By: Henry J. Fromage –
I was able to keep up my enhanced pace from last week, and have started to dig into the bounty of missed critical darlings from earlier in the year and in theaters.
206. Of Unknown Origin
Ken, Bill A., and I celebrated Friday the 13th with this somewhat forgotten Peter Weller oddity, one of his first headline film roles, in which he plays an NYC boardroom jockey of some sort who gets embroiled in a no holds barred throwdown with the rat who’s decided to infest his brownstone house. Watching him descend into pure madness as the rat fucks with him relentlessly and mercilessly is a definite joy, but the fact that said rat changes in dimension and perspective per the dictates in the scene, or that it sounds like a actor impersonating a rabid cat whenever it attacks, or that the film toys with something more psychological but ends up in a hilariously literal place explain the lack of cult film reputation you’d swear it should otherwise boast.
207. A Quiet Passion
A Quiet Passion portrays Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon, primarily) as a woman so ahead of her time that the surrounding film loses all value as a period piece and a biopic. This is a pure fiction that wants to trade in second-rate Love & Friendship witty asides and a purely modern perspective far more than it wants to address its subject matter in any meaningful way, and the result is a film that feels like it has no interest in anything besides delivering Terence Davies’ strange opinions about what of Emily Dickinson is worth portraying and what can be subsumed to an agenda entirely unrelated in any way to the historical figure. A shame, because his The Deep Blue Sea remains one of my favorite films of the last decade.
There’s a particular type of 1970s-indebted neo-realist New York film brewing these days, perhaps best embodied by the Safdie Brothers and their breakout Good Time, which tells stories of Big Apple grittiness with old title lettering and needle drops and new hand-held immediacy and specificity. If that film was this style’s signpost Crime Film, then Tramps is its Romance (with a little crime mixed in, of course). Callum Turner and Grace Van Patten star as young New Yorkers caught up in a bag game orchestrated by barely more put together criminals (including Mike Birbiglia and lost Coppola cousin Louis Cancelmi) who fall in love as they chase after a briefcase accidentally dropped with an unwitting third party. While the story is hardly something new, the execution is entirely enjoyable- a definite recommendation for this burgeoning new style.
209. Victoria and Abdul
This story of an aged and alone Queen Victoria and the Indian man she befriends and perhaps unwittingly lifts to a position of great envy among her staff, children, and sycophants is a tough one to tackle. On its surface and in many ways to its core a typical Oscar and Old People-bait story of tolerance and compassion by white people, it also features an powerful scene in which Adeel Akhtar viciously tells off the entire British Empire (who you’ll recognize as the brother from The Big Sick). That might not be enough to balance out the fact that a film based on Abdul’s recently discovered private diaries reveals so little about the man himself and his motivations and feelings regarding his relationship with the most powerful person in the world at the time. Nonetheless, Judi Dench is an absolutely deserving Best Actress hopeful as the depressed and besieged monarch who finds something worth living for in this friendship, and there’s plenty of effective humor to make this a plenty pleasant evening at the movies.
210. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
While judging by that dreaded Rotten Tomatoes score, this is an unpopular opinion, I think this was every bit as fun as the first film, reflecting and building on its pleasures much like the franchise it clearly hopes to emulate even as it satirizes it- James Bond. This time around we get the heretofore unknown American cousins The Statesmen involved, including Bond vet Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and Pedro Pascal (in what may have been late switched roles), and a delightfully weird Jeff Bridges of course. There’s still plenty of well-choreographed action, erstwhile edginess, and a similarly politically confused dastardly plot as last time, but let’s be honest. Elton John is the MVP of this joint.