisimilitude of the live-action. There are numerous aspect ratio shifts, alternating between the 35mm camera and the hand-held digital of The Director, a constant reminder that this is a film about a film in the making. The voiceover monologues seem at odds with the narrative minimalism, offering the illusion of exposition without really explaining anything, only offering a glimpse at a reality that’s beyond the reach of the camera lens.

Shiki-Jitsu is a film full of illusions, typically in the form of evocative juxtapositions that see incongruous yet unmistakably substantial. Take the Satie-like soundtrack, composed by Takashi Kako, that impregnates even the most banal of scenes with an unnerving aesthetic, hinting at an underlying emotion belied by the lack of surface activity. That lack of surface activity itself provides a sense of minimalism that, especially later, clashes against the melodrama during the uncovering of The Girl’s secret, flooded basement, her ultimate reality retreat with its womb-like bathtub, guitar-capped altar, and pervasive red umbrellas. The pacing, which feels amorphous, still gives the sense of an inexorable march forward towards confrontation and recovery. It’s echoed in the on-screen motif that tracks the progression of days even while the girl insists everyday that tomorrow is her birthday—As Ritsuko stated in Evangelion, the conflict between homeostasis (the desire for things to remain the same) versus transistasis (the desire for change).

Most of Evangelion’s other motifs and obsessions crop up in truncated forms, like the scene on a playground with the shots of swings standing in as wistful reminders of the past. Anno’s favorite dual (and dueling) colors of red and blue return in vividly potent combinations. In one of the best scenes, The Director and Girl are walking under a junk-filled underpass when she discovers a porno mag. She picks it up and begins reading, nagging The Director about whether he likes that stuff. It’s a scene filled with an awkward humor that ends on a poignantly humanistic note when the girl says “I don’t like sex, ‘cause if you do you’re no more than male and female, like everyone else”. Like in Evangelion, sex is Shiki-Jitsu is just another outcry of loneliness and a deeper longing for genuine connection, perhaps best represented in The Girl’s preference for cuddling, of being close to someone you know will be there for you.

If Shiki-Jitsu most strongly forges its own identity, it’s in two arenas. One is the dramatic minimalism that ignites like a slow burn. As opposed to Evangelion’s active dramatic engagement, Shiki-Jitsu lets the mystery slowly pull you in, wrapping you in its entangled enigmas. The second area is the method in which psychological dependence is portrayed. While both are about escapism, in Shiki-Jitsu the constructed world of fantasy descends to the level of self-denial and reconstructed memories. In one of the most emotionally charged scenes, The Girl fears she’s become her mother and tries to drown herself. In another scene, she actively takes on her sister’s persona (dress, guitar, attitude). In both cases, The Director acts as her lifeline, attempting to reel her back to reality without drowning in his own constructed fantasy in the making. It also provides for subtle dramatic tension, as The Girl’s clinginess wears on The Director’s sympathy and patience. In one striking scene of silent, visual development, the two are walking together under an overpass as The Director begins separating from The Girl, as her face slowly changes from giddiness to wariness that he’s attempting to leave her.

In a recent review of Help Me, Eros, I stated that nobody renders the aesthetic of modern loneliness better than the Taiwanese masters, but while they present it from an observant distance, Anno portrays it as someone almost painfully and intimately acquainted with that feeling, that longing to be something more than human, something more than just “I, alone”. It’s a feeling that permanently lingers after the credits end. It’s strangely appropriate that the legendary voice actress Megumi Hayashibara has a “role” as a disembodied, unidentified, voiceover in the film. Perhaps no character in the history of fiction presented such a perfect embodiment of loneliness and the fractured sense of self-identity that stems from that as Rei in Evangelion. Here, her voice is the meditative, pondering ghost that haunts the characters and all that’s unexpressed. In the Evangelion film she played the role as the omnipresent “transition guide” that ushered characters from one state of existence to another, she equally feels like such a guide here, like an intangible force and impetus. She’s equally a potent reminder that the search for life, love, self, understanding and fulfillment is, in itself, a never-ending ritual.
"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." -- Carl Jung

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #20

Postby Raxivace » Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:07 am

Eva Yojimbo wrote:Actually, if we take the horse/sexuality metaphor a bit further, it's even possible to connect it to the idea that Marnie desires control because that's exactly what she felt was taken away from her when her mother was raped. She basically refuses to be "ridden" like her mother. Yet she still loses control of the thing she's trying to control. I dunno, it's a bit tenuous, but not too outrageous IMO. He had a good catch with the "There-there now" repeat. Again, we know Hitch loved doubling motifs like this. This also makes me realize how little I truly remember from that book!
Yeah I can see this, especially because its centered around the kind of pun that Hitch loved lol.

Eva Yojimbo wrote:Good question, and knowing Hitchcock it could very well be "both." Again, it seems like the answers to almost every either/or question was has about this film ends up with a both/and answer. Hence the ambiguity.
Yeah the more I dig in, the more I feel that way. More than maybe any other film I've seen.

Dammit, this is a masterpiece...

I wonder if it says something that, if we consider that parallel further, that Hitch thought the outlet for a sexually fucked up male was to kill his female victims, while for a female it was to steal from her male victims.
I'd have to think about this some more, particularly in regards to the female thieves. Marion Crane for example certainly was a thief, but I don't remember anything in the movie suggesting her stealing was because she was openly sexual or anything.

It's been a long time since I've seen To Catch a Thief, but that's another where I don't remember Fucked Up Backstory About Sex being tied to the stealing in that film.

Likewise, Marnie is both a thief and someone who has killed before.

I remember when T2 came out in theaters and it was all anyone at school was talking about for a while. I saw it myself (before having seen the first) and loved it immensely. I saw it so much as a kid (one of those films I probably had memorized) I'm not even sure I could view it objectively now.
The Terminator movies are kind of like the Alien movies to me in that because I first saw the movies in those franchises that people actually like when I was around 17-20ish, I just don't have quite the same fascination with them as people who saw them as kids.

Of course that might be why I don't have absolute hatred for something like Alien 3 or Alien: Covenant...

Hmmm, interesting thought with the names. It's certainly possible (we also knew Hitchcock liked significant names; ala Marion CRANE). Of course, "mar" also means to disfigure or spoil too, which could fit in with Marnie's psychology of how she sees men (and perhaps herself).
Honestly Marion's last name being Crane might be too on the nose lol.

The simple fact is that, even back then, most racists/sexists were more like Archie Bunker than the one-dimensional villains we see them as on TV and in movies these days, and I do think it makes people uncomfortable when characters with such obvious failings (sometimes moral) are not only not condemned by the show/movie, but are actually shown having good and positive qualities; but that's much more accurate to life.
Yeah if anything, I find it much more horrifying and tragic when someone that otherwise seems like they should be a decent person harbors insidious views like racism.

In regards to one dimensional racist characters, the Watchmen sequel on HBO was hugely disappointing on this front. I don't know how much you know about the show or how much I was bitching about it in the thread I made about it, but the entire premise was "What if we made a sequel to the comic, and uses that setting to explore the legacy of racism in America over the last century, specifically its effect on law enforcement and police officers?"

That's a fantastic idea for a Watchmen sequel, and yet by the end of it all of the hero cop characters who are meant to be sympathetic have no troubling views whatsoever, while most of the villains are dudes just cackling on about how this time the white race will finally win.

It's like there's no uncomfortable middle ground between pure person who isn't racist and literal Grand Wizard of the Klan Who Gives Speeches Like He's an MCU Villain.

That not only a huge simplification of racism, I think it arguably misses huge points of the Watchmen comic as well.

There are still things to like in the show (Particularly in the first 6 episodes) but man most of my good will to Damon Lindelof is gone at this point. After Leftovers Season 1 I thought maybe he had matured as writer, but Leftovers S2 and S3 and Watchmen were just lmao.

One thing that occurs to me about Mark is that he's possibly like Shinji; essentially a character cast into the "savior" role whose actions end up subverting the expectations of that role. I also think in Mark's case it's more ambiguous (that word again) how much he subverts it. It's not as if he completely fails like Shinji, but the film gives us enough to link him with the attacker and doesn't give us a happy ending even after Mark's "success" ("is it even a success?" is the real question). Again, it feels more akin to Vertigo's double tragedy, just not as clear in this case.
And like Mark, Shinji also has issues with consent...

