gems of may

continuing catch up. *s are new favorites.

code-verse (Ikeda, 2018)*: i saw this on a phone recording and i’m still not 100% sure it’s the complete movie or not but it’s easily some of the best avant-garde i have seen in a minute, totally alien stuff and makes me wish that megabudget scifi just spent more time doing effects like this with their futuristic communication devices than just using them as an interim set piece. not big on ikeda’s music but i am definitely going to seek out his films more.

A New Leaf (May, 1971): extremely funny and owns hard lol, not much out there quite like this. i mean yeah at the heart of it it’s a romcom about how much rich people suck and about how just wanting to do your own thing is very sweet, also a lesson in how your film getting absolutely mangled by the studio can still have something good come out of it. the two elaine may flicks i seen have been great and i am eager to see the other two.

Sink or Swim (Friedrich, 1990): i think this would be a personal fave on rewatch – friedrich’s voice in this is completely overwhelming in how personal it is. it doesn’t overstay its welcome but instead hones in on how these misogynist events can shape one’s psyche. it’s an absolutely beautiful work and i really should check out some more of hers.

The Duchess of Langeais (Rivette, 2007): one of rivette’s weakest ventures but rivette at his lowest is significantly better than the batting average of most directors. i feel like this sort of subject matter might suit a MDO or ruiz type better, but rivette makes the most out of it by infusing the lead with as much care and delicacy as he can muster. in my letterboxd blurb i said she was my favorite rivette woman but honestly there are so many great ones so…

Everyone Else (Ade, 2009): i hadn’t thought of it in the other two maren ade flicks but i realized the pattern here with her final one that her movies are designed to make people uncomfortable and they often play on that for comedy, though this is likely her darkest work so far. it’s also got a very well done element in that the lead couple feel very isolated from whatever they believe to be the status quo, or “everyone else,” when by all accounts they seem like normal enough people. great stuff if a notch below her other two.

Charade (Donen, 1963): very proud of my initial writeup: aggressively harmless filmmaking. twee as it gets!

gems of april

things have been a bit hectic the last few months in the world and i wanted to give people a chance to care about that stuff as opposed to my little writeups. thought i would get back to doing these though. i never wrote about april so let’s start with those. * = new fave.

Inventing the Future (Medina, 2020): haha wow, it feels like this movie came out 3 years ago and not 3 months ago. medina’s controversial sophomore followup to his rhapsodic 88:88 is adapted from an even more controversial leftist text on imagining a world where robots occupy a slave class and provide post-work proletarians the ability to unburden their chains… pretty insane stuff, but medina plays it like a musing which is absolutely the right route to go down. unsure if covid has made this better or worse, but it’s still so far the only 2020 film i’ve seen which captures something meaningfully.

Sinofuturism (Lek, 2016): another very zoomer type film which is less an essay film (though obviously it IS an essay film) and more a rumination on something somewhat intangible, in this case it’s how china’s ideology is determined in part on its aesthetics and vice versa. i don’t pretend to have the cultural knowhow to determine what’s bollocks or brilliant here, but i DO enjoy seeing a merging of sound and image to such disorienting heights as the ones presented here.

How Yukong Moved the Mountains (Ivens, 1976): must have been a very political month! ivens journey to china to create a mao-sponsored document for the west is shockingly what you would expect: de-glamorized portrayals of blue collar workers discussing their jobs, their issues, reaffirming solidarity, participating in democracy, etc. you get a pretty obvious sense that not all is right with the world at times, but you also get a sense that cooperation like this would be pretty amazing to have, and that’s not even on a governmental level necessarily.

Mikey and Nicky (May, 1976): i just realized that A New Leaf has like triple the murders that this one does and yet that ones a donen-type romcom and this one is the stuff made for the words “harrowing” and “gritty” to be included amongst some stills of it in a 1000 movies you should know book or something. anyways, yeah it’s great, feels like a  hidden cassavetes movie, don’t have too much to say on it.

Phantom of the Paradise (de Palma, 1974)*: i was extremely satisfied that this movie was basically exactly what i had pictured it as. camp masterwork and one of the odder entries into the camp world which does kind of take itself seriously, never to its detriment though. it is very funny and has many striking bits of body horror, something i wasn’t entirely expecting from BDP but the dude has an insane track record and it seems like he’ll do anything if it means he can ape hitchcock a bit more.

In Our Garden (Andrews, 2002): don’t remember too many specifics about this one but it’s a giuseppe andrews film. basically Trash Humpers if it was a korine film. no typo there. one of the funniest things i’ve seen all year.

Salt of the Earth (Biberman, 1954): in what is, for most intents and purposes, an american neorealism picture, it’s hard to believe that there are so many progressive stances which have hardly aged a day. it’s also a film with some very interesting moral questions – how do we handle solidarity with those in our class when they go against our class? how do we handle solidarity amidst sexism? how do we hold perpetrators accountable for their ingrained beliefs by the capitalist system? the film attempts to answer these while playing an eisenstein-structured strike film in the midst.

Museum Hours (Cohen, 2012): this and Chain, while entirely different as far as mood goes, are evidence to me that jem cohen has a heart the size of the moon – films which are coated in this empathetic worldview which attempts to be a shoulder to cry on, as the museum worker is in this picture. boomer movie for zoomers or zoomer movie for boomers? vote now.

Cowards Bend the Knee (Maddin, 2003)*: for some reason before i watched any of his stuff i had pictured maddin as an austere, slower, arty director based on nothing really. when i saw The Forbidden Room i thought it was great but ran out of steam, and thus was my issue with most maddin films where they couldn’t sustain themselves to the runtime that he believed they could. Cowards Bend the Knee has no such issues – at a startlingly brisk 64 minutes, it’s a bunch of expressionistic hockey montages and some very ghostly silent era tricks, throw in some sexual repression and body horror and you have one of the wackiest flicks out there. i’m so glad maddin has a movie that completely clicks with me – would have been very sad if he never lived up to his insane potential in my canon.


eight films from mubi

recently, patriciancore streaming service mubi announced that their entire library would be able to be streamed as long as you currently had a standard account on site. their selections and what they own the rights to is vast yet at the same time harshly limited; i can scarce believe they have the rights to very many staple auteur films at any time, yet they have a seemingly endless array of whatsits and curiosities alongside movies that are difficult to find in good quality anywhere else (if not impossible in some cases). so here are eright films off of mubi that i think generally meet this last quality: films that i’ve seen which tend to be off peoples’ radars that are now open via their service.


Los Angeles Plays Itself (Andersen, 2003): easy to grasp but hard to explain essay film by l.a. native thom andersen, this 3 hour joint completely flies by as the cranky yet always engaging narrator ruminates on the position of the titular city and its relation to the industry that it spawned. features clips from tons of classic films and is partially dedicated to trivia about their locations and accuracy, though it also attempts to drive home overarching theses throughout as well.

For the Plasma (Bryant & Molzan, 2016): this one isn’t so easy to grasp and it’s still hard to explain, so here goes: a bunch of very overexposed lighting, completely having no idea what in the world your old friend from college is talking about, some stuff about the stock markets, staring into trees so hard that you transcend existence (fans of avant-garde cinema know this feeling), tossing a football around. twee little joint, very unique. features a score by the dude who did the original earthbound soundtrack.

Extraordinary Stories (Llinas, 2008): i don’t think there’s any other way to see this film in high definition other than here. while some may feel that this llinas epic is somewhat invalidated by his even longer and even more epic follow-up in La flor, ultimately there’s a ton of value in this as it finds the director sticking to a more cohesive mystery theme than the grab-bag that is his 14 hour venture. ridiculously entertaining for the entire runtime, never a dull moment, and if a film longer than some tv seasons is too daunting to take on first, this is a great way to ease into it.

