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December 23, 2022

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partisan

Not a fan of Benediction?

MK

"the great movies I saw this year felt more and more like acts of defiance, minor blows against an encroaching empire"

I watched my two favorites ("No Bears" for the first time and "Benediction" on a revisit) the same week when the Supreme Court heard 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. Watching how those lives on-screen and in real life have been shaped by brutal and reactionary laws, particularly laws created under a dubious sense of religious morality, it made the future seem even more bleak.

Glenn Kenny

I missed a lot of highly regarded pictures — "Benediction," "Aftersun," "Women Talking" are the first that spring to mind. I hope to catch up, of course.

Oliver

'Everything Everywhere All At Once' ultimately reminded me of the latter volumes of Moore & O'Neill's 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' -- there comes a point when you have to ask the creators to stop showing off how many narrative/allusive plates they can keep spinning, and just focus on SOMETHING, anything, for crying out loud! Immense props to Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan though.

Blake

I will be curious to hear your thoughts about Aftersun at some point. I found it heartbreaking and technically accomplished.

Regarding The Fabelmans, I am not sure if you have noticed, but I have been taken aback by the way some detractors ignored the antisemitic abuse in the movie. They have suggested Spielberg’s only struggle was his parents’ divorce but not the bigotry in high school? It baffles me when I notice it.

By the way, I credit your review of Murina for exposing me to the film. It was great.

MK

"Everything Everywhere All At Once" fell short in a lot of ways, but to be honest, I wasn't expecting much more than a wacky martial arts-inspired sci-fi fantasy when I went to see it (a friend's choice, not mine) so it was actually a welcome surprise in some respects.

It does suggest some dark, tantalizing ideas - unexplored perhaps, but seeing a more traditionally-minded elder demand that his daughter kill her own daughter/his granddaughter brought to mind some harrowing experiences I witnessed as an outsider, ones that were never settled, much less resolved with "Ohana means family." (I realize the plot sets it up so that the scene feels logical and innocuous as fantasy, but given the context of intergenerational trauma, it suggested bolder possibilities - to be fair, such possibilities are probably best explored in a different kind of film.)

Titch

Some more horrible hours you'll never get back, besides Babylon? Worst films of the year lists are just as fun. Elvis gave me a migraine.

george

Well, I've seen Barbarian and The Northman. Barbarian was my favorite moviegoing experience of the year. Of movies Glenn didn't list, I liked X, Nope, and Bodies Bodies Bodies. Worst movie I saw in a theater in '22: Don't Worry Darling.

Glenn's comment on Everything Everywhere All at Once is the first negative take I've seen on that movie.

The divide between what critics (and film buffs) like and what the public pays to see continues to widen. Most people are unaware of any movies except for big franchise films. Not even The Fabelmans could draw audiences.

Titch

Glenn's perspective on The Menu would be welcome. The critics are all over the place on this one (Rex Reed loves it! David Jenkins hates it!) and it's a surprise box office success, despite it not being a big franchise film.

george

Variety reports that Babylon "bombed with $3.6 million from 3,343 venues over the weekend and $5.3 million through Monday. The film’s especially terrible start, as well as its C+ CinemaScore from audiences, suggests that even with winter blues, the 3-hour and 9-minute long Babylon may not have resonated on the big screen."

I sort of admire Chazelle for getting a studio to lavish a substantial budget (a reported $80M) on a movie that's not based on a comic book, a toy, a video game or a YA novel. Haven't seen it, but based the opinions of people I respect -- Glenn, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Z, Farran Nehme -- I'll stay away.

george

I've already read "Hollywood Babylon," which seems to have been Chazelle's main source for his film. Is there a scene where the Clara Bow stand-in takes on the USC football team?

Robert Horton

"I've dragged my feet seeing Neptune Frost because I still remember Slam" - I thought I was the only person with this sentence, word for word, in my head. (Great list.)

MK

I'm not really a fan of Chazelle's work - he's great at making spectacles, but what he has to say about anything usually seems really wrong or simply asinine. It's still a shame his film is doing so poorly - it's not getting easier for auteurs to make personal films on a larger budget, not unless they're already sci-fi spectacles themselves. Between "Babylon" and "Amsterdam"'s failures, it's only going to make things tougher for everyone.

Glenn Kenny

On "The Menu:" well I certainly don't think it's a major film but I was pleasantly surprised by the first hour and twenty minutes, in that it managed to hold its frankly goofy conceit together, and be funny and reasonably tense and occasionally startling about it. I processed it largely as a kind of Amicus film (again!) only with food. In the mode of "Tales From the Crypt," only without actually cutaways to the stories sins of those who are being punished. I like Anya Taylor-Joy in just about any context and that helped. It fell apart for me, though, once it got into that whole sentimental "you lose your soul when you give up doing it for love" business. Phooey.

george

"Between "Babylon" and "Amsterdam"'s failures, it's only going to make things tougher for everyone."

