Quick-Thoughts: Bill Melendez’s Snoopy Come Home (1972)

Screened at The Beverly Cinema

“You got a used dog, Charlie Brown.”

Snoopy Come Home is thee movie I can recall the most of from my childhood, and there are probably some good reasons for that. Sure, it targets best for dogs given that it’s quite literally a coming of age story about being a pet to humans, but its secondary demographic would of course be children as the film attempts to correlate that pet to humans aspect with kid to parents, and subsequently parents to kid as the Peanuts gang debate just how much ownership they’ve really had over Snoopy while he’s away. 

Per usual, Melendez and Schultz prove themselves some of animation’s most dedicated theme conveyors. Here, they stress the importance of being content with the amount of independence you’re given. They make aware of this gap between settling with destined parental owners and the inevitable desired independence to be raised elsewhere no matter how good you have it. There are always worse parental figures out there, some who are even willing to treat their children on the level of animals like with the film’s momentary antagonist Clara who’s an exceptionally unpleasant prototype for Sid from Pixar’s Toy Story (1995). Schulz also seems invested in the past, such as with old friends or owners, controlling what you should do and therefore inspiring the youth’s initial confrontations with morality. He also suggests the audience to make the best out of inequities, especially since they can sometimes relieve you of tough and mature responsibilities that you may not be ready for – the movie uses humorous “no dogs allowed” signs to express this, but we all know its meant to let kids reminisce on their own experiences of being denied privileges as a child. From the perspective of the Peanuts gang, however, the film is also debating the natural yet imprudent nature of paranoia that we may have towards people close to us who clearly aren’t exactly like us, or better worded, not in exactly a similar stage of life as us, hence this parents trying to understand their kid motif going on, which is ironic because it’s mirrored by mere children who are trying to understand their dog.

It was really charming to see a movie this old though in an auditorium where the kids responded very eagerly to the slapstick just as I had as a child watching this during the early 2000s, and there are even some adult gags in this that genuinely had me laughing too – a taxpayer’s joke in particular had the whole crowd riled and moreover fitted right and well with this childhood allegory. Plus, Snoopy and Woodstock go acid tripping in this. Yeah.

Verdict: B

“Snoopy Come Home” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Bill Hunter’s character looks way too much like Donald Trump for it to be a coincidence.

Admittedly (and ironically) down to all the dramatic tension and release, this is mostly just a stick-to-the-script story that repaints your typical forbidden romance based in a society where common consensus derives from a single leading culture, sustaining fear and suppressing independent thinking in an industry depended on formula. And yet, despite us having consumed this cut-and-dry tale about a gazillion times before, there’s something about Baz Lurhman’s energy and style that ALMOST successfully gives new life to it. From his perceptive sound effect and musical timing to the controlled little zeal spasms in the shots which appear steadily glittered; it’s all crowd-pleasing stuff! Those quirks do feel like they’re holding back at times, but perhaps it’s for the better — yes, I’ve seen clips from The Great Gatsby (2013) before. All the foreshadowing moments with Scott’s father prior to his reveal have a nice melancholic edge to them as well. The battle for the nerd being with the popular kid also suggestively becomes a bit weightier in the form of the battle for the minority of an uncommercial culture linking with the commercially accepted white figure. You either stay strictly ballroom or generously selfish.

Being parroted contrived examples of the “a life lived in fear is a life half lived” quote though honestly had close to enough staying power for me.

Verdict: C+

“Strictly Ballroom” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Robert Altman’s Three Women (1977)

Screened at The New Beverly

“I rather face a thousand crazy savages than one woman who’s learned how to shoot.”

Rodarte founders Kate and Laura Mulleavy once described Three Women as a film that doesn’t rely on logic despite it being logical, which to me epitomizes Robert Altman’s one-of-a-kind knack for making movies that narratively soar both literally on their own but also figuratively on their own as well. 

As relaxing and plush as it can be to sink into this town’s environment, there appears to be some burnout lurking in every crevice of its seemingly haunted yet totally populated and outwardly breezy essence, Altman again proving himself a cinematic genius when it comes to getting you to remember his infectiously lived-in settings that quietly deconstruct the hidden within the casual. What can comfortably be seen as a simple coming of age story about a young woman learning to adapt and a slightly older woman learning to adapt to her is actually open to so much more psychological reading, particularly in regards to how these interactions inspire personal identity.

