By: Henry J. Fromage –
This week I focused on catching up on some of the artsier picks I’ve missed in the past year, as well as my continual war on theatrical releases.
There are single frames in this film as good as any you’ll see elsewhere in 2018’s films, and the final quarter takes a trippy turn, but the plot moves as lethargically as the life of the 18th century petty magistrate wasting away in a Paraguayan river town despite all efforts to get somewhere with even a modicum of culture and comfort. Argentine arthouse director Lucretia Martel’s wit is as dry and droll as it comes, and the cumulative effect of the film is undoubtedly exactly what she’s going for, but it’s an oblique and occasionally frustrating advanced studies watch for sure. Two Beers.
23. Asura: The City of Madness
This 2016 Korean crime film is probably over-convoluted in its plotting (not a rarity), but goddamn is it brutal and imaginative in its ever-escalating bursts of violence. It also boasts a charismatic trio of lead performances, including Jung Woo-sung in his biggest role as a cop caught between a rock and a hard place, namely superstar Hwang Jung-min in a rare and beautifully over the top villain role as an unbelievably corrupt mayor, and The Wailing‘s own Kwak Do-won as the conceited Internal Affairs officer squeezing him on the other end. Three Beers.
After Zama, I watched another female-directed, slow cinema foreign language film receiving wide acclaim among the arthouse crowd this year. I can’t admit to seeing the same parallels to the Western film genre besides a low-and-sow simmering of tensions between a German engineering crew and the Bulgarian townspeople nearby. Meinhard Neumann does a great job carrying the film as the one German interested in befriending the locals, and what does ultimately emerge is an enrapturing portrait of the joys and difficulties of communication between cultures and the extent to which someone can really integrate with a society not their own. Two Beers.
25. Beautiful Boy
The fact that this film is based on memoirs from both of the principal parties in the film, drug addict Nic Sheff (Timothee Chalamet) and author David Sheff (Steve Carell) contributes to a more well-rounded perspective than you normally see in addiction tales, even if the story itself (addiction, relapse, hope, relapse, rinse, repeat) is the same mundane horror families across the nation experience every day. Chalamet in particular delivers an spectacular performance. Three Beers.
Netflix strikes again with a hyper-specific techno-horror setting and viewpoint (the world of camgirls, which, make no mistake, is big business) that draws from screenwriter and producer Isa Mazzei’s real-life experiences, which undoubtedly lends an air of both authenticity and neon-drenched exoticism. The actual horror, however, may well prove prescient (logging in to find out someone or something has taken over your entire digital live), but doesn’t register as terribly horrific or even particularly tense. Four Beers.
I’d say this is what January releases are for, except that I’m genuinely surprised that the hilariously generic-named Entertainment Studios and Company Films thought it was at all financially advisable to spend a reported 10.5 million dollars advertising this thing and cutting their profits in half by releasing it theatrically. A very deserved early 2019 bomb that begs to be seen with some quippy friends and, yes, not a few beers. Six Pack.
Expectations perhaps properly tempered, I believe I enjoyed Adam McKay’s latest seriocomic recent history of the ways the powerful and corrupt are destroying this country and screwing us all about as much as The Big Short. I know “enjoy” is a strange word for the messages that McKay has for us in these films, but damn, do his many stylistic flourishes and crazy ideas (like rolling the credits halfway through the film) make his films enjoyable, and he’s clearly found his muse in Christian Bale, never so diabolical and subsumed into a role as he is here. Two Beers.