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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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I've been delayed by a couple of applications, a old school Dr. Who marathon, and a Kindle Fire purge. But I'm back and attacking a Palm D'or winner which is kinda meh for me so far.


Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:50 am
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Watch a Palm D'Or Winner

Othello (1952):

This take on the Shakespearean play does have a few things going for it. Some great snippets of speech being done justice by Orson Welles (who also directed it), Suzanne Cloutier, and Micheal Mac Liammoir. Visuals that keep the film from being stagebound. An interesting story behind the scenes which required several years of hard work and financial sacrifice from Wells to ensure a final product.

But well, this film has problems.

By cutting out half of the material, Welles ensured that the film would get confusing at times. Another consequence of that is that the film barely has room to breathe. For example, there's nothing subtle about Liammoir's Iago that additional length might have allowed it to have.
The film also suffers from a sluggish pace.

Oh, and Orson Welles in brownface as the titular Moor. Yeah, that won't help matters.

Overall, it was OK. But just so.


Mon Jun 25, 2018 3:52 am
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A film from the 1920s: The Unknown

(This is not the film that will make you all laugh--I'm still working on that one. This is just one I managed to watch during some down time while having a family weekend these last two days.)

I'm a huge fan of Freaks, and this is another circus-set horror/thriller from Tod Browning. It stars Lon Chaney as a killer, Alonzo, who has disguised himself as an armless man in a circus. He loves Nanon (played by Joan Crawford!), a woman who has been so traumatized by unwanted attention from men that she hates being touched. Alonzo works to woo Nanon and also to keep his dodgy past a secret.

After watching about 10 minutes of this one, I realized that I'd actually seen it years ago. But I didn't have a strong memory of it, so it seemed like a good idea for a watch.

This is a movie that feels like it's missing something. We never really get a motivation for Alonzo's crimes. There are several really memorable sequences (and the climax is AMAZING), but it makes sense to me why I didn't remember watching it. There's a lot of the movie that just feels like set up, and the relationships could have used a lot more development.

While the last 10 minutes truly feels like horror, the first 50 minutes are so over the top as to be more funny than scary. I am especially fond of Nanon's anti-groping sentiments (still relevant today!) that go like this:

"Why doesn't he keep his hands off me?"

"Hands! Men's hands! How I hate them!"

"Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!"

Despite Nanon's strong anti-hands stance, she begins to fall in love with Malabar, the bland-but-affable circus strongman while Alonzo alternates between giving them the stink-eye and plastering a fake smile on his face.

This one is a bit too much tell and not enough show. There are three memorable, disturbing moments in this film, all in the second half. I wish that its character dynamics had been stronger. I would highly recommend this one, though. It's so short that even the weaker parts are quick to sit through, and it build up to one heck of a payoff.


Mon Jun 25, 2018 8:07 am
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The Unknown is one that I've recommended more than once to people who've expressed an interest in silent films but are intimidated about where to start. It's such an "easy" watch, first of all, that it doesn't feel like homework for the uninitiated. And it's a great illustration of what a force of nature Chaney was. This story is so utterly absurd that in any other hands it would just be a silly mess, but Chaney elevates it enough so that there's some actual emotion in parts. (Don't get me wrong, it's still very absurd). And yeah, that climax builds to one heck of a crescendo. Fun stuff. One of the first non-comedy silents I really connected with back in the day.

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Mon Jun 25, 2018 8:52 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
The Unknown is one that I've recommended more than once to people who've expressed an interest in silent films but are intimidated about where to start. It's such an "easy" watch, first of all, that it doesn't feel like homework for the uninitiated. And it's a great illustration of what a force of nature Chaney was. This story is so utterly absurd that in any other hands it would just be a silly mess, but Chaney elevates it enough so that there's some actual emotion in parts. (Don't get me wrong, it's still very absurd). And yeah, that climax builds to one heck of a crescendo. Fun stuff. One of the first non-comedy silents I really connected with back in the day.


I definitely need more silent movies in my brain, so I will mark this one down.


Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:16 am
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crumbsroom wrote:

I definitely need more silent movies in my brain, so I will mark this one down.

I remember that you're a fan of Freaks so you'll probably like it, it's nice 'n lurid. Not quite Freaks-level but it goes to some unexpected places.

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Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:22 am
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crumbsroom wrote:

I definitely need more silent movies in my brain, so I will mark this one down.


It's also a very brisk 63 minutes, so it's a quick watch. I watched it with Filmstruck.


Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:26 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
I remember that you're a fan of Freaks so you'll probably like it, it's nice 'n lurid. Not quite Freaks-level but it goes to some unexpected places.


It lacks the freaks-but-family setting and vibe that Freaks had. There isn't that same sense of a drama playing out in an existing community dynamic.


Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:27 am
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Just added The Unknown to my Letterboxd watchlist.

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Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:39 am
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I found The Unknown played more urgently once I started treating the arms as symbols of male potency (read: dicks).

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Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:28 am
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Rock wrote:
I found The Unknown played more urgently once I started treating the arms as symbols of male potency (read: dicks).

Hm. I saw them more as vas deferens *shrug*

The Unknown is a fine film but my first watch was very disappointing, as I was expecting (hoping) for something more in the vein (or vas) of a more atmospheric and gothic type of old horror movie, in line with Phantom of the Opera or Dracula stylistically and sensually. The end is terrific and pays it all off, but that first half was a slog.


Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:43 am
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Rock wrote:
I found The Unknown played more urgently once I started treating the arms as symbols of male potency (read: dicks).


Hmm . . .

"Why doesn't he keep his [penis] off me?"

"[Penises]! Men's [penises]! How I hate them!"

"Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the [penises] from all of them!"

Checks out.

One thing that I do appreciate the film is the fact that Alonzo's love for Nanon is genuine (I mean, it's creepy as hell, but it's a genuine version of his love). To the point where he
is willing to give up his arms (or in your reading to castrate himself) for her and in the end he is willing to even die for her.

I think that the movie also understands something about this kind of "love", namely that Alonzo has these emotions but he's not really in tune with Nanon and her way of thinking. It's not healthy to have such a fear of being touched. But Alonzo is so fixated on manipulating things to his advantage that he can't really see her as a complex human being.

There's a nice moment when the strong man reaches for Nanon, but having actually listened to her, withdraws his hand and just talks to her. She builds a trust with him that comes from a place of him respecting her boundaries. Yes, her magically suddenly getting over her phobia is silly, but it's nice to see that Alonzo is not rewarded for his manipulation--especially when he sends the strong man to grab Nanon knowing that it will freak her out.


Mon Jun 25, 2018 12:00 pm
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A dark/black comedy


The 'Burbs (1989) - Some SPOILERS in the last paragraph.

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"I hate cul-de-sacs. There's only one way out, and the people are kind of weird."


George Orwell wrote in a 1948 article about "Politics and the English Language" that the French term "cul-de-sac" was an unnecessary word, mostly used "to give an air of culture and elegance". A cul-de-sac is nothing more than a dead end street. Why we use the French term? Perhaps we want to avoid the negative resonance of "dead end", or perhaps we like to think we have more "culture and elegance" than other people because of our suburbanite life. Regardless of the why, the garbage man who says the above quote knows it's all appearances and that "weird" people abound, even in this suburban environment.

The 'Burbs follows a group of these "weirdos" as they try to investigate the nature of their newly arrived, mysterious neighbors - the Klopeks - after another neighbor disappears. Leading the group is Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks), who is home on vacation for a week trying to relax, but instead is dragged on by his nosy, obnoxious neighbor Art (Rick Ducommun), despite the complaints of Ray's wife (Carrie Fisher). They are joined by military veteran Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) and Ricky Butler (Corey Feldman), a teenager who is up for the ride mostly to make fun of them.

Most of the fun of the film comes from the wild theories that the group comes up with about their neighbors. The most paranoic, and funnier, is Art who pretty much steals every scene he's in with funny, witty dialogue and good delivery. Hanks feels right at home as the "every man" that becomes involved in all the mess, despite not wanting to. This kind of film was right up Hanks' alley in the 80's and he seems pretty comfortable in it. The cast is well round out by Fisher, Dern, and Feldman, all of which deliver in their respective roles.

I'm split on the last act, or rather the last twist, because I liked where the film went near the end, with the neighbors realizing they are the ones with issues, as Ray confronts Art. But the film backpedals in the very end which sorta renders the point moot. I wish they would've left it at that, or perhaps a bit ambiguous. But still, I thought the film, although far from a masterpiece, was fun and enjoyable.

Grade: B

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Tue Jun 26, 2018 4:58 am
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Thief wrote:
A dark/black comedy


The 'Burbs (1989) - Some SPOILERS in the last paragraph.

I'm split on the last act, or rather the last twist, because I liked where the film went near the end, with the neighbors realizing they are the ones with issues, as Ray confronts Art. But the film backpedals in the very end which sorta renders the point moot. I wish they would've left it at that, or perhaps a bit ambiguous. But still, I thought the film, although far from a masterpiece, was fun and enjoyable.


I sort of agree, but on the other hand I think that the film manages to critique the gossipy, petty nature of the suburbs, and at the same time point out some of the things that people are able to get away with even in small communities. People will "mind their own business" while some pretty crazy stuff happens right next door. About two years ago there was an article in my local newspaper. A guy lived in a house by himself. One day, a teenage girl appears. She's not allowed to leave the property, she always looks sad. After months someone finally calls the police or child services and it turns out that this girl was TRADED/SOLD to this man to pay off a drug debt that her parents owed him. This victim of child sex trafficking was there in full sight of the neighbors, but nothing was done about it for the longest time.

I kind of appreciate that the movie hinges on that doubt that you can have: Is this actually weird/dangerous/creepy, or am I projecting that on to something that is eccentric but innocent?


Tue Jun 26, 2018 5:24 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I sort of agree, but on the other hand I think that the film manages to critique the gossipy, petty nature of the suburbs, and at the same time point out some of the things that people are able to get away with even in small communities. People will "mind their own business" while some pretty crazy stuff happens right next door. About two years ago there was an article in my local newspaper. A guy lived in a house by himself. One day, a teenage girl appears. She's not allowed to leave the property, she always looks sad. After months someone finally calls the police or child services and it turns out that this girl was TRADED/SOLD to this man to pay off a drug debt that her parents owed him. This victim of child sex trafficking was there in full sight of the neighbors, but nothing was done about it for the longest time.

I kind of appreciate that the movie hinges on that doubt that you can have: Is this actually weird/dangerous/creepy, or am I projecting that on to something that is eccentric but innocent?


