Random Movies: Best to Worst
I kind of don’t ever want to watch The Lobster again, because it’s slow and disturbing, but it was also an insanely unique movie that made me laugh and cringe in equal measure. It’s a very dark satire, set in a dystopian future where, if you don’t manage to pair bond with another person, you’re either turned into an animal, or forced to run away and hide in the forest with a group of people who forbid you from pair bonding, ever. It’s a stylized, thinking person’s film that isn’t either boring or incomprehensible.
I predict we’ll all be talking about Colossal in spring 2017, and the idea that I have to explain what it’s about will seem quaint. But for now, it’s about a drunkard played by Anne Hathaway who’s psychically linked to a monster that’s destroying South Korea. It sounds stupid, but it’s not. I wrote about it more for Bitch Flicks, but Colossal is a very unique take on gender dynamics that sometimes swerves in ways you don’t expect. It is, first and foremost, a tale about the menace of the Nice Guy, and I was so invested in it that I started to cry at the end, even though I wasn’t sure I agreed with its overall message. It is refreshingly creative and also pointed in its commentary.
Boys in the Trees
I ♥ Boys in the Trees. I think Colossal is a better overall film, which is why this ranks third, but Boys in the Trees was the most emotionally satisfying movie I saw at TIFF this year. I gushed about it at Bitch Flicks, but it has everything I want from a movie – gorgeous visuals, Halloween, supernatural shit, coming of age stories, a slightly creepy mood, explorations of gender and friendship, a cool soundtrack – seriously, everything. I would watch it again right now, if I could. It’s Australian and doesn’t seem to be getting much traction with international distributors, but fingers crossed I can buy a DVD one day.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Nothing’s ever going to top Coraline, but Kubo and the Two Strings is another extremely specific, emotionally dense film from the same studio. Like Coraline and ParaNorman, it’s kind of dark but also heart warming, and has great-looking stop-motion animation along with an unexpected story. I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to, but I laughed when they wanted me to laugh, and felt bummed out and uplifted when they wanted me to feel bummed out and uplifted. The title’s also very clever, but I can’t tell you why without spoiling the story. What I will say is that it’s an exploration of loss and the complicated mix of emotions that follow from it, much in the same way that ParaNorman was an exploration of fear. It’s a very compassionate story that doesn’t either minimize or propose an easily solution to what its characters experience.
Predestination is an extremely memorable time travel mindfuck movie. It will be lodged in my brain forever, whether or not I want it to be. Without giving everything away, this is a time travel story about how people’s perceptions of themselves change over time, and where some of the time travellers do something icky and weird and have to keep reliving it from different vantage points. It’s hard to separate that from the fact that one of them is a trans man – which, in itself, is treated as being a little bit icky and weird because the character (who’s played beautifully by Sarah Snook) doesn’t voluntarily choose to have gender reassignment surgery. Ostensibly, the story is about trying to track down a terrorist who – it is suggested at various times – might be one of the time travellers, but it’s really about telling a story that curls in on itself in ways that both make complete sense and defy all logic. I don’t know why this needed to exist, but now it’s part of me forever.
Kristen Stewart and Olivier Assayas should keep making movies together for the rest of their lives, because they both look amazing whenever they do. I’ve always really liked Kristen Stewart as a celebrity – I like that she doesn’t smile when people scream at her to, that she seems embarrassed and freaked out when people pay attention to her, that she tries not to turn her personal life into a media circus – but it’s only the last couple years I’ve started to like her as an actor, and Personal Shopper is the first time I’ve looked at her and thought, “Holy shit. She’s really good.” Because, holy shit, she’s really good. She carries this entire movie almost completely alone, and there wasn’t a single moment when I got tired of watching her.
The advertising hasn’t led with this, but Stewart’s character in the movie is a medium who’s trying to contact the ghost of her dead brother. It creeped me right the fuck out and I couldn’t sleep afterward, but not for any of the reasons I expected. At the risk of saying an awful cliché, this is one of those movies that zigs when you think it’ll zag. I’m sorry. It does, though, and it leaves certain things ambiguous in a way that’s both beautiful and unsettling. I’m not sure how well it will stand up to repeat viewings, now that I know what happens, but it was great the first time around.