Melancholia (Diaz, 2008): i won’t go too overboard with the long movies here, but c’mon; diaz and mubi are like butter and toast by now. in the old days, this was the only way to see any diaz short of having a private tracker or a friend that was on one, and while there’s generally easier access to films now than there used to be, being able to watch the work of a master at the top of his game in HD is always something to be treasured. if you’ve already seen a diaz or two, i’d highly recommend checking out this one as well, a work which synthesizes all of his rivette-ian influences and finds him drawn to narrative in a way that some of his weaker films can lose track of.

Deadlock (Klick, 1970): an unusual and heavily stylized revisionist western, Deadlock is an acid-western which doesn’t pull too many narrative tricks nor does it engage in a whole lot of variance from spaghetti western tropes, though it succeeds on virtue of understanding what makes those films tick and playing with that. i recommend it if you’ve seen all of the sergio leone classics and want something similar, but perhaps darker as well. from what i know of, this is only available sporadically online in SD, and i don’t know of any physical release, so mubi is a great place to see it for the first time.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Parajanov, 1964): while i and most others much prefer The Color of Pomegranates when it comes to surrealist and mysterious director sergei parajanov, this one flies closer to the narrative barometer than the non-narrative one, potentially making it a good choice for those who have seen that and liked the aesthetics but wanted something a little more concrete. i can’t recall ever hearing of another high definition release of this, so once again it’s a great opportunity to broaden your palette if you haven’t already.

Outer Space (Tscherkassky, 1999): this has been flying around youtube for the better part of 10 years in mangled 360p uploads where it still manages to frighten and awe countless spectators. it’s always been an old favorite of mine, and i won’t be passing up the chance to finally see it in a higher definition, and if you haven’t seen anything by austrian madman peter tscherkassky, now is as good a time as ever (but watch more after that too!).

Antigone (Straub-Huillet, 1992): i think there’s either an official BR release for this out or it’s pending or something. either way, i guess this isn’t as much of an event as it once was, but HD straub-huillet always excites me in some degree. if you’re already a fan of these two, you know kind of what to expect, and if you’re a hater, allow me to lure you in by saying that this is likely among their most tame effort, a relatively straight adaptation with some of their most powerful performances.

TCGone deck dump (unlimited format, base-TRR)

1 Groudon ex (HL 93)
1 Castform (HL 30)
4 Dark Crobat (N4 2)
1 Slugma (TRR 77)
4 Zubat (N3 59)
4 Double Colorless Energy (BS 96)
4 Venture Bomb (TRR 93)
1 Warp Point (EXP 152)
4 Rare Candy (SS 88)
2 Hyper Devolution Spray (N2 73)
1 Undersea Ruins (AQP 138)
4 Item Finder (BS 74)
1 Great Ball (FRLG 92)
4 Erika (G1 16)
2 The Boss’s Way (LC 105)
4 Pluspower (BS 84)
1 Good Manners (G1 111)
1 Celio’s Network (FRLG 88)
1 Desert Ruins (HL 88)
2 Bill’s Teleporter (N1 91)
4 Bill (BS 91)
1 Pokémon Retriever (TRR 84)
4 Computer Search (BS 71)
4 Professor Oak (BS 88)

dark bat donk. you have 3 attackers that are all good as a followup (groudon & slugma both hit 30 for a DCE, castform hits for 20 but goes up to 40 if it’s an ex, none of them have to worry about resistance). usually wins going first, can win going second. if you’re chancing this with evolutions as well, consider wigglytuff ex or octillery (TRR) with boost energy. ditto with extra ball works well as you can tag it out for a discarded zubat as well, though it’s bugged on tcgone to count energy cards instead of energy. can consider cutting the attackers entirely and just putting in special darks and attacking with zubat, but you’re in a bad spot vs metal.

3 Raticate (FRLG 48)
1 Rattata (TR 66)
4 Cleffa (N1 20)
1 Igglybuff (N2 40)
2 Grimer (TRR 56)
1 Dark Muk (TRR 16)
3 Rattata (TRR 72)
2 Muk (FO 13)
1 Potion Energy (TR 82)
4 Recycle Energy (N1 105)
1 Double Colorless Energy (BS 96)
2 Warp Energy (AQP 147)
2 Metal Energy (N1 19)
1 Trash Exchange (G1 126)
4 Super Energy Removal (BS 79)
1 Ancient Tomb (HL 87)
1 Focus Band (N1 86)
2 Pokemon Center (BS 85)
1 Imposter Oaks Revenge (TR 76)
1 Erika (G1 16)
4 Computer Search (BS 71)
1 Erika’s Perfume (G1 110)
1 Rocket’s Admin. (TRR 86)
1 Narrow Gym (G1 124)
2 Gust Of Wind (BS 93)
1 Rocket’s Tricky Gym (TRR 90)
1 Pokemon Flute (BS 86)
4 Professor Elm (N1 96)
1 Pow! Hand Extension (TRR 85)
1 Lass (BS 75)
1 Pokemon Trader (BS 77)
4 Energy Removal (BS 92)

ratlock. evil deck, but probably the BDIF. the list here is kind of wonky but you have so many 1 ofs you can CPU or pickup depending on the situation. consider cutting some of these for an extra gust, metal energy, pokemon center, or focus band. can also consider running a thicker muk line, or playing things like heavy misty’s wrath, rare candy, erika + IOR, etc as once you’ve established a lock you have pretty much won. just make sure you have a lot of stadiums as you need to not just fold to pokemon tower. speaking of which, you have rocket’s tricky gym + dark muk so if they aren’t ability based you can lock something in place with it’s body and then just snipe their bench. one more option i haven’t explored is absol (DR) – bad news can be an unexpected way to snipe 5+ cards from their hand in case they have some sort of god-tier out to the deck once it gets going.

4 Cleffa (N1 20)
4 Team Magma’s Groudon (MA 9)
3 Grimer (TRR 56)
3 Muk (FO 13)
3 Darkness Energy (RS 93)
7 Fighting Energy (EXP 160)
4 Magma Energy (MA 87)
3 Gust of Wind (BS2 120)
1 Nightly Garbage Run (TR 77)
1 Magnetic Storm (HL 91)
3 Item Finder (BS 74)
4 Professor Elm (N1 96)
4 Energy Removal (BS 92)
2 Team Magma Ball (MA 80)
2 Rocket’s Admin. (TRR 86)
1 Pokémon Tower (WBSP 42)
1 Rocket’s Minefield Gym (G2 119)
3 Team Magma Conspirator (MA 82)
2 Great Ball (FRLG 92)
3 Computer Search (BS 71)
1 Fast Ball (SKR 124)
1 Desert Ruins (HL 88)

standard muk lock, using magmadon as the attacker. since you aren’t clogging your deck with evolutions/candy and playing a thick 3-3 muk it’s pretty consistent at actually locking down abilities and getting a strong offensive presence early on, with room for disruption (4 ERs, 3 gusts). consider finding room for a magby and an igglybuff or two as t1 fossil egg into aerodactyl can be devastating.

1 Mantine (TRR 45)
4 Cleffa (N1 20)
1 Igglybuff (N2 40)
1 Magby (N1 23)
3 Registeel ex (HL 99)
1 Mr. Mime (VM 64)
3 Aerodactyl (FO 16)
1 Warp Energy (AQP 147)
2 Dark Metal Energy (TRR 94)
4 Metal Energy (RS 94)
3 Recycle Energy (N1 105)
3 Double Colorless Energy (BS 96)
2 Item Finder (BS 74)
3 Energy Charge (N1 85)
2 Super Potion (BS 90)
1 Healing Field (N3 61)
2 Super Energy Removal (BS 79)
1 Warp Point (G2 126)
1 Ecogym (N1 84)
1 Island Cave (HL 89)
4 Gold Berry (N1 93)
1 Bill (BS 91)
2 Computer Search (BS 71)
3 Energy Removal (BS 92)
4 Professor Elm (N1 96)
2 Mysterious Fossil (FO 62)
4 Fossil Egg (N2 72)

standard aero lock, using registeel ex as the attacker. this deck is cool because a lot of decks have outs to aero and a lot of decks have ways to deal with registeel but few decks have both. a cool thing with registeel is that if they use magby to sputter, you aren’t taking any damage with a metal attached and, if they’re running fire, your steel wave can spread to the bench. consider adding some more dark metals and erika’s perfume.