Yeah, I see your point. But in a way, having the Klopeks actually be murderers sorta validates the neighbors excessive "weirdness" and "snooping" around, even though it was based on false assumptions (that they had killed the bald neighbor). The way that final scene plays out felt like the writers having their cake and eating it too, by letting Ray have his outburst ("We're the lunatics! Us! It's not them! It's us!") to make their point about suburbia, only to expose the Klopeks later to kinda say "Well, it figures!".

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Tue Jun 26, 2018 5:39 am
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Thief wrote:

Yeah, I see your point. But in a way, having the Klopeks actually be murderers sorta validates the neighbors excessive "weirdness" and "snooping" around, even though it was based on false assumptions (that they had killed the bald neighbor). The way that final scene plays out felt like the writers having their cake and eating it too, by letting Ray have his outburst ("We're the lunatics! Us! It's not them! It's us!") to make their point about suburbia, only to expose the Klopeks later to kinda say "Well, it figures!".


I think that in order to have a cathartic climax, you sort of need that. But I figure another way it could have gone would be to reveal that one of the "normal" neighbors was actually a murderer and that the Klopeks were just a bit odd.

The thing I mostly have mixed feelings about is the casting of the Klopeks as "foreigners" in a neighborhood of homogeneous white Americans. It plays a bit too much into the idea that immigrants or people who retain strong cultural traditions are dangerous and creepy.

I do still like the idea that there's a lot of bonkers stuff that happens in "normal" suburban neighborhoods, but I see what you mean about how it undercuts the criticism of the cliquish behavior of the neighbors.


Tue Jun 26, 2018 5:46 am
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Thief wrote:
Unforgiven (1992)
Yay, one of my favorite movies! And good write-up Thief, I'm glad you still love it so much; it almost feels as though it could've been the last word on the entire genre of the Western as a whole, as though it could've (should've?) been the last Western movie ever made, so final, so shattering a cinematic statement it is on that particular style... such a great, great movie.

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Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:15 am
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Stu wrote:
Yay, one of my favorite movies! And good write-up Thief, I'm glad you still love it so much; it almost feels as though it could've been the last word on the entire genre of the Western as a whole, as though it could've (should've?) been the last Western movie ever made, so final, so shattering a cinematic statement it is on that particular style... such a great, great movie.


Good write-up to you as well. It is also one of my favorites, which is why I couldn't resist the urge to watch it as soon as I saw it was on.

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Wed Jun 27, 2018 2:19 am
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Nice write-ups, guys. I also wrote a bit on Unforgiven recently.

The archetype for the classic Western protagonist is that he must be a strong, fearless hero who is skilled at what he does and never feels guilt for his deeds as he fearlessly shoots his way through his enemies. This film, in contrast, disregards all those rules and deconstructs all the archetypes we've grown accustomed to. By reshaping these protagonists, this film almost feels like a bookend to the entire genre. Our protagonist, William Munny, is a prime example of this. His vulnerabilities are expressed by how he struggles to maintain his fam due to the poor health of many of his pigs and his difficulty to simply mount a horse. This deconstruction also applies to how he's brutally beaten by the sheriff, nearly dies from a fever he sustains due to riding in the rain, and feels haunted by his past deeds. These deconstructions also apply to other characters such as the Schofield Kid. He is initially characterized as a remorseless killer who already killed 5 people, but his fragilities are gradually exposed as the film goes on. This sense of remorse can also be found in Ned Logan as he refuses to shoot Bunting. Finally, it's also hard not to talk about the sheriff, Bill Daggett. Although his actions seem tolerable at first, it's eventually shown that he's a sadist who mercilessly beats anyone who threatens the town. All of this combined with the phenomenal acting and the chilling conclusion cement this film's status as one of the great Westerns.

9/10

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Wed Jun 27, 2018 4:11 am
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A film written by a novelist or playwright
A musical
A film made for less than $5,000,000



Cabin in the Sky (1943)

Quote:
"Oh, Lord. Please forgive me for backsliding. But sometimes when you fight the devil, you got to jab him with his own pitchfork."


In Christian belief, temptation can come in many ways and take many forms. It all depends on what the devil sees as your weaknesses, whether it's alcohol, drugs, women, gambling, porn, or whatever, it is believed that the devil will use that as his "weapon" to lure you. And although Christians believe in the power of prayer to fight temptation, some people believe you have to fight "fire with fire" to win the battle. That is the premise of this Vincente Minnelli musical.

My fourth musical for #TCMusicals, Cabin in the Sky, follows Petunia (Ethel Waters), a loving low-class wife, who's trying to keep her gambling husband, "Little Joe" Jackson (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson), out of trouble and into church. When Joe is dragged out of church by his friends, he ends up in a shootout over a gambling debt. This sparks a competition between God's envoy, "The General" (Kenneth Spencer), and the Devil's son, Lucifer Jr. (Rex Ingram), as they both try to win Joe's soul. Meanwhile, Petunia tries to keep her husband out of the fire, first with prayers and then with the Devil's "own pitchfork".

Although the above description might sound a bit too preachy, I hope non-Christians aren't turned off by it. Truth of the matter is that Cabin in the Sky is a very, very entertaining film. Most of the fun comes from Anderson's performance and the interactions between Lucifer, Jr. and his minions, but Waters is a joy to watch as Petunia. She owns the role with her earnest performance and wide smile, as well as her flawless singing. Anderson, who is more of a comedian, also has a hilarious song that highlights his comedic timing. Lena Horne plays Georgia Brown, a beautiful young woman that tries to seduce Joe, but I wasn't that impressed by her.