But yeah, I don't think Mark necessarily succeeds either. Wood questions that as well in his second chapter on Marnie.

That's more good stuff about how the flashback contradicts what's shown; we shouldn't forget that Hitch was one of the first filmmakers (I think) to make a film entirely around the idea of an unreliable narrator/flashback (Stage Fright), and even though he considered that a failure I have to think the idea still appealed to him. I think that "take" is plausible, but I'm not sure how how likely. If Marnie's an unreliable narrator that also makes it much harder to tell. But it might help explain why there is a contradiction between what's said and shown, as if Hitch was pointing to an alternate reason, and that perhaps Marnie had just rationalized it as all stemming from that night.
Well Stage Fright came out the same year that Rashomon did in Japan (1950), though before both of those films Hitchcock himself had done Bon Voyage in 1944 which also uses flashbacks in a similar way (I'm not sure if any films used it before Bon Voyage though).

I could see Hitch wanting to try the technique again for a third time in Marnie. But yeah if Marnie is unreliable, I'm not sure how much of Dern's characterization we can really buy.

In Absentia by The Quay Brothers (which is a film you should watch too as it's only 20 minutes).
Nope, I'll never watch this. Personally, I feel insulted that you're trying to tell me what to do... Do you fashion yourself some kind of dictator, trying to control people's lives? What movies they watch?

Eva Yojimbo, if that's even your real name, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Shiki Jitsu review
Good stuff, seems like we're on a similar wavelength here. I had no idea about that Steven Seagal connection. Likewise, I hadn't realized Megami Hayashibara voiced a character in the movie.
Last edited by Raxivace on Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #21

Postby Raxivace » Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:09 am

9. Scandal: The Trial of Mary Astor (2018, Dir. Alexa Foreman) – A documentary about a child custody battle that Astor fought through while filming Dodsworth (A movie I have unfortunately not yet seen). Its an interesting retrospective on someone I hadn’t put too much thought into before, and nice kind of retrospective of how scandals played out in 30’s Hollywood.

Its kind of short at about an hour in length, though in an interview afterwards on Turner Classics Movies director Foreman mentioned she just couldn’t afford many film clips. Apparently, Robert Osborne (To whom the film is dedicated) left her enough money in his will to at least be able to afford to use clips from Dodsworth. What a class act until the very end.

Anyways this film is very much worth recording off of TCM and taking an hour to watch.

10. In Absentia (2000, Dir. Stephen Quay & Timothy Quay) – Wasn’t sure what to make of all this surreal imagery of pencil shavings and such until the reveal in the title card at the end.

Neat little short with some striking imagery, though it was harmed for me because the one download of this I found was a torrent from like 2008. I think what ultimately what stuck with me as a result was the droning, repressive soundtrack more than anything.

Whole thing makes for a weird, arthouse/funhouse mirror version of Joker in some ways since arguably both films have the exact same ending.

11. My Man Godfrey (1936, Dir. Gregory La Cava) – Another screwball comedy, about a “forgotten man” who gets roped into being a butler for a rich family. Shenanigans and love ensue.

Its pretty fun, great performances, and while it’s a lighthearted story I was surprised by how much it reminded me of Grapes of Wrath of all things. Now, that is a much harder film than this, though there is a very much a “plight of the underclass” thing running through this film as well, even if it ends on the fantasy of everything working out, the poor being saved etc.

12. Satan Met a Lady (1936, Dir. William Dieterle) – The second of the three The Maltese Falcon adaptations. While this is by no means the best adaptation, this one is probably the most interesting since from what I can tell it basically exists to mock the source material. Also, Bette Davis is in this!

Ted Shane (Really “Sam Spade”, all of the names are changed here. Even the Maltese Falcon itself is changed into a horn thought to have been owned by the hero Roland.) is a real asshole in this film and is likely meant to be the “Satan” of the title. The movie even begins with him being flatout kicked out of his hometown because everyone is just fucking sick of his private detective bullshit that just makes everything worse (Reminds me of people mocking Gittes in Chinatown, really). From thereon this just mercilessly mocks everything in Hammett’s novel, from “Archer’s” wife trying to hook up with Shane not even 12 hours after her husband has died, to all of the goons being bumbling idiots instead of menacing, to the movie ending with Bette Davis (Playing the equivalent to Brigid O'Shaughnessy) basically calling Shane an idiot.

I gotta say its kind of fun overall, and at like 75 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Also, fun fact: director Dieterele played a character in Murnau’s Faust of all things.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #22

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:56 pm

Not a lot of time today but I thought I'd post my review for In Absentia while the movie's fresh in your mind:
“When we first presented this film to [Karlheinz Stockhausen]… a BBC crew had arrived with us… and at the end of the screening there was this commotion… What had happened was Stockhausen was crying… What he felt was that the women, the back of her neck, in this anonymity, was his mother, because Nazis had taken her away and exterminated her, and he presumed that we had known about this and that this film was us scoring an element of that. Of course, we didn’t know that. Therefore he thought that we were telepathic and we had to tell him that we weren’t. It made a deep impression on him. What we liked was that he said that… he had written the images and we had created the music.”

The above quoted anecdote is from Stephen and Timothy Quay on the DVD commentary (available either from BFi’s “The Short Films” or Zeitgeist’s “Phantom Museums”) for their 2000 film In Absentia, which was scored by the one of the most important, but notoriously controversial, composers of the 20th and 21st Century, Karlheinz Stockhausen. The collaboration itself had been setup in 1999 by BBC producer Rodney Wilson, part of the “Sound on Film International” series about collaborations between musical composers and filmmakers. After hearing Stockhausen’s “Zwei Paare” (Two Couples) the brothers stated: “there was a release within us of a torrent of ideas and visual flashes. We then started immediately with the direction of the film without having a real and proper work plan, but developing it as we went along.”

While the imagery and style of In Absentia was inspired by Stockhausen’s music, the story found its inspiration in another place: “We had seen an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery called ‘Art and Psychosis’ or ‘Beyond Reason’, which was works from the Prinzhorn Collection, a collection of outsider art, or the art of the insane… In particular there was one set of drawings by a woman called ‘EH’, which was Emma Hauck, born in 1878, died in 1928. Marital status: married, diagnosis: dementia praecox. The image was so powerful of letters written to her husband that were deeply disturbed writing, where she would write over the top of the original letter again and again until it became a graphite blur of imagery. So we said ‘this is what the film would be about.’”

With a domineering piece of music by one of the 20th Century’s musical pioneers and the inspiration of a demented asylum patient, The Quays seem to be right in their wheelhouse of off-beat, artistry—artistry that has largely and unjustly been ignored by the cinephile community for far too long. The brothers are primarily known for their Gothic, metaphorical, metaphysical, surrealistic stop-motion animation primarily inspired by Jan Švankmajer. Their early films such as The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer and This Unnameable Little Broom put the brothers’ idiosyncratic creativity on display, even if they were rougher and less polished than their later efforts. It was 1986’s Street of Crocodiles, adapted from the novel by Bruno Schulz, which finally made them something of a cult sensation, inspiring artists from Nine Inch Nails and Tool to Terry Gilliam (who listed it as one of the 10 best animated films of all time).

Crocodiles perfected the brothers’ craft, establishing their penchant for highly metaphorical, ambiguous narratives, highly detailed, tactile art-designs, low-contrast lighting, dark, faded colors, obsessions with anatomy, strings, scissors, symbolism, movement and vaguely industrial machinery. It also established the importance of music in their films, which they use almost as a narrative and emotional voice to their silent, but expressive puppets and intricately orchestrated kinesis. “Kinesis” is an especially apropos term as it typically refers to how organisms respond to stimuli such as light, and light does indeed act as a catalytic agent in Crocodiles. After Crocodiles the brothers have been equally as inspired with works such as their Stille Nacht Quartet Shorts (two of which were collaborations with the experimental rock band His Name is Alive), the bizarrely poignant Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies, and even a documentary on the art movement of anamorphosis.

