Lost Weekend Draft

Andy Gyurisin, Film Club 3.0, and the Alamo Drafthouse of Winchester put on yet another terrific Lost Weekend film festival.

Below, listed in the order of their showing, will be the scores I gave to the movies and a bit about why I gave those scores. I do want to include that having never made a feature film, I do try not to be overly critical of a film because, frankly, I haven’t been able to prove myself to be able to do better. Personal preference is simply the reason as to why I gave a score and there were several films that were show that proved to be divisive on the opinion of the audience.

Explanation of scale: 1 - I hated it, wasted a couple hours of my life that I’ll never get back, will spend more time complaining about how much I hated the film than the actual duration of the film. 5 - Okay, movie. Wasn’t a standout, but it was okay. 10 - Changed my life or the perceptions of said life, some of the best couple hours of my year.

Colossal 8 / 10

Enjoyable acting with a simply bizarre use of metaphor for the unseen damages done by an alcoholic lifestyle and power dynamics. Surprised at how well this film worked.

The Invisible Guest 5 / 10

Incredibly standard whodunnit sort of film. The movie’s red herring was an obvious red herring. Also, the big plot twist, I was on to, literally, within the first five minutes of the film and had identified it as soon as all of the characters of the film were finally introduced.

The Teacher 8 / 10

The setting being Soviet-era Czechoslovakia got this film a point all by itself. The movie had shifting perspectives on so many of it’s characters which gave them all a rich, multidimensional feel that you really just want in any story. It also serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of corruption, regardless of how minor, in the grand scheme of things, a person of power might be.

Buster’s Mal Heart 5 / 10

This film seemed to be the darling of the weekend for a big swath of the audience. For me, it was this Lost Weekend’s Swiss Army Man. Psychological, keeps you guessing, has some beautiful moments and great use of the camera. And then, at some point, the wheels start coming off. It wasn’t as abrupt in this one as it was with Swiss Army Man, but there it was.

Look, I’ve got a thing for Rami Malek. Saw him in Mr. Robot and I really enjoy him. I had expected that he’d be like his character in Mr. Robot and speak in a monotone and have emoting whatsoever. I was wrong, dude, can put out some serious emotions. He got a lot of respect from me for taking his role to eleven.

But.

All of the other characters? Cookie cutter stereotypes.

And here is where you should heed that spoiler warning, he plays a man who is probably some sort of undiagnosed schizophrenic who murders his wife and kid late in the movie, which really disconnected me from any empathy for the character as a person, then the film gives him a sort of happy ending. Had the film left it vague as to why his wife and kid were alive or dead and if dead whether he killed them, I’d have liked that a whole lot better.

It also uses the Tyler Durden plot twist as well, which was mind blowing in Fight Club but has gotten tired since we’ve seen it already.

I liked it, overall, but not with a strong recommendation. Had you had asked me to score the film twenty or thirty minutes into it, I would have given it a nine. But by the end, I gave it a five and had it not been for Rami Malek, it probably would have been a three with a lesser actor.

Alive & Kicking 7 / 10

Enjoyable documentary about swing dancing. Had a real celebration of life feel to it. Did the sport (or is it activity?) real justice.

The Young Offenders 8 / 10

Hilarious movie about two Irish idiots who set off to find a bale of cocaine. Sort of like Dumb & Dumber, but with Irish kids, mixed with Stand By Me, but instead of a corpse, it’s a bale of cocaine. Rather low brow, but has occasional shining moments of clarity from some of the characters. I really couldn’t recommend this one enough.

The Commune 7 / 10

Movie set in a Danish commune. I idea of communal living is something I’m interested in and wouldn’t mind giving a go at some point in my life, so that probably gave it a point or two by itself. The story revolves around a middle aged couple with a teenaged daughter who inherit a large house and decide that they want to keep the house, but the only way they could afford it would be to start a commune.

One of the things I really did enjoy is that we can easily give the movie credit for being a strong character driven story, but it’s also a strong relationship driven story. The primary characters have so many nuanced aspects that I felt they were quite real.

