Quick-Thoughts: Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénaga (2001)

A real nihilistic attitude on this kind of lifestyle: lodging in filth only to never leave it. Drifting endlessly in the trapped depths of your bourgeoise circle that somehow rots but never truly changes. Allowing your problems and even your own existence to become as meaningless as the next mundane event that gets tossed on screen or the ones before it. The curse of understanding our environment is exhibited here in a nutshell. This is nothing less than a nightmare that somehow feels exactly like a reality. 

Consider the construct of family (or living in general) officially ruined for me. Thanks, Martel.

Verdict: B

“La Ciénaga“ is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Neon Genesis Evangelion + The End of Evangelion (1995-1997)

It seems that only people with some serious daddy / mommy issues can save the face of humanity. Real?

In the end, every teen — the arguable beginning stage of substantial consciousness — or any age from there on forward has some form of a Neon Genesis Evangelion experience: that almost incomprehensible desire to piece together the surreal ambiguities that come then and again to attack your emotional stability, as if the entire world had suddenly become obliged to scrimmage against them, with nearly every observed analyses of human social rationale leading you to that (usually thought not done) conclusion of death being the only answer out of sheer failure to comprehend. Maybe the absurdly unreckonable dystopia of child-piloting mech suits, invasions from mysterious cataclysmic aliens, and a perilously fragile end of the world scenario are just the facade of the gargantuan size that can be felt just in the rather minute size of a human body: the never-ending search for understanding ourselves and the dominating sadness that comes with trying to control it in an environment where you are always seen.

Biggest pro though: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show allow its characters to become so vulnerable as it goes along; this series is just a total mood… or more like a total mission to have every mood ever felt put into one piece. Awe yes, cheers to my new unhealthy means of substituting therapy. 

Verdict: A-

“Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “The End of Evangelion” are now available to stream on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time is it There? (2001)

Watching someone piss into bags and bottles really is cinema at it’s finest. 

I imagine this is what Christopher Nolan did during his days of youth: selling watches on the streets, obsessing over women from different time zones, and caressing public clocks at any opportunity he got. And in spite of such oddities, we more than the latter seem to know what causes these obsessions — a family tragedy, a complete alteration in lifestyle — but why “these” obsessions in particular? Is it just because it’s the initial thing we recognize as plausibly symbolic after the incident? A first comes first serves philosophy but applied to something becoming a repeated custom from there on foreword? Is this just one of many ingredients that crafts tradition, these spontaneous yet vaguely contrived superstitions, reckoned out of unexpected, swelling pain, or is it everything we hold onto? Anything we’ve ever learned to do and redo and redo and redo and redo till the storm leaves?

Grieving is a mess in this outlook. We don’t know what we’re searching for but we search regardless. Hopefully, these times will somehow change with aimless ventures. 

But, ending on the most commendable matter to note here: only few like Tsai Ming-liang could make all this mumbo jumbo totally not overwhelming and actually pretty funny in What Time is it There? His films are so breathable and relaxed despite how deeply reflective and gloomy they are. On paper, this should be boring, but it’s so much the opposite: it’s comforting to relate this easily. 

Verdict: A-

Tsai Ming-liang Ranked

“What Time is it There?” is currently not available to stream.

Quick-Thoughts: Samira Makhmalbaf’s The Apple (1998)

These girls were robbed 12 years of their childhood, and all it takes is one glimpse at an average day outside to prove it. 

Okay, so two things I learned while watching this: first, the social worker in this is GOATED and does the whole “traps to teach ya a lesson” shtick way more efficiently than Jigsaw ever could. Second, I ought to become more productive in my life after having my ego absolutely deflated from finding out that a 17-year old directed this. I’m really out of the loop these days. F**k it, we all are.

Verdict: B+

“The Apple” is not available to stream at the moment.

Quick-Thoughts: Larisa Shepitko’s The Ascent (1977)

Proceeding the 1978 Berlin International Film Festival, Shepitko described in an interview that the reason for her wanting to make a film set during World War II was because she saw its thematic substance applicable to what she sought out of the modern climate of Soviet culture: 

“Each time period brings certain issues to the surface, and the question of heroism in today’s times is perhaps just as burning an issue now as it was in a time of war”. 

She looks at the Soviet Union’s success during World War II and their defeat of Germany, and how that brawn seems necessary now as it was back then. During, however, the modern era where incredible advancements were being made technologically and medically but controlled exclusively by more powerful forces, she questions the “spirituality” of her people, and how looking backwards may influence it. 

The Ascent (1977) is a film that primarily challenges the decisions that are made by two main characters. Both Russian partisans, Rybak and Sotnikov, find themselves traveling through snow to look for food, but are later on caught by German soldiers. What’s so prominent about their harsh journey though is the exchanges of bravery and cowardice that they make, and the almost complete reversal of personalities that are then melded into their dynamic by the time we reach the halfway point.

Verdict: A-

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

Quick-Thoughts: Chloé Zhao’s Eternals

Like Pugh being in Black Widow, Barry Keoghan (literally playing Rami Malek’s Bond character) is too good in this to BE in this.