Yet, In Absentia is a departure for the Quays as their stop-motion animation is more of a supporting element, while it stars an actress named Marlene Kaminsky playing Emma Hauck. But if the animation is largely absent, their other trademarks have been galvanized into a highly concentrated, condensed form. The designs are minimal to the point of being monumental. They’re accompanied by oblique angles and spatially fractured montage, reminiscent of Carl Dreyer’s stark and intensive aesthetic. The brothers have almost purged the black-and-white photography of blacks, creating densely gradated grays and whites in low contrast that violent mesh objects into backgrounds, allowing light to penetrate like knives. The pervasive vignettes shallow depth-of-field, and soft-focus—some seemingly the result of tilt & shift lenses—gives the film its hypnotic, dreamlike quality. Combined with the brothers’ detailed, almost macro close-up textures—everything from pencil shavings, gardens of lead, and worn-down clocks—the imagery feels like light carvings on sandpapered granite.

If light was merely a kinetic catalyst in Crocodiles it’s practically the subject of focus here. “(We were) trying to trap light as a natural phenomenon in our studio… Although the décor looks fairly abstract, it was something we threw down as a gopher—we wanted to observe the light and we needed something for it to kick against… Our studio’s situated that we have a set of windows that reveal the sun arising from the east… We would count ever 5 seconds and shoot one shutter at a time, but at the same time were animating puppets or windows or objects…” The result is a brand of time-lapse photography in which light and shadows are constantly, moving, flickering, changing—at one moment piercingly intense, subdued in another, striking like lightning and disappearing, or slowly brightening, fading, congealing, or dissolving—and always playing against the animation or still objects.

The brothers explain how they achieved this: “For instance, in a tracking shot where we moved in one millimeter at a time and shot a frame at a time, the passage of time might have been fifteen seconds. So imagine the clouds rolling across the sun creating this flickering.” But the light also takes on a metaphoric effect: “The whole film was built out of taking the notion of light and refracting it through a prism or window… an approximation of Emma Hauk’s psychosis. It’s like the back of her skull has been removed and she was just open to the slightest flickerings or movements of light… at first we assumed was a defect but we immediately realized it presents brilliantly a psychosis with those massive, violent fluctuations. Of course all of this set against Stockhausen’s quite cosmic music.”

“Cosmic” is a supremely apropos adjective for Stockhausen’s music, and the film even opens with a vague, abstract tabletop set that could almost serve as the lunar surface. For those unaware of Stockhausen, he was a groundbreaking composer of electronic, aleatory (controlled chance), serial, and spacialization music, and his work has inspired as much repulsion as it has derision. Love him or hate him, one thing is undeniable; his music is utterly unique. Here, his Zwei Paare works as both sonic texture, especially the vast electronic drones that, like the light, is omnipresent and always fluctuating, and as a narrative voice. In fact, the “Two Couples” of the title seems to refer to the contrasting, conflicting, harmonious, dissonant synthetic “voices” that imitate cries, laughs, growls, and speech in disorienting distortions. The Quays speak of the musical voices almost acting in mocking derision for Emma Hauk, yet at other times they seem to serve as voices to her mental demons.

Whether the music is working with or against the images, the result is a marriage quite unlike anything I’ve seen in film outside of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Richard Einhorn’s Voice of Light, composed to accompany Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc. Yet, there’s an irony there considering neither of these predecessors are comparatively apt: Kubrick’s selection was drawn from pre-existing music, while Einhorn’s score was for a pre-existing film. I say “irony” because there are plenty of scores composed specifically for films, usually by composers who see parts of the film and base their score on that. That mode fits closer to the Stockhausen/Quay relationship, yet it reveals an imbalance for scores that are meant to just accompany and enhance, rather than be a narrative agent as important as the imagery and story itself. The result here is a music/image relationship that’s more master/master than master/slave, more two fully individualized but complimentary entities instead of one individual entity and a personality trait.

Between the music and the brothers’ play of light, designs, and photographic focus, every object, every gesture is given a potent vitality, whether metaphoric, nightmarish, haunting, or just pure surface and texture. Windows are especially important, serving as the means by which light enters in angles, reflecting and bouncing off objects, but also as potent metaphors for passages to an unknown outside world and deeply disturbed inner world. Meanwhile, and antiquated clock stands as a metonym for time, which doesn’t so much pass linearly but remains suspended in limbo. But it’s truly the close-ups that the Quays imbue with a painfully tangible life-force, everything from Emma’s lead-stained hands and fingernails, to the pencil sharpener, to the ground covered with shavings. Even actions as benign as Emma scrubbing a window take on a demonic quality as electronic screams puncture the soundtrack and light glides along the edges like electricity running through conduits.

The Quay’s stop-motion comes into play with objects like pencils and shifting grains, as well as a horned creature, perhaps metaphoric of Emma’s husband, and a doll, perhaps metaphoric of Emma’s childhood and innocence, whom we never fully see that sits on a ledge above a window, constantly swinging her legs back and forth. It’s one of the few kinetic elements that work consistently to the rhythm of a metronome rather than chaotic fluctuations. The Quays have always been fascinated with and sensitive to the nuances of movement and rhythm, perhaps originating from their world of stop-motion where every progression down to the millimeter must be controlled. But if there was more of a child-like fascination with pure effect sans-cause (or, at least, reasonably known cause) in films like Crocodiles, here everything’s much more strained. We aren’t observing the clockwork of industrial machines but the struggle of the human mind to move forward and accomplish something against the tide of imbalance, the force of the constant change.

But movement takes shape in space, and just like the element of fractured, suspended, non-linear time, the Quays create a spatial paradox between the cloistered claustrophobia of Emma Hauk’s room and the metaphoric vastness of her disturbed mind. They achieve this firstly by never establishing the room itself in space. Much like Dreyer’s Joan of Arc, the close-ups disallow for any sense of how objects and character lie in spatial relations to each other. The extreme close-ups create the feeling of enclosed intimacy, but the long lenses and shallow focus that achieves this also blurs walls, boundaries and borders, so on shots that focus on abstract surfaces there’s more a feeling of space stretching out infinitely. Stockhausen’s music adds to this effect, with the engulfing monotone textures being laid like vast soundscapes over the indefinite visual surfaces while the punctuating voices pull us into the cramped room.

Stockhausen’s comment that the Quays had scored the music and he provided the images is strangely fitting to just how intricately connected these two entities are. Either is strong enough to stand alone, but together they create something transcendent—a depiction of isolation and loneliness, of psychosis and the struggle against it that’s as powerful, poignant, and incredibly intense as any I’ve ever seen on film outside Bergman’s Persona. The miracle is that this cinematic and aural experience is created out of a story that can be reduced to “a mentally ill woman attempting to write a letter”. But such a reduction reveals that the real power of films (really, all narrative art) lies not in what’s told, but how it’s told. Being that it’s only 20-minutes long I’ve now seen In Absentia four times, and each time I’m struck by just how brilliantly stunning and moving it is. Each time a different moment occurs that sends chills down my spine. Even without imagining the character is one’s mother, I can understand why Stockhausen was reduced to tears.
On a side note, Quay's are my favorite short/experimetnal filmmakers after Brakhage, so I'd highly recommend picking up the complete collection of their works on blu-ray: https://www.amazon.com/Inner-Sanctums-Brothers-Collected-Animated/dp/B01F72POIS/ Their feature Institute Benjamenta is also worth seeing, though I wasn't as crazy about their other feature film (The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes).
"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." -- Carl Jung

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #23

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Fri Jan 17, 2020 2:56 am

I guess I'll mention I started watching Netflix's Witcher. Normally I'd wait to get my system set up but I thought this was something my dad might like too so I'm just watching it at his place. We finished ep. 6 tonight. Took me to ep. 3 to realize the timelines weren't concurrent, but I think I basically get how they relate now, though I can't figure out if it was an artsy/ballsy move to structure the first season like this, or if it was rather stupid to expect audiences to get it and keep up. It's a pretty good looking show cinematically, but like most narrative-dominant TV they don't linger on anything long enough to let any atmosphere sink in. Plot has been extremely choppy; I think you can tell that this is one of those examples of writers having difficulty compressing a lot of source material and making it cohere, though the multiple timelines do allow for some interesting thematic juxtapositions between them. It also seems like they're losing a lot by trying to balance three storylines per episode and often making the episodes have relatively self-contained bits; the self-contained bits (mostly Geralt's) always feel rushed compared to the stuff that's developing over multiple episodes (Ciri, and Yennefer to an extent; though she's become more episodic as well since leaving the Brotherhood).

Overall it's a promising but rough start, but I'm looking forward to see what they can do with a bigger budget and with all the main characters connected on the same timeline.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #24

Postby Raxivace » Fri Jan 17, 2020 3:33 pm

I didn't really find Geralt's segments to be particularly rushed- they're all taken from like 40ish page short stories and it would be weird to draw any one of them out over the course of multiple episodes or something.