However, one of the things that I think I took away from the film is that in a very early scene there is a discussion between Erik and Anna (the couple who have just come into ownership of the house) of the idea of the commune and Anna is pressing for the commune and Erik is against it. She finally declares that she has already called the first person that would be invited into the commune and she is bored with her life. Erik later has an affair with one of his students. I really do think that the commune was a slow motion, intentional destruction of their marriage, instead of the two of them being adults and just working on their stagnant lives and / or marriage or just calling it quits like reasonable adults (which wouldn’t have made for a good movie, or, at least, not a long one).

The Salesman 6 / 10

Story is set in Iran and features a married couple in a theatrical troupe working on Death of a Salesman. The husband is also a teacher who is in the process of teaching his students about another play, The Cow. Due to damage of their apartment building, they wind up living in another apartment that was previously occupied by a woman rumored to be a prostitute. The film has a first layer of mystery as the previous occupant refuses to return to retrieve her possessions that she left behind. Then the wife of the new occupants is assaulted in her home by an unknown man. Physically and, more importantly to the story, psychologically damaged by the assault, their marriage is strained. Meanwhile, her husband continues to find clues as to the possible identity of the assailant.

The final scene constitutes the majority of the positive score given to the movie. The previous acts of the film have a slow, deliberate build that sometimes drags, however the last chapter of the movie brings it all crashing together as the couple faces the man who criminally assaulted the wife of the couple. My favorite moment is when the husband actually demands that she does not interfere with the revenge that he is about to take out on the man, as if her being the victim of the original crime is irrelevant.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter 6 / 10

Another movie that divided the audience.

Incredibly slow movie about a girl possessed by the devil who murders people. The film has different time lines and perspectives, which it managed to keep me from figuring out until quite late in the movie, which I appreciated. The body count is low, and there parts of the movie that don’t seem to add anything to it.

So, time for me to get a bit hypocritical. The ending of the movie leaves a swath of the plot unresolved and unexplained, which I like. It feels like it is trusting the audience to draw their own conclusions about some aspects, and doesn’t feel the need to explain the machinations of Satan to its audience. I liked that.

But, the chronological beginning to the plot of the movie has the same aspect. It isn’t obvious or clear as to why the possession has started. Was it happenstance? Did the possessed girl do something wrong? Or something that invited it? I would have liked a bit more added to that, but there were other pieces of the movie that could have been left on the cutting room floor, as they say.

My Life as a Zucchini 7 / 10

Bittersweet movie about a kid who accidentally kills his alcoholic and abusive mother and winds up in a orphanage with other damaged children. As only the French can, the characters do not dodge or neglect the hardships that are part of the experience of life.

Also has a pretty funny running joke about how the kids quasi-don’t understand how sex works.

Kedi 4 / 10

It’s a documentary about feral Turkish cats. There are several interviews in which people repeat that they like how these street cats are friendly but independent. Some of the interviews like to tie cats to God. Particularly ones that have the ability to find lost wallets with specific amounts of money.

Toni Erdmann 6 / 10

Story about a man and his adult daughter who have drifted apart. About two thirds of the movie seem to be him being a Puck-ish asshole to his daughter in a way that is hilarious for the audience, but must be terrible for her. The birthday party late in the film is probably three of the six points that I gave it. Hilariously awkward.

The Bad Batch 6 / 10

I think that at some point there was a script that wound up with two copies and those copies evolved into different movies. One became a great film called Mad Max: Fury Road. The other one went to Burning Man and became a okay movie called The Bad Batch. Jim Carey plays a strange silent role and may have been one of the best characters in the movie despite being done in pantomime and his character drive being opaque to the audience. Jason Momoa was okay in his role, the cannibal Miami Man who only cared about finding his daughter, but not his wife who was killed execution style. Keanu Reeves played a character that I would have described as if Johnny Depp has been cast as Pablo Escobar in Narcos and then that character played by Keanu Reeves. The most colorful character in the movie.

