Episode 110: Rescreening Short Cuts

“People have asked me throughout the years which directors have influenced me. I don’t know their names, because I was mostly influenced when I’d see a film and think, “Man, I want to be sure to never do anything like that.” So I never learned their names. It wasn’t a matter of copying or emulating somebody I admired. It was getting rid of a lot of stuff.”

Robert Altman

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This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor Rescreen Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and provide a First Impression of the next Rescreening episode title, Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat.

Short Cuts Trailer

Streaming links for titles this episode

Short Cuts is available to purchase physically but is not currently digitally available
The Big Heat is available to rent and purchase from select digital storefronts

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Tribeca 2021 Film Festival Review: Poser

Written by Taylor Baker

73/100

“I usually will record digital, then I rerecord analog because analog just sounds better.”

Sylvie Mix stars as Lennon Gates, and before the title sequence winds down there’s little doubt that she’s the professed Poser that the film’s title indicates. But how far does it go? What follows is a weaving observational film at times bordering on a critique of the music and art community in Columbus, Ohio. All the while Lennon is in the background observing, recording, and chewing her lip to create episodes for her Podcast, a motif that certainly hit home with this particular viewer. When does the operation of collecting become artistic theft, and when does mimicry do the same? These are big questions you can put in the heart of Poser though it’s unclear if the film’s screenwriter Noah Dixon(who also co-direct’s alongside Ori Segev) intended for them to be there all along, or if he found something perennial in his screenplay by accident.

Lennon convinces Bobbi Kitten to do an interview for her Podcast around a third of the way into the hour and twenty seven minute film. Bobbi Kitten is part of a musical duo that is at the top underground music scene, and as the film continues Lennon becomes infatuated and obsessed with her. Looking to see and feel the world how she does. Wanting to know what it’s like to be her. Someone so cool, so creative, so original. These ideas come alive in an art gallery where Bobbi asks Lennon to focus on her and do everything she does. The idea being that at some point, the one who is copying begins to inform the choices of the originator. It’s a chewy idea, and one that hasn’t left my mind days after viewing.

The films editor Donavan Myles Edwards works crisply alongside composers Adam Robl and Shawn Sutta who provide original music to the score. Their sounds constantly buttress a written or contextual accent further, crescendoing to particular sound queues and frequently lingering in wideshot images that evoke feeling. This allows the composition to sit in the background miring us deeper into various emotions. Not quite a drama or thriller Poser lies moodily somewhere in between. 

Poser is currently playing as part of the Tribeca 2021 Film Festival to purchase a ticket to it click here.

Tribeca 2021 Film Festival Capsule Review: Last Meal

Written by Alexander Reams

65/100

Throughout cinematic history food has been a metaphor for countless messages. Until viewing Last Meal I had never associated food with the death penalty. Directors Marcus McKenzie and Daniel Principe take a very serious and generally disheartening subject and make it accessible to audiences by using food as a medium to show those who reveled in the attention and coverage from the media. Even with this unique angle, the film simply doles out facts throughout it’s runtime. One meal in particular that stood out was that of Thomas J. Grasso. His final meal request was the iconic “Spaghetti O’s”, instead he got spaghetti. This stuck with him so much that his final words were that “”I did not get my Spaghetti O’s, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this”.  There are no interviews with convicts who are on death row, nor interviews with politicians making these decisions. I found it to be a powerful short film and well worth the time despite my gripes.

Last Meal Screener

Graceland is currently playing as part of the Tribeca 2021 Film Festival you can purchase a Shorts Pass to view it here.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Capsule Review: Down by Law

Written by Michael Clawson

90/100

Jack, Zack, and Bob: a layabout pimp who isn’t much of a talker, a downbeat DJ whose way with words is buttery smooth, and an Italian tourist with an ever-growing notebook of American idioms, an affection for American poetry, and a less than firm grip on English. A motley trio who land themselves in the Louisiana slammer, which they manage to escape from. This being a Jim Jarmusch movie, however, the prison break isn’t for the sake of thrills or suspense; Down by Law is a cool, languid, funny and fable-like hangout film, with Roberto Benigni’s Bob serving as its crucial ingredient, the spark that along with Robby Müller‘s pristine black-and-white cinematography and John Lurie’s evocative score brings the magic.