I agree though that this isn't the most accessible show in the world (It really seems to be for people already familiar first and foremost. I don't think it would have hurt them though to just give a basic explanation of like, what a Witcher is.), though I knew about the timeline thing going in and wasn't too bothered by it- it will alienate some though.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #25

Postby Raxivace » Fri Jan 17, 2020 3:36 pm

Also frankly coming right off of Watchmen's far more confusing and badly done timeline nonsense Witcher seemed delightfully straightforward.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #26

Postby Raxivace » Sun Jan 19, 2020 3:39 am

Speaking of Netflix shows, I've been watching The Circle and after watching 39 straight seasons of Survivor over the course of two years, these guys on The Circle are some of the dumbest people I have EVER seen on a reality competition show.

"Zomg who could be a catfish?" azxdatzstgdfashedfgjhhsdrg WHO FUCKING CARES, CATFISH OR NOT THEY'RE STILL PEOPLE YOU SHOULD BE MAKING ALLIANCES WITH YOU DUMB IDIOTS. Like for real, its not like much actually changes in the game whether people are lying about who they are or not. Game the system you fools.

Seriously, fuckin' Survivor Borneo, a season fucking defined by contestants who mostly hated anyone doing anything strategic, had more strategic minded people than these morons. The fuckin' doctor with the nipple piercing on Borneo who voted for people ALPHABETICALLY put more thought into his game than anyone on The Circle has into theirs. God damn these people have me salty.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #27

Postby Raxivace » Mon Jan 20, 2020 3:33 pm

13. Marriage Story (2019, Dir. Noah Baumbach) – I felt the way about this film the same way I felt about Kramer vs. Kramer, in that it’s a solid character drama with engaging performances (Both Driver and ScarJo here), but I’m not sure its much else. Perhaps Marriage Story stands out in modern times because its not a huge-budget genre movie (Unless we want to consider “divorce drama” a genre of film in its own right), whereas I think Kramer vs. Kramer’s relative mediocrity stands in contrast to films that were both better and well-known that same year (Apocalypse Now etc.).

Funnily enough, Marriage Story has the exact same fundamental issue that I think Kramer vs. Kramer’s story does in that it uses “Wife makes clearly INSANE decision that we’re expected to be okay with because husband is/was an asshole”. In Kramer it was the wife just abandoning the family, here it’s the wife bringing in lawyers for absolutely no reason after she agreed not to do so (Great job wasting away your child’s college funds!). The only real difference is that ScarJo gets more screentime in this film than Meryl Streep does in Kramer, but unfortunately doesn't come off any more sensibly.

It's just a shame because I think the film wants to appear even handed in a look at a divorce with empathy for both sides, but still can't help but make the wife clearly an antagonist in the story.

Also why does the kid even have the wife's letter at the end?

14. What Did Jack Do? (2020, Dir. David Lynch) – Even Lynch is getting in on the Netflix game, releasing a new short film on the platform (On his birthday no less!). Here Lynch starts as a detective, interrogating a little talking monkey who wears a suit about the murder of a farm animal.

Yeah its weird. 40’s noir and such has always been an influence on Lynch, and like a lot of his feature films he very much combines that with a very…goofy quality. Like for god’s sake there’s a monkey wearing a suit here. It’s…sure a thing.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #28

Postby Eva Yojimbo » Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:01 pm

Raxivace wrote:
Eva Yojimbo wrote:Good question, and knowing Hitchcock it could very well be "both." Again, it seems like the answers to almost every either/or question was has about this film ends up with a both/and answer. Hence the ambiguity.
Yeah the more I dig in, the more I feel that way. More than maybe any other film I've seen.

Dammit, this is a masterpiece...
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Raxivace wrote:
I wonder if it says something that, if we consider that parallel further, that Hitch thought the outlet for a sexually fucked up male was to kill his female victims, while for a female it was to steal from her male victims.
I'd have to think about this some more, particularly in regards to the female thieves. Marion Crane for example certainly was a thief, but I don't remember anything in the movie suggesting her stealing was because she was openly sexual or anything.

It's been a long time since I've seen To Catch a Thief, but that's another where I don't remember Fucked Up Backstory About Sex being tied to the stealing in that film.

Likewise, Marnie is both a thief and someone who has killed before.
I wouldn't say Marion Crane was "sexually fucked up" in the same way Marnie is, but it's undoubtedly her sexual relationship that inspires her thievery. I'd agree there's no tie-in in To Catch a Thief, though.

I guess I should've said "murder" rather than "kill." Marnie's killing wasn't murder the way Norman's was.

Raxivace wrote:
I remember when T2 came out in theaters and it was all anyone at school was talking about for a while. I saw it myself (before having seen the first) and loved it immensely. I saw it so much as a kid (one of those films I probably had memorized) I'm not even sure I could view it objectively now.
The Terminator movies are kind of like the Alien movies to me in that because I first saw the movies in those franchises that people actually like when I was around 17-20ish, I just don't have quite the same fascination with them as people who saw them as kids.

Of course that might be why I don't have absolute hatred for something like Alien 3 or Alien: Covenant...
I didn't hate Alien 3 either. Haven't seen Covenant.

Raxivace wrote:
The simple fact is that, even back then, most racists/sexists were more like Archie Bunker than the one-dimensional villains we see them as on TV and in movies these days, and I do think it makes people uncomfortable when characters with such obvious failings (sometimes moral) are not only not condemned by the show/movie, but are actually shown having good and positive qualities; but that's much more accurate to life.
Yeah if anything, I find it much more horrifying and tragic when someone that otherwise seems like they should be a decent person harbors insidious views like racism.

In regards to one dimensional racist characters, the Watchmen sequel on HBO was hugely disappointing on this front. I don't know how much you know about the show or how much I was bitching about it in the thread I made about it, but the entire premise was "What if we made a sequel to the comic, and uses that setting to explore the legacy of racism in America over the last century, specifically its effect on law enforcement and police officers?"

That's a fantastic idea for a Watchmen sequel, and yet by the end of it all of the hero cop characters who are meant to be sympathetic have no troubling views whatsoever, while most of the villains are dudes just cackling on about how this time the white race will finally win.

It's like there's no uncomfortable middle ground between pure person who isn't racist and literal Grand Wizard of the Klan Who Gives Speeches Like He's an MCU Villain.

That not only a huge simplification of racism, I think it arguably misses huge points of the Watchmen comic as well.

There are still things to like in the show (Particularly in the first 6 episodes) but man most of my good will to Damon Lindelof is gone at this point. After Leftovers Season 1 I thought maybe he had matured as writer, but Leftovers S2 and S3 and Watchmen were just lmao.
That's a shame about Watchmen, especially with such a good idea like that; but it's very true that the lack of any middle-ground--flawed protagonists, antagonists with positive qualities--is killing a lot of contemporary media. That's why I said what happened with Roseanne was such a shame because her show had probably the best depiction of how contemporary racism works I'd ever seen; and can you imagine ANY show today having an episode where one of (or more) of its family members are depicted as racist on any level? Even if it's ambiguous?

Raxivace wrote:
That's more good stuff about how the flashback contradicts what's shown; we shouldn't forget that Hitch was one of the first filmmakers (I think) to make a film entirely around the idea of an unreliable narrator/flashback (Stage Fright), and even though he considered that a failure I have to think the idea still appealed to him. I think that "take" is plausible, but I'm not sure how how likely. If Marnie's an unreliable narrator that also makes it much harder to tell. But it might help explain why there is a contradiction between what's said and shown, as if Hitch was pointing to an alternate reason, and that perhaps Marnie had just rationalized it as all stemming from that night.
Well Stage Fright came out the same year that Rashomon did in Japan (1950), though before both of those films Hitchcock himself had done Bon Voyage in 1944 which also uses flashbacks in a similar way (I'm not sure if any films used it before Bon Voyage though).

I could see Hitch wanting to try the technique again for a third time in Marnie. But yeah if Marnie is unreliable, I'm not sure how much of Dern's characterization we can really buy.
One key difference between Stage Fright and Rashomon, though, is that the unreliableness of Rashomon's narrators is not only the point of the film, but is made quite explicit in the flashbacks (meaning that we the audience recognize and are meant to recognize the incongruity between them). With Stage Fright we don't recognize the unreliableness until near the end. Marnie's unreliableness is, perhaps, closer to what we see in the opening of Rear Window that we talked about, where the camera is showing us one thing, telling us one story, that tends to get "overridden" the moment we hear the protagonist tell us what happened. Almost Godardian.