Our protagonist, Arlen also has impenetrable motives as well.

I’d like to call it a love story for post apocalyptic misfits, but I’ll let you be the judge. It got points for style, despite most of the characters not behaving in a way that made any real logic.

Also, I was happy to see Giovanni Ribisi (I’ve loved this guy since I saw him get struck by lightning in the X-Files) in the film, but his character promised the audience a mystery, but it wasn’t ever delivered on. What was the “one thing” that you couldn’t forget?

I, Daniel Blake 9 / 10

This was this Lost Weekend’s A Man Called Ove. The protagonist: a British man too young for a pension, too young to start over, too sick to get work, but too able to get benefits. The antagonist: the British welfare bureaucracy. Big pieces of the film show people with little resources helping each other out, beautiful scenes. And those are then followed up with circumstance crushing those same people back down.

The titular character intercedes on behalf of a woman being tossed out of a social services office and they become friends. Her name is Katie. A few scenes later during a visit to a food bank, Katie starts eating food right out of a can and it absolutely broke my heart. I’m not really sure what happened for maybe the next ten minutes of the film because it wrecked me. I honestly cried during two later movies remembering this scene.

Women Who Kill 7 / 10

If you only see one murder mystery featuring lesbian podcasters, make it this one. It’s humor is subtle and self-deprecating and self-aware (that Subaru wasn’t a mistake).

Three 4 / 10

I was looking forward to the uncommon Chinese film, but this one seemed like it couldn’t decide if it was a hospital drama, a cop drama, or an action film. The antagonist of the film seemed to some sort of Chinese gangster version of Lex Luther, I guess. Also, what was up with that cop’s incredibly gross, hairy mole? It was very distracting.

The Lure 6 / 10

So, you stumble across two mermaids (who are man eating monsters)? What to do with them? Put them to work as performers in your nightclub and mistreat them. Oh, and your Polish clientele either will never alert the press that there are mythological creatures singing some pretty crazy songs every night at that club or the Polish press have more important things to cover, I’m not quite sure. It was a down right bizarre movie, but it was fun, despite some disjointed

Contemporary Color 4 / 10

I remember in my high school, it was socially better to not be part of an activity at all than to be part of color guard. Absolute social faux pas to be in color guard. But the people in it seemed to love it.

I was curious to see how this documentary about a color guard event called Contemporary Color would go. I think, poorly. The event itself seemed like a terrific event. Here’s how it works: color guard teams from around the country get paired up with musicians who write songs for the event and then both perform live.

So far so good. The problem with the documentary is that it didn’t do a very good job of showcasing either the color guard teams, their members, or even the musicians. One of the musical performances involved Ira Glass interviewing some of the members and then dubbing sections of those interviews in with the musical accompaniment. That single section of the movie got my eyes misty because Ira Glass knows how to sell the human experience. He interviewed individuals in the team and had them speak about their experience and the experience of the team.

The filmmakers seemed to occasionally start to try and do this, but never quite made it.

Furthermore, most of the performances of a team, field sport were filmed by having up close shots to individuals on the team and then artistically edited. Sometimes this worked visually, but it’s a activity done by a team and the effort is done by everyone on the team on the field, which was rarely on the screen. The results was occasionally visually appealing shots, occasionally visually confusion shots, and very occasionally a shot of the entire field of performance that was lost in the absence of the remainder of the performance.

Overall - boring. If you want to see this though, just watch up until the bit with Ira Glass is over and then watch something else.

Like Crazy 6 / 10

Italian movie about two mentally unstable women who face their illnesses together. I’d have probably given this an eight but for the reason that I hated half of this buddy film. One of the women is rich, entitled, an overall ass to everyone she meets, a liar, and behaves as if no rules apply to her at all ever. You might say, well, Stephen, she has bipolar disorder, that’s part of the disorder and part of her character. And I’d say you’re absolutely right, and I still hated the character. The other half, was a woman who had a bad lot in life, got tangled up in a bad lifestyle, and tried to kill herself and her infant son in the ocean. She was incredibly relatable.