1 Gloom (AQP 49)
1 Gloom (HL 35)
3 Vileplume ex (HL 100)
2 Muk ex (DR 96)
4 Oddish (TR 63)
2 Grimer (VM 19)
1 Mr. Mime (VM 64)
4 Cleffa (N1 20)
1 Igglybuff (N2 40)
1 Bellossom (HL 16)
4 Double Colorless Energy (BS 96)
11 Grass Energy (BS 99)
4 Professor Elm (N1 96)
3 Gust of Wind (BS2 120)
1 Town Volunteers (AQP 136)
3 Pokemon Trader (BS 77)
3 Item Finder (BS 74)
3 Computer Search (BS 71)
2 Rocket’s Admin. (TRR 86)
3 Rare Candy (SS 88)
3 Ecogym (N1 84)

muk ex + vileplume ex. they have a lot more synergy than one would think; neither of their poke body’s interfere with each other (except for muk locking out the gloom/bellossom but those are secondary), you can pretty much just attack with whatever is more optimal at the time. heavy ecogym line as the counter stadium (to ruins) and no ERs, you can tinker with this but i just didn’t see a good stadium to play that actually helped you (and ecogym does help when you’re building 2-3 energy card attackers). consider adding master ball/more searchers in general, and an igglybuff or magby never hurt.

4 Team Aqua’s Walrein (MA 6)
4 Squirtle (FRLG 83)
2 Wartortle (FRLG 50)
2 Suicune ex (MA 94)
4 Blastoise (BS2 2)
4 Cleffa (N1 20)
12 Water Energy (N1 111)
4 Archie (MA 71)
1 Gust Of Wind (BS 93)
4 Bill (LC 108)
2 Pokemon Center (BS 85)
3 Rare Candy (SS 88)
1 Item Finder (BS2 103)
2 Mystery Zone (SKR 137)
2 Rocket’s Admin. (TRR 86)
3 Pokemon Trader (BS 77)
2 Computer Search (BS 71)
1 Warp Point (EXP 152)
3 Professor Elm (N1 96)

bog standard rain dance. re-looking at it this list is kind of bad with some of the trainer choices (4 bills and only 3 elms, low counts of finders/CPUs, only 1 gust) but it’s still workable and the general idea is that you’re supposed to soft turbo out what you need. weirder deck than it looks – you absolutely destroy decks whose only form of disruption is energy removal, don’t care about aero lock as you can candy out of it, and trainer lock isn’t really that big of a problem if you have an established board. however, muk absolutely destroys you and a well timed admin can lose you the game.




overall the format is fun casually. there are a ton of deck options beyond what i’ve listed here (notably i’ve omitted anything slowking related, though more because i think it’s actually bad as a lot of decks play magby, an igglybuff or two, or a lock of their own), but i think these are generally the better decks i’ve found.

general advice is it’s not good to build deck ideas around ambitious board states or things that rely on too many components at once, because you’re almost surely going to get power locked, evolution locked, trainer locked, or have your energies drained at all times, so your deck should be able to pilot around those things.

i think the best decks of the format are ratlock decks. there is simply no deck which can deal with infinite energy removal AND ability locks – your best bet is either donking them or immediately establishing a difficult lock for them to break (t2 vileplume ex, t2 dark vileplume, t1 or t2 aerodactyl) and just praying. decks which use boost energy can occasionally break through. anything else just gets outresourced. ratlock v ratlock mirrors are also basically a stalemate, decided by whoever gets enough quick attack heads in a row. i think from a casual standpoint, it’s a fun meta, but if anyone tryhards it immediately becomes less fun.

on DG: 13/13 (Fashion Week)


widely considered among the weakest work of the boys, Fashion Week is unfortunately an album which has continued to age modestly, never really picking up the revisionism of, say, NOTM or having the fall-from-grace that….well, i guess there are no death grips records which have really “fallen” too much from anything other than overexposure. in the case of Fashion Week, it has simply been relegated to the predicted touchstone that it was seen as even during release: that of a bookmark between two of the band’s most major critical and popular successes, not to mention ones that are some of the most singular things that the band has to offer.

to give credit to the half-hearted instrumental album, it is also is surprisingly cohesive on revisit. in fact, i would say it is one of the few death grips albums which seems to readily and successfully stick to a single mood all the way through. virtually every track across the 14 instrumentals is major in pitch to an extent, fast-paced, has simple kick-snare patterns, and the feel of the tracks tends towards almost video game music if anything, or at least a mood mimicking them by continuing with the looming cyberpunk ethos that death grips have always carried.

unfortunately, consistency is not always necessarily a positive. additionally, death grips have other albums which obtain similar levels of musical coherence – an obvious example is the cold, bjork-sample-loaded NOTM which takes ride’s aggressively lonesome lyrics to galactic depths. the band is also more than capable of making what are essentially grab-bag albums, i believe the most readily available one being YOTS whose influences(-but-not-really-influences) span across at least a dozen genres and show a minimal amount of coherency in the final product. Fashion Week‘s commitment to form and consistency over its sister albums’ more rambunctious aspirations is ultimately its downfall as its aspirations in the first place are somewhat uninteresting. i simply can’t understand why i would want to listen to what ostensibly sounds like an over-produced video game soundtrack in full more than once or twice out of completest obligation.

death grips albums are often accompanied by a variety of media, controversy, non-troversy (see: YOTSExmilitary), alternative versions, etc. their mainline studio albums often have this edge as far as analyzing their projects goes – but with things like this or Steroids there’s merely a wasteland. everyone is aware of the insane hype generated by virtue of the imaginary Jenny Death and that this conglomeration of sounds acted as an extension of that. beyond that, there is little to place the album within any other sort of context. there’s no clues to be found in music videos, the album art appears to create a bit of chicken-or-egg in terms of if it preceded the title (a detail i noticed today: the sign next to yoo does indeed read “fashion week”), but since there are no actual words in this album it means that there’s not too much to draw from besides that.

this is typically where one might segue into a bemoaning of ride’s missing vocals from this project. and while it’s true that he and the boys could likely whip up some great hooks on some of these tracks, i flat out don’t believe that death grips is a project that mandates vocals. many of their songs contain minimal lyrics themselves, entire projects have none, and these all achieve varying levels of success in my eyes. i think that there are great death grips songs with minimal outward contributions from any one member and that this has been achieved numerous times in their discography, from songswithout zach (several tracks off of Government Plates), songs without andy (“Full Moon”), and songs without, yes, mc ride (“Runway A”). yes, “Runway A.” there are some definitive bangers on this one.

as it turns out, scattered throughout the overblown remember-when-synthwave-was-a-thing era hype generator that is Fashion Week, there are moments of great beauty and suffering. i’ll write a bit about each as i think few people have bothered to delineate between the beats beyond a more general writeoff or timid appreeciation.

“Runway J”: portions of the first bit of this track sounds quite reminiscent of the middle, happy-hardcore influenced sections of Government Plates – the bubbly synth contrasted alongside a looming bass which continues through most of the project. elsewhere, you have the band’s knack for genuine pop simplicity shining through with the more melody-based breaks. the whole song has a somewhat general coalition of percussion, consisting of kicks which are mixed well to bust through the loud bass, and some of the quick high hats that may have been the genesis of the whole t r a p i n f l u e n c e meme as it’s the first time i can remember the band really utilizing them. the snares in this are particularly noteworthy in how much they pop in a song which morphs into all sorts of entities and their presence is great for meshing that madness into a digestible package. i believe this to be one of the better songs on this project.