Raxivace wrote:I didn't really find Geralt's segments to be particularly rushed- they're all taken from like 40ish page short stories and it would be weird to draw any one of them out over the course of multiple episodes or something.

I agree though that this isn't the most accessible show in the world (It really seems to be for people already familiar first and foremost. I don't think it would have hurt them though to just give a basic explanation of like, what a Witcher is.), though I knew about the timeline thing going in and wasn't too bothered by it- it will alienate some though.
I think it was more just the juxtaposition of the self-contained stories with the ones developing over episodes. I can't recall if I've ever seen something similar done in that way, and it just felt a bit weird, perhaps because I was expecting the Geralt bits to be longer developing too. I might think differently on a rewatch knowing what to expect. In any case, it seems the first season was quite successful, but I wonder how much that will extend to the second; ie, I wonder how many people won't bother with the second season because they were confused by the first.

Raxivace wrote:13. Marriage Story (2019, Dir. Noah Baumbach)

14. What Did Jack Do? (2020, Dir. David Lynch)
I imagine that Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage won't soon be bettered as the ultimate "marriage breakdown" film. It's just hard to best the intensity of that director/actor trio. Didn't know about that new Lynch film, but I'll definitely have to check it out.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #29

Postby Raxivace » Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:07 pm

Eva Yojimbo wrote:I wouldn't say Marion Crane was "sexually fucked up" in the same way Marnie is, but it's undoubtedly her sexual relationship that inspires her thievery. I'd agree there's no tie-in in To Catch a Thief, though.
For Marion, are you talking about the thing with her boyfriend's debts? If you want to connect that back to sexuality then I suppose it works, but it just seems more like a "lol we don't have money" thing to me.

Then again I guess the boyfriend character is something of a parallel to Norman as well, and he's certainly sexually fucked up.

I didn't hate Alien 3 either. Haven't seen Covenant.
It seems we're among the few in regards to not hating Alien 3. Maybe its a difference in approach? I think of it as "David Fincher's first film" before thinking of it as the contested third entry in a beloved franchise.

Did you see Prometheus? Covenant is basically Prometheus 2.

That's a shame about Watchmen, especially with such a good idea like that; but it's very true that the lack of any middle-ground--flawed protagonists, antagonists with positive qualities--is killing a lot of contemporary media. That's why I said what happened with Roseanne was such a shame because her show had probably the best depiction of how contemporary racism works I'd ever seen; and can you imagine ANY show today having an episode where one of (or more) of its family members are depicted as racist on any level? Even if it's ambiguous?
Yeah for real. It's kind of sad that a 30 year old sitcom does things with a little more nuance than a well reviewed prestige HBO drama.

I will say discussions about the HBO Watchmen did open up an interesting ambiguity in the original comic though. In the HBO show, white supremacists have appropriated Rorschach's imagery and are basically using copies of his mask as a replacement for traditional Klan hoods. Writer Damon Lindelof insists that he doesn't believe Rorschach was racist in the original comic, and the villain characters are just straight up co-opting his imagery to serve their own ends. Many people disagreed with Lindelof's view on Rorschach in the comics here, saying the character was always intended to be read as a racist.

Thing is, rereading the comic for all of the fucked up shit that Rorschach says in the comic, I'm not sure he does say anything particularly motivated by race. Even in his conversations with his black therapist, Rorschach's disdain for him seems to be more from his class and college education.

And yet, the right-wing magazine that Rorschach is subscribed to is very much racist.

Image

^How much Rorschach buys into specifically racial stereotypes like these I think is debatable, but both sides I think have things to point to.

One key difference between Stage Fright and Rashomon, though, is that the unreliableness of Rashomon's narrators is not only the point of the film, but is made quite explicit in the flashbacks (meaning that we the audience recognize and are meant to recognize the incongruity between them). With Stage Fright we don't recognize the unreliableness until near the end. Marnie's unreliableness is, perhaps, closer to what we see in the opening of Rear Window that we talked about, where the camera is showing us one thing, telling us one story, that tends to get "overridden" the moment we hear the protagonist tell us what happened. Almost Godardian.
Yeah that's a fair distinction to make.

Its funny, before we really started talking about it a few years ago or whatever I never really thought of Godard and Hitchcock being that similar (Despite Godard referencing Hitch a lot), though there's more in common than I thought.

BTW have you ever read anything that suggested Hitchcock was pushed into making Psycho by seeing Breathles? I heard something on a podcast once that said Hitch saw Breathless, said to himself "Holy shit the French are ahead of us by like 20 years!", and then made Psycho to compete with it.

As amusing as that idea sounds I've never seen anything to substantiate it despite actively looking.

I think it was more just the juxtaposition of the self-contained stories with the ones developing over episodes. I can't recall if I've ever seen something similar done in that way, and it just felt a bit weird, perhaps because I was expecting the Geralt bits to be longer developing too. I might think differently on a rewatch knowing what to expect. In any case, it seems the first season was quite successful, but I wonder how much that will extend to the second; ie, I wonder how many people won't bother with the second season because they were confused by the first.
It didn't really feel that weird to me, though I've seen another show use a similar structure- The Shield. There was an overarching plotline in The Shield that followed corrupt police officer Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), who in the first episode of the series murders another police officer. The main plot of the show follows Vic trying to keep the crime covered up and various other illegal misadventures he gets caught up with- in a lot of way you could even say that Vic is the proto-Walter White (Also, there's an episode of Better Call Saul that I'm fairly certain is meant to be a riff on the pilot episode of The Shield).

Each episode of The Shield had a b-plot featuring a pair of other police detectives solving some crime of the week- there were much more episodic in nature, though would occasionally go across a few episodes. Occasionally these b-plots would comment on the a-plot in some way- I remember one specific episode where the b-plot detectives congratulate themselves for catching a serial rapist, while the same episodes a-plot features their own (male) police chief being raped at gun point- something our detectives remain in total ignorance of.

Of course the biggest running question through the show is "When are the b-plot detectives going to realize Vic Mackey is doing very illegal shit and start going after him?", and eventually they do of course after like 6 or 7 seasons. It seems very similar to The Witcher to me, where the question is "When are Geralt/Ciri/Yenn all going to come together?".

BTW biggest problem with The Shield is that its a visually very ugly show- it goes for this really kind of bland pseudo-verite style that I just don't like despite liking the general acting/writing. The look of the show was set in the pilot episode, which was directed by Clark Johnson. If that name sounds familiar, its because that's also the guy who directed the pilot of The Wire and set the (IMO very bland) look for that show as well.

Anyways I think people will probably tune into S2 of The Witcher, though I doubt it will be quite as successful in terms of viewers as the first season. It seems the show has caused a lot of people to pick up The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt though so that might pave over the cracks in terms of understanding the events of the first season (Or at least the general world of the show or whatever).

I imagine that Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage won't soon be bettered as the ultimate "marriage breakdown" film. It's just hard to best the intensity of that director/actor trio. Didn't know about that new Lynch film, but I'll definitely have to check it out.
The Lynch short is like maybe 20 minute long btw. Watch it with your dad or something.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #30

Postby Raxivace » Wed Jan 29, 2020 6:01 am

15. Parasite (2019, Dir. Bong Joon-ho) – Pretty torn on this one. As a genre film in the vein of Hitchcockian thrillers its quite good (In fact on technical level it might match Hitch at his best), but the political themes didn’t really work for me in a similar way that they didn’t work for me in Snowpiercer.

I don’t really have much else to say about it. Just a bit disappointed overall.

16. The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947, Dir. Peter Godfrey) – A decent little thriller where a painter (Humphrey Bogart) conspires to murder his wife (Barbara Stanwyck). Reminded me a lot of both King of the Underworld (Also starring Bogart) and Scarlet Street (Where similarly a tough guy Edward G. Robinson also plays a painter who commits murder).

17. A Face in the Crowd (1957, Dir. Elia Kazan) – A man becomes a media sensation, and it gets him drunk on fame and power as he tries to control the public. I won’t spoil too much but this feels like a pretty prescient look at Fox News and such years before they existed. Pretty fantastic overall.