The other highlight of the film is Minnelli's great direction. Despite being his first film, the director who shows a unique talent with the camera. Cabin in the Sky might still lack the polish of future musicals, but it's worth the watch for its solid lead performers, some great singing, its fun and inventive dialogue, and Minnelli's direction.

Grade: B+

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Wed Jun 27, 2018 4:35 am
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Thief wrote:
A film written by a novelist or playwright
A musical
A film made for less than $5,000,000



Cabin in the Sky (1943)



In Christian belief, temptation can come in many ways and take many forms. It all depends on what the devil sees as your weaknesses, whether it's alcohol, drugs, women, gambling, porn, or whatever, it is believed that the devil will use that as his "weapon" to lure you. And although Christians believe in the power of prayer to fight temptation, some people believe you have to fight "fire with fire" to win the battle. That is the premise of this Vincente Minnelli musical.

My fourth musical for #TCMusicals, Cabin in the Sky, follows Petunia (Ethel Waters), a loving low-class wife, who's trying to keep her gambling husband, "Little Joe" Jackson (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson), out of trouble and into church. When Joe is dragged out of church by his friends, he ends up in a shootout over a gambling debt. This sparks a competition between God's envoy, "The General" (Kenneth Spencer), and the Devil's son, Lucifer Jr. (Rex Ingram), as they both try to win Joe's soul. Meanwhile, Petunia tries to keep her husband out of the fire, first with prayers and then with the Devil's "own pitchfork".

Although the above description might sound a bit too preachy, I hope non-Christians aren't turned off by it. Truth of the matter is that Cabin in the Sky is a very, very entertaining film. Most of the fun comes from Anderson's performance and the interactions between Lucifer, Jr. and his minions, but Waters is a joy to watch as Petunia. She owns the role with her earnest performance and wide smile, as well as her flawless singing. Anderson, who is more of a comedian, also has a hilarious song that highlights his comedic timing. Lena Horne plays Georgia Brown, a beautiful young woman that tries to seduce Joe, but I wasn't that impressed by her.

The other highlight of the film is Minnelli's great direction. Despite being his first film, the director who shows a unique talent with the camera. Cabin in the Sky might still lack the polish of future musicals, but it's worth the watch for its solid lead performers, some great singing, its fun and inventive dialogue, and Minnelli's direction.

Grade: B+

Yes, really enjoyable film, I saw this recently. Fun, fun, film, some great musical numbers, and Minnelli does shine right out of the gate.
I agree with you on everything but Lena Horne who snapped my head around from the other room when I went in there to change clothes and I heard her voice and said, "That's Lena Horne!", and dashed back into the living room to see that I was right. And she was as beautiful and compelling even then. I love when she picks the magnolia blossom out of the tree, like Eve picking the apple.
https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xgai8

PS- My mom was a fan of hers, so I grew up listening to her records.


Wed Jun 27, 2018 10:44 am
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A Bollywood film: Road

You're all going to be shocked at the plot of this one.

A couple, Arvind and Lakshmi, decide to elope. While driving to their destination, they pick up a hitch-hiker, Babu, who turns out to be a dangerous criminal on the run. Babu takes Lakshmi hostage and Arvind must win her back.

Yes, I have decided that June is officially "deadly hitch-hiker" month.

This one was . . . meh. I really liked one of the dance numbers, a bonkers piece in which Babu, convinced that Lakshmi is in love with him, fantasizes about rescuing her from Arvind (and also some zombies?), and blatantly misreads all of her physical cues (repeatedly in the song he says that her sharp intakes of breath must be a sign of her love). There's also a dance number from two people who . . . aren't in the movie? Like just randomly this chubby guy in a track suit is singing and dancing and there is zero connection to the plot. Weirdly it's one of the more entertaining songs, but it comes out of nowhere.

I was impressed that the movie didn't ever try to make Babu a good guy. At one point Lakshmi thanks him for not raping her (SIGH), a conversation that has many variations in many movies, and is often a cue that the female lead is starting to see the guy as not being so bad. It starts to seem like Lakshmi is actually starting to like him, but very quickly the movie makes it clear that she's acting sympathetic toward him in order to survive, not because she actually likes him.

The movie is overly long, and it actually repeats its own sequences in the first half: Babu takes Lakshmi hostage, Arvind hijacks another vehicle to chase them down and get her back. Then . . . it all happens again. Babu shows up again, kidnaps Lakshmi again, Arvind hijacks another vehicle to chase them again.

Arvind and Lakshmi are pretty annoying people, and early scenes with them that I think are supposed to be endearing are instead just irritating. For example, they bicker loudly in a movie theater. There are a lot of awkward and unnecessary close ups of Lakshmi's body which just feel pervy.

This is a different type of Bollywood film, but to me it's a failed experiment. The actors do their best, but tonally the film is a bit of a mess (because people are actually killed and that's wedged right up against comedy bits about apathetic hotel clerks). The songs (aside from the fantasy sequence) are unmemorable and have lyrics that are either bad or badly translated ("I sniff you out on the road. Is this love?").


Thu Jun 28, 2018 11:24 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
At one point Lakshmi thanks him for not raping her (SIGH), a conversation that has many variations in many movies, and is often a cue that the female lead is starting to see the guy as not being so bad. It starts to seem like Lakshmi is actually starting to like him, but very quickly the movie makes it clear that she's acting sympathetic toward him in order to survive, not because she actually likes him.