“Runway E(1)”: featuring numerous cut-itself instruments, ranging from the bass-y synths to the cymbal crashes to the more melodious lead synths. unfortunately i have less nice things to say about this one. certainly plays more like a background track in spite of its attempts to be noisier – its idiosyncrasy is undone by the utter lack of a hook to latch onto, in spite of its attempts to generate many of them in its mere 3:14 runtime. the drums are, as is typical with death grips, mixed phenomenally among the chaos, so you can generally tune out the smorgasbord of synths to let those echo a bit better.

“Runway N(1)”: the silly melody in this one is part of the charm of this project, as it’s virtually one of the only places that the boys allow the album to have an iota of joy that isn’t undercut by some other ironic element. it sounds like it’s a sample, but to my knowledge nothing from Fashion Week contains samples. either way, apart from nice drum patterns at certain parts which utilize some quick high hats and snares, the track fails to meaningfully build to much of anything, direly wishing that the goofyness never trends towards the obnoxious.

“Runway N(2)”: this one features live drumming from zach, not sure to what extent the prior tracks have that but this is at least where it is the most noticeable. ironically this is one of the tracks that sounds the most like background noise, evoking early 00s movie credits music, but since it does that while having a genuine backbone to it that isn’t just focused around repetition, it becomes a minor diamond in the rough. the production and general structure is hardly revolutionary for the band as it usually resides in formulaic territory – however the track culminates on a moment of genuine beauty that’s rare in most death grips releases; a slight bit of transcendence among the benign.

“Runway Y”: the more sparse bass-centered sections here are really begging for a vocal component, and they’re one of the few places on this album that i can imagine it being a major detriment not to have ride yelling about some inane cosmic horror on it. in other places here, the noisiness is a welcome aside from the generally “clean” palette that the first four tracks offer. like the other earlier tracks, the snares really have a lot of reverb on them and this stylistic choice only aids with the stylistic coherence that this project has.

“Runway D”: and now we’re back into videogame music territory. music that almost screams at you to play it quietly. there are some intricate details found in the mixing when the volume is up, but the repetition and simplicity of it beg for ambient noise rather than enjoying it when it comes up on shuffle. one bass line in particular stands out as groovy. the snares are back to being regularly recorded with minimal filter, and are mixed quieter than the rest of the instruments here, which include shakers, numerous basses, and too many synths to count. goes on for too long though it’s not the worst ditty in the world.

“Runway E(2)”: the high hats on every 8th, echoed snare, simple synth lead, and generally straightforward percussion and lack of noisy elements definitely assign this track towards the soundtrack categories, though as seen above, you can definitely do worse than this one. a bit let down that it doesn’t explore any new territory after establishing the two catchy segments early on, which is a kind of common complaint i have with these songs which fail to develop into something more interesting or complex. this track isn’t even that long, but it can definitely benefit from a bit of trimming (to say nothing of the album greatly benefiting from the same).

“Runway A”: bubbly synths accentuated by off-rhythm 808s and simple 1-3 kick-snare patterns + a grossbeat synth lead which somehow never grows tiresome is a formula for success as far as pop goes. the fact that the track generally goes beyond this format and adds in some devilish bass only assists it in this way. the first song on this album that actually gives me some sort of verbal cue beyond “collect this item which references a 90s post-industrial band in a retro-style cyberpunk game,” with that verbal cue being to DANCE. it’s genuinely a high point in the death grips career, and in a partnership which has established many instrumental tracks that i hold near and dear, this one stands with the best of them.

“Runway T”: highly distorted snares on this one, a relative lack of bass for most of it in favor of high pitched synths running amok and more percussion instruments. handclaps are even added to the mix here, something of a rarity in death grips tracks. it’s too bad this song goes absolutely nowhere with these potentially interesting subversions and mostly just loops the material over and over, though i would hesitate to say that any one part of it is promising enough to warrant its placement on the album anyways.

“Runway H(1)”:  another song which is plagued by its insistence on not expanding any of its peculiar harmonies and reliance upon a hook that sounds like the commercial of some movie you were too young to see in the mid 00s. the contrast between the warbled, sinister bass synth and the higher pitched hook is, i guess, a good idea in theory. but there’s just a lifelessness to this track that i can’t quite pin down; though i will absolutely pin down that this song has no business being over the 3 minute mark, let alone the 4.5 one.

“Runway W”: the intro to this, with the faintest of bass, a sinister trap-influenced bell-loop, and some, for lack of better terminology, death-gripsy wonky synths, is a moment of great beauty to me i think. the track is not kind to my awe as it quickly reverses from minimalism to maximalism, adding in the now-tired reverbed snares, instrumental components which detract from that melody, and overall the song goes into videogame territory again. anytime the track goes back to more or less what the intro sounds like, it succeeds.

“Runway H(2)”: the track that sounds the most like a Government Plates joint, from the high vocal-sounding synths and the general deconstructed club vibe going on. but then the guitars kick in and turn it into something more anthemic. but then they disappear and it goes to a more almost rock-driven segment, complete with a funky bass synth. it continues to pivot from these potentially clashing elements; while i wouldn’t describe myself as a huge fan of any of them, they are able to sustain my interest and they allow the track to actually have some kind of development beyond looping with an extra synth or two.

“Runway E(3)”: a real nothing of a track. you can tell a lot of work was put into the mixing and editing here, with little instrumental bits all over the place that are easy to miss the first time around (the static in the breaks, barely listenable percussion in the very background, the way the synths merge into completely different sounding synths without breaking the harmony, etc.) that ultimately amounts to… a demonstration of whatever DAW they used to comprise this? reverbed snares on this one yet again, so at least they have that element continuing yet again.

“Runway N(3)”: love the percussion on this one, not sure that the wonky synth is enough to sustain it by itself (can’t hear any bass on the entire track except maybe a very faint 808). the briefest track and it does a good job at not overstaying its welcome, embracing the essence of the ditty, mostly just serving up some great drum riffs that succeed as a light enough distraction.

so with Fashion WeekJENNYDEATHWHEN, or whatever you want to call it, i have to admit that this is the weakest death grips project out there. it inspires little visceral reactions in me, is in dire need of some trimming on both individual and entire songs, and whose cohesion borders on repetition at various points in the unusually bloated runtime. its gimmick of the lettering is one that could have been achieved through a well-timed shitpost on twitter. its lack of energy is something that seemed impossible to attribute to death grips. it is an album rife with flaws, yet one which rarely actually feels like a “bad” album. there’s just too many elements to write home about and, although very few of these songs are ones that i would want to spin often (this compounded by the fact that there are three songs called “Runway N” and i never want to listen to two of them, and the general difficulty i have with knowing which track is which), it’s rare that you get a total stinker.

gems of march

hope all are safe

D.E.B.S. (Robinson, 2004): i didn’t have it in my mind that this was actually going to be as gay as it was and thought it was projections (which, fair) buuuut nahh this ended up being extremely sweet and just as serious as the subject matter demanded. i might be a little forgiving including this on here but it honestly rarely makes direct misfires in its spoofing of disney channel original movie aesthetics and rewrites them in a way that that company never could (or at least, couldn’t in a timely manner).

First Cow (Reichardt, 2019): another extremely sweet movie, this one based on platonic love though and between dudes at that. entirely a “guys bein dudes” movie, maybe a bit more plot focused than other such entries in that subgenre, but reichardt is soooo good at narrative cinema it’s legit insane. killer outfits. the fact that there are so few twists and turns and it’s ultimately about perseverance in the face of imperialism is a super healthy cleanser.