I have to say though the more I watch Kazan movies the more he baffles me as a public figure. How he can do a movie like this or even Gentleman's Agreement while also being a guy who named names to HUAC is hard to reconcile.

18. Zombieland (Rewatch, 2009, Dir. Ruben Fleischer) – In some ways its hard for me to have anything resembling objectivity with this movie since I found in rewatching it that its very tied with not only my memories of my final days of high school, but also the very beginnings of my cinephilia as well. Its still a raunchy rom-com disguised as a zombie movie, though I found that it still makes me laugh and frankly that’s just not something I can say about very many comedies anymore.

Also Mike White, who you may remember as either Mr. Schneebly in School of Rock (As well as the writer of that movie) or as a contestant on Survivor: David vs. Goliath (Who pretty shockingly had a very good run on that season) is not only in this, but I never realized before that he’s in this movie twice. First he dies in the bathroom in one of the prologue segments, but then he’s also the gas station attendant that Wichita and Little Rock pull their con on in a flashback.

Anyways it might be nostalgia talking more than anything, but over a decade later I still enjoy Zombieland.

19. Zombieland: Double Tap (2019, Dir. Ruben Fleischer) – Likewise a lot of the love I had for the first movie (Whether its just nostalgia or not) carried over into this new one as well. Frankly I never thought a proper sequel was coming, but it did and I enjoyed seeing these characters again.

The only part I wasn’t super into was the “doubles” the crew meets of Columbus and Tallahassee, but overall I enjoyed this quite a bit.

20. The Laundromat (2019, Dir. Steven Soderbergh) – Soderbegh’s attempt to do something like The Big Short, combining both fourth wall breaking, a huge cast of characters, and an attempt to educate the audience about recent economic disasters. I don’t think it worked in The Big Short and I think it works less well here. It ends up feeling more like a PSA about the terrors of shell companies- and granted, that’s an important subject that matters a lot, but dramatically it just doesn’t land well in the movie and if Godard couldn’t shatter the illusion of narrative hard enough to get audiences to violently invoke political reform then Soderbergh shouldn’t even dream of trying.

It’s a shame because I like a lot of the cast here and some of the individual segments are good (The one about the cheating husband was probably my favorite). Also, what the fuck was up with that twist about Meryl Streep’s character at the end?

21. Little Women (2019, Dir. Greta Gerwig) – I found this just incomprehensible. Perhaps you had to be familiar with either the original novel or the other film adaptations, but I’m not and had absolutely no idea what was going on most of the time. I can get through Godard at his most opaque and Tomino doing his most baffling horseshit, but this just left me in the dust.

Gerwig’s previous film Lady Bird may not have been a particularly strong in my eyes, but its story was at least fairly straightforward (Since it hit the same note about Ronan’s unsympathetic character being a privileged brat who doesn’t appreciate what she has enough over and over and over and over and over again). Here it’s a bunch of samey looking actresses that not only look similar to each other, but we’ve got a parallel timeline structure where their future versions look the same as their past selves as well (Though at least there’s a blue filter over the future section).

I also found a lot of the casting to just not work. Like as much as I love Bob Odenkirk he’s badly out of place as the father in a period piece like this, especially when comes like 90 minutes into the film with really huge mutton chops. I don’t think any of the lead actresses can really sell this dialogue either (They very sound like millennials actively trying to sound like they’re from 150+ years ago), even if their casting is otherwise a little more sensible.

Honestly this is probably my worst film of 2019, which is an impressive feat considering Rise of Skywalker exists.

----------------------------------------

The Circle: A Social Media Competition (Season 1, 2020) – Yeah so I finished this. Also lol are you fucking kidding me, these fucking bozos let freakin’ JOEY get to the end to win? At least the winner had something that sort of resembles strategy going on at the very very VERY end of the game, the rest of these contestants were complete idiots. Enjoyable idiots to watch, but man the show had a lot of dead air toward the end as a result.

Also as a social strategy game The Circle is total bullshit. Like, really? You’re still bringing in new contestants like 7 episodes in out of 12? Why??????? Why not just have every contestant competing from the beginning????? Of freaking course newcomers were not going to win in a popularity contest, nobody knows who the fuck they are!
Also how are you going to have the final six vote on the winner, waste time on booting the loser of the final six vote out of the game, and then have like 90 minutes of like nothing happening. What the fuck, there’s no more game to even happen once they vote on a winner, why even do anything at this point!!!????

The Circle as a gameshow has potential, but maaaaaann they need better contestants, better editors, and less BS in the actual game itself. It’s not like there hasn’t been at least 20 years of these types of shows in the U.S. alone to look at to learn how to do one of these things. At the very least try casting people that actually want to win your fucking game show setceth gsrdhuiogrsdfnjgrashjiopgasrjkopgrasjzgsdjiopgsjio[gasjop[gasjop[bgsajop[gEJOP{ Ojop

YES I’M STILL MAD ABOUT DUMB REALITY SHOWS BRO.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #31

Postby Lord_Lyndon » Fri Jan 31, 2020 3:35 am

I agree with your thoughts on Joker (2019) and Parasite (2019). I think both of those are very good films which have been overrated by critics and general public. I don't think they are some kind of timeless masterpieces.

Raxivace wrote:19. Zombieland: Double Tap (2019, Dir. Ruben Fleischer) – Likewise a lot of the love I had for the first movie (Whether its just nostalgia or not) carried over into this new one as well. Frankly I never thought a proper sequel was coming, but it did and I enjoyed seeing these characters again.

The only part I wasn’t super into was the “doubles” the crew meets of Columbus and Tallahassee, but overall I enjoyed this quite a bit.


I just saw this one. I loved it. It was fun and funny. More films like this, please.

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #32

Postby Raxivace » Mon Feb 10, 2020 12:08 am

22. Jojo Rabbit (2019, Dir. Taika Waititi) – Imagine if the insufferable little shit from Rushmore was in the Nazi youth program and had Hitler as an imaginary fried and you've basically got this movie. It's that annoyingly "quirky" and I just don’t think it works. Like the little kid hallucinates Hitler, except as a buffoon. Except he’s also meant to idolize Hitler, and its like he sees him as this clown?

I’m sorry but I don’t think the Nazis saw things like this, and I don’t think this works as satire either because even neo-Nazis glamorize the old Fuhrer. The whole approach of this movie is to make Nazis look ridiculous, but I don’t think that kind of satire works now and I’m not sure it ever worked. A goofy joke didn’t stop millions of people from dying. Being able to laugh at Nazis didn’t stop their atrocities. Even in The Great Dictator (A film which Chaplin says he regretted making once learned the full horrors of just what exactly was going on in the concentration camps), the undercutting of the Nazis there was to make them seem beatable, to encourage America to enter the war.

Perhaps I spoke too soon in regards to Little Women being the worst of 2019 for me because yeesh this certainly gives it a run for its money. I will say I at least liked the use of The Beatles' "Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand" over the archival footage of Hitler in the beginning of the film (Its an interesting way to cinematically make the point that these dictator fascist types seek to exploit the power of celebrity), but that’s in the opening and its all downhill from there.

23. Ford v Ferarri (2019, Dir. James Mangold) – Probably the most standard “Oscar bait”-y movie of the whole bunch of nominees this year, but I dunno I think it at least worked at it what it was doing. Probably my least favorite of the Mangold movies I’ve seen, but its not bad or anything. Bale and Damon were both good.

24. The Lighthouse (2019, Dir. Robert Eggers) – This is the most visually gorgeous stupid movie I’ve ever seen. The basic idea of two dudes being driven mad by cabin fever in a lighthouse is fine, but man they go crazy like ten minutes into the damn movie. Willem Dafoe and (Somewhat surprisingly) Robert Pattinson are both immensely talented actors so they almost sell this 1890’s dialogue and slang, but I feel like they’re doing the vast majority of the work here, that there just isn’t much to actually draw from this script.

Beyond that, some of this film’s idea of “scary” things is just, well, dumb. Like there’s a scene where Pattinson is masturbating and there’s spooky music playing over it and its like really? Are you kidding me? Another scene has Pattinson find a beached mermaid and that’s supposed to freak you out too but its like, I’ve seen Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Mermaids just aren’t scary, especially when they’re beached. “Oh but it screams in a spooky way”. Dude come on.