I wrote about this for Bitch Flicks, but Lady Macbeth is a movie based on an opera that’s based on a book that’s not about Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Instead, the movie is about a woman who marries into a wealthy family in the 1800s and gets treated like total garbage and then murders everyone. It’s an uneven film, but I enjoyed watching it. Florence Pugh makes a really strong impression in the lead role, the costumes are lovely, and the opening act is well-realized on screen. Some of it feels like it would have worked better on stage.
L’Économie du couple (After Love)
I don’t understand the thing where we give French-language movies English titles. L‘Économie du couple is about a couple in their late thirties/early forties who’ve decided to get divorced, but can’t afford to. The main point of contention is the house they’ve bought together, and their disagreement over how to divide its worth reflects the reasons they’re getting divorced in the first place – Marie thinks Boris is an irresponsible slacker; Boris thinks Marie is rigid and spoiled. They’re both a little bit right, and the movie’s full of scenes where everyone just feels uncomfortable. It’s really, really, really smart, but also kind of dull.
After watching Lady Macbeth and googling Florence Pugh, I watched a movie she was in a couple of years ago with Maisie Williams. The Falling is about a group of teenage girls in the 1960s who feel powerless and ignored and develop a mysterious fainting sickness, triggered by the song “Follow Me Down” (which I immediately added to my iPod). The story isn’t super inventive, but it covers a wide range of topics related to women’s sexual freedom or lack thereof, and there’s something kind of cool about watching a whole bunch of girls pretend to be possessed as a form of protest.
Keanu is the Key and Peele movie about an adorable kitten who’s trapped in the middle of a drug war and the two middle class, suburban guys who try to save him. It was a funny movie, but I’m not sure all of it made sense – even allowing for the absurdity of the situation. The main thing it has going for it is that the kitten’s really, really cute.
I paid TIFF prices to watch this a week before it came out on Netflix, because I did a really good job of reading the program. I wrote a much more detailed review for Bitch Flicks, but ARQ is a time loop movie, and there are things about the time loops that don’t make sense. Like Orphan Black, it runs on adrenaline the whole time, which makes it very watchable and exciting, but when you slow down and try to work out what’s happening and why, it doesn’t hold up as well. Also like Orphan Black, the characters’ only motivation sometimes seems to be making the plot twist.
Two Lovers and a Bear
There’s a certain sense in which it’s touching to watch two dumb people be in love – even though they’re not especially interesting or good at doing things, their feelings are real and they’re dealing with life the best way they can. On the other hand, from a narrative perspective, it’s frustrating to watch the characters create their own problems through making terrible decisions. And that’s what happens in Two Lovers and a Bear, as we watch the characters trek across the northern tundra. Both of them are haunted by things outside of their control that happened to them in the past, but, in the story we actually see, they fuck themselves over every chance they get and then fuck over the Inuit man who told them where his secret blizzard shelter was. I bet he regrets taking pity on them.
It’s a shame this wasn’t in a 4D theatre, because then they could have just wafted testosterone at us while we were watching. I wrote about this for Bitch Flicks, but this movie is both so sexist and so deeply, deeply in love with itself that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. From a purely technical perspective, it seems like a throwback to an earlier era, but it’s well-crafted.
This was the one time during TIFF when I wished I could google the movie after so someone could explain what I just watched. I honestly don’t know. Natalie Portman is – I think – a gentile medium in 1930s France, when a Jewish film producer takes an interest in her and in filming the ghosts that she and her sister pretend they can summon. Except her sister might not be pretending, and the ghost of the producer’s dead brother or father dresses up like a Nazi and chokes him out and that gives him an erection and this movie’s very strange. Not surprisingly, it’s also sort of about antisemitism. I don’t have any real opinion about it, because I don’t understand WTF even happened.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
An unnecessary sequel to a movie that wasn’t very good to begin with, minus the lead character, plus a bunch of female actors I like and wish had better parts. It retcons Snow White and the Huntsman pretty hard by telling us a story about how Huntsman’s dead wife is really still alive and also by substituting a sister we’ve never heard of for the evil queen’s incestuous brother, who’s completely erased from the story. As I was watching this, I mostly started to wonder about the contracts actors sign with Disney. I would really enjoy an exposé about that, if anybody wants to make one.