How is it possible to ever know ourselves when personality upon personality runs into us everyday in society to do it for us, inciting us to idolize, inciting us to compete, inciting us to submit, inciting us to infantilize? Is identity simply made up of us running into distinct personas by chance that register into our own combination, yet a combination that could be rigged and particularly formatted based on how we’re born? Altman’s film here is therefore often presented as a comedy on the self-perceived appearance, but then it incrementally becomes a tragedy on this appearance’s conditions too, as if the eerie recurring score that slithers between supposedly unquestionable moments couldn’t tell you otherwise. 

Three women is underselling it; there are but hundreds populating in each, and the three are but merely the most broad and socially expected, pressured, etc. of segments in this husband + wife perspective of a woman’s timeline. In the less literal sense, they are the ecdysis of their most basic life: dream as the child, become — or at least think you’ve become — as the desired adult, and reconsider the child through birth. It’s propagated negatively by the validation of men, validation of repeating, embodiment of media and idolization that foresees such. Apotheosis then validates the child’s aspiration, projection validating the adult’s superiority complex of being lusted for, and birth validating their signs of reminiscence. It’s a real life horror of human instinct, of generational indulgence, but eventually it comes to a monotonous release of equilibrium and acceptance towards the three stages, if you can call that a release though and maybe more so an imprisonment of disappointment. Christ, welcome to the California dream.

Essentially, the entire plot allegorizes this train of thought, where highly dramatic moments often signify clear transitions into each character’s new stage, but in its most literal sense, it also works as a plausible example to real life that confirms their existence. The film is clearly contrived to have distinct symbolics, but the symbolics in a sense work their way into our own reality. They are there, destined to happen in this structuring of fiction, but isn’t life already destined of certain things based on how we are socially and culturally identified, expected, or controlled as? Three Women doesn’t need to rely on logic during even its theatrical incidents because life itself can sometimes be such given the drastic changes in persona that we’re essentially forced to go through, therefore making its place in the film seem logical even if appearing a bit prophesied – the world simply operates at that, and the movie is compressing that knowledge into a tight two hours.

Also, shoutout to this movie for featuring what’s essentially a feminine existential crisis version of the 2001 (1968) stargate sequence, and then it’s immediately followed by another masterfully vehement sequence and by that point I was like yeah this film is hitting the f**k out of me alright. Another Altman masterpiece go figure.

Verdict: A+

All-Time Favorites, Robert Altman Ranked

“Three Women” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Xavier Dolan’s Mommy (2014)

Screened at The Alamo Drafthouse

The spelling of the word “hello” did always seem suspicious to me.

Mommy may be supported by a pretty standard plot that’s tethered to the usual breed between coming of age drama and tragedy, but its ultimately hauled by three absolutely mind-blowing performances that embody three seriously expatiated and elaborate characters, and Xavier Dolan’s avant-garde cinematic style is calculated to a T here — the 1:1 aspect ratio redefining composition is a breath of fresh air in particular. Dolan furthermore decisively gets across just how tough a situation like this must be where the extremes of either abandonment or embrace seem to be a mother’s only options, out of love to each. The film wisely grants us a few moments of tenderness to suggest that capable relationships are building yet also reveals to us its tragic coexistence with the tangible society of today where its inability to prevail is almost marked a guarantee, allocating you into this mother who must undergo and live narrowed with this far from ideal reality. Dolan’s methodology to manifest these polarities can sometimes be a bit too on-the-nose and tonally bait-and-switch, but certainly not enough so to ruin what’s already otherwise marvelous in it.

And I see what you did there Dolan with that Lana Del Rey song. The classic double entendre.

Verdict: B

“Mommy” is now available to stream on Paramount+.

Quick-Thoughts: Phil Tippett’s Mad God (2021)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

A movie like Mad God longs for your interpretation. It is a vulnerable cinematic excavation of the content of its creator’s nightmares, a practice in artistically materializing one’s déjà-rêvé, perhaps acting as a sort of therapy for Phil Tippett in doing so. The Old Testament-inspired fantasy realm that he has – for the past thirty years now – reconcocted with a doyen’s level of care humorously toys with our corporal circle of life by adjusted conditions that stretch the reality which we know of, just as dreams often do. A faceless figure giving a traveler the pouty eyes yet with no actual visible eyes, the voice of an infant spewing cryptic demands or for all we know whatever on an intercom broadcasted though importantly to the ears of thousands of disposable idols, a World War Hell filled with unsystematic clock ticks that subjectively bend time; what do they remind you of? What could they possibly be trying to tell you? Maybe this is something better left for the certified psychologists to decode but we’re all here anyways now, aren’t we?

