#74. Days of Being Wild (1990, Wong)
And with only his sophomore effort, Wong Kar-Wai settles into his niche of depicting the humidified longing of youth with a cool sensibility. I don’t know how he does it but the singular Hong Kong treasure has always been able to take the simplest, the oft-seen of romantic woes, strip them down and linger on sensual emotional suffering. Part of it is that Wong understand and revels in the fact of ‘isn’t it all worth it’. It’s like he’s celebrating that suffering and longing by dressing it up and romanticizing the good, the bad, and the ugly. With ‘Days’, characters cross paths, and cross paths again, as the passage of time blankets all. With Happy Together, I couldn’t get past Leslie Cheung’s arrogant abuser, but here Cheung’s arrogant more self-aware abuser has a central throughline that made him worth digesting. Every time I see Maggie Cheung I just get depressed about her not acting anymore. Coupled with In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express as my favorite Wong Kar-wai films.
#75. Spring Breakers (2013, Korine)
#76. Phil Spector (2013, Mamet)
This barely felt like a film, more an excuse for Mamet to rail his politics at us. Which would be fine, if he had been able to build a semblance of a picture around his ideas. Instead, the film ends before it even begins, drags on as Mirren blows her nose and Pacino pontificates about The Righteous Brothers and his success and people judging him for his eccentricities. You realize that Phil Spector himself doesn’t interest Mamet. The only thing that matters to him is making a case for Spector’s innocence or at least his ‘reasonable doubt’, which uncomfortable in its insistence.
#77. Seed of Chucky (2005, Mancini)
Camptastic little meta-film even though it completely runs out of steam about halfway through. Adored seeing Jennifer Tilly ham it up as herself. The animatronics work continues to impress. There’s a mesh between horror-comedy and twisted domestic drama that it plays around with. The ‘seed’ made me laugh everytime he opened his mouth because he reminded me of the sketches in “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” where the troupe members played timid little schoolboys. Could have been so much better but it at least it nails the tone.
#78. Fantasia/2000 (1999)
Fantasia is one of my top ten favorite films, racist warts and all, so it’s sad I’m just got around to this now, although it seems I didn’t miss much. Clocking in at 74 minutes, it crams in as many pieces as the original despite its short length. Its reliance on ‘innovating’ with CGI currency hurts the visual impact considerably. I understand the blending of CGI and hand-drawn animation is impressive and all, particularly for 1999, but I found it resolutely distracting. Fantasia is all about innovation, and the translation of that innovation to today’s world slumps in comparison to the outside-of-the-box feats of the 1941 masterpiece. Filter out the uninspired rip-offs, the duds (I’m looking at you Donald-as-Noah), and the potential-in-concept but lacking-in-execution (due to having nearly all CGI), and you’re left with four I liked. “Rhapsody in Blue”, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “Carnival of the Animals”, “Firebird Suite-1919 Version” and from Fantasia, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. ” Despite bursts of creative flourish, my disappointment comes down to the use of CGI and fitting 8 pieces, including introductions for each, into a slim 74 minute block.
#79. Evil Dead (2013, Alvarez)
An exercise in pushing the envelope of mainstream gore, Evil Dead is an audacious and memorable re-interpretation of the Sam Raimi classic. Shot by first-time filmmaker Fede Alvarez with a beautiful washed out decrepit woodsy feel, covered in dirty natural light. My complaints stem from its inability to even pretend to care about the central brother-sister relationship. It either needed to execute that storyline with a hell of a lot more sincerity, or ditch it altogether and spread that time over to its nondescript characters. It hits the most unfortunate spot of the in-between and contributes to its one-too-many climaxes. Not to mention that Shiloh Fernandez can’t act to save his life. My other complaint stems from its ultra-serious tone, which actually works for me. However, I’ve seen others refer to it as a comedy, which is perplexing. I laughed during the film from its absurdity, the way you do during slashers that push in this way, but I never felt it ‘go’ for comedy. If it was, it needed to be slightly more pointed, because I saw it as taking the opposite tack.
I admired its brutally over-the-top mayhem, its reliance on practical effects work, and I loved the central detoxing conceit. Loved loved loved. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a mainstream horror film this violently drenched in red. It’s obsessed with the details of pain, never letting you forget the crunch and decay of what we’re seeing. At a certain point it hits achieves a level of abstraction, sullied by the domestic nonsense, where you don’t even feel like you’re watching a film. You’re just watching relentless blood-letting. And that’s a compliment. I’ve also realized that Cabin in the Woods has added a level of distraction to all cabin-set films for me. And lest I forget, Jane Levy is spectacular.