Hackers (Softley, 1995): seeing this drunk in a packed theater was definitely up there wiht some of my favorite cinematic experiences. movie itself is genuinely pretty great at being a total campfest, worth watching for (as always) the 90s cgi and the off the wall outfits which are never really explained or touched upon. will be difficult to recapture the initial experience though.

Black Is…Black Ain’t (Riggs, 1994): honestly a huge tragedy that the world lost riggs so soon as he had already established himself as a great voice and one of the best editors of his time. this film deals with, predictably, the black experience – which black artists and authors and academics all attempt to share how they feel about it and what criticism they have for the status quo. really heavy and enlightening stuff.

Side/Walk/Shuffle (Gahr, 1992): this reminded me of playing frogger as a kid when you’re on the raising platforms and it’s slow and kinda comfy. reminds me of michael snow a lot obviously, but that tends to have a negative connotation as snow imitators kind of suck. not here though!

The Watermelon Woman (Dunye, 1996)*: super funny, insightful, adore the structure on this type of deal, and its breeziness combined with its confrontation of the harsh histories and realities its director encounters is a tonal contrast that long-time pros have a tendency to mess up in some way, but never dunye. one of the best things i have seen so far this year and one of the truest portrayals i’ve seen of “reclaiming one’s history.”

The Last Woman (Ferreri, 1976): at times it appeared like a franco type sex picture, but this one slyly subverts a lot of those leanings as it focuses on male nudity, denial of sex, and the toxicity of more conservative traditionalist ideals and how those deny agency rather than the progressive more feminist ones. starts off slow, ends with a bang. makes me want to see more of ferreri’s work.

Goshogaoka (Lockhart, 1998): no idea what to actually talk about here. lockhart’s stuff is very sweet and honest in a way that people lose when they attempt to tryhard.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Mankiewicz, 1947): yeah yeah mankiewicz might be the most boring major director of all time, his style-less-ness is truly something to behold and this is unfortunately no exception. at the same time, it’s a flat-out bizarre reading on what could have easily been an uncomfortable tale, yet it turns into a brazen sort of romantic fantasy as it limps along. i liked it.

Night Passage (Minh-ha, 2004): lone narrative feature of trinh t. minh-ha, Night Passage is a peculiar beast. very reliant on early 00s lo-lo-fi digital, reminded me a ton of stuff i would watch on ubu in high school for a lot of it, where other times i was reminded of z budget horror movies that never received official distribution. the story actually ends up being more complex than it seemed at first glance, to my surprise, and leaves with a haunting if occasionally serene mood.

great stuff i saw in jan + feb

buckle in, long one this time. i’m also doing something where if something has a *, that means it’s a personal favorite to me.

White Wedding (Brisseau, 1989): in a similar way to brisseau’s Celine, this one has this autumnal, frigid vibe to it, yet it’s contrasted by the almost rohmer-esque sensibilities it takes on when dealing with character interactions. these usually signify pretty people in love with each other, but also problematic and treacherous relationships, which this film is hinged upon. i like how it explores the subjectivity of the central plot, and how it ends on a realistic level.

Kaala (Ranjith, 2018): bollywood is known for its maximalist eccentricities, but i think the most brash thing about this is how it’s such a revolutionary communist film and has the production values of an a-list music video. as a result of these ambitions, it comes with some of the dialectics that can range from exciting to basic, along with brutal violence out of nowhere. as i explore bollywood, i hope to find more curiosities such as this one.

Peep “TV” Show (Tsuchiya, 2003): like cohen’s Chain, this one seems to hit at the distinct feels and aesthetic approach of the vaporwave movement without ever really copping the windows 98 production style, and also like that film, it explores a constant downer ennui between its two central characters. also just pretty rare to see post-9/11 films that aren’t iraqi or american.

Martin Eden (Marcello, 2019): incredible aesthetic statement from a longtime experimental director, marcello’s first (i believe) foray into full-on narrative is pretty obviously a large step ahead of what most period films and biopics are capable of. big reason is probably that it doesn’t have to bend to any historical record – and marcello particularly plays with this idea by setting the film in an indirect “past” with few signers of an exact time or place. i think the discussions explored here are enlightening and ones that artists and politicians alike have to cope with in their day-to-day.

Selva: Un portrait de Parvenah Navai (Klonaris, 1982): doesn’t quite knock me down as much as the other klonaris film i’ve seen, though i do love the way she uses rhythm, movement, and the splintered nature of editing to construct this…. ethno-drama? like with The Amazonian Angel i don’t really know a proper term for this type of filmmaking, though it is exciting in many ways and i hope we get more klonaris soon.

Intentions of Murder (Immamura, 1964): as someone who thought Oldboy was too edgy in perhaps the most edgy time period of my life and subsequently was put off by park for that reason, i had always tied immamura to him due to the influence he supposedly had. this joint, however, retains none of that excess – it’s a long, very in-depth movie about how women can become predators of not only individual men but of their interpersonal systems. never once feels insincere, rushed, excessive, or “we live in a society”-core, it’s a fantastic balancing act that has me wanting to see more from immamura.

Holy Flame of the Martial World (Chun-Ku, 1983)*: the more of these shaw bros films i see the more i realized that i’ve missed out on a lot of great kung fu and wuxia flicks. unlike something like Green Snake, this one doesn’t go too far in the subversion category, so much as it seems like opposition to ruthless tradition is ingrained in the DNA of most of these sorts of films. it’s very funny, chaotic, and operates brilliantly as genre excess.

Jauja (Alonso, 2014): i’ve been meaning to see this for years, kinda glad i waited as it seems like the right moment for me. slow-paced, cool structure, great costumes, but most of all i’m drawn to the downright spectral look of this, as if it was copied from a scrapbook or something. i can’t describe it so well, it’s a work that seems to breathe with a colonial agony in every frame. very different from the other alonso i’ve seen as this one goes in the more baroque category.

Daguerrotype (Kurosawa, 2016): as someone who thinks Pulse is easily one of the greatest horror films ever made and maybe the best one of the last 20 years, i’ve never quite been as high on KK as others are with that notwithstanding, something about his synthesis of trauma and ghost stories doesn’t always click with me enough. this one does though! it’s a deeply sweet and heartfelt film about loss, one that necessarily ends in tragedy because it’s about the danger of not being able to give up what’s surely gone. i’m really surprised that this worked for me so well, but it’s momentarily reinvigorated my interest in the j-horror icon.

Elements of Nothing (Makino, 2007): not really a lesser work by the master, i dig this one a good deal. love the o’rourke score this time around. not too much to say that i haven’t said more excitedly in other makino posts.

All My Life (Baillie, 1966): 3 minutes just watch it

Cruising (Friedkin, 1980): leagues better than the only other friedkin i’ve seen (The Exorcist, go figure). perhaps an interesting element about this movie is that it’s aged very gracefully despite being a controversial film at the time w.r.t. its place in the gay community – where at the time, it was perceived as a film with a reductionist scope towards them by portraying them as leather-crazed serial killers. these days, from what i can tell, the leather stereotypes and mass murder has sort of gone by the wayside as far as negative gay male stereotypes go, so it’s something that doesn’t come into play too much in modern viewing. one of the rare cases of something like that happening, i think.

Empty Quarter: A Woman in Africa (Depardon, 1985): lots of twists and turns here! from the cover + description i had believed it to be a chamber romance, then i thought it was a film that was needlessly susceptible to the downfalls of the male gaze in cinema, before it then went on to show how seductive that style can be and the potential downfall because of it. very unusual little essay film, but something that i enjoyed for the most part once i got the hang of it. makes me wanna check out more of depardon’s work.

The Future (July, 2011): nails the twee film that can take itself kind of sort of seriously, july’s pseudo-fantasy tends to hit the marks that it aims for. also the type of people who vehemently hate this are some of the most aggravating people out there (yall really wanna complain about lucy’s dumb oneliners when adam cook’s reviews are plastered all over letterboxd?), so i did get a lot of secondhand enjoyment seeing something that so needlessly frustrated them.