Have you seen Verhoeven's Flesh + Blood? There's a remarkably similar situation there which left me conflicted. I'll be posting about it in the 80s thread eventually.

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Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:30 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
Have you seen Verhoeven's Flesh + Blood? There's a remarkably similar situation there which left me conflicted. I'll be posting about it in the 80s thread eventually.


I have, and I assuming you're talking about the
gang-rape scene. While I understand the theoretical empowering element of the woman taking some degree of control, I felt like the way that scene was shot was too porny for that point to stick. I was pretty actively put off by it. It's like most male directors can't fathom empowering a woman without eroticizing her (or, specifically, even eroticizing her being sexually assaulted).

I think that the movie came close to portraying a very real phenomenon--namely the way that people (and maybe more specifically women) will go along with a dangerous situation in order to survive. If someone has the power to kill you, you want them to like you. But to me it didn't really make that point very well.

Among other things, I think that the way that Agnes repeatedly switches her loyalties seems to be "proof" for some people that women are just changeable and shallow and will gravitate to whomever is more powerful without any sense of loyalty. But we see through the whole movie that the men have very little honor or loyalty either, and they would just as easily see a woman dead rather than let the other guy have her. I think that the film has the elements to portray the dog-eat-dog nature of the time period, but the actual way it is shot sabotages the impact of those dynamics.

Though I haven't seen the movie in about 10 years--so my memory of it is not super fresh. The thing is, though, I have zero desire to watch it again.


Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:59 pm
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Oh, I forgot to mention my favorite thing about Road!

On the IMDb parents' guide, under the "Sex & Nudity" category, someone has written that it is "Full of exposive and vulgar songs".

So, so exposive!


Sat Jun 30, 2018 2:35 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I have, and I assuming you're talking about the
gang-rape scene. While I understand the theoretical empowering element of the woman taking some degree of control, I felt like the way that scene was shot was too porny for that point to stick. I was pretty actively put off by it. It's like most male directors can't fathom empowering a woman without eroticizing her (or, specifically, even eroticizing her being sexually assaulted).

I think that the movie came close to portraying a very real phenomenon--namely the way that people (and maybe more specifically women) will go along with a dangerous situation in order to survive. If someone has the power to kill you, you want them to like you. But to me it didn't really make that point very well.

Among other things, I think that the way that Agnes repeatedly switches her loyalties seems to be "proof" for some people that women are just changeable and shallow and will gravitate to whomever is more powerful without any sense of loyalty. But we see through the whole movie that the men have very little honor or loyalty either, and they would just as easily see a woman dead rather than let the other guy have her. I think that the film has the elements to portray the dog-eat-dog nature of the time period, but the actual way it is shot sabotages the impact of those dynamics.

Though I haven't seen the movie in about 10 years--so my memory of it is not super fresh. The thing is, though, I have zero desire to watch it again.

Wow, I'm glad I asked because that was pretty much everything I was going to say. You've done my work for me!
I felt like I had a handle on the actual rape. It seemed that her plan was "If I endear myself to the leader, I'll 'only' have to be raped by him, rather than get passed around the village". It was the loyalty-switching later that I struggled with. My first thought was "why do women in movies always forget that they were raped, like, 3 days ago?" So when I said I was conflicted it was because I was trying to give Verhoeven the benefit of the doubt. Eventually I came to the same conclusion as you. The moral of the story appears to be "everyone sucks", and so ultimately I don't think she was being singled out for being a woman but rather was just another example of everyone looking out for number one, so to speak.
So Verhoeven is off the hook. For now. I still have Showgirls on the horizon, after all.

Takoma1 wrote:
The thing is, though, I have zero desire to watch it again.

This was how I intended to end my write-up as well.

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Sat Jun 30, 2018 4:58 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
Wow, I'm glad I asked because that was pretty much everything I was going to say. You've done my work for me!
I felt like I had a handle on the actual rape. It seemed that her plan was "If I endear myself to the leader, I'll 'only' have to be raped by him, rather than get passed around the village". It was the loyalty-switching later that I struggled with. My first thought was "why do women in movies always forget that they were raped, like, 3 days ago?" So when I said I was conflicted it was because I was trying to give Verhoeven the benefit of the doubt. Eventually I came to the same conclusion as you. The moral of the story appears to be "everyone sucks", and so ultimately I don't think she was being singled out for being a woman but rather was just another example of everyone looking out for number one, so to speak.
So Verhoeven is off the hook. For now. I still have Showgirls on the horizon, after all.


This was how I intended to end my write-up as well.


While Agnes might not have been morally singled out for being a woman, the way that
her body and the sexual violence against her were filmed DID feel different to me. So the film condemns both men and women for their character flaws, but only the female bodies are exploited in a certain way and that's the kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes at the obvious pervy male-ness of both the person directing and the apparent intended audience. The, um, enthusiastic response from many male posters on the IMDb message boards about the rape and, in the same breath, their assertion that Agnes was "proof" of the female desire to be dominated (and that she genuinely enjoyed being attacked) only added to my generally negative feelings about the film.

I know that you can't blame a film for the response of its fans, and there are always a few pervs/trolls out there who are going to say gross things about movies with sexual violence. But this was a lot of people over several years expressing similar opinions.


And even setting aside any of the gender politics or the question of its general misanthropy, I didn't find the movie all that interesting in its action scenes or in terms of the characters. I remember about 2/3 of the way in feelings like there was a real lull in the pace of it.