Scott Tobias tweeted that it felt "warm and toasty" to see Chazelle "set fire to Paramount's money."

There's speculation that this could be the last time an R-rated movie will get such a large budget.

Titch

Thanks for your thoughts on The Menu, Glenn. I'll have to see that now. And I'm getting more and more intrigued by Babylon, graded F. It's coming out on a 4K UHD.

Andrew Del Monte

Great list. I say run don't walk to Hong Sang-Soo's "Walk Up," one of his best films if you ask me.

John Keefer

Thank you as always for my yearly list of things I need to see. I will also say thank you for the heads up on Babylon. It has been moved from the back burner to the shed out back, despite playing at the historic Colonial theater which is literally right next door to me. Don't worry, they're playing The Fablemans too (not in my preferred theater) so they'll get my money. Beware the Blob!

Titch

Yep - just saw the 4K UHD of Tár this evening. It hasn't yet been released theatrically, over the pond. What a gripping two and a half hours that was! If Cate Blanchett doesn't stagger home with an Oscar, then the Oscars can just pack up and go away. Anyway, it will sound much better in a well-calibrated home theatre with a decent sound system, than it will in a cinema. Like you wrote in your review: fantastically well-directioned sound design. Jumped out of my skin, every time the neighbours banged on the door in the film, as well as when Mahler kicked in at 59 minutes. A+, as you write, in your Consumer blu-ray and 4K UHD guides.

Banshees Of Inisherin blu-ray tomorrow night.

george

I finally saw Babylon, and ... it worked for me.

I knew it was a fictionalized version of real people and events, so I was able to approach it as a work of fiction. If you want to know the facts about John Gilbert, Clara Bow and other stars from that era, there are books to read. I recommend David Stenn's "Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild."

It might be best to regard Babylon as a fantasy. It has as much to do with the real 1920s as Grease has to do with the real 1950s.

But does it work AS A MOVIE? For me, it did. It held my interest for more than 3 hours. Movies half as long have put me to sleep.

Titch

I attended the Norwegian premiere of Babylon this evening and really enjoyed it - probably enjoyed it even more than I should have, due to the fact that it completely tanked in the States. The film, inevitably, ran out of steam from Toby Maguire onwards, but it gave a lot of bang for the buck up until then, watching it on a 40 foot screen. It's been a long time since I saw anything so delightfully vulgar.

In the olden days, I used to show the Ride Of The Valkyries segment from Apocalypse Now, or the beginning of The Right Stuff, or the trailer from The Abyss, if I wanted my friends' jaws to drop, when showing them what a LaserDisc and surround sound could do. I will be running the bacchanalian pre-title sequence as demo material when I get my mitts on the 4K UHD. The production work on Babylon are the very best money can buy - the propulsive music soundtrack was incredible; like the end of Zatoichi, but pumping all the way through. This is going to be a reference-quality 4K UHD.

george

Still amazed that Chazelle got a major studio to finance and release Babylon.

Titch

Ah yes - but Chazelle had completed a hat trick and was a sure bet. He is just following in the footsteps of fellow American iconoclasts Martin Scorsese (New York, New York after Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Taxi Driver), Steven Spielberg (1941 after The Sugarland Express, Jaws and Close Encounters) and Francis Ford Coppola (One From The Heart, after the two Godfathers, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now). All backed by major studios for "personal projects", after seeming invincible box-office behemoths. None of them ended up in Director Jail permanently after their first major flop.

Babylon has received much more positive reviews in Europe, where critics and audiences aren't as prude as the Americans are.

george

"None of them ended up in Director Jail permanently after their first major flop."

Even Cimino came back 5 years after Heaven's Gate with Year of the Dragon. But Elaine May hasn't directed since Ishtar. Is Hollywood less forgiving of women who have flops? Then again, Martin Brest hasn't directed since Gigli flopped in 2003.

Clint Eastwood used to alternate "one for them" (Sudden Impact, The Dead Pool, The Rookie) with "one for me" (Honkytonk Man, Bird, and White Hunter, Black Heart). Alas, it looks like Eastwood's career is over after the failure of Cry Macho. Warner's asshole CEO publicly insulted him, and turned down a project Clint pitched last year.

Good luck to the Paramount executives who may be walking the plank after the box-office failure of Babylon.

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