Jessica Forever (Poggi + Venel, 2018)*: another film whose structure could easily cause frustration (and certainly did among some people whose tastes i trust), the debut film of these two new fellas on the scene is one which at once is an almost virulently sentimental bonding exercise and half-heartedly dystopian sci-fi narrative. it’s a film where not very much happens, and development comes within slow meditations and unspoken agreements – curiously also one where the plot is so twisty in new ways (much has been said about the supposed lead character, but also consider the fact that it opens as a military film, then abandons that for 70% of the runtime to focus on a problem we didn’t even know existed for the first 20%). excited to see what comes next from these two.

Johnny Mnemonic (Longo, 1995): a thousand keanu-isms, ice t is in this for no reason, takeshi kitano is in this for no reason, a telepathic cyber dolphin is in this for no reason. unironically insane 90s SFX. real treat.

Stray Dogs (Ming-liang, 2013): so far the only TML that’s really really clicked with me, the nearly wordless and plotless, very damp and cold film from taiwanese new wave icon has this distinct sadness to it that i think is difficult to replicate without coming across as edgy. though in many ways, that sort of approach is what i always wish tsai’s work went for more of: lose the half-and-half comedy of manners and up the neoliberal hellhole depression. suffice to say, winning formula here.

Mera naam Joker (Kapoor, 1970): jean renoir type beat. very sweet, very tragic, understands the complexity of humanity without assigning too much of a value to it that it doesn’t deserve. makes me want to check out more of kapoor’s stuff after having it on my indirect radar for a couple of years.

The Bigamist (Lupino, 1953) and Not Wanted (Lupino, 1949): lupino is a solid 4 for 4 right now for me, all of her films have this ray-esque caring for each of its characters who truly deserve it on some level, but doesn’t sugarcoat tragedies or legitimate malevolence. these two features are about the exploitation of three very different women, with all of the men given as much of a fair shake as they can have without coming across as apologia. her movies are tender in a way that few can pull off.

Wolkenschatten (Dornieden & Monroy, 2014): the very few post-humanist movies i’ve seen combine some truly insane aesthetic principles with some genuinely mind-boggling conclusions, and i would love to see more in this canon. this one adds to it with splendor.

Altered States (Russell, 1980): someone else mentioned this on letterboxd, but as someone who watches a good deal of experimental film, the trip sequences in this are unreal and could easily rival some of the great abstract filmmakers if taken on their own merit. the rest of this has some cronenberg-lite body horror and also goes for some post-humanist stuff ironically, though some of the usual 80s treatment of women bring it down in a way that seems unnecessary for the setting and ambitions it has.

Martin (Romero, 1978): ironically enough, this movie apes a lot of the ideals and energy that a24 horror seems to strive for – stuff that’s scary but not too scary, a laid-back vibe, subtle satire and even just slapstick gags of known horror bits. it seems like the type of movie that would have been a blast to see in a nice theater when it came out (or even a drive-in), manages to function as a few genres quite well. i’ve only ever seen romero’s original dead trilogy, and this is like, abjectly different from those films in tone.

The Big Blue (Horn, 1988)*: probably my favorite thing i saw in these two months, this noir-y type deal from little known filmmaker andrew horn is probably the closest thing i’ve seen to Dreams that Money Can Buy in terms of the overt stylization of dialogue, tropes, and the sheer lyrical-ness that both of those works contain. it looks incredible too, even in its lo-fi presentation that it’ll likely always have. those who know me know that i despise the term “neo-noir,” though i can’t imagine it would offend me so much if we had less in that loosely defined meme genre that were like Chinatown and more that were like this.

In the Cut (Campion, 2003): exotic thriller about how exotic thrillers are less exotic than they are rape-y and less thrilling than they are traumatic, this is a rape-y trauma flick to be sure.

I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians (Jude, 2018): unending disappointment at the behest of even a privileged white woman in her home country, this cumbersome-yet-appropriately-titled diatribe from romanian filmmaker radu jude exists as a text on the antisemitic diatribe which manifests itself in our belief that it has left, vividly showing the folly of believing that you are better than your ancestors were, or that it was ever a “different time.” the fact that it ends up becoming documentary by the end of it (which was unplanned to my knowledge) only sadly heightens that.

So Pretty (Rovinelli, 2019): sweet idyllic dreamscapes with distinct knowledge of the outside world, but also of how far we can truly get from that place, rovinelli’s debut feature is one which i think takes on a number of admirable ambitions and pieces them together in a loving tapestry of queer bodies interconnecting. very excited to see where she goes after this.

december gems + great films i saw in ’19

Night Without Distance (Patino, 2015): a visually arresting portrayal of a drug deal, this featurette has all the glorious imagery that patino has established himself to be great at creating. i don’t want to blabber on about it bc i don’t think there’s too much subtext involved and it’s short anyways so go watch it!

the entire filmography of patrick wang: new indie kid on the scene, patrick wang has made his first four features in the 2010s. i would say they are all, at the absolute least, worth watching. his influences seem to stretch far and wide and i think his handling on dialogue is unparalleled today, reminding me most strongly of kenneth lonergan in his smart decisionmaking. a great figure to watch out for.

Little Joe (Hausner, 2019): it seems like a minor film in nearly every way, but if Hotel is anything to go by, hausner is fantastic at creating minor films that don’t oversell themselves and merely deliver the goods. pretty basic black mirror social commentary, pretty gorgeous color palette, no obvious screwups, relatively brisk. kinda reminds me of an old efficient noir in that way, even if the content is totally different.

The Strange Little Cat (Zurcher, 2013): speaking of minor films done well, this debut picture is low-key and slight at almost every opportunity, but zurcher seems to be in full control of his mise-en-scene, writing, and all the elements in between. in some ways this most brings to mind a “minor” rivette, where while it’s difficult to cite any one standout feature about it, it propels forward with a relaxing and meticulous appeal.

Time to Die (Ripstein, 1966): very efficient, gothic western. i’ll start this the way that most people start reviews on westerns: although it has a fairly straightforward plot, the dialogue and editing are enough to propel this to being a great film. also a big fan of how singular and small ripstein makes the town feel in this one, like it’s one last jail. eager to check out more from this little-known director.

Inside Out (a bunch of people, 1991): so basically playboy released this…thing in the 1990s, best way i can put it is that it’s a bunch of people making vaguely sex-themed works in very different ways. alexander payne’s (yes, that one) piece is basically just a one note one take joke, where lizzie borden (yes, that one too) has two different sections, both about taboo fantasies in some way. 90s softcore is an underappreciated area of the film world, and this is likely one of its pearls.

The Wild Boys (Mandico, 2017): though i have little direct nostalgia for my childhood, i am always a fan of when movies can replicate the confusion i had to watching “trippier” things at that age. mandico’s debut feature pulls this off in spades. also one of the best looking films of the decade, where it faces some stiff competition. not too sure about how the gender-bender stuff interacts though, would like to see some trans writing on it sometime.

L’eau de la Seine (Hernandez, 1983): teo hernandez is a director that i like but don’t love. this one seems like the best of his i’ve seen. note to film students: if you want to make a good film, just shoot water really well.