Sat Jun 30, 2018 6:30 am
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So someone is going to watch Showgirls fairly soon?

Maybe you can combine it with the Cher/Christina Aguilera Burlesque and embrace the camp? Enjoy Gina Gershon as a scenery chewing villain?

Just don't dive into the story itself as Jessie Spano learns the dark side of fame and fortune in the Vegas show business.


Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:55 am
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Ok, I'm waaaaaay behind on my review posting; I have 8 pending reviews, but I will post my new list of categories tomorrow.

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Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:23 pm
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A musical
A film about a musician



Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Quote:
"I guess the first thing I ever had my fist on was the American flag. I hitched my wagon to thirty-eight stars. And thirteen stripes."


With war looming in the horizon of the US during the early 1940s, films were used as a vehicle to try to boost American morale and foster support for the military. One of the best examples of this is Michael Curtiz' biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy. The film follows the life of Michael Cohan (James Cagney), an American entertainer, playwright, composer, and singer that became known as "The Man Who Owned Broadway". Starting with his birth on the 4th of July, the film follows Cohan's growth as an entertainer from his early hits with his family as The Four Cohans, to his rise as a successful stage actor.

Before starting this TCM course on musicals, I didn't even know this was a biopic. Regardless, I had been reluctant to check this out, mostly because I wasn't up for an excessively jingoistic, "America rules" film. To my surprise, I didn't think the film fell into much patriotic excesses. Sure, it's made to put America's image on a pedestal, but that's the story, and being loosely based on a real life story, helped ease the subject for me. The thing is that it was far more sober than I was expecting.

My main issue with the film is that I wasn't that drawn to it. I would've preferred that some of the relationships in the film would've been fleshed out more, most notably Cohan and his father (Walter Huston). But also, Cohan's relationship with partner Sam Harris (Richard Whorf), and even with his wife Mary (Joan Leslie), could've been more fleshed out. Cagney is pretty good in the role, portraying the real evolution of Cohan from a cocky young man to a more mature and introspective adult man. However, the film seemed more worried on checking pivotal moments off a list, to take the plot from A to B, instead of letting things flow more organically.

I still enjoyed the film to some extent. Curtiz' direction is a plus, and all of the performances are solid. The musical numbers were fun, although not that memorable (with all the musicals I've been seeing this month, I've had a handful of songs stuck in my mind, but I can't even remember one from this film). After watching 9 musicals during last month, this one is far from my favorite, but put in perspective against the cultural backdrop of the times, it is a worthy and necessary watch.

Grade: C+

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:41 am
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A film written by an African-American: I am Not Your Negro

I can't even express how much I loved this. A really different take on documentary, and one that weaves past and present in a really powerful way. When people say that racism is over and/or when people talk about the good old days, this is the kind of work they need to see.

Next to Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me and Jesmyn Ward's Men We Reaped, I think that this is one of the best looks at how historic and present day racism shape (mostly destructively) the every day lives of racial minorities in our country.

Available on Prime and highly, highly recommended.


Tue Jul 03, 2018 3:15 am
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A film from the current year


Annihilation (2018)

Will post review later...

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:35 am
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A film with less than five major characters
A film made for less than $5,000,000



It Comes at Night (2017)

Quote:
"You can't trust anyone but family."


Widespread chaos, a deadly outbreak, society has collapsed... Most of that is not actually seen, but rather inferred in Trey Edward Shults' sophomore effort, It Comes at Night. Set in the aftermath of an unspecified crisis, the film follows a family that has decided to protect themselves by hiding inside their boarded-up rural home, while avoiding contact with anyone. Our only door to the outside world is through this family, and in times of chaos, you can't trust anyone but family. But although their secluded existence might protect them from the harms outside, their sense of security is shaken when they stumble upon another family of survivors and decide to give them shelter.

The film starts by showing Paul (Joel Edgerton) executing the heavily-ill father of his wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and burying him with the help of their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) Judging by the decay in the health of the old man, the threat of a mysterious outbreak is real. But Shults never shows us the extent of the crisis. Instead, he chooses to focus on this family and how they are reacting to it. Fear and mistrust permeates their lives as they find Will and Kim (Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough), along with their young son. But time and routine seems to open up the door and close the gap between them as we see them playing games, sharing the daily chores, and having drinks.

There's a quote attributed to Buddha that says "your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts." That is particularly true in this film, as the apparent camaraderie between the two families crumbles under the weight of mistrust. Who harmed the family dog? Why is Will apparently lying? Is their son ok? Who opened the door to the evil outside? Is it inside already? The film never answers any of those questions, but rather lets them enter our mind and our thoughts, just like with Paul. Sometimes, our own thoughts are worst than anything concrete, and what we let in is more harmful than what is outside.

It Comes at Night is an effective thriller, with a creepy atmosphere, solid performances, and great direction. The kind of film that if you let it in, stays in; which in this case, is a good thing. Trust me.

Grade: A-

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:37 am
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A musical
A film made for less than $5,000,000



Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Will post review later...

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:38 am
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A film in a country you've never visited
A musical
A film made for less than $5,000,000
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%



An American in Paris (1951)

Will post review later...

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:40 am
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A horror film


Suspiria (1977)

Will post review later...

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:41 am
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A musical
A film everyone has seen but you
A film made for less than $5,000,000
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%



Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Will post review later...

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:43 am
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A film in a country you've never visited
A film that takes place in Britain
A musical



My Fair Lady (1964)

Will post review later...

