Tuesday, February 07, 2023

This Week in Tickets: 30 January 2023 - 5 February 2023 (Winter Weather Edition)

January ends with some Oscar catch-up, a reminder that climate change hasn't completely defanged New England winter, and more good stuff.
This Week in Tickets
Things kicked off with a rare-ish Monday night at the movies to see Glass Onion a second time, since I don't have Netflix and we probably won't get a disc until Netflix/Lionsgate/Criterion do some "Knives Out Trilogy" thing in a few years. I liked it more the second time around, and was reminded while writing up last week's Next Week that I made some comment about Johnson maybe being my favorite contemporary filmmaker. Couldn't get to any of the other shows, but I'm thinking I might do a run of the Johnson stuff on my shelves between Film Rolls "seasons".

Speaking of which, Mookie got to Once a Thief a couple nights later, although it didn't really belong on the "unseen" shelves. It was just tough to get a bunch of John Woo stuff and set it aside.

The next couple nights were long ones - All Quiet on the Western Front at the Coolidge on Wednesday, seeing it on the big screen while I can, since it apparently isn't part of the AMC Oscar fest and who knows if we'll have a Regal by the time they're doing theirs? Thursday night was Pathaan, a big ol' Indian spy movie that is apparently the fourth, rather than the first, part of the "YRF Spy Universe". The rest are available on Prime, (one even in 4K!), so I might also do a run of those in the next couple weeks.

It got really cold that night - it was actually stupidly cold as I walked to Magoun to catch the train to Pathaan, but warmed up by the time I got to the Brattle for Jethica on Saturday. How cold? Well, the pipes froze, despite everyone's best efforts, but that's happened before and it was no big deal, eventually, but this time pipes in the wall behind my shower broke in two places. I discovered this just before heading to bed after Bruce landed on Romancing in Thin Air, a Johnnie To film that keys on a character freezing to death.

So, I spent a lot of Sunday watching the landlord try and get it fixed, but still had time to head out to the first "Silents, Please!" of 2022, Within Our Gates (with bonus feature The Other Woman's Story). I might have headed for another movie afterwards, but, not going to lie, was feeling kind of scuzzy from not being able to take a shower, so I headed back home.

Which gets us to the present, down to not being able to have a shower until tomorrow morning. Stil watching movies, though, so follow me on Letterboxd for first drafts of everything but the Film Rolls stuff.

Glass Onion

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 30 January 2023 in Landmark Kendall Square #1 (Filmmaker Focus: Rian Johnson, DCP)

There's an argument that the real test of a mystery story is the second viewing, when the audience is looking out for every hidden clue or bit of performance that might be misdirecting but genuine. I don't necessarily hold to that - it's nice when a mystery works that way, but I don't think it's more important than the "ya got me!" the first time through - but I do think that this is where Glass Onion really shines: It's a pretty terrific "second time through" mystery, while Knives Out was the better rug-pull.

On the first go-round, it takes far too long for the first body to drop, but the broadness of the comic bits works pretty well the second time around: When you recognize which ones aren't actually hiding anything, you can just enjoy the goofing around, rather than strain for significance that a moment just may not have, while the moments that do matter pop.

And once there's a murder to solve in the second half, things start clicking into place and moving full throttle, both the first and second times. Unlike the first Knives Out, very little of the killer cast winds up feeling like pure red herrings to keep the suspect count high, and the tight time frame keeps lulls from happening. The commentary winds up sharper and probably benefits some from the space since its original release: It was exceptionally well-timed to dunk on Elon Musk, but with him moving from the foreground to a consistently-too-loud bit of background noise, that means all the other jabs at folks like him can skewer their targets. Even the last act's broadest jokes are plenty sharp, even if I'm not sure that the big finale really works: <SPOILERS!> As great as Janelle Moná, Edward Norton, Daniel Craig, and the rest of the cast are here, I think Johnson plays things a little too much like broad comic spectacle as opposed to the expression of pure rage, and how someone will do something really transgressive to avenge whom they've lost. <!SRELIOPS%gt;

Ultimately, it's a little more shaggy than it maybe should be, but even better than I initially thought. Benoit Blanc's second outing is a worthy successor to the first, and I'm excited for more.

Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front '22)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 2 February 2023 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (special engagement, DCP)

I'm sure there are other genres where the same thing can be said, but if it's possible for a movie to be too well-made, the war film is maybe where it can be the most obvious. This one, for instance, has so many moments when the striking cinematography, makeup, and other pieces of technical excellence or clever storytelling register as accomplishments more than enhancing the emotion of the moment. Filmmaker Edward Berger will build a striking image of German soldier Paul Bäumer worn down, dragged through a mire, and I'll notice the meticulousness of it: That is some incredible caking of mud on the soldier's face; it will look fantastic as a still or presented in 4K with HDR.

It's not really as overwhelming as all that for long stretches, though, and the film is impressive in how conscious it is of how war destroys its soldiers as human beings. This comes out most during the fighting, when filmmakers might be tempted to use doubles or worry about staging more than performance. That's when we see that Paul has become good at this, though, a berserker with just enough self-awareness to recognize that he's a monster even in the moment. Felix Kammerer really nails that aspect of the character, letting a demon loose and afraid of it as much as he's afraid of dying the rest of the time, and these moments are spread out just enough to highlight how the soldiers are young men occasionally making memories that could be nostalgic later. It's more than a bit diluted by cuts to the brass, although maybe that's needed to drive home that this damage isn't something that just happened to these young men, but something done, especially in the final, futile chapter.

Is it too consciously impressive? Maybe, but even some of the showier parts are able to overcome how nifty them being unusual decisions is. I love Volker Bertelmann's score, for instance, a bass rumble that hovers between anachronistic atonality and an orchestra stripped down to its bass. And, nothing wrong with showing off a bit, because that sort of thing is at least interesting to look at and consider. Besides, it's a Netflix movie, so maybe you need that to get people locked in rather than giving it half their attention while folding laundry, even if it's a bit much in a theater.

Glass Onion Once a Thief All Quiet on the Western Front Pathaan Jethica Romancing in Thin Air Within Our Gates (and The Other Woman's Story)

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