Lots of movies, not all of them bad.
Robert Altman: 3 Women (1977, USA)
An utterly strange movie, as I’m sure the still above suggests. I love Altman’s work, but I’m not sure about this one. The first half is excellent: Pinky (Sissy Spacek) is a young girl, seemingly from nowhere, who moves to California and starts to work at a spa for the elderly. She’s awkward and childish and starts looking to older, wiser Millie (Shelley Duvall) for her social education. Eventually she moves in with Millie, but it quickly becomes apparent that for all her talk, no one really likes or even notices Millie. There’s something . . . ill about these two women. After an accident, things get worse as their identities begin to blur. The third woman is Willie, the wife of the Millie’s landlord. She’s pregnant and paints these amazing, weird images (see still).
The bit about identities blurring sounds a lot like Bergman’s Persona, which was, I think, an inspiration for Altman. I really like Altman’s version, especially the first half, and also where the film lands as its final point. Between the middle and the end, there’s something that needs resolution. I think it might be that the film falls into fantasy more so than psychosis, and that troubles me. Still, this is very worth watching, just for Sissy and Shelley. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore in Hollywood.
Wes Anderson: Rushmore (1998, USA)
Brian de Palma: Blow Out (1981, USA)
John motherfucking Travolta at his best. Also best ending ever. Also: John Lithgow makes a much more frightening serial killer here than he does in that bore of a fourth season of Dexter. Also: John motherfucking Travolta.
(The movie is loosely inspired by an Michelangelo Antonioni film, which in turn is based on a Julio Cortázar short story.)
Hector Dhalia: Adrift (2009, Brazil)
Standard electra complex film.
Tom Ford: A Single Man (2009, USA)
Uhhh . . . where to begin? First, maybe, let’s talk about this: Tom Ford.
Tom Ford should’ve been the first sign pointing me away — far, far away from this movie. But I just thought, Tom Ford? Can’t be the fashion designer. Must be someone else with the same name. WRONG. This IS Tom Ford the FASHION DESIGNER making a MOVIE.
The second sign should’ve been that the Oscars were all over this. But I haven’t been keeping up with the Oscars, so I didn’t know.
ANYWAY. Tom Ford made this shitty movie, based on what is presumably a shitty book, about a man who wants to kill himself because his lover died and he’s alone and he’s gay and no one knows. Ordinarily this story would have my sympathy. However, if you decide to tell this story in unsaturated colour and then have images flash into full saturation to show that the suicide is unthinking his suicide every time he sees a little child or a hot man in tight jeans, and if you have him decide at the last moment to not kill himself and then have him die of a heart attack, then no. NO. ABSOLUTELY NO.
Also, I do not understand this whole thing about Colin Firth. No, I don’t think he’s the perfect man. And I’ll say it: I did not think he was the perfect Mr Darcy in that BBC miniseries of Pride & Prejudice (Liz was lovely, though).
Will Gluck: Friends with Benefits (2011, USA)
If you remember correctly — and this argues terribly with my previous admission to not knowing anything Oscarly — this was Mila Kunis‘s Oscar throwaway for that abomination Black Swan. An Oscar throwaway is a silly blockbuster-type (often a romantic comedy) movie that a person involved in an Oscar-type movie does so that everyone — low-hi, hi-low, low-low — sees promotions for his/her two equally terrible movies everywhere they go which seep into their dreams and hypnotise them into championing their win at the Oscars.
Of the Black Swan roster, Natalie Portman did a romantic comedy called No Strings Attached with Ashton Kutcher, and Mila Kunis did Friends With Benefits with Justin Timberlake. These two movies are shocking in that go beyond the usual similarities that romantic comedies share with one another in order to have EXACTLY THE SAME STORY (a man and woman try to fuck without romance but realise eventually that they want the romance and the fucking) with EXACTLY THE SAME VANILLA MALE HEART THROB (I call him Jushton Kutlake). It’s INSANE.
The Mila Kunis one is better, by the way — she is after all less annoying of the two. Also, Will Gluck seems more talented and funnier than whoever made the other movie.
One last thing: something I’d forgotten about romantic comedies is just how ‘quirky’ they make the woman in order to make her seem interesting and therefore above all the other equally beautiful, size-zero women in the very size-zero cast of the movie. In the aughties, this element of romantic comedia has morphed ‘quirkiness’ into ‘damage’. So Mila Kunis keeps saying she can’t be in a relationship because she’s ‘damaged’ and you have to keep squinting at this incredibly beautiful, witty, successful, stable-seeming woman Kunis plays in the film and wonder, ‘Damaged? Huh!’
Raja Gosnell: Never Been Kissed (1998, USA)
Lisa Gottlieb: Just One of the Guys (1986, USA)
Horrible, forgettable, and the actors aren’t even attractive, which I thought was a basic requirement of this sort of thing.
Shekhar Kapur: Elizabeth (1998, UK)
Patrice Leconte: Monsieur Hire (1989, France)
Oh, yes. This was lovely. No one makes thrillers like this anymore, in which every event is perfectly plausible (no running on rooftops with a microbomb thing that will destroy the world) and every human perfectly human in that they’re equally selfish and selfless in their loving and in their crimes.
Masterful in every way, Monsieur Hire is based on a Georges Simenon novel and features two classic French actors — Michel Blanc and Sandrine Bonnaire — in the cast.
Steve McQueen: Hunger (2008, UK/Ireland)
Er . . . much as I adore Michael Fassbender, no. He really did starve for this role, though.
Kimberly Pierce: Boys Don’t Cry (1999, USA)
Hard to watch, always, even though it’s not the best filmmaking.
Rob Reiner: Misery (1990, USA)
Watched this on Christmas night with my roommate. I want more Christmases like this, that are completely un-Christmas-like. We ate chicken parmesan (that I made), watched a Stephen-King-novel-based horror movie, then went out to a bar.
Misery is my favourite Stephen King novel and will probably always be, since I don’t plan on reading on any more King. Kathy Bates is amazing.
Mark Waters: The House of Yes (1991, USA)