Quick-Thoughts: Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973)

Federico Fellini Marathon Part VI of VI

No horny police allowed in my Fascist Italy! Umm… Foreshadowing? 

You know, I don’t mind a little nostalgia porn from time to time myself. The humanity of Amarcord is quite peachy, deriving straight from the manipulated memories of Federico Fellini himself. It’s no shock that recollection in childhood is usually glorified positively, and Fellini makes efforts for that to appear very much the case in this likable breeze of a mental wash, especially when put against some of his astir previous endeavors. It’s not NEARLY my favorite Fellini, but it’s inclusively charming and successful in what it sets out to exhibit.

Peacocks are very nostalgic to me though, so when that one appeared during the film, the coincidence had me flabbergasted; I grew up in an area full of them so it’s hard not to.

Verdict: B

Federico Fellini Ranked

“Amarcord” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Federico Fellini’s Toby Dammit (1968)

Federico Fellini Marathon Part V of VI

Federico Fellini’s slim adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s work feels like a long lost segment to , except it’s shelled into this Dario Argento-vibey horror hybrid that’s got me personally even more fretful to seek out a career in the film industry. The use of orange and red in the opening segment of Toby Dammit is so intense that it feels like the planet is literally ready to implode into flames, sending us straight into an alienated nightmare world of phoney-ass talkshow interviews and *dun dun DUN* the OSCARS, and proceeding so with a very much soberless driving sequence that had my timid, poor body on ice for nearly fifteen cold minutes. I must say, it was quite curious seeing the Devil himself swing a dashing home run before the picture ended too; it surely packed the final punch I needed to consider this short nothing less than a miracle of surreal horror-telling.

Furthermore, I’d like to see Terrence Stamp and Marcello Mastroianni have a match-up now for who can play the more washed-up celebrity, please? Mastroianni may have taken me on the superior trip, but it only took Stamp 40 minutes to convince me that he was already there.

Verdict: A-

Federico Fellini Ranked

“Toby Dammit” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Godzilla and Kong’s The Neon Demon.

I think it’s easy for somebody to argue that because this movie is about dumb, giant monsters fighting than it gets a free-pass for having dumb writing, but I digress: Godzilla and Kong are obviously not just dumb, shallow creatures as set up by the previous movies, and creature-feature fighting is not “dumb” it is f**king quality, on-edge blockbuster entertainment when done effectively — ask Peter Jackson or Gareth Edwards; they did it right! I can however say that as stereotypically unimaginative as the human characters are in Godzilla vs. Kong, at least some of them are competently realized unlike Michael Dougherty’s King of Monsters. Yet, just because they are, doesn’t mean how they get to those moments in their arcs are competently realized themselves.

The writing of Adam Wingard’s launch into this franchise I’d give a “D-” at best; there is no way the script for this wasn’t crapped out in under just an hour, with a plot that articulates at its own random desire whenever the hell it needs to to either show the audience essential exposition that could easily be obtained believably with a little more effort put into story fluidity or when it creates sudden solutions and conflicts out of thin air. Whoever wrote the comedy in this also needs to be fired immediately, because it missed on EVERY SINGLE account. Don’t even get me started on how this movie attempts to add to the “we are the creators of our own destruction” motif; in a nutshell, it is conducted under the most outspokenly predictable clichés known to humankind. 

The true savior of Godzilla vs. Kong for me though has to be its surprisingly wonderful world-building and the “candyland” aesthetic of VFX to accompany it. Wingard’s cutesy musical decisions also kept me from completely shredding this one apart; what a likable opening scene! Ultimately, on the visual and sound level this movie is at least… visible and audible… not plagued by schizophrenic cutting, dim lighting, and abominable mixing… and of course its furthermore colorfully presented unlike the last entry, so when the fighting gets down and dirty it is mildly enjoyable to watch if you don’t think about how we got to it too laboriously. But, needless to say, that makes up a tiny margin of this insufferable movie as a whole. I despise it whenever something with potentially badass action ends up being drowned out by our simple habit to give into “laziness”, and if you ask me, the legends of Godzilla and Kong finally coming together again deserved way more than just “laziness”.

