Diary of a Movie Weekend

A relatively busy social schedule lately has prevented me from having a good old-fashioned movie weekend for quite some time. Oh, sure. I’ve knocked out a nice dose of movies here and there each weekend, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to sit down for so long that mushrooms grew on my ass for 3 days while I knocked off one movie after another. This past weekend, I had my chance. Here’s what I watched:

The Piano (1993), 4 out of 5 stars

Strangely, this film marks the second time in four months that I’ve seen Harvey Keitel’s wang (Bad Lieutenant was the first time). And that’s two times too many. Besides Lil’ Keitel, The Piano was a very solid effort with some very good cinematography from Jane Campion. It did suffer at times from some very over-the-top, this-is-Oscar-bait slow motion moments, but that’s really the only beef that I’ve got here. Well, that, and Harvey Keitel’s penis.

Shivers (1975), 4 stars

I’m still very slowly acclimating myself to the works of David Cronenberg, but I’m enjoying more and more that I see. Shivers is one of the more difficult films to gauge that I’ve seen in awhile. It’s either the best B movie I’ve ever seen, or the worst art film. The plot alone screams “B movie”. A doctor living in a Montreal apartment building believes that mankind is horrible. His solution is to genetically create a parasite that acts like an STD, being passed through sexual contact. Once inside the body, the parasite turns the host into a sex-crazed maniac. What will result is a beautiful worldwide orgy (so sayeth the doctor). Cronenberg has fun playing with societal norms about sex and sexuality, and takes the film process very seriously despite the wacky subject matter. More importantly , I’m starting to really notice all of Cronenberg’s trademarks come through- things living in stomachs, parasites/bugs, etc… As for whether or not it was a B movie or an art film, I’m not sure it’s pertinent. In the end, I enjoyed the movie a ton and that’s all that matters.

Man Bites Dog (1992), 4 stars

Man Bites Dog was a film dripping with dark comedy. I hate to pigeonhole it in this way, but it felt a lot like the French equivalent of Natural Born Killers, blending mass murder with a social statement about the media’s fascination with violence. The humor was what propelled this movie for me. There were a ton of grisly acts where I found myself chuckling. Ultimately, the point of the film seems made about halfway through, and most of the last half of the movie felt academic. All the same, it gets a thumbs up from me.

The Haunting of Amelia, 3 stars

It’s hard to judge movies like this. First and foremost, it’s clearly filmed on a budget. Second, I’m a lot more forgiving of enormous issues in a horror movie than I am in any other genre. And so The Haunting of Amelia gets graded on a bit of a curve. It’d be folly to compare this movie to, say, The King’s Speech. Even with the small budget, the filmmaker managed to scrounge up a cast that included the girl who played Alex on Lost and hired the make-up specialist who worked on Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s twisty, sometimes in really obvious ways, but it sort of hit me with a last minute twist that was more twisty than the original twist. And that’s a good thing, because it telegraphed the original twist from a long, long ways away.

Caché (2005), 4 stars

Where Caché succeeds in a big way is skewering the precarious, odd relationship that the French have had with Algerians. It’s exposed in Michael Haneke’s film as hysteria rises from the first shot. It starts languidly enough (most of Haneke’s films are languid) before reaching a crescendo of panic in the third act. I’m still somewhat uninitiated with Haneke, having only seen a few of his movies. And since I hadn’t seen a Haneke film in a few years, the slow nature of the film’s first half really caught me off guard. Essentially, I may not have been quite in the mood for something like this and it’ll be worth a re-watch down the line.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999), 4.5 stars

I avoided this film forever. When it came out, it was harpooned mercilessly by film-goers. It was dinged by casual critics. And then there was the whole fiasco where I didn’t like 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I’ve since re-watched and come to appreciate. When and if I watched Eyes Wide Shut, I wanted to do so with a clean conscience. I wanted to give it a fair chance. This weekend gave me the chance, with a little goading from a weekly challenge at Southern Vision. As it turns out, I liked it a lot. Tom Cruise’s character arc from arrogant doctor to weeping mushball was incredible. Kubrick tipped his cap in many ways to Jean-Luc Godard. Like Godard, he uses vibrant colors heavily to dictate tone- blues for coldness, red for passion and raw sexuality, and always bright yellow lights washing out scene after scene. There’s one scene in particular that surely drew inspiration from Godard’s A Woman is a Woman, with an absurdly long, claustrophobic scene set in a single room possessing nothing other than a set of lovers ruthlessly bickering with one another. There’s a ritual scene in the middle of the film that I can’t even begin to describe. It’s one of the most jaw-dropping, amazing sequences I’ve seen put to celluloid. Other than Cruise being Cruise (which I consider to be a bad thing) and some expositional stuff at the end that bugged me, I kind of sort of really loved Eyes Wide Shut. Here’s the very NSFW ritual scene:


Staunton Hill (2009), 2 stars

The description on my OnDemand mentioned something about hippies, 1969, and evil farmers. I’m a sucker for hippie portrayals in film. As it turns out, other than one ultra-liberal animal rights/Black Panther character, I was completely duped on the hippie front. Most of the “hippies” were dressed like young’uns are today. It wasn’t completely horrible, but it’s not saying much when that’s the nicest thing you can say about the movie. The director was Cameron Romero, son of George Romero, and there were some fun, loving nods to his father- overt references to Night of the Living Dead. B.J. Hendricks did a fine job as Buddy the Murderous Oaf. So Staunton Hill has that going for it, which is nice.    


Filed under Foreign Film, French Film, Movies

12 responses to “Diary of a Movie Weekend

  1. Ahhh Man Bites Dog. That takes me back to my teens, or maybe my early twenties.

    I remember vividly watching it when at a friends house and being a little worse for wear on the old special herb (I was a naughty boy back then) and forgetting that it was a mockumentary type film and absolutely shocked by the film…thinking it was like a real ‘snuff’ type movie…LOL oh the paranoid youth!!

    Love the scene with the old lady…makes me laugh now just thinking of it!!

    Thanks for bringing back an old memory John


    • That’s hilarious. I can only imagine what it’d be like to see all of those bodies getting tossed into the quarry, thinking it was real.

  2. I envy this weekend, considering I was forced to watch Bad Teacher, Sex and the City, and very coincidentally, Bridget Jones’s Diary, three films which my otherwise very smart girlfriend consider to be ‘not half bad.’

    Man Bites Dog and Cache are two all time favorites (particularly the latter, which has a presence on my Top 25 movies of all time, and my Top 5 French films, but don’t worry, I had to watch it three times before it really sunk in and I gave it a perfect 10.)

    Glad you enjoyed EWS, the first time I saw it was at 1am in the morning, and even then I loved it to bits. That creepy piano music made it impossible to fall asleep in the second half.

    So yeah, you had a great weekend, obviously, and I’m gonna try and make my next weekend as fortunate as this.

    • I’m not sure I could do those three. Or one of those three.

      I’m about 36 hours away from the end of Eyes Wide Shut and I’m still digesting it. There’s so much “fun” in that movie. The more I think about it, Kubrick really took a big fat swing at upper-class New York.

  3. That’s a lot of movies and not just the fun and fluffy kind! 🙂 Cache was very good, indeed an unsettling movie that raises more questions than it answers. Classic Haneke.

    • I knew I’d be going on a big French run soon back in late May/early June, so I tried to cram as much goofy/bad/horror fluff into the last few weeks as I could. But as you can see from Caché and Man Bites Dog, the French run began this weekend. I imagine it’ll carry on until August or so.

      The questions at the end of Caché- or question, really- makes me wonder how drastically different the film would’ve been if we had found out who it was (assuming it wasn’t the Algerian’s son). A tiny part of me thinks we’re better off not knowing.

  4. Personally, Keitel’s wang earns an extra star in my rating book! I’ll have to watch The Piano again — I haven’t seen it since I was like 18 (in my early formulative wang-craving years), but it left quite a mark!

    Thanks for the inspiration…


    • “early formative wang-craving years” is hilarious. It’s what I’m going to start calling the female college experience from here on out.

  5. rtm

    You saw ALL of these in ONE weekend?? WOW!

    I’ve only seen The Piano from your list and I tell you right now, some people aren’t meant to be seen naked in public (let alone on camera for the entire world to see!) and Harvey Keitel is one of them!

    • It was a goooood weekend.

      When I saw Keitel starting to get naked in that movie, my reaction was “Dammit, not this again!”

      Hopefully I can make it through the rest of the year without seeing Harvey Keitel naked again.

  6. Vladdy

    Better avoid Scorcese’s “Who’s That Knocking at My Door” (on my door?). More Harvey wang.

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