Cinebites #11

Welcome to my mini movie review series. I watch a lot of movies and I thought it’d be fun to share a few thoughts on some of the things I’ve watched.

These are all SPOILER FREE reviews so you can enjoy these films at your leisure.

Dolemite is My Name (2019)

Despite good reviews I was actually extremely sure I would really hate this film. I remember the Eddie Murphy hits but unfortunately, more recently (like the last two decades) I remember all the Eddie Murphy flops. Having seen the original Dolemite around the time that Murphy’s career was skidding downhill this is kind of an interesting loop for me. I’d like to note that I’m not a particular fan of B-movies, exploitation movies, or “so bad it’s good” movies so I was a little concerned about that and I didn’t think a documentary style would suit this movie either. Thankfully, this movie misses all of those pitfalls by a mile and mixes Murphy’s pitch perfect comedic chops with a surprisingly touching tale that keeps grounded enough that it never commits any B-movie sins.

Final Verdict: This is a really riveting and fun movie that, while never doing anything too novel, actually works surprisingly well for a biopic. Murphy does great work but the real hero is the costuming department who absolutely got the details down on this one. Dolemite Is My Name is filled with cameos and winks to the camera that kept me pretty entertained but there was just an overall steady caliber of acting, filming, and editing coming together to create a really polished piece of work. This film takes a few liberties but honestly they’re all to the benefit of the film itself so I can forgive them. This is a pretty easy recommendation, especially if you are a fan of exploration-era films.

Memories of Murder (2003)

So this was the only Bong Joon-Ho films I hadn’t watched. So before I went to go see Parasite, I sat down and finally saw this thing. I am here to tell you what you already know, this is a very good film. It’s funny to go back and watch this film after some of Joon-ho’s others because you can see his fingerprints all over it. Featuring dark humor and deep diving character study it wears the crime and thriller genre like a blanket draped on its shoulders. If anything is wrong in this film it’s basically that the entire first act meanders so much that I would have turned it off if I didn’t suspect things would turn around. And trust me, they did. The back half of this movie is fantastic but compared to his other movies there was certainly a little more growing to do.

Final Verdict: While this movie took me way longer to get into than others I do wonder if I had accidentally set the bar a little high. I still didn’t like this anywhere near as much as Mother (2009) [not to be confused with Mother! (2017)]. What works in this movie is the strong acting from Song Kang-ho who is equal parts strangely likeable while being absolutely detestable as an out of his depth detective. The editing in this movie is actually almost stronger than the story sometimes with shots lingering over elements of the world in a way that all good thrillers should. Making you question if you, like the characters, have missed some crucial element. More than most thrillers this one had me thinking more about the images as well as the story. It perfectly weaved chaotic people moving around in serene places and tight cramped space with still characters to cause the viewer unease without the need for words. I feel like I am missing pieces of cultural narrative to make this more movie than just one about its general themes but it was still a fantastic piece of media that anyone could enjoy.

Parasite (2019)

I went into this pretty blind. I say that but actually I’m lying because I probably went into this movie with more of an idea of what it would be than most because I’ve literally seen all of Bong Joon-ho’s films. Parasite is a deeply effective, deeply effecting, and intensely well made movie that manages a perfect balance of humor, theme, story, and reality. I worry about saying too much because the perfect way to go into this movie is probably without any real knowledge of what will happen but I will say that this is a movie that will need to be watched more than once to get everything out of. Only towards the end of the movie did I start to see some of the parallel images that were set up, or certain types of lighting and framing changes (some of which surely I took in subconsciously but were so much more interesting once I started thinking about them). The littlest things keep pulling me back to thinking about this movie even a week later and that’s honestly the greatest gift a movie can give me.

Final Verdict: Look, it won all the awards and everyone else saw this movie before me (you probably definitely saw this movie before me). I don’t know what to tell you because you already saw this and loved it. I really loved it too. If you somehow haven’t seen it, go see it.

Daisies (1966)

This movie is a trip. At times it pauses when I wanted it to speed up or it speeds flying past something I wanted to see but it never gave me anything I wanted and I kind of loved it. This movie is so obviously railing against oppression and society in a way that is disquieting to most that it feels uncomfortable to call it earnest but it is. The two women in the film seeks to overthrow politeness and civilized ideas: of society, of themselves, of even the idea of being alive. A celebration of body, bawdy, brutal existence though acts of frivolity and hedonism to try and fill the existential void. The cinematography in this piece is thoughtful but it sometimes rips itself apart at points which make both narrative and visual cohesion an impossibility. In a funny way, you can take Daises at face value and still receive its messages but it’s much more interesting if you try to be as spoiled as possible, eating up every morsel the film has to offer you instead.

Final Verdict: Certainly not a movie for most people this is art house at its most art house. Incomprehensible outside of the frame of the image and at times so raw and in your face that it feels insulting to be talked down to, this piece is an experience more than a movie. It’s hard to divorce context from this movie but as much as this is a piece of the boho, dadaist Czech New Wave it kind of feels like everything rhymes and this film doesn’t seem all that removed from some of the short art films I’ve seen in the past few years. The film plays with food, with bodies, with surrealism as self, and the difficulty of being in a world that defines you while rejecting any definition of you. If you generally like art house movie this is probably a must watch but if you need a movie with…let’s say…a narrative, it’s best to skip this one.

Bell, Book, and Candle (1958)

I can’t remember why I watched this movie but I kind of weirdly loved it. A story about a witch who steals men because she can and the dangers of love potions (and love). Originally a stage play it does have some pacing issues but it is delightfully acted with Kim Novak giving a pitch perfect performance as an aloof and jealous witch who desires someone else’s man. Novak’s character is buoyed by her delightfully eccentric family (of witches, naturally) and rebuffed by the consequences of her meddling. This movie is really light fare but surprisingly fun.

Final Verdict: If you’ve seen any movie from the mid 50s to mid 60s you’re not going to get your hair blown back by this one. At the end of the day this is an absolutely rote romance story that includes the kitchen sink of problematic 50s tropes including an uncomfortable age difference between male and female leads. This movie is mainly just a diversion rather than anything anyone needs to visit to understand cinema over the ages. This film is largely forgotten in the way that any “just okay” movie fades from public memory in a few years. Remember Date Night? No? Well that’s because no one remembers that movie despite the fact that it made 150 million dollars and has 66% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s basically on the same level as this movie. (Except I liked this movie).

That’s all for this time! See you next month (hopefully) with 5 or more films!

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