Verdict: D+

2021 Ranked

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is now playing in theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (2006)

2nd Viewing • Screened at Harkins

Someone needs to tell Scorsese that Gimme Shelter is not the only Rolling Stones song in existence, as iconic as it is.

You f**k, you get f**ked back: the cycle of our dearly departed. Madolyn does, well, the literal f**king that’s needed for the soon to be f**ked to get f**ked, but obviously the bigger f**king is within the lies and deception of corporation and partnerships, or the bullets then deaths that send heroes and villains into the unknown as the world fends to never recognize that they had actually ever existed. Or maybe, that’s the true sliminess of it all: this segregational grouping is what initiates competition, and the unwanted intimacy of betrayal and character-based analogs. Martin Scorsese’s The Departed is a near favorable example of the crime/thriller genre committed to near zenith effect, with the element of surprise taking next level jabs in this remake that are nonexistent in about most the movies I’ve seen yet. 

Jack Nicholson’s character, Frank Costello, could be the highlight of The Departed for me. He’s a manipulator on the lower-class, someone who is aware of what he’s doing but uses his vain philosophy to justify conquest, as it fits in with the historical behavior of humans; he’s intelligent enough though to recognize the potential of those who seek education (the possible saviors from this conundrum), but he doesn’t currently see it as something practical in defense against a country that was raised untamable from the very beginning in its negative habits of ethnic isolation, so he ultimately just takes advantage of the hate of our people to add more wood to the fire for his own pleasures; this is sadly why he’s been able to succeed for so long; racism calls for that since forever.

The dialogue of The Departed is razor sharp as you may probably already know; the constant momentum of the brute humor of it is just unquestionably magnetizing; I can’t imagine someone not being attracted to its ferocity. The invisible dynamic between our two main characters Colin and Billy is also quite rich with its design of showcasing two sides of betrayal which both originated from lower-class control and predetermined adversity; the blossoming of it as it nears more and more transparent rather than invisible to one another, is a smooth, slow-burn transition that keeps the audience invested throughout the film’s entire runtime; just overall, it makes this movie so unusually enticing compared to many other detective dramas. The generally competent plot isn’t afraid to continuously shock too, with no fear in emphasizing to the audience that no character here is guarded by excessive armor. 

To get into nitpicks, The Departed has always been one of Scorsese’s most compositionally boring to me; luckily, the director has his typical personality-driven camera movements to at least somewhat compensate for that. I think Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing and the sound bites here actually enhance the style of the film also, which could’ve come off pretty stale without it due to it’s insanely jumpy immediacy: a nauseating feeling that perfectly replicates the pressuring experience and psychological turmoil of our main characters. I do though still absolutely hate some parts of Howard Shore’s score, as well, which is mind-blowing cause this dude is undoubtedly a fantastic composer; it just sounds so cheesy occasionally in this particular movie. There are also a couple plot holes and dramatic coincidences that bothered the devil out of me too; the slim likelihood of Colin and Billy’s relationship with Madolyn didn’t bother me as much considering its there in a symbolic nature, but there are genuinely moments in this movie where main character’s make the absolute stupidest of decisions that are so patently there to push the plot forward in the directions it wants to go, and it took me out a couple times despite how gruesome many of the film’s twists and turns were; if they were thought out a tiny bit more practically I may have found this Scorsese affair to be close to perfect.

But… okay, so Mark Wahlberg’s performance alone may or may not have raised my score up just ever so slightly. We ought to give him more roles like this. The comedic relief always strikes back.

Verdict: A-

Martin Scorsese Ranked

“The Departed” is now available to stream on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963)

Federico Fellini Marathon Part IV of VI

This one quote alone from could destroy any argument against people who desire intellectual substance in art or general entertainment: 

“No need to add chaos onto chaos.”