Its just kind of the same problem I had with The VVitch and a lot of these other A24 horror movies in that despite being some of the best looking films of their respective years by a pretty large margin…man these scripts they have are beneath even the worse slasher movie franchise sequels and IMO are arguably more socially regressive even.

25. 1917 (2019, Dir. Sam Mendes) – World War I movie. It makes an interesting contrast with Dunkirk, which focused on montage and cross-cutting between timelines while this goes for a faux-single shot aesthetic similar to Birdman. They’re both also stories about a retreat in some since too, since the main adventure in 1917 is about two soldiers trying to deliver a message to get an attack called off.

Still, I'm not sure what the faux-single shot look is meant to add to this particular story. In Birdman it was at least meant to to simulate the feel of stageplays somewhat, and I'm not sure there's any such motivation here. Perhaps something like The Revenant would have been a better model, as that movie has a lot of impressive long takes and a sense of immersion and such that's similar to what this movie is going for (They're both even kind of survival stories too), though being able to use traditional editing and such allowed The Revenant to not quite feel like time was being compressed or expanded in weird ways like it sometimes does in 1917. Like I'm not sure if I'm actually meant to believe really only 45 minutes have passed between the two leads in 1917 getting their orders and then being knee deep in enemy territory or not. It just makes the whole story feel artificial in a way I'm not sure is intended.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #33

Postby Derived Absurdity » Tue Feb 11, 2020 12:24 am

I mostly think all the A24 horror movies I've seen are just okay, but I've never pinged any of them as socially regressive.

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #34

Postby Raxivace » Tue Feb 11, 2020 12:55 pm

A lot of them really feel that way to me underneath the impressive technical qualities of the films. Like The VVitch very much feels like some weird conservative's straw-boogeyman of feminism to me (Cabal of women literally plotting to destroy the nuclear family, literally eating babies, actively recruiting the girl at the end. etc.), and the entire plot of Hereditary hinges on demon guy being able to take over the world or whatever if he can successfully get a sex change. That just seems like very thinly veiled transphobia to me.

Like shit I wouldn't be surprised if the next horror movie these guys put out is about some swamp goblin or something that wants to remove the requirement to have an ID to vote in elections.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #35

Postby Derived Absurdity » Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:31 pm

The theme of the The Witch was female empowerment. The protagonist was accused of witchcraft based on no evidence through the movie and ostracized by her family. Accusing women of witchcraft is almost the archetypal expression of misogyny and male fears of female power and rebellion. Her joining the coven at the end was portrayed as a good thing and a rejection of patriarchal oppression. (Besides the killing of her annoying twin siblings, but who cares about them.)

I don't even remember most of Hereditary so I can't argue with that.

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #36

Postby Raxivace » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:34 am

I agree the movie is about female empowerment, however I'm saying the movie is 100% aligned with the misogyny and males fears of female power that you mention.

Like why is the movie presenting the empowered women as scary monsters that really are out in the forest and trying to kill children if not to make the father's fears seem justified and even seem somewhat reasonable? The whole film just seems way more sympathetic to the fall of patriarchy than to the women to me, and the celebratory feminist interpretations about it seem more forcibly imprinted onto the movie rather than really drawn from the text in my eyes.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #37

Postby Derived Absurdity » Wed Feb 12, 2020 5:28 am

It depicted her family's unfounded suspicions of her as clearly wrong (and depicted her as sympathetic), so if you take them as expressions of patriarchy and misogyny (which witchcraft accusations are), then it doesn't seem sympathetic to misogyny, at least in that respect.

It's been a while since I've seen it, but I don't think the mere existence of the witches proves the family's suspicions of her were justified; they were still hysterical and oppressive and based on fear of female sexuality. And I think the movie basically made the point that fundamentalist Christianity = patriarchal oppression = bad, and Satanism = individual empowerment = good, or at least better. The women were still scary child murderers, because, well, they're devil-worshipers, but they were still better than what she was leaving behind.

At worst I think the message of the movie was ambiguous.

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #38

Postby Cassius Clay » Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:21 am

The irony of the girl being pushed to selling her soul to the devil due to the misogynistic bs happening to her is a dark twist fitting for a horror movie.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #39

Postby Raxivace » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:12 pm

^It's been a while since I've seen it but my impression was that the family's paranoia was all part of the witches' plan to manipulate the family so they could ultimately recruit the daughter, starting with them killing the one kid to push the family over the edge. Otherwise a lot of the actions of the witches seem like pointless acts of random violence to me. I guess that the latter could still be the case but I think I have an even lesser opinion of the film then.

Derived Absurdity wrote:It depicted her family's unfounded suspicions of her as clearly wrong (and depicted her as sympathetic), so if you take them as expressions of patriarchy and misogyny (which witchcraft accusations are), then it doesn't seem sympathetic to misogyny, at least in that respect.

It's been a while since I've seen it, but I don't think the mere existence of the witches proves the family's suspicions of her were justified; they were still hysterical and oppressive and based on fear of female sexuality. And I think the movie basically made the point that fundamentalist Christianity = patriarchal oppression = bad, and Satanism = individual empowerment = good, or at least better. The women were still scary child murderers, because, well, they're devil-worshipers, but they were still better than what she was leaving behind.

At worst I think the message of the movie was ambiguous.
Are they really that unfounded or clearly wrong if witches are actually out to get them and have been successfully taking them out one by one? Like even though it was wrong to target the daughter specifically (I think we as audience can only say that because we have information the characters don't, namely that we see the witch before hand in fairly objective manner who clearly isn't the daughter), that just means its merely a different empowered feminine "other" that's causing life to be hell for these people, not really the misguided beliefs themselves about women that the family holds and not some completely imagined threat as is the case with real life accusations of witchcraft. IOW, the family's flaw was that their misogyny was only directed at the wrong culprit, not that they had misogynistic beliefs in and of itself. It just seems like the wrong approach to material like this to me.

Also I'm not sure the movie making the statement that individuality is good when the thing that kicks off the movie is the family being kicked out of the town- it's being disconnected from larger Christian community that begins the tragedy. Likewise, I'm not sure how being devil-worshipping child murderers is supposed to be any kind of positive growth- it seems like they devolved into monsters to me. It would be like if some random Friday the 13th movie ended up with whatever girl at the end deciding to team up with Jason and they started having romantic moonlight dates together where they kill new campers who dared to come to Crystal Lake. Actually someone should make that movie, it sounds dope.

I dunno, we can agree to disagree.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #40

Postby Raxivace » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:41 pm

26. Ordinary People (1980, Dir. Robert Redford) – The 1980 Best Picture Winner. This is another case where the film that won is perfectly fine, though IMO inferior to other nominees that year- namely Raging Bull, though I think I like The Elephant Man better as well.

Still, this is a solid family drama dealing with the loss of a child, suicide etc. It ends on a fairly uncertain note too, which I think helps this movie out a lot compared to a lot of typical drama films that win Best Picture (Like there are still miles between this movie and, say, Driving Miss Daisy). Also it was weird to see Mary Tyler Moore in an almost but not quite antagonistic role (Even with these qualifiers “antagonist” still feels like a bit too strong of a word to describe her character though I think it still technically counts), but she was great here and is someone I wish I saw more of in my movie watching.

27. Paranormal Activity (2007, Dir. Oren Peli) – I’m a little more into the “found footage” aesthetic than other cinephiles, but this movie just didn’t really work for me and the whole thing just kind of seems like The Blair Witch Project with a worse script. The drama between the girlfriend and the boyfriend just kind of falls flat (Why not just call the demonologist or whatever to placate your girlfriend?) and the actual scares here seem quaint. People often invoke the old Richard Pryor joke to ask “Why don’t they just leave the house?” to dismiss these kinds of movies but I did find myself wondering the same thing here (I get by the end the girl is probably possessed when she suddenly refuses to go to the hotel but still). At least in something like Blair Witch Project they’re lost in the woods even before considering the idea that space around them might be metaphysically warped in some fashion.

I do have to say though the story of Paranormal Activity might be a little more interesting if you interpret it as the ghost not existing at all with the girlfriend just really really really hating the weird boyfriend (And hell I wouldn’t blame her), though the existence of like a bajillion sequels makes me doubt that that idea holds up to scrutiny. Maybe I’ll get around to those one day if I’m bored.