Barbara is a Vision of Loneliness (Elder, 1976): an early bruce elder joint that brings to mind kubelka and tscherkassky more than his ever-wordy features. would have been interesting to see what happened if he continued down this direction. great stuff though, while bruce’s features are quite inconsistent, his shorts tend to have good ideas at the very least.


and now, the great films i saw in 2019, in little particular order aside from the top 5.

though he’s been a director that i’ve fawned over for quite some time, it took me a while to seek out The Freethinker (Watkins, 1994). i think a big reason is that i hadn’t heard basically anything about it other than the fact it was long and literary, like many of watkins films. but seeing it early this year gave me so much hope for the future. it’s mostly just a biopic of the swedish playwright strindberg, but watkins (and the dozens of high schoolers involved with the production) takes a different direction: it largely demonizes strindberg, focusing on the hurt he caused others and his reputation, bypassing who he might have felt he was as a person. it’s four hours of varying perspectives on an artist who no doubt pushed social boundaries forward but was a scumbag while doing so, and it’s a document that i think can be used to learn with today.

i finally decided to give one of ida lupino’s solo works a try after loving On Dangerous Ground, and it happened to be Outrage (Lupino, 1950). it’s pretty crazy that the second studio film to have a rape in it was able to so tenderly portray it and the aftermath of the event, acknowledging how much it can ruin a person and that even good intentions can’t solve it. maybe it goes a bit too far in the melodramatic department at the end; i wouldn’t know as i was crying. like her once co-director nicholas ray, i get this deep sense of empathy from lupino already.

basically a blind watch for me, i was recommended Luce (Onah, 2019). ended up being a fantastic investigation of race and expectations, something which continuously contorts until it becomes unrecognizable, characters doubling down so hard you wonder what their original intentions even were. very smart, a touch overstuffed and literary, yet it doesn’t detract much from onah’s control over all of his elements. an oscar bait film if oscar bait was capable of being good.

i managed to only catch one film at moma’s abel ferrara retrospective, though it ended up being a clear highlight in a filmography full of bangers. the wretched, angry, crass Welcome to New York (Ferrara, 2014) plays out like a response to something like The Wolf of Wall St., painfully constructing what the rich and powerful are actually like as opposed to some half-hearted narrative they sell back to us. a film that pulls exactly 0 of its punches and only caves at the end to show ferrara’s last hint of humanism left, but by the time it gets there, it’s plowed through endless monologues, arguments, and misery all around.

bit the bullet this year and finished season 2 of Twin Peaks. this in turn led me to seeing Twin Peaks: The Return (Lynch, 2017), which i was much more fond of. though i’m not sure of all of the structural decisions here (the first three-ish episodes are great yet fail to establish a solid narrative off the bat, the final episode seems like the start of a fourth season), and i think that we’re in a dire place with television of episode 8 became the event that it was, i have to admit that through-and-through it’s a powerful, arresting piece of media. sometimes funny, more often than not chilling. the fact it kinda turns into a superhero movie at the end is perhaps one of its best gags.

after years of putting it off, i ended up being thoroughly wowed by The Swimmer (Perry, 1968). isolates an aspect that 60s counterculture could have used more of: shifting social values being used to hold bad people to being accountable for their actions. tears down the lead, in a cool way as virtually every scene re-contextualizes those that came before. some needlessly beautiful imagery in here too for some reason. don’t put it off like i did!

another film i had intentionally put off for years was Harakiri (Kobayashi, 1962). i knew i was going to like this a good deal, so like a smart man i saved it for when i was in a movie slump. nah though, great flick. comparisons to kurosawa are obvious, fully earns them at the end of the day.

overstuffed, ambitious, sprawling, flat out weird. Kamikaze Taxi (Harada, 1995), in addition to having one of the best movie names i’ve ever heard, was one of the best films that i saw in 2019. movies between being funny and thrilling, uplifting and brutal. lots of flat out weird themes to be spending this much time investigating in what could have easily just been a basic crime thriller, like national identity, integration, the like 30 minute scene they spend meditating in a temple. though i didn’t see many great “wonky” movies this year as compared to others, this one is near the top of the list in that regard.

i kinda liked phil solomon’s GTA movies, seeing them more as a curiosity than anything, though i felt like i wasn’t getting the full experience of him. cue a bunch of his movies leaking and light industry putting on a screening of his work. though he’s still an avant-garde director that i feel i may appreciate more than i actually enjoy watching, The Secret Garden (Solomon, 1988) is definitely the exception to that loosely-defined rule. a somber, harrowing portrait of…childhood? memories? who knows, it’s just an emotional waterfall. i hear it’s also leaked to the public now, so get your hands on it if you can.

another screening that i was lucky to be able to get to was the takashi makino three night show at anthology. here i was able to see Cinema concret (Makino, 2015) which opened the program. as loud, compelling, and beautiful as the best of his work, this one astounded me in its raw energy and the colors makino picked out. another confirmation for makino as perhaps the best working director in the world today.

they also showed Still in Cosmos (Makino, 2009) at this screening, a film which i saw earlier this year. absolutely love this one too though, probably among my three favorites of his – earth-shattering proportions, droney score that culminates in the birth of the universe type deal. i also think it works excellently in lo-fi, the pixelation kinda adding to the makino aesthetic well in this one.

on a whim, i decided to hit up a US premiere at anthology, this one for a small film called The World is Full of Secrets (Swon, 2018), this one being a debut by someone who’s more known for their producing credits. among the best films i saw this year, and already a pretty high pick for some “best of the decade” material as far as my tastes are concerned, swon’s breakthrough uses some key techniques from the avant-garde, structures it similarly to Landscape Suicide, and frames the whole thing in this hazy, tragic atmosphere that i couldn’t get enough of. i would say it’s kind of rare for genre films to be able to reach this level of pure sadness in them. excited to see where swon goes in his producing, but also now in his directing.

another 90s softcore that will probably never get the recognition it deserves, Cyberella: Forbidden Passions (Garth, 1996) is a soothing, sci-fi take on sex, one that has mostly tastefully done erotica, great music, and concludes in a sort of new age-y serene afterlife where the lead learns to not let men walk over her and to escape the male gaze in a sort of meta sense. also very campy and self aware of it in a not-annoying way.

i wrote a biiit about wang earlier, gotta come back to his seminal debut In the Family (Wang, 2011) tho. long, endearing, quiet, mournful, yet full of empathy, it’s like a laundry list of elements i love seeing in my movies. particularly noteworthy in how it addresses homosexuality, though a reviewer on letterboxd remarked that it’s maybe a bit too hopeful in that regard. one of the best debuts ever though, for sure.

wasn’t too sure what i was getting into when i stumbled upon the debut feature Prototype (Williams, 2017). it ended up being the rare avant-garde feature length film that DOESN’T need to be trimmed by 20+ minutes. nay, williams’ 3D concoction is filled with haunting imagery, questioning a “what-if” city that was destroyed by a heavy storm. recontextualizes a horrible event and questions its outside implications with the 20/20 vision of the future. williams also has talked about this a good deal, which helped clarify his many intentions to me, so i recommend seeking that out if you watch the film.

technicolor miracle One from the Heart (Coppola, 1982) is virtually indescribable. i mean, obviously the whole MGM inspired look is the thing that people stick to, but that doesn’t do it justice. this is a fantasy land of what the world looks like when you’re in love or when you’re embracing a partner, and the fact that it ends with the continuing of an extremely toxic relationship as reflexive criticism of the musicals that inspired it? wellllllll played, francis.

yet another obscure flick that remi put me onto, Finished (Jones, 1997) is a unique take on, like, stalking? seeing someone so beautiful you have to learn more? whatever it is, a DIY investigation over a male pornstar that the director is smitten with takes us in unusual directions, concluding with a respectful sense of mourning that never comes across as exploitative in the wrong ways. kinda reminds me of thom andersen.

onto the top 5.

5. Lake Mungo (Anderson, 2008) is a pretty direct ripoff in many ways of Twin Peaks for the digital era, but man is it ever good at pulling that specific niche off. a fascination i’ve had for the last several years is the ways that genre films are able to differentiate themselves from more ordinary dramas, and this is like a playground in that regard; anderson’s lone feature is one that mandates having supernatural elements as an explanation for one character’s horror, as it doesn’t seem to even be comprehensible in the “real” world. imagery reminds me often of kurosawa, particularly in “that” scene. wish we could get more from this clearly talented director.