La Dolce Vita (1960) seems like pity surrealism when you put it up against Federico Fellini’s follow-up which just goes FULL IN ON IT. The busyness of a considered winner (AKA, the director himself portrayed by the actor Marcello Mastroianni) is in complete effect here: Fellini treats industry success and subsequent future filmmaking projects like a fever-nightmare of endless harassment, of surreal confusion, a headache-inducing attempt at harmonizing your artistic vision and the real, critical world you must suffer through to get to it, as well as the repulsive desires of your own bodily self and the dream-state that hardens your judgement. , ultimately, is unbelievably self-indulgent, but in the most entertaining way possible. 

Now, I could go on about technicalities such as Nino Rota’s score and soundtrack which is just *explosion noise* some of the most constructive utilization of music in the film medium ever or the diverse production design which I’m still baffled by how it was even conceived in the first place, but I’m more keen to mention how I kind of sinisterly love how this movie almost feels like a satirical slander against creating thought-provoking or quote on quote “intellectual” art too, and the overwhelming process of getting there. Why burden ourselves with arduous discussion when all it does is bring us closer and closer to a gaping desire for death? Why run an empire of needy souls when it only provokes their mind’s wants into further chaos and disappointment? Expectations sort of do that ya know, especially when you’re looking up to a filmmaker now considered to be a modern legend, but is secretly just a liverish egotist. I’m starting to perceive essentially as if it was a far less optimistic interpretation of Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev.

The relentless mind of a fatigued artist has never felt so authentic as it does here. is one of those movies where you really have to see it to believe it; don’t take my mere word for it. My interpretations are currently being curated in a blender of impressions right now, so in future rewatches I’m sure I’ll write a more detailed analysis on what makes this movie quite the tour de force, but for now, you get this half-assed review. You’re welcome.

Verdict: A+

Federico Fellini Ranked, My All-Time Favorites

“8½” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) – The Failure of Success

Federico Fellini Marathon Part III of VI

Okay, now for the real debate: was Marcello pimpin’ or was he simpin’?

This is the endless social wandering of wanting to be something that you can’t, and one that you could never know nor picture. La Dolce Vita is the upper-class existentialist’s crusade: a chaotic meddle of materialistic beauty and the hideous people that inhabit it. Imagine yourself tied to relationships that for some reason you can’t leave, like a prison used poorly to reach the character to which you would fancy inhabiting. Why are the ones who love always attracted to the ones who can’t? Why can’t the ones who can’t can despite them wanting to? Why do we only share the accomplishments of our careers when we all fear self-destruction, and choose to cover it up with our richness and fame? Why is when tragedy is finally spoken of, it’s exploited in tabloids and heartless photographs rather than in the genuine nature of caring and connecting with one another? In other words, why do we choose to complicate who we are to those that encompass us rather than relate to them in sincerity? Is it from the peace that we gain in believing the impossible? Or, is it just that we aren’t built to do so; our species is simply incapable of succeeding in this surreal desire for genuine love? Is the world just this cynically pointless, even at our wealthiest and most physically attractive? Are we that indicative to our intellectuality that it has only led us back into a pothole of mindless games and daftness? 

A whole lot of questions and not a whole lot of answers… for deliberate reasons of course. Really, “Hedonism” seems to be the sole solution that these people know of.

La Dolce Vita arguably has some of the richest (no pun intended) location scouting I’ve ever come to encounter; it’s an absolute hypnotic feast. I love how “in the moment” this movie can be, lingering onto the fun that these people experience but constantly insisting on its shallowness and desperation to elicit purpose. The scale of this project is unlike anything Fellini has done up until this point too, showcasing his knack for representing the post-Fascist Italian world in an appropriately deceiving black-and-white aesthetic of allure. Case in point, this is by far Fellini’s finest looking movie; it really is just a three-hour production orgasm. 

