Random Movies: Best to Worst

The Other Lamb

WTF: A teenage girl who was raised to worship and one day marry her cult leader father starts to figure out that he’s a douchebag.

It’s kind of uneven and heavy-handed at times, but it also understands some things about how it feels to gradually realize that patriarchy is a horror show. The thing it does really, really well is visually represent the half-formed, half-realized thoughts and feelings the character’s having as she starts to question what she’s been taught. It’s surreal, and unsettling, and sometimes kind of gross, and it stayed with me a long time after.

Also, Raffey Cassidy’s deadpan American accent is what I want all dialogue to sound like, so.

The Handmaiden

WTF: A con artist in 1930’s South Korea poses as a handmaid in order to steal a fortune from a wealthy heiress, but things take a sexual turn and then lots of double-crosses happen.

As far as erotic thrillers go, this is a really good one, but it also feels kind of voyeuristic at times – especially when you consider that the women seem biased toward choosing sex acts that no one actually likes (hello, scissoring!) but that look interesting on camera. The double-crosses also start to strain belief after a while, but they’re really entertaining. So, if you’re sitting there saying, “Man, I wish Wild Things had been a better movie!” (which I honestly sometimes say), here you go.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

WTF: In the 1700s, a wealthy family trying to marry off their daughter hires a female artist to pretend to be her friend and secretly paint a portrait to show to her potential suitors – but then they fall in love.

From a technical POV, this movie is extremely well made and I can’t find any fault with it. It’s just that all the characters are super reasonable, and patient, and measured in how they express their emotions, and I don’t connect with that at all.

Avengers: Endgame

WTF: Marvel and Disney reap the rewards of investing decades in developing a comic book movie franchise that builds toward this film.

This is sort of, like, apex Big Budget Movie. It’s exciting to see all the heroes on screen together. It’s briefly interesting, during the segment where they think they’ve lost and have to live with it. It draws many story lines to a satisfying conclusion and spins others in a new direction. I found it a little weird that one of the heroes who dies gets a big funeral while the other one’s literally just lying in a ditch somewhere, but whatever. It’s fine.

Widows

WTF: Some criminals die and their widows have to carry out One Last Job to pay their debts.

As far as heist movies go, this is also fine, and I like that we’re seeing more and more female-led genre movies in the marketplace, like maybe the stigma toward that is going away. There are also some interesting plot twists that I can’t talk about because they’d involve too many spoilers, but it’s a solid movie, even if heists usually aren’t my favourite.

Hala

WTF: A Pakistani-American teen skateboards her way into our hearts as she tries to figure out how to relate to her parents.

Again, I like that there’s space for more than one movie about Muslim girls growing up in western cultures. A lot of the plot points are very similar to What Will People Say, which is the reference point I’m most familiar with, but the outlook is more uplifting and the tone is really different. One of the strengths of this movie is the way it portrays Hala’s mother, and, without spoiling anything, they have a rich, interesting relationship that turns out differently than we might expect it to.

Also, there’s a really good Anne Carson quote that’s got me reading Decreation, now.

Zombi Child

WTF: A Haitian teen attends a prestigious boarding school in France and recalls how her grandfather was enslaved.

There’s a lot that I don’t understand about this movie through my own ignorance of Haitian history, Vodou, or the French education system. I also had trouble with the subtitles because the seating arrangements in the theatre weren’t the best. That said, the first two thirds move very slowly, and the last third – in which one of the characters accidentally summons Baron Samedi – is completely fucking terrifying.

Confused as I was, this stayed with me for a long time after and whet my appetite to find out more.

Booksmart

WTF: Two nerdy teens decide they need to make up for lost time by partying the night before their graduation, and (mis)adventure ensues.

There’s something classic and nostalgic-feeling about this style of comedy – the kind where the characters set off on a pretty average, mundane quest and keep getting pulled into wacky situations along the way. This is the gen-z version of that, and it straddles a weird line between being very of-the-moment in its details, but essentially timeless in its themes. I’m not sure it always makes sense, but it’s fun.

Black Conflux

WTF: A teenage girl and a creepy 20-something man in 80’s Newfoundland both struggle to figure out their sexuality in separate narratives that really, really seem like they’re leading toward murder.

There’s this one really good scene where the creepy man does an angry dance to “Moonlight Desires” and, just for a second, the people around him see him in the way he would like to be seen, and not as the weird loser he feels like most of the time. That scene makes me want to like this movie more than I did, but there’s a weird tension about whose story this is, and whether the creepy man’s sad feelings are being placed on an equal plane with the physical danger the female characters are in – danger that comes from him, at some points. It ends up being kind of like, “The guy who follows you home and jerks off outside your window has feelings, too!”

And, I’m sure he does. But I don’t feel like the main problem we have is not being empathetic enough toward men who want to hurt women.

Sibyl

WTF: A therapist who wants to be a novelist starts writing about one of her clients and ends up following her to a bizarre film production that brings back bad memories of her past relationships.

This is classified as a comedy/drama, but its mood and tone and frontal nudity make it seem more like an erotic thriller. Mostly, I just found it confusing. I kept waiting for a big reveal where it turned out that the therapist had invented the film production as part of her novel, or that there was some other reason for the weird parallels between her life and her client’s life, but, as far as I was able to tell, we were supposed to take it at face value.

The Aftermath

WTF: An Englishwoman follows her husband to Germany and has a passionate affair with a good-looking fascist in the years immediately following World War II.

In real life, I think it’s unrealistic to suppose that 1940’s Germany was cleanly divided between Nazis and people who fully, completely hated the Nazis – but that’s not really what this movie is about. It’s about Keira Knightly getting annoyed that her husband’s ignoring her, and banging some hot sort-of Nazi just because he’s there. It ignores any of the real moral questions involved and focuses on whether she’s going to choose Alexander Skarsgård’s abs over her husband. While that part’s perfectly fine, as far as a romance goes, the immediate wake of the holocaust is a pretty messy backdrop to choose, if you’re going to mostly ignore what’s happening outside of their relationship.

Gemini

WTF: After an actor is murdered, her assistant tries to solve the crime, but All is not as it Seems.

I had no real opinion of this except that it felt like a lot of build up to not a lot of reveal.

Image: The Other Lamb; Rumble Films | September 22, 2019