28. Chariots of Fire (1981, Dir. Hugh Hudson) – The 1981 Best Picture Winner. I found this movie kind of boring all around- I appreciate that this tries to be a character study more than anything but man these dudes are bland. “God and England and the sabbath blah blah blah blah”. How can a movie about runners be so slow?

The Vangelis score is the most striking thing here and is pretty good, though I think the music has far outlived the movie itself at this point. Not quite one of the worst BP winners but its in a tier just above the worst for me.

The only other BP nominee from this year I’ve seen is Raiders of the Lost Ark, which is a much better film though I don’t think something like that was ever going to actually win.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #41

Postby Cassius Clay » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:00 pm

I'd say the end of 'The Witch' was more of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The lesson was not simply that they were right all along(ironically), but that their underlying bigotries/paranoia(though manipulated/exacerbated by the devil) helped create the conditions that led to those fears coming true.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #42

Postby Raxivace » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:04 am

I'd definitely like the movie more if that were the case. Perhaps a rewatch would change my view.
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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #43

Postby Raxivace » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:04 am

29. Gandhi (1982, Dir. Richard Attenborough) – The 1982 Best Picture Winner. Solid biopic overall, with great central performance by Ben Kingsley. Most of the rest of this movie is pretty standard though, but I think elevated just by how much Kingsley is doing here as Ghandi.

I am kind of curious to seem more of Attenborough (At the very least his Chaplin biopic with Robert Downey Jr.) but I'll probably still think of him more than anything for his role as an actor in Jurassic Park than as a director. Not that he's a bad director or anything, but I'm guessing he's the kind of guy that relies on a strong central actor and a strong script to really make something good.

Of the other nominees this year I've seen E.T. and The Verdict. I think I honestly liked E.T. the best of the three of them but I haven't seen it in a very long time.

30. Out of Africa (1985, Dir. Sydney Pollack) – The 1985 Best Picture Winner. Similar to Chariots of Fire I just was not feeling this story at all. Even by the standards of intentionally slow-paced three hour long romantic epics this whole thing just felt really lethargic, and Streep and Redford outside of like a single argument are never very engaging at all here. Good music, beautiful location, but man its so boring that even the fact that this is also basically a “white savior” narrative feels less scandalous than it probably should be because how unengaging this movie is.

Meryl Streep just really puzzles me as an actress at this point. With the exceptions of Kramer vs. Kramer and Adaptation, I feel like she keeps attaching herself from mediocre to outright bad movies again and again and again. She’s often the best part in these movies, but not nearly enough for how elevated her reputation is. I still have a couple of her more famous movies left to see and hopefully they’ll move me to feel otherwise, but I kind of have the impression now that she’s spent almost her entire career wasting her talent.

I don't think I've seen any of the other nominees this year.

31. The Last Emperor (Theatrical Cut, 1987, Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci) – Th 1987 Best Picture Winner about China’s final emperor- Puyi.

This kind of makes an interesting contrast to Gandhi. Both movies were made within the 1980's and are historical epics about leaders, both cover similar periods of time and even have characters reacting to some of the same historical events, but man the lead characters are wildly different and the feel of both films are very different as well. With Last Emperor in particular this is a movie about a character who is gradually, constantly losing more and more throughout the whole film. Failure after failure until he's basically nothing at the end. For one of these Best Picture winners of this period that makes Puyi fairly unique as a lead- he's not a hero by any real stretch of the imagination, merely a protagonist who ultimately trades the opulent prison he's born into for the Communist "re-education" prison he's captured and forced into. I suppose you can call the whole thing a kind of fall from grace or a fall from privilege, but I'm not sure how much of either of those things really were there for Puyi to begin with.

A couple of other points of interest here. First, Joan Chen from Twin Peaks is in this and it was probably her biggest role before that show. Also, a guy named Ryuichi Sakamoto worked on the score to this. I’ve never never looked into him before but he’s had a pretty varied career as a composer. This movie, The Revenant, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Call me by Your Name, Femme Fatale (Ugh), and it seems he even did the score to the Gainax movie The Wings of Honnemaise. Apparently he’s got a “Special Thanks” in the credits of the game Soul Calibur IV of all things too, which makes me wonder if there’s a story there.

Again, haven't seen any of the other nominees from this year.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #44

Postby Raxivace » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:05 am

And with that, I have finally finished seeing all of the Best Picture Winners. It sure as fuck took me a long time- I think the first one I saw was actually Lord of the Rings: Return of the King whenever that first came out on DVD, though I didn’t really start tackling the list in earnest until about 2009, going on and off over the last decade or so. Also, ending on a movie with “Last” in the title only feels appropriate.

The Academy really are a befuddling bunch. A lot of the stereotypes about their tastes do seem to be true to some extent- that they seem to not like genre movies, that they like “inspiring” stories about people overcoming adversity, period pieces, that they mostly like safe somewhat bland films, that they like “white” movies etc.

Every now and then though they are surprising. Some of the movies that they award do still end up being genuinely good despite fitting all of those categories to some extent (Amadeus probably being the biggest pleasant surprise to me here), and every now and then they’ll completely go against the grain and award something like Parasite or Unforgiven or Silence of the Lambs or No Country For Old Men or even Birdman.

The other kind of shocking thing is that for as often as they pick the “wrong” movie in any given year (As long as it’s a defensible choice I don’t mind really if they don’t award what I personally think is best), and as much as people (especially on the internet) like to complain about what wins, the Academy people on average seem to be awarding better movies on average these days than they did before like 1970 or so. Keep in my mind I say this as someone who tends to prefer classical Hollywood over “New” Hollywood, but anyone who starts going off about the “worst” Best Picture Winners and then starts mostly listing off stuff made in the last 30 years or so frankly just haven’t seen many of these older films. Shakespeare in Love or Crash or Green Book or English Patient or Chicago or whatever else are still quite a bit better than some of the real clunkers from pre-1970 like Broadway Melody (Which at least has the excuse of being an early sound film) or Cavalcade or Cimarron or Gentlemen’s Agreement or Gigi or Greatest Show on Earth or All Around the World in 80 Days or Tom freakin’ Jones.

Spotlight might be as bad or worse than a lot of those though (It seems like I get in a jab at Spotlight at least once a year), though even that is an exception more than anything. Like when I think of even other movies from 2010’s that I don’t think should have won like The King’s Speech or The Artist or Argo I don’t think of those are bad, really, just not what should have gotten the award those particular years.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #45

Postby Lord_Lyndon » Sat Feb 15, 2020 1:44 pm

Raxivace wrote:With the exceptions of Kramer vs. Kramer and Adaptation, I feel like she keeps attaching herself from mediocre to outright bad movies again and again and again. She’s often the best part in these movies, but not nearly enough for how elevated her reputation is. I still have a couple of her more famous movies left to see and hopefully they’ll move me to feel otherwise, but I kind of have the impression now that she’s spent almost her entire career wasting her talent.


I hope that Allen's Manhattan (1979) is high on your watchlist. I quite liked that one.

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #46

Postby Raxivace » Sat Feb 15, 2020 2:04 pm

It's not very high on it tbh since I wasn't really into Annie Hall or the "Oedipus Wrecks" short in New York Stories. The Woody Allen movies I tend to like best are the ones he's not starring in- something about his persona as an actor just really grates me.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #47

Postby Lord_Lyndon » Sat Feb 15, 2020 2:32 pm

Raxivace wrote:It's not very high on it tbh since I wasn't really into Annie Hall or the "Oedipus Wrecks" short in New York Stories. The Woody Allen movies I tend to like best are the ones he's not starring in- something about his persona as an actor just really grates me.


That's a shame. I like him as an actor.
But back to Meryl Streep. I think you would like her performance in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). I think everyone liked her in it. That being said... I think she is the only person who can get an Oscar nomination for such a film.

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #48

Postby Gendo » Sat Feb 15, 2020 4:20 pm

I had no idea that Attenborough was a director; let alone the director of a big-name pic like Ghandi; or that my recently acquired “Chaplin” was the same director as Ghandi.

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Re: Raxivace's 2020 Movies or: (Neo-General Chat IV: Raxivace's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children)   Reply #49

Postby Raxivace » Sat Feb 15, 2020 5:06 pm

Lord_Lyndon wrote:But back to Meryl Streep. I think you would like her performance in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). I think everyone liked her in it. That being said... I think she is the only person who can get an Oscar nomination for such a film.
I remember when that came out, but I didn't pay too much attention to it. I'll have to check it out.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris


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