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:45 am
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This was June's lineup!

A film with a child protagonist: The Wizard of Oz
A film noir:
A film in a country you've never visited: An American in Paris
A film with no CGI or special effects:
A film about parenthood:
A film written by a novelist or playwright: Cabin in the Sky
A film that takes place in Britain: My Fair Lady
A Bollywood film:
A film from Sweden:
A film written by an African-American:
A Palm D'Or winner:
A musical: Hallelujah, Singin' in the Rain
A film about a musician: Yankee Doodle Dandy
A film with less than five major characters: It Comes at Night
A dark/black comedy: The 'burbs
A horror film: Suspiria
A film everyone has seen but you: Lawrence of Arabia
A film from the 1920s: The Broadway Melody
An Italian language film:
A film based on a play:
A film made for less than $5,000,000: Meet Me in St. Louis
A film from the current year: Annihilation
A film famous for its twist/ending:
A film with a Rotten Tomatoes score above 95%: Unforgiven
A film starring an SNL regular (past or present):

More than happy to have gotten to 16 films, and having a mixture of current films, classics, and musicals for the #TCMusicals course.

I think my favorites would probably be Lawrence of Arabia and Annihilation, which has stuck with me fiercely. I'm planning a rewatch soon. My least favorite was easily The Broadway Melody.

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:48 am
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New list is up, as usual, on the OP. Recommendations, as usual, are more than welcome! :)

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:53 am
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I'm going to finish the list, I think, despite being past the due date. I've been watching a ton of World Cup, which has really slowed down my movie viewing.

Ironically, school is on summer break and you'd think I'd be watching a ton of films, but it's been quite the opposite. I was in a routine of grading/planning in the evening while I watched a movie, and without that regular schedule it's been a hodge-podge of viewing this month.


Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:53 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I'm going to finish the list, I think, despite being past the due date. I've been watching a ton of World Cup, which has really slowed down my movie viewing.

Ironically, school is on summer break and you'd think I'd be watching a ton of films, but it's been quite the opposite. I was in a routine of grading/planning in the evening while I watched a movie, and without that regular schedule it's been a hodge-podge of viewing this month.


Relaaax, enjoy the ride! :D

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:14 am
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Thief wrote:
A musical
A film about a musician



Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)



With war looming in the horizon of the US during the early 1940s, films were used as a vehicle to try to boost American morale and foster support for the military. One of the best examples of this is Michael Curtiz' biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy. The film follows the life of Michael Cohan (James Cagney), an American entertainer, playwright, composer, and singer that became known as "The Man Who Owned Broadway". Starting with his birth on the 4th of July, the film follows Cohan's growth as an entertainer from his early hits with his family as The Four Cohans, to his rise as a successful stage actor.

Before starting this TCM course on musicals, I didn't even know this was a biopic. Regardless, I had been reluctant to check this out, mostly because I wasn't up for an excessively jingoistic, "America rules" film. To my surprise, I didn't think the film fell into much patriotic excesses. Sure, it's made to put America's image on a pedestal, but that's the story, and being loosely based on a real life story, helped ease the subject for me. The thing is that it was far more sober than I was expecting.

My main issue with the film is that I wasn't that drawn to it. I would've preferred that some of the relationships in the film would've been fleshed out more, most notably Cohan and his father (Walter Huston). But also, Cohan's relationship with partner Sam Harris (Richard Whorf), and even with his wife Mary (Joan Leslie), could've been more fleshed out. Cagney is pretty good in the role, portraying the real evolution of Cohan from a cocky young man to a more mature and introspective adult man. However, the film seemed more worried on checking pivotal moments off a list, to take the plot from A to B, instead of letting things flow more organically.

I still enjoyed the film to some extent. Curtiz' direction is a plus, and all of the performances are solid. The musical numbers were fun, although not that memorable (with all the musicals I've been seeing this month, I've had a handful of songs stuck in my mind, but I can't even remember one from this film). After watching 9 musicals during last month, this one is far from my favorite, but put in perspective against the cultural backdrop of the times, it is a worthy and necessary watch.

Grade: C+

Hmm... I consider this one an out-and-out classic.


Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:29 am
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Thief wrote:
A musical
A film made for less than $5,000,000



Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Will post review later...

:up:


Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:29 am
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Thief wrote:
A film in a country you've never visited
A film that takes place in Britain
A musical



My Fair Lady (1964)

Will post review later...

Man, you saw some good ones lately.


Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:30 am
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Some recommendations that are available on Prime.