Bob might be the foreigner, but Zack and Jack are even more ineffective at meaningful communication. Rather than verbally hash out their beef with each other, they can’t help but get into physical tussles. “Do you say, in English, ‘I look-a at the window’, or do you say, ‘I look-a out the window?’” “Well, in this case, Bob, I’m afraid you gotta say ‘I look at the window.’” Language itself might be the film’s most wonderful motif.

Down by Law Trailer

Down by Law is currently streaming on Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Atlanta Film Festival 2021 Interview: Director Charlene Fisk Talks “Rideshare”

Interview by Anna Harrison

Summary: After a fun night out with friends, Gina grabs a rideshare. An uncomplicated lift home shifts gears when the driver’s intentions become questionable.

Rideshare played at the 2021 Atlanta Film Festival.

You can read Anna’s review of Rideshare here and see more of her work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Written by Alexander Reams

59/100

Some will always say that the third film in a trilogy is the weakest, sometimes that is true, and sometimes it isn’t. This is the unfortunate instance where that rule is true. In the past 10 years the horror genre has had a resurgence, a fall, and another resurgence. Starting in 2013, after an abysmal year for the genre, in walks James Wan with his newest horror project, The Conjuring. One of the most notable and recent entries in the “serious horror” genre, the film focused more on characters and their relationships with one another than the scares. Characters have always led to the best scares in horror films. This is a lesson that the Conjuring-verse films forgot about after the first film, but were reminded with the second. With one film in particular applying this, Annabelle Creation (2017). However, after the critical failures that were The Nun (2018), The Curse of La Llorona (2019), and Annabelle Comes Home (2019). The Conjuring was due for a resuscitation in quality, and to a degree that happens in this film. However this is also the first time in the trilogy that the film begins to care more about the scares than it’s characters. 

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson have been playing these characters for over 8 years now, and with that comes good and bad. What’s good and borderline great about their performances is that over the time of these films you can see their relationship grow, just like in a marriage. Their flow on screen together gets better and better with each film. With their relationship being the best aspect of this movie. According to the films, they met 30 years ago, and it’s been 10 years in this universe since our introduction to this couple, according to the dates given. Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona), clearly let these actors do whatever they felt was right and trusted them to keep with the tone and style of relationship as the previous films. I definitely view this as a positive mark on the film because the last film Chaves made had very poor acting and direction. This time it is only in the direction that he stumbles. Valuing jump scares and set pieces over character development caused it to blend into numerous other generic horror films that audiences have grown accustomed to rather than a distinctive piece unto itself. 

One of his few saving graces is the way he shoots this film with DP Michael Burgess. Particularly in the last half hour of the film, the wide shots are beautifully captured on the Arri Alexa and Alexa Mini with Panavision lenses. Scenes in the medical bay of the prison are beautifully lit to create very macabre images which in turn make this film visually stand out in a way that the previous films hadn’t. While this film does not live up to the original films in the trilogy and is disappointing in terms of quality, I am not surprised that it was what it was. The direction is not even close to the level of James Wan’s and strays too far from the path that was laid before it. Despite this, it still stands very tall over the other various unwanted and poorly made spinoffs that this universe birthed along the way.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Trailer

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is currently in Theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Episode 109: SIFF 2021: Sweat / Faya Dayi / The Earth is Blue as an Orange

“The world is blue as an orange
No error the words do not lie
They no longer allow you to sing
In the tower of kisses agreement
The madness the love
She her mouth of alliance
All the secrets all the smiles
Or what dress of indulgence
To believe in quite naked.
The wasps flourish greenly Dawn goes by round her neck
A necklace of windows
You are all the solar joys
All the sun of this earth
On the roads of your beauty.”