Fellini’s laborious work here feels like a slow gallery-walk of beautiful melancholy, but that’s either going to break it or make it for viewers, and it even had a bit of a toll on me too from finding it to be consecutively perfect. Admittedly, it’s very reliant on poetic abruptness and repetition, but not necessarily in a way that would have me completely perturbed by the film, as it more so just unceasingly made me fall victim to Marcello’s descent into meaninglessness. Like I said before, it’s sort of an elongated string of these visually gorgeous, half-hour segments that are paradoxically meant to make you feel sorrower and sorrower at the continuous failure of post-work success, and the somewhat avoidable yet bizarrely tempting hell it seizes us into. Oh, and the failure of post-family success… and post-life, like… just in general, success. Sheesh, what a Debby-downer La Dolce Vita is.

Verdict: A-

Federico Fellini Ranked, My All-Time Favorites

“La Dolce Vita” is now available to purchase physically on the Criterion Collection’s website.

Quick-Thoughts: King Kong (1933)

Wow, time to sound like a broken record if you’ve read my review of Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong, but I did not expect for this to be as BRUTAL as it is — Skull Island truly did a number on me! This was made in 1933! I don’t know where the American logic was that more than 30 years later Alfred Hitchcock could get s**t for killing someone in the shower but we were all beforehand fine when we watched like 10 men helplessly fall to their death — is it the ridiculous gender standard? The blood? Who knows? Well, yeah, it probably was the blood… and the semi-nudity…

The stop-motion in Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s original is quite engaging in its creature-esc puppeteering and diligently compiled set pieces. The film does a sufficient job as well of hybridizing the animation with live-action, even after all these years of time for it to possibly stale. Obviously, Ann and Kong’s relational dynamic isn’t NEARLY as drawing as it was in Jackson’s interpretation; the 2005 version used their bond as a catalyst to evoke its memos of the beauty and terror in animalistic nature and the importance of evolutionary connection rather than evolutionary divide, not to mention it had a more captivating awareness of the film industry. Although, as for Cooper and Schoedsack’s version, I can admit that I favored its minimalism in supporting characters and arcs when compared to Jackson’s, which was a bit bloated with them; the plot here is a little slicker and less convoluted too despite their similarities. 

The 1933 King Kong seems rather more concerned with shining a light on the weak spots that beauty has on even that of the most monstrous of considered gods. Jackson’s version has far more humanity though in its tale of egoism and its inevitable drawbacks, but I think Cooper and Schoedsack’s original is a lot tighter as a straightforward exploration of man’s unappealing aggression towards desire, and the vulnerability that comes from it. I’m also just generally happy that the two versions are clearly separate from one another, in that, they attempt to explore very different themes. Good decision, Jackson! 👍

As a once avid Dinosaur expert back when I was not even double digits, however, I was salty to see that nobody clearly did their Brontosaurus research before making this picture. Tsk, tsk.

Verdict: B-

“King Kong” is now available to stream on HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

There’s an absolute masterpiece hidden in this admittedly kinda-very flawed movie. Anyways, I stan for more TV within a TV shot compositions, please. 

John Frankenheimer, the man who would later go on to direct the brilliant 1966 paranoia thriller Seconds, made his first considered classic in 1962 however titled The Manchurian Candidate. What we have here is an absolutely admirable attempt to reconcile the horror of *dun dun DUN* “brainwashing”, and to paint an allegory of the political acquisitiveness that comes with power. The movie inventively uses a villainous scheme to insight the lengths that those who want to become leaders of a nation would be willing to take; the intended contradictions that the antagonists make are ones that depict a blown-out-of-proportions reason why the media is nothing less than a game, and something farther from a lean to promote truth of belief and character. 

Speaking of character, Bennet Marco and Raymond Shaw are some great ones. Shaw, played by Laurence Harvey, is so emotionally unveiled in this movie that, despite his hardened and frankly unlikable personality, you’re convinced far than enough to care for him. Marco, however, played by none other than Frank Sinatra himself, is a man clearly mindful of his actions, so when the story begins taking tragic jumps and leaps, the psychological consequences he burdens himself with throughout the film come back even mightier to hammer home the gruesome effect these antagonists have deviously dropped on America’s doorsteps from their villainous political conspiracy. The Right, middle, and Left can all relate! 

