Cinebites #19

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.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

This movie is a stunner. Having seen quite a few films with Sidney Poitier I didn’t think I was going to have any particular feelings towards this one that weren’t covered by other films. This film also apparently spawned two sequels as well that I’ve literally never heard of (both of them have exceptionally bad reviews) but that’s neither here nor there. This film has it all murder, action, mystery, politics, Qunicy Jones soundtrack featuring blues and bluegrass, a sweltering tense night in the South and scripts and acting that make people feel less like characters and more like real rounded out individuals. Absolutely loved this from start to finish.

Final Verdict: A must see and American classic. There is so much push and pull in the script, in the actions, and in the emotions of all the characters during this piece that makes the movie hold up so well. This is so odd to watch from a modern perspective because of what has and hasn’t changed in regards to race in America but even aside from that it’s also great a straight up fantastic murder mystery filled with great intrigue that is fantastically acted and filmed.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

I think this movie might have just been a little too playful for me. It was about the time that Robin Williams showed up that I wasn’t sure if this movie was supposed to be for kids or adults. It started off fine and its a little on nose with its themes and dialogue. There are quite a few stunning moments that if I’d experience this as a child likely would have stuck with me but as an adult I find it all a little slapdash when that movies fails to really materialize into anything more than an adventure. I know that’s in the title but well, I can dream a little bigger, can’t I?

Final Verdict: Come for the bizzare set ups and visuals, stay for the Monty Python-adjacent humor if that’s your thing. This feels like a modern blockbuster in a funny sense because it’s a bunch of wild set pieces and big ideas that never come together but it can simply be enjoyed as a sort of theme park ride (as Scorsese says). I think I was hoping for something more like The Fall or Brazil but it’s much closer to any of the better Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, fun and easy enough to watch but where any deep meaning seems accidental and misplaced. It’s uneven and eventually surprisingly disposable.

Knife + Heart (2018)

This movie took forever to get started but once it did I found myself surprisingly interested in this French murder exploitation film. What a beautiful and glorious send up to the 70s in this modern thriller. While the kills in the film leave a bit to be desired there are a few deeply hypnotic moments that will live rent free in my mind. The movie has a real humor and blase attitude towards the sexuality at the center of it which makes the whole film dance in your mind. I wasn’t sure where it was going for a while but by the time the third act kicked in I was uniquely surprised at how deep the rabbit hole went and how genuinely interested I was in the outcome.

Final Verdict: If you’re not squeamish about a lot of sex in your films this is a really surprisingly good film. Bold, brash, at time unlikely and sometimes downright corny this film is a real gem of queer cinema. This movie has the fever dream quality of a Lynch film and the stark raving colors and angles of a Brian De Palma and it made me feel frantic and foolish. I felt every emotion across the broad for the main character who is tragic and detestable, eater and eaten, voyeur and watched. Just, seriously, there is a lot of weird porn and sex so you probably want to pick your viewing space and company carefully.

Orlando (1992)

I wanted to love this but it was just alright. I think if I had seen it much closer to 1992 it would have been more revelatory and interesting but in our modern age, with the company I keep, this movie just felt cheeky and lightly affirming. Stunning visuals both in filming and costuming and design this movie is easy to watch but I left the film feeling a little cold and disconnected. At the end of the tale it felt like I was drawn through a whirlwind of empty scenes. I read a review that talked about this movie being a perfect companion to the original book its based on and I think that might be a little too on the nose.

Final Verdict: I think this movie might suffer from having to juggle too many things at once turning it into just a perfectly serviceable version of each genre its trying to devour. It doesn’t quite reach the height of surrealism, doesn’t cater to the love epic, hardly meaningfully because a period piece as it never sits in one period long enough, and it doesn’t tell a character story since the character keeps changing. It wants to say meaningful things about sex and love and the passage of time and being alive but it never stays still long enough to say more than rote proverbs. In the end its a wonderful showcase for Swinton, easily watchable but never quite hitting on any one note hard enough to make an impact. A perfectly fine movie in a sea of movies.

Born Yesterday (1950)

I picked a bunch of movies to watch that are basically the origins of certain tropes and this was one from that last and let me tell you I’m surprised as the next person that I really enjoyed this. This one is just such a fun and funny romp of a film layered with politics and humanity that are probably even more relevant today than they were back then. Shining out of all of it is an absolutely stellar performance by Judy Holliday who gave absolutely everything to the main character turning what is honestly a pretty bland story when listed to a real experience.

Final Verdict: I have to admit that the story and script at times veer both into over explaining and oversimplifying in equal measures but I still had a really good time watching this film. I assumed I’d be as bored as I was during the last few 50s films I watched (which included some fast forwarding and then my decision not to write about them) but nope, I sat straight through this one with nary a flinch towards the remote. There are some absolute zingers in this film. There is a lecture portion in the middle but I’ll forgive the movie for that because the ending scene is gold. Loved it, would probably actually watch this again!

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

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