Cinebites #17

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.

The Little Foxes (1941)

Usually when I sit down to watch a film from the 40s it means I can relax and kind of turn off my brain a little. There are plenty of interesting parts to a lot of older films but they tend to be less dense, less obtuse, and also just slower in general. I went into this film without any prior knowledge about it other that Bette Davis was in it and came out the other side almost wishing someone had prepared me. This adaption of a stage play about a Southern family is so quick and so complex that once it gets going the train never stops until it throws you right off at the end. Well shot, impeccably acted, and surprisingly brisk it only took me about 10 minutes to settle into this affair and the story has hung around in my head since.

Final Verdict: Flashing warning signs: this movie was filmed in 1940 and takes place in the South and deals with a fairly bad family dynamic of rich, Southern, white people who are economically controlling a town. This comes with all the thing you think it does which get pretty uncomfortable at times for me, a modern viewer. However I think it’s absolutely worth it. There’s not a boring character in the bunch, the screenplay is snappy and flowing, and the strange reality inside of the play it made this an absolute joy to watch. The ending absolutely floored me and I loved the whole ride. Would recommend.

Vi är bäst! (2013)

I’m not usually a fan of movies with child actors for a variety of reasons but I really loved this little Swedish movie about two best friends who are very into punk rock in the 80s and decide to make their own band (despite knowing nothing about how to play or make music). This movie is based off a comic made by the directors wife which does lend it a surprising amount of reality (or pseudo-reality). I think the setting being Stockholm instead of somewhere I’m familiar with also gives it some insulation from trying to measure up to my own experiences though I found myself mirrored in the girls more than I thought I would anyway. I have a lot of feelings about how this movie decided to portray the relationships of the girls to each other and to their parents and how it felt more real to me than in many other movies where parents seem like cartoon characters to the kids but I think I’ll save those deep musings for another day.

Final Verdict: This pre-teen movie is absolutely only for adults but there is something so charming and fun about it despite sometimes veering into real topics much like how childhood sometimes starts to accidentally veer into the adult world at some point. Maybe how they bleed into each other but I feel like I probably would have really enjoyed this movie as a 13 year old as well. This is a nice change from the usual American pre-teen / teen movies which tend to center around the idea of growing up (sometimes explicitly and sometimes using growing up as a metaphor for something else). This instead was just about existing in that time making it a total shot in the arm of excitement for me. Great performances and charming moments make this a pretty easy watch also. Everyone I recommended it to has enjoyed it so that’s some more points in its favor.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

I had to check twice that this came out before There Will Be Blood. It basically came out at the same time as No Country for Old Men, not sure what was in the water for a few years there, I suppose it was fallout from O Brother Where Art Thou but the American West is back baby and it’s a metaphor! This time it tackles mythos, great man theory, and the love of celebrity by way of one of the central figures of the time. I will say that despite really enjoying the whole thing asking people to sit through three long hours of this is a lot.

Final Verdict: I know a lot of people won’t like the structure of this movie but I actually found it to be as clever and inspired as the casting, filming, and even titling of the movie. The movie is a slight amount overlong and I don’t know which parts to cut but they could have found something, right? I avoided watching for a long time because I assumed it was a Western, but it isn’t. True Grit is a Western, this is something else. Without spoiling you, more than the title at least, I found this extremely enjoyable in a very sad way but I feel like most people will just find it grim.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

I really wanted to like this. I really tried to like this but I had to stop the movie about 8 minutes in and look up if it had started life as a stage play. It had. It feels more like four or five good monologues stapled together instead of a movie. There’s not really much to hold up in terms of plot and the themes are a little thin on the ground but there are a few shining dialogue moments. It feels exceptionally like a handful of short stories that are shoehorned together with two scenes on either end of the movie for set up. The interstitial dialogue is grating and odd and the sound design of this music-first movie is questionable which makes the whole affair quite disappointing. If they really wanted this to be a film and not a stage play there was a lot more work to be done.

Final Verdict: Come for the performances and stay for literally only that. That might be a little harsh but there are so many positive reviews for this movie that I ended up reading to try and figure out why people liked it and the reason is simple: Chadwick Boseman has an interesting character which he does a good job portraying and this is his last movie. The other performances range from pretty good to great but I really have almost no notes about the content of the film or the meaning or the themes because there’s no notes to be had just the same ones people have been hitting for years. In the end you’re either watching for the performances or you’re not. Your choice.

Wolfwalkers (2020)

What stuck me the most about Wolfwalkers is how relevant a film about 17th century Cromwell era is to the modern day. This kids film is a nice breath of fresh air despite running over some familiar ground. You’ve got your bad man who runs a town, you have a girl who is being sidelined and underestimated because of her gender, and you have humans encroaching on the land. I could be describing any number of kids movies but I guess the formula works because I absolutely loved this piece. Between its clever use of varying levels of detail work to display emotions, the bright and vibrant colors, and the honestly touching and too familiar relationship between the two lead girls, Mebh and Robyn it made me feel like a kid again for a moment and want to bash the oppressors and go running wild through a forest.

Final Verdict: This film has so many themes running in it I wonder if most kids I would even catch them all, probably many adults miss a few of them on a first viewing as well but that’s okay, this is sure to become a classic in any household! Charming and delightful and deeply meaningful if you haven’t already seen it Wolfwalkers is a perfect film for the whole family.

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

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