Plus, I really dug not necessarily how it happens, but the poignancy behind Shaw’s initial character and his image among others being tied back to his developed character in the ending. We wanted a hero, so here we are; we got one. Happy now? 

Something though that constantly bothered me throughout the film and for which I had wrongly considered that it would likely be fixed by the end due to its “mystery” and “incomplete” tone was the sheer amount of cheap writing maneuvers this movie pulls within the confines of its plot. Advisably, I wouldn’t recommend thinking about this movie’s sequencing of events too laboriously, but despite a movie having such gloriously crafted dialogue and elaborate characters, the reliance on half-assed Macguffins here genuinely shocked me; it nearly deflated the believability of the narrative and the people that make it up to me. And, to add even more flame to the fire, despite the wonderfully plush cinematography that’s also complimented in the film, the visual tricks used towards the finale of the movie to rack up intensity had me appalled; it really felt like the head filmmakers were trying to treat the audiences as idiots by sacrificing the legitimacy of the conclusion. I can honestly see myself LOVING this movie if these problems were dealt with (you may or may not be able to recut this movie in a way that makes more sense) but as of now, those flaws are what’s holding me back from putting it on the level as say Seconds.

I don’t know whether or not to appreciate Janet Leigh’s character too, cause how they integrate her in this film can either be seen as completely genius in its subversion of expectations or an absolute low-blow gimmick to provoke Sinatra’s character. I’ll let it slide though; I enjoyed this movie enough to have the power vested within me to forgive. 

Mrs. Iselin is definitely in my top 5 for worst moms ever though. Like, sheesh.

Verdict: B

“The Manchurian Candidate” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Nobody

Christopher Lloyd… holy f**k; not to mention that cameo appearance on top of that… holy f**k. AND, Mr. Goodman? Holy f**k, f**k, f**k…

Nobody almost came off to me as a mockery of the serious tone and plot of John Wick — instead of a dead dog, we get a lost kitty bracelet, instead of a right to vengeance in honor of a dead spouse, we get an excuse to beat up some pervs due to a tacky middle-aged existential crisis — except the film indulges in the same badass action spectacle of the one-man killing-machine gore-a-thon that made Chad Stahelski’s franchise thrilling in the first place. Ilya Naishuller’s work here essentially ran its magic on me because it just kept accumulating into this satirical glorification of sociopathic violence by using the absurd strength of an ex-hitman’s nostalgia as a foundation to keep convincing himself that the “nobody” side of his life was always set to be temporary. Isn’t it just so awe-inspiring to see a man happy to kill again? Umm…

The bus and warehouse scene in Nobody are worth the ticket admission alone; I had fun with Naishuller’s follow-up, and you should too! 

Verdict: B-

2021 Ranked

“Nobody” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Park Chan-wook’s Joint Security Area (2000)

I recommend going into this movie COMPLETELY blind of its context like I did, so if you haven’t seen Joint Security Area, then don’t read this review, even though it’s not very spoiler-ish. 

Peace through mutual hostility or peace through mutual unity? Park Chan-wook accomplished political miracles in Joint Security Area by ridiculing the dramatic division between borders; to promulgate this, he shows the indifference of the narrative’s soldiers to that of their own code of country and a practical example of how their humanity became much richer by bonding with one another rather than gatekeeping to that of a tribe. The performers and dialogue do a superb job at convincing us of this dynamic, and as per usual Chan-wook is just the best when it comes to visually transitioning between scenes. The unique structuring of the movie is also something to be commended; it completely threw me off with its subversion of tone, lending the impact of its reveals to hit harder than they would’ve in a more chronological order.

To bring it back, the film I think suggests that you can’t have both mutual hostility and mutual unity, as the two when clashed contradicts, and sets up the likelihood for tragedy. However, I think it’s more than clear that Chan-wook sees mutual unity as the answer to furthering the luxury of life, despite our differences in belief ideologies. As cliché as it is, the real treasure was the friends we made along the way. Uh oh…

Verdict: A-

Park Chan-wook Ranked

“Joint Security Area” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.