An ambient album equivalent of a movie if I’d ever seen one. 

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked

“Mad God” will be playing in select theaters and available to stream on Shudder June 16th.

Quick-Thoughts: Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin (2004)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

Never in my life did I expect cereal to embody one of the most visually revolting images in cinema.

A contrast between two divisions of childhood sexual abuse trauma: succumbing and repression, and for such intense subject matter, Gregg Araki mercifully does right by depicting them with rather merciless execution that comes off as nothing short of a cinematic slaughterhouse on the once presumed destined discoveries from the curious young; the exclusive childhood mechanism of innocence is used completely against itself to an utmost immoral kind of manipulation, Araki putting us momentarily right back into that delicate juvenile headspace of our past as a plausible victim to these atrocities. Some of those unidentified objects we saw in youth are things we were never meant to experience, never meant to grow into either confidently or subconsciously; they very much became permanent inflammations prowling even in the masses of every alternative cover-up we could think of.  

There are worse things, but being told we’re “special” for anything early on is dangerous. Our inception defines a lot about us onward, and yet we don’t exactly get to choose it. 

So suffice it to say, I loathed watching Mysterious Skin, and it almost made me cry because. Pain.

Verdict: B+

“Mysterious Skin” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future (2022)

“Sexier means easier funding.”

“Crimes of the Future” is a title that nearly every one of David Cronenberg’s socially-minded body outputs thus far could’ve slipped themselves into – one in fact even did near the very beginning of the auteur’s illustrious career – but perhaps this now recently adapted 20-year-old script, initially scrapped right before his career began mutating into strict drama narratives, is the most earned of the name as an irony of it. See, these are quote on quote “crimes” of the future, but they are also meant to speak for quite literally the crimes of forever, the cumulative crimes built from all humanity. The film is disguised to be about a beginning in an end, and then confesses to really be about a fragment of a prolonged beginning never reaching an end. Essentially, there is no future here as the favored word has been glorified to insinuate, just a future in its verbatim of wanting one; if there is a crime of the future, it’s that it has no greater future, just a genetic habit that only helps obscure it: to control our own evolution but not OUR evolution. The dependable world-building that Cronenberg uses to depict this alone feels like something he’s been dying to make his entire career, but one not ready for such until the longer observed aging of his body could feed him the information he needed to get this story right. In doing so, the face-value crime of what we see in his sci-fi is not necessarily sworn as one to him, but more so as something he’s accepted as fact. There’s barely a cautionary thesis to this like his previous body-horror endeavors. If anything, the thesis is “let it be”. It’s as if he’s decided to drop the “horror” and leave the “body”. 

As you may have figured, Crimes of the Future cuts close into human history: politics often come after rash experimenting, thus engineering the neverending failure of them leading to a utopia. Big idealistic changes don’t happen because we’re too busy independently publicizing other impulsive changes of our own in a world not yet constructed for them out of governments that will always at first be rigged against them due to inherent totalitarianism towards the citizen. At the same time though, if this truly is the indestructible machine of our order, aren’t all we have as a mass population of society then these tools to rebel through our personal change even if it’s what encourages this bottomless pit? Agh!

One of the key arcs Cronenberg implements to communicate this cycle resides in how he explores how art is often redefined by the artist from propagation to be more confident in their ambition in wake of their passiveness being viewed as perhaps no longer a form of attraction. Beauty is then also deconstructed: we’re not just getting tattoos now to stimulate our lust for physique further; the possibilities to mutilate it have become endless with the removal of pain from the body, and they’re all contenders for the market to covet over. Is glamorized celebrity power of those who make these bodily renovations though the hand that makes us see them as a segregated and superior species among us? Our new creators? Pleasure has always mimicked pain, so is sex too becoming diversified enough now to the point where it can be whatever it wants so long as it evokes similar origins to something that’s now been ridiculed in this future? 