4. in what appears to be a light comedy, lizzie borden ends up making perhaps the most significant film on sex work in the entire canon with Working Girls (Borden, 1986). a compelling comedy for much of its runtime, borden masterfully fuses this material with an almost sharon lockhart sense of “work as boredom” and solidarity as acknowledging that fact. the movie refuses to succumb to easy categorizations regarding the nature of the work, instead focusing more on how it is, ultimately, a job, and a pretty bad one at that most of the time for these women. as always, wish we had more.

3. seemingly out of nowhere comes Empty Metal (Khalil & Sweitzer, 2018), a film so full of energy, ideas, and aesthetics that it seems to be the work of a seasoned master rather than two youngsters. directors clearly set on tackling the difficult questions that radical politics must ultimately answer, it’s the somewhat rare leftist film that feels thoroughly organic, not at all like it’s punching or talking down to anyone. a chilling, thunderous experience, and one that makes me excited for what these two dudes have in store next.

2. at the makino screening, though i liked pretty much everything i saw there, the big standout was At the Horizon (Makino & Knapp, 2017), a film which appears to finally give makino a protagonist of sorts to work with: the grid that knapp supplies. it’s in some ways a creation story, a simple narrative, an immersive avant-garde film, a horror, really there are too many ways to read this even though it’s ostensibly lines and static. to quote a friend, “unreal this was made by humans.”

1. La flor (Llinas, 2018) u already know what it is boi

november gems

The World is Full of Secrets (Swon, 2018): an extremely exciting project from a breakout director, this arty, slow cinema take on art-horror is what i’ve been desperately craving from a24 but never truly gotten on this level. plenty to talk about and analyze but i’m really in love with swon’s approach to the genre, which feels entirely unpretentious and fresh simultaneously.

The Snowman (Solomon, 1995): though i like solomon’s gta stuff and his Decasia sequel, i think it’s his early work i connect most to and this is no exception. love his textures and sense of sorrow he gets from his memories, a pretty unique spin on diary filmmaking.

Body Double (de Palma, 1984): twisty and turny in self consciously pulpy ways, a pretty effortlessly lean thriller from one of the best in that area. i would say that the way he subverts the male gaze and heroism is very akin to verhoeven here, and there’s a scene towards the end that particularly astounds me (is anyone as good at these random fourth wall breaks as BDP?); overall it’s a joy and one of his best 80s films.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Lee, 2016): forgive my armond white-isms here but i think liberal critics are usually harsher on films which attempt to address these sort of masculine roles if it’s not told in some kind of distancing way. lee’s unusual, eastwood-esque feature mostly plays things straight, paying off in a somewhat too long but usually interesting work with the thesis statement being that the working class is the working class regardless of which industrial complex it serves. which, cool.

The Learning Tree (Parks, 1969): most discussion of this film is based on its importance as the first major film directed by a black director (which i disagree with on those grounds but eh semantics). kinda disappointing because the picture itself is way more than that; would say it has a sirkian sense of empathy even in an unholy world. better than its (perhaps boring) reputation suggests.

The Strawberry Blonde (Walsh, 1941): very effective romcom stuff, the period aspect of it is kinda weird but charming enough. though i’ve only seen White Heat by him, walsh seems much more suited to this lighter fare than for crime dramas, could just be entirely off there.

Luce (Onah, 2019): great soundtrack and some of the most biting writing out there, stuff that could easily veneer into terrible sorkin directions or liberal identity politics yet seems to just get things RIGHT. a couple of plot complaints aside, this is just masterful stuff on every level and a pretty under-seen film for what it is.

The Big Gundown (Sollima, 1966): good spaghetti western, watch when bored. nothing too subversive or amazing, nothing boorish or haphazard. check it out.

Outrage (Lupino, 1950): i think that, when it comes to classic hollywood, the sense of empathy is something which connects with me the most. this is especially apparent in my faves of the era, particularly sirk and ray, the latter of whom lupino co-directed a great film On Dangerous Ground with. this one excels in that way – there’s a boundless sense of hope and understanding in the face of trauma that always has a way to move me.

Love is the Message, the Message is Death (Jafa, 2016): won’t rattle on about this too long as it’s only a few minutes long but yeah uhhhh amazing editing!

All the Marbles (Aldrich, 1981): i was really happy w my letterboxd summary of this and it only got 1 like ;( but i’ll restate: love movies about obscure competition-based subcultures, love campy dramatic stuff, love things with this much care for its characters. aldrich developing nicely into a favorite!

Dark Angel: The Ascent (Hassani, 1994): a movie about the “good satanists” if you will. plays by its own rules. funny. sweet. good gore at times. not seen anything like it!

A Solar Dream (Bokanowski, 2016): animation usually leaves me cold and feature length experimental films often get the worse of me, plus i didn’t really know much about bokanowski beforehand, yet he creates this gorgeous lump of abstract cinema that totally works. really diverse visual treat though i quite like it about a third of the way in. makes me wanna see more from the dude.

reply to scorsese vs marvel

wanted to get some quick notes down about the scorsese vs marvel discourse currently going on. you can read it here. nothing super formal, just wanted to get my voice in before it’s washed away by whatever disney+ controversies we get.


-scorsese’s films are not from earth to alpha centauri when it comes to marvel movies. i have no idea where he got this notion from, especially because he knows the movies that are actually in that vein. a lot of scorsese’s comments here confuse me for similar reasons because he’s aligning himself as the opposite to marvel when this comes across as complaining of a system that brought him up and then left him to rot (except, that didn’t happen at all) when it’s mostly a similar system as before, just with different tastes. i acknowledge that the cultural landscape has absolutely changed, though scorsese still sits at a pretty standard midpoint by any recognizable definition. but i guess being that rich for that long can make you lose perspective a bit sometimes.

-something i see a lot of in a the comments of certain anti-MCU people is a certain preference against a “cinema-of-attractions” approach to the medium.  scorsese kinda sets himself up for the “not everything needs to be Citizen Kane” strawman here. it’s one thing to say that the movies lack depth, another to say that movies which lack depth are necessarily worse than those that do. how many masterful cult films are there that get brushed aside in favor of these terrible films? probably far more than the type of “adult” projects that scorsese seems to favor, and i would argue that the two are way more comparable as far as broad filmmaking goals go.

-scorsese speaks of the cultural importance of projection, and repeats this a couple of times to solidify his notion. this is a waning demand however; it’s his one like “ok boomer” moment where he veneers into the territory of seeing the movie house as the monolith when everyone who gets hardcore into art cinema knows their way around a VPN by the time they’re out of high school. this is important because many of these people never even go to theaters normally; for them, the cinema is their laptop screen. i don’t see the cinema as being whatever happens to play on a metroplex for $12 near you – the advent of streaming is what will assist cinema, even if it ruins “cinema.”

-not falling for his “i had to go to netflix” sob story lol, waaah only one media conglomerate would give me 9 figures for my oscar bait

-the financial situation is brutal for small theaters not just because of indirect forces like everyone only seeing disney trash but also directly because of extremely harsh, borderline illegal theater policies that disney themselves employ. i wish scorsese would have brought this up – someone with his sway and clout speaking against that practice could do some popular good.

-i think in parts of his article, his notion of success is directly linked to “is it playing on a theater screen for millions of people.” it conflates financial success with cinematic success, which as someone who has had a lot of the former, seems to come from a biased position. obviously he doesn’t entirely mean this should be taken all the way – as evidenced by him, you know, hating superhero movies – but i do see this line of reasoning a lot and think it’s kind of unhealthy.

-it’s good that someone with some iota of clout is saying these things even if the points are a bit rough around the edges. i generally agree with his thesis, just believe we need to have more carefully crafted criticism on the subject.