Tag Archives: viewing diary 2017

Viewing Diary December 2017

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

A Cincinnati hospital with tall, white walls lends itself to Steadicam shots. A preoccupation with arbitrary rules and numbers recalls Lanthimos’ earlier, funnier work with co-writer Efthymis Filippou. The first half is enigmatic, enticing, with intimations of iniquity. (Who is the doctor to this boy?) The rest of it dispenses with intimation. Debasement’s not intrinsically amusing or profound, even when it strikes a bourgeois family. A dismal hand job, a bite to the arm? These funny games are glib and gross and only mildly clever.

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Viewing Diary November 2017

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Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), directed by Vincente Minnelli

Edward G. Robinson plays an expat directing an unpromising movie at Cinecittà. Kirk Douglas is his long-time leading man, summoned from rehab to be his proxy in the dubbing studio. Dysfunctional is too mild a word for their relationship, which resembles that of brothers or lovers or a father and son. Lurid is too mild a word for this showbiz melodrama, sour as a basket of lemons, corrosively misogynistic, grotesque in its plush reds and greens. It’s an acknowledgment that Minnelli’s generation was in decline, a new one ascendant. (Fellini, Antonioni, Godard—the latter an admirer of the film.) It’s an autocritique overgrown with style and perversely ahead of its time.

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Viewing Diary October 2017

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WNUF Halloween Special (2013), directed by Chris LaMartina et al

From beginning to end, this larkish pastiche simulates the texture of local TV news recorded to VHS. The “Halloween Special” of the title is an on-air séance that follows a studio preamble. A reporter leads a priest and a couple mediums deep into a haunted house. (Obviously, the scheme goes haywire.) Sprinkled throughout the program are commercial breaks, advertising a carpet warehouse, demolition derby, video store, strip club, etc. A few anti-drug PSAs, too, all of it meticulously chintzy. LaMartina and the other directors mix stock footage with material that’s newly shot. Most of it’s at least plausibly from the ’80s, though the excessive shoddiness can dip into full-on irony. The pacing, more than anything, approximates what it’s like to watch a real broadcast. Its delayed gratification is dead-on.

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Viewing Diary September 2017

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Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945), directed by Robert Hamer

This gaslit noir intertwines the stories of a druggist’s family and a barkeep’s wife. They live in a world of shadows and top hats constructed on the Ealing lot. Starring as the wife is actress Googie Withers, whose delicate face is a world of its own. She’s cagey with sharp eyes and pursed lips that nonetheless betray her longing for love. Her beauty aches as she plots her husband’s murder, her womanhood a burden in a society run by men. It’s understated work that tilts the film’s ethical balance in her favor.

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Viewing Diary August 2017

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Night World (1932), directed by Hobart Henley

This sleazy melodrama is tangibly Pre-Code. Its one long night in a speakeasy teems with drunks, showgirls, gangsters, even a gay flirt in the bathroom. Babyfaced Lew Ayres tries to booze away memories of his Orestes-like past. (Dad slain by jealous mom.) Subplots bustle around him. Five people die in the bullet-riddled ending. Though it may break taboos and last a mere hour, this sort of theatrical nihilism can still be wearying to watch.

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