A period drama film: Dark Angel (about a Victorian serial killer!)
A film with a female protagonist: Lady Bird, The Florida Project, A Little Princess
A sports film: Heart of the Game (you'd have to rent it, but worth it!), 30 for 30 The 16th Man ($2 on Amazon)
A film about parenthood: Mr. Mom, Lady Bird, Instructions Not Included (rental, but really fun and highest-grossing Spanish language film in the USA)
A film from Sweden: Arn: The Knight Templar looks like dumb fun, or maybe the horror Alena
Ä French language film: The Innocents has gotten really good reviews
An Italian language film: Gomorrah has good reviews
The first film from a director you like: The Crow (Proyas), Bad Taste (Jackson), Solo Con Tu Pareja (Cuaron)
A comedy made before 1970: His Girl Friday, My Man Godfrey, The Firemen's Ball (great satire)
A film directed by a woman: Lady Bird, In a World
A drama film: Florida Project, Allied, Elephant Man, The Way Back
An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture: Boyz n the Hood (not many of these on Prime)
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: Poison
A film with a title that's a sentence or sentence fragment: If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle
A silent film from a foreign country: None on Prime, but Snow White ($3) and Last Laugh ($5--yikes!)
A film that was released direct-to-DVD: Flexing with Monty (PLEASE watch this bonkers film!)
A film with a color in the title: Ladies in Lavender
A film set in Eastern Europe: Landmine Goes Click (I put this on one night without reading much of the description and it was too icky for me), Run to Ground looks interesting
A film noir: You've already seen The Hitch-Hiker, right? Terror By Night, Fallen Angel, He Walked by Night (I'd LOVE to discuss this one!)
A film about an animal: The Black Stallion
A film featured in the Criterion Collection: Hoop Dreams, Cameraperson
A Spanish language film: Instructions Not Included, Duck Season
A Bollywood film: Watch Road and we can commiserate on how awful it is.
A film over 170 minutes long: Gone with the Wind, Mahanati, Sultan, Don
An experimental film: Meshes of the Afternoon (YouTube)


Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:58 am
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A film about parenthood: Mommy

This film follows Diane, a widow who struggles to do what's best for her son, Steve, who has severe behavior issues. Steve comes home from a correctional institute where's he's been staying, and with the help of a neighbor, Kyla, Diane tries to bring normalcy to their lives.

I thought that this movie was excellent from top to bottom: directing, writing, acting, etc. It's clear that Steve is very troubled, but the movie neither tries to excuse nor overly condemn his behaviors. In one really telling sequence in a nightclub, we see how Steve experiences the world around him and why he lashes out. Steve turns his anger outward frequently, and one of the first things we see is a brutal attack on his mother. And yet he does genuinely want to be loved and be successful.

The movie is shot in a 1:1 ratio, and so the characters are literally boxed in. In one really memorable part (spoilers for a style element, not a plot element) Steve
is feeling happy and he literally stretches the aspect ratio with his hands to widen the frame
.

This is a movie with no easy answers. Steve's violence seems to point to the fact that being free is not in his best interest or the best interest of those around him. But at the same time he encounters violence (and a lot of drugs) while incarcerated. You might think that after one physical altercation it would be obvious what Diane should do, but her agony in deciding whether or not to have Steve committed is palpable.

One point that the movie makes that I really appreciated is the way that people suffering from emotional or behavioral issues can hover in a sort of gray area. A lot of what Steve does is quirky, obnoxious, inappropriate, but not dangerous. He's the kind of person you dread having for a neighbor/co-worker/student, but is it really so bad that he needs to be locked up? The movie grapples honestly with this question.

I would highly recommend this film. I thought it was incredibly powerful and well-made.


Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:11 am
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Wooley wrote:
Hmm... I consider this one an out-and-out classic.


Would love to read your thoughts on it. I didn't dislike it, but it just didn't resonate with me.

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:14 am
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Wooley wrote:
Man, you saw some good ones lately.


I did cross several classics off my list this month. Will post a review later but My Fair Lady was one that had me more or less on the fence, until that ending. I felt that the film was leading us one way and then, Boom! I really liked that... ambiguity, if you may. And is it just me or were there some echoes of this on Phantom Thread?

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:17 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
Some recommendations that are available on Prime.

A period drama film: Dark Angel (about a Victorian serial killer!)
A film with a female protagonist: Lady Bird, The Florida Project, A Little Princess
A sports film: Heart of the Game (you'd have to rent it, but worth it!), 30 for 30 The 16th Man ($2 on Amazon)
A film about parenthood: Mr. Mom, Lady Bird, Instructions Not Included (rental, but really fun and highest-grossing Spanish language film in the USA)
A film from Sweden: Arn: The Knight Templar looks like dumb fun, or maybe the horror Alena
Ä French language film: The Innocents has gotten really good reviews
An Italian language film: Gomorrah has good reviews
The first film from a director you like: The Crow (Proyas), Bad Taste (Jackson), Solo Con Tu Pareja (Cuaron)
A comedy made before 1970: His Girl Friday, My Man Godfrey, The Firemen's Ball (great satire)
A film directed by a woman: Lady Bird, In a World
A drama film: Florida Project, Allied, Elephant Man, The Way Back
An NAACP Image Award winner for Best Picture: Boyz n the Hood (not many of these on Prime)
A film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: Poison
A film with a title that's a sentence or sentence fragment: If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle
A silent film from a foreign country: None on Prime, but Snow White ($3) and Last Laugh ($5--yikes!)
A film that was released direct-to-DVD: Flexing with Monty (PLEASE watch this bonkers film!)
A film with a color in the title: Ladies in Lavender
A film set in Eastern Europe: Landmine Goes Click (I put this on one night without reading much of the description and it was too icky for me), Run to Ground looks interesting
A film noir: You've already seen The Hitch-Hiker, right? Terror By Night, Fallen Angel, He Walked by Night (I'd LOVE to discuss this one!)
A film about an animal: The Black Stallion
A film featured in the Criterion Collection: Hoop Dreams, Cameraperson
A Spanish language film: Instructions Not Included, Duck Season
A Bollywood film: Watch Road and we can commiserate on how awful it is.
A film over 170 minutes long: Gone with the Wind, Mahanati, Sultan, Don
An experimental film: Meshes of the Afternoon (YouTube)


As usual, thanks for the recs, Tak!

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