A utopia, let alone a dystopia, will always be a figment of our imagination as options such as these or plastic integration into the human build and the artistic vulnerability in settling with the inevitable hunger for them compensate as enough change to what’s been harmed – in this case the environmental stability for biotic resources – and furthermore as enough psychological fulfillment in the moment as an act of “real change”, putting humanity back into its uniform equilibrium whether organically or inorganically. Back to the topic of irony, I guess the bigger one than even the title itself is that Crimes of the Future as a movie works as a cinematic new body organ of its own, but one that sort of proves Cronenberg’s more optimistic look on self-inflicted, and even if pointless in what it progresses externally, evolution. As long as it’s a spiritual healer internally, it can do no wrong to the individuals who wrongfully (but then rightfully lol) indulge it, balancing both the literal ecosystem and our existential survival.

Though to get all of this across, Crimes of the Future is obsessively thought-dropping idea by idea between plain lumps of dialogue and the occasional Cronenbergian visual to pile up this somewhat awe-inspiring big picture, which sparks for a compelling debate for each it includes but it also makes the movie insanely overbearing to switch between such and therefore extract as a completed narrative. The fact that this is getting a wide release in America already blows my mind because it’s certainly “30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes” material that’ll likely plummet at the box office. It’s unfortunate that Cronenberg’s irregular methodology here is what’ll probably cause most viewers to not see what’s there: that its very deeply rooted universe is its very deeply rooted voice. His world-building of what’s to come but also what’s already been here where humanity needs constant new stimulations like any commercial art consumer or drug addict – the twitchy performances especially from our three leads particularly sell this – is just enough to make this enjoyable. It works first and foremost as a gallery walk composed of a bit overbearing narration (in the shape of dialogue) that’s accompanied by contemplative visual futurism. Introducing… Cronenberg’s Brave New World.

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked, David Cronenberg Ranked

“Crimes of the Future” will be playing in theaters June 3rd.

Quick-Thoughts: David Cronenberg’s Directorial Debuts Stereo and Crimes of the Future (1969-1970)

Stereo (Tile 3B of a CAFE Educational Mosaic) (1969)

Wow, Cronenberg has been horny since the very beginning. 

Living is only one continuous experience, yet we search for more. David Cronenberg’s directorial debut sure is conceptually interesting: make a (pretty convincing) fake educational video that documents through narration and staged footage a scientific experiment which longs to see if we can intensify the order of human sociology by provoking more polygamous and sexually charged telepathy, therefore acting as thee seed to Cronenberg’s evolution as an explorer of the human’s psychological potential. Its craft has “student film” residue leaching all over it, but at that, residue left by one creatively gridlocked trainee with a likelihood to improve despite how desynchronized his cinematic expressions are of the curious ideas here. Sometimes one ought to experiment via an almost rough draft-like stratagem to learn how they really want to articulate themselves the next time. You probably don’t get a Shivers (1975) and subsequently a Crash (1996) without trying something like this first. 

We all start off overusing slow pans too lol. And black-and-white. 

Verdict: C

David Cronenberg Ranked

“Stereo (Tile 3B of a CAFE Educational Mosaic)” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Crimes of the Future (1970)

Cronenberg was technically once a feet model. 

Perhaps David Cronenberg’s first real shot in the dark at sequence seduction, where grimy sci-fi sound effect-based scoring transfixes us into the warped physical intimacy between its concupiscent, paraphilic characters, yet there unrolled in quite the slug of atmospheric experimentation. I mean, it isn’t bad mood-work per say, but it’s certainly not good enough to warrant a feature-length worth of it; I got over all the institution hopping by like the halfway point. With that said, this at least functions as another way for Cronenberg to further demonstrate his interest in foreseeing humanity’s artificially and thus dangerously provoked body transformation aims as it leads towards ethical leniences. Case and point, my feelings towards Stereo about apply here in terms of me being happy that test-drives like this were made so the soon-to-be auteur could work things out, but don’t expect to see me watching OG Crimes of the Future ever again. This one doesn’t even have a cute gimmick to it like his last too that my needy mind can latch onto. ;(

And the main character low-key sounds like HAL-9000. “I’m sorry *DAVID* I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Okay, I’ll shut the f**k up now…

Verdict: C-

David Cronenberg Ranked

“Crimes of the Future” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria (2021)

“Experiences are harmful: they unleash a violent flurry in the memory.”