Leave it up to Marvel studios to make the best concepts that their franchise have had so far next to Loki — both of classic yet beguiling philosophical ideas regarding the plausible intentions of gods, purpose behind creation, adversity at the cost of fruitful evolution, creation vs the creator, differing minded anti-superhero gods clashing against differing minded anti-superhero gods — into their worst movie yet. Seriously, congratulations for sucking the holy life out of these topics I absolutely adore by trivializing them into this exhausting excuse of a plot. Expanding on themes just doesn’t seem to exist in the world of Chloe Zhao’s (allegedly) The Eternals. Including as much dead space as possible, however, seems to be the writers’ biggest concern more than anything else here.

F**k saving (the MCU) Earth too. All my homies, we give less and less a s**t about saving (the MCU) Earth every time you make that your next movie’s dramatic tension for the trillionth time. 

Also: hate hate hate how they made that celestial, Arishem, the dumbest being that’s ever walked the face of the MCU thus far (intentionally committed though so this lazy story can function in the first place) and why are the deviants the same as those robots from 9 (2009)? Triggered some childhood trauma, I’ll tell ya that much! 

Verdict: D

2021 Ranked, MCU Ranked

“Eternals” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Larisa Shepitko’s Wings (1966)

“What is a synonym for the word initiative?”

“Beginning.”

Post-war veteran middle-age crisis in a bottle. Maybe by the numbers and foreseeable thematically when it comes to this type of tale, but effective nonetheless in regards to its symbolic contributions. Larisa Shepitko’s visual storytelling is rightfully yet gloomily sentimental for our main character’s past, replicating their confused and wandering state of identity and sense of future that seems to be triggered by how the new world treats the new, and almost invisible, her. Attempt after attempt to appear relevant never feels like enough when they aren’t seen by an audience you once connected with more from another time.

Wings would also make a solid double billing with either McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) or Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952) in the “I’m getting old, oh s**t” genre.

Verdict: B-

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

Quick-Thoughts: Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Unlike any other “vibe” movie I’ve ever seen. A two-hour glimpse into the last-minute existential pulls and draws of transitioning into foreign culture with fears and reliefs of letting go of the old, a critique of tradition yet also a celebration of it given its essentialness to human nature as we see in their similarities to modern contemporaries, and a theatrically displayed emotional evocation of not knowing whether it was the past burdening you and the idea of losing it when converting to the times of change or if it was more so the damage it’d be doing to loved ones who’ve valued cultural devotion since they built its inception and to the ones who could be born if they chose to stay. I think that’s the “awe” though of once indulging in tradition, that our roots assure us of the therapeutic safety that’ll likely come of what we may later be inclined to believe and create in the future.  

Would solely recommend checking this out just for the few performative harangues it features — and even for its ambitious editing and assertive score — but fair-warning, this is a demanding film to watch given it’s unconventional narrative structure and ruminative aesthetic that hit me personally for better and worse. 

Verdict: B-

“Daughters of Dust” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Pablo Larraín’s Spencer

Never in my life did I think bathroom shots would be topped after The Shining (1980)… until now.

Royalty not as a luxury, but as a prison. Spencer is (kind of?) Pablo Larraín’s Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) led though by a more Kristen Stewart-esc character than we may have presumed who has enough goading manner to put you so outstandingly into the mentally ill mind of Princess Diana that it literally made the stakes of her being late for dinner seem as demanding as life or death itself; to make this easier to understand, it’s really f**king difficult to make Christmas (the days for which this movie takes place) seem like the very embodiment of Hell on Earth to me, and this movie did that as if it were nothing. 

Shoutout to Larraín, Mathon, and Greenwood for shooting and scoring the living s**t out of this. Spencer may just be (actually I think it is!) the best looking and sounding movie of the year so far; I must confess though, I was a bit polarized by its ending but THIS at least has to count for something — i.e. please watch this movie nowhere else but on the big screen.

Verdict: B

2021 Ranked

“Spencer” is now playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Pablo Larraín’s Tony Manero (2008)

Me: “The perfect movie premise doesn’t exist…”

Tony Manero: “😎”

This movie is honestly just me but with the Kate Bush “Babooshka” dance and umm… that’s a bit off-topic *excuse me* but anywho, Pablo Larraín’s second feature-length project Tony Manero is about the most comical and furthermore demeaning representation of psychopathic leadership (facism???) I’ve ever come across, using a trendy John Travolta starred American dance film as a host for temporarily effective and mind-numbing propaganda to keep the followers of our main character’s district under control in their submissive hellhole, but for just how much longer till they seek independence? A new “film” will only blow up shortly after; one can’t be in the spotlight for this long, especially if it’s for someone who indulges in only a single obsession or code; this is self-manipulation, self-manipulation that will counteractively force your toxic exclusivity onto others; the ship goes down with your people, and the worst part is when it happens, you’ll realize there never is winning at the end even for yourself.

It’s a “love letter” to the Chilean regime during the 70s when you think about it… hehe.

Verdict: B-

“Tony Manero” is now available to stream on Netflix.