The final scene where she is re-united with her son, at the ocean, and goes swimming with him at his invitation was a complete tear jerker for me. Her re-dedication to bettering her condition for her son was a very nice ending.

Tampopo 9 / 10

Ever see an old movie and ask, “I’ve heard of this film from time to time, but I’ve never seen it, why have I never seen this before?” This was one to them for me. It was one of my favorites of the film festival and it’s a 30 some year old film, if I remember right. Basically, it’s billed as a ramen western. The story revolves around two truckers who help a woman hone her ramen making skills while making friends and triumphing over adversaries. All the while, it has Monty Python style side stories that frequently have nothing to do with the main plot, but they are hilarious. My favorite was a gangster who was gunned down and for his dying monologue tells a stupid story about hunting boar.

The film also has a good amount of food related eroticism that I found myself asking, “Is this hot or disgusting?” It really dances both sides of the line.

I do have to warn you that it does have a soft shell turtle being slaughtered on screen. That was pretty rough to watch.

Swagger 3 / 10

Documentary that, I guess, is about the life of teenagers living in housing projects just northeast of Paris. It had slow pacing. Any connection to any of the teenagers interviewed was irregular and short lived. The film had a strange habit of while a kid is being interviewed, cutting very briefly to the face of another one of the teenagers who, I don’t think, was present for that interview and the content of the interview had no direct relationship to that other teenager. Why that was done was lost on me entirely. It halal had staged vignettes of the kids being cool and a strange CGI drone sequence. I’m not sure what the film makers were trying to accomplish with this at all. It’s got some pretty good scores on IMDB, but I couldn’t really tell you why.

Personal Shopper 3 / 10

Kristen Stewart is a medium (maybe, she’s not sure and neither is the audience really) who is living in Paris while she tries to receive a sign from her dead twin brother who was also a medium (we’re more confident of this being true) while she supports herself by working for some sort of celebrity who she hates and she hates the work. The work is, of course, being a personal shopper for that celebrity.

There are sequences in a haunted house that are pretty boring, which I’d think would be low hanging fruit for keeping an audience’s attention. There are enormous tracts of the movie that are Stewart’s character texting a mysterious stranger. I’m not exaggerating on this either. It’s literally a bunch of time where the camera is on the screen of her phone while she is texting or her being anxious about the texts. There are other parts of the movie where Stewart is playing dress up in her boss’s clothes, which sort of worked for character building. There is a ghost in the movie that isn’t her brother, but seemed to add nothing to the movie other than, I guess, maybe they had too much money in their ghost budget that they had to get that one in there? There is a confusing sequence of a invisible person or ghost leaving a hotel and it’s not clear on why that was important for me to know that it had happened. There is a murder that ratchets up the suspense a bit, but ultimately doesn’t really add much to the sum of the plot. And then there is an ending that I felt like should have been deep and thought provoking, but I’m not sure which thoughts were supposed to get that provocation.

Afterwards, I read a few online reviews and it appears that critics are divided on this one. Maybe I just missed something with this movie, but here we are.

The Girl with All the Gifts 7 / 10

I read the book and I loved it. We all know that the translation from book to film is a minefield, but this one was satisfying. There were big pieces of the story that were cut out, but it didn’t degrade the main themes presented in the plot of the book.

The kid playing the titular character did a terrific job of acting. I was happy to see the lady who plays Naomi on The Expanse in the film, although, unfortunately, was killed pretty early on. The set did justice to the compound I imagined in my head during the book.

If you haven’t read the book, there might be some elements of the movie that you find weak. I can’t tell you if that’s true or just a caution, since I did read the book, but you know how that goes sometimes.

If I had one gripe, I’d be that the tribe of second generation fungal children did feel a bit campy. I can’t tell you how I’d have done it any better, but it felt sort of B movie there for a bit. I’d still give this one a thumbs up.