Finally, the hearing cleanse that I needed. To hell with going to the doctors; amiright? *delusional*

Memoria, not to that much of a shock, is about someone uncovering the mystery behind her memory, brought to life when a mysterious, canorous thumping noise begins occupying the ears. She initially presumes that this noise is happening at random, appearing in jump-scare-like magnitudes of shock that catch both her and likely us viewers off-guard during their first couple appearances, but incident by incident do the noises begin to appear only more as if they’ve been orchestrating her into seemingly destined situations. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest contribution to gentle and cryptic cinema is another kind of homage to one of life’s greatest mysteries: the tragic unreliability yet adventurous bliss within memory as a form of believed reality and dependable guidance, exhorting divisively both our distrusts towards the present time and our innocence from its lack of objectivity.

In classic Joe fashion, Memoria is divided into essentially two halves: the first being a playful one for the viewers, reading like a subjective strand of our main character’s non-chronological-made-chronological recollection of her condition’s inception, introducing ambiguously connected segments that appear like a brace between sensationalized dreams and past realities, and the second is assumed to be just the very present – perhaps outside of a memory – where she meets somebody of a familiar name who can recall the pasts of any object. This latter part I find to be an interesting reconstruction of Weerasethakul’s usual execution when it comes to depicting telepathy, since with the introduction of a literal premise based on sound, it only makes sense that he has fulfilled such potential with an audibly intense atmosphere where the audience-relied imagination is now directed to primarily concentrate on just one of the senses to experience the filmmaker’s trademark mysticism. Strangely enough, this elongated sequence feels as if our main character is confronting a sort of God figure, absorbing some truth about her life from Him regarding how the strong, connected experiences of the people she knew buckled her interpretation of what has led up to now. It is by far one of the most meditative and simultaneously lighting-in-a-bottle sequences that the auteur has concocted yet. 

On the topic of our memories not being purely made by the wield of our own though, the film thematically gave me Blade Runner 2049 (2017) vibes when it comes to that idea of handed down memory. For some reason the song I Know the End by Phoebe Bridgers also came to mind when watching this, but I suppose that’s only a testament to how lyrical Joe’s movies frequently appear to be. 

Verdict: B+

2022 Ranked, Apichatpong Weerasethakul Ranked

“Memoria” is now playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendor (2015)

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Marathon Part VI of VI

“Both of us are dead as well.”

Men only have two moods: Movie and popcorn with spiritual mama, then literally by the next minute, fighting out-of-body in an ancient war. 

Working seamlessly off of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), Apichatpong Weerasethakul brings back ghosts and draws the bonds made with them out in a dovetail between the conservative real and the unusually surreal — as if the near twenty minute sequence of a princess hosting the body of a psychic to show our main character through only verbal descriptions what their land is like in her timeline wasn’t enough to convince you so. Once more, the filmmaking auteur has something remedial to state by means of these paranormal occurrences: even if its by assumption, imagination, of a real spiritual guidance, you gain a whole new vision looking at and being aware of places as if they were set in a chosen past, shifting our perspective and identity at random, everything fading in on top of one another, not allowing the dominating post-war encroachments of today get in the way of seeing the remaining world for all that it truly is, bringing peace to the ghosts of people and places that surround us as they are what led to the most tangible of refurbishments for which we should equally celebrate. 

Though, Cemetery of Splendor seems to be sloshing through all of Joe’s already established past gimmicks to an overcompensating degree, as if it were acting as a tribute to his opening decade in filmmaking — from the off-duty soldiers, interactive souls, hospital shenanigans, reconstructions of time, an upbeat dance workout concluding sequence, etc. Maybe its just intentional in the name of its ethos, overlaying so much past work into the present to make his optimum project that satiates in the influences; maybe that itself is the new he offers this time around. To quote the film, “I’m happy to know that at least he’s doing some good in his sleep.”

The LED college dorm set-ups were a nice add to the Weerasethakul canon too. The fella behind Too Old to Die Young (2019) did the cinematography? Makes sense!

Verdict: B-

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Ranked

“Cemetery of Splendor” is now available to stream on Kanopy.