Paul Eluard’s Poem – The World Is Blue As An Orange

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

On Episode 109 of Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: Zola & Those Who Wish Me Dead and the SIFF 2021 Films: Sweat, Faya Dayi, and The Earth is Blue as an Orange.

Streaming links for titles this episode

Sweat, Faya Dayi, and The Earth is Blue as an Orange are currently seeking distribution and/or are not yet available.

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Atlanta Film Festival 2021 Review: Wet House

Written by Anna Harrison

75/100

75, really, is an arbitrary number, plucked from thin air to try and represent the thoughts swirling around my head, and in this case, it feels disingenuous. To give Wet House a numerical score is to strip it of all its compassion and makes me feel as if I am ranking the human lives that Wet House showcases, but there’s that little 75 in the corner anyway, though it’s practically meaningless.

Wet House follows the lives of several men in Milwaukee who live in wet houses, facilities where chronic alcoholics are given a room, a monthly stipend, and an observed place in which to drink. So you could call those who work in these wet houses professional enablers, but that would be an oversimplification: the wet houses exist to keep alcoholics off the streets and out of shelters, hospitals, etc., saving taxpayer money and attempting to provide the safest place possible for these men while not driving them away or overwhelming them by forcing sobriety. Some of the employees of these wet houses, such as a woman named Shearise, were alcoholics themselves or family members of alcoholics, and so understand the position these men are in.

Director Benjamin May employs a direct cinema style in Wet House: he lets the camera simply observe, never commenting himself but letting us decide. It creates a judgment-free film, one that refuses to condemn its subjects. And, indeed, it’s hard to condemn them: these men are tragic figures above all else, people with strong relationships, hopes, and dreams—Dan had an offer to play hockey at Harvard before an injury drove him to drink, Petie used to have his beading displayed at an art museum—but trapped by a disease they have lost control of. That’s another triumph of Wet House—it addresses alcoholism truly as a disease, not something that everyone can just buckle down and get rid of if they put in the work. May shows us men that we pity, but never lets us forget that they are men. 

Even disregarding its subjects, Wet House proves compelling on a technical level. May and directors of photography Daniel Levin and Giovanni Autran employ some absolutely gorgeous shots, often accompanied by a jazz score from Jeremy Ylvisaker and the band Fat Kid Wednesdays. Milwaukee becomes transformed into a winter wonderland, her citizens framed against a backdrop of snow.

It would be easy to cut a film that just shows these people at their lowest, taking cheap shots to generate a perverse kind of interest, but May avoids that (though he doesn’t shy away from showing the darker sides of his subjects’ lives), instead opting to show the everyday existence of these men, good and bad, thereby allowing his audience to connect with them more personally. Never once does he look down on any of the wet house residents, and so neither can his audience; we can’t “otherize” them in an attempt to disengage, and therein lies Wet House’s power: empathy.

Wet House played at the Atlanta Film Festival.

You can follow more of Anna’s work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.

Army of the Dead

Written by Alexander Reams

85/100

Army of the Dead is the latest film from Zack Snyder, and his second of 2021. The film follows Dave Bautista and a slew of others including Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick (who has not been getting enough credit for his performance here), Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sonada, Garret Dillahunt, and a standout who borderline steals the scene ever chance she is on screen, Tig Notaro. This ragtag group of mercenaries is hired by Sanada to steal $200 million dollars in Las Vegas, the only hiccup, the city is walled off due to a zombie virus infecting the city. 

Dave Bautista has been typecast ever since his breakout performance in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy as the buff tough guy who can also do comedy. In this film however he shows a much larger range. Snyder gives Bautista more room to work in, and leaves the comedy to other actors in the ensemble. The visual style of this film is similar to the previous style of Snyder’s previous films, but with him also being the Director of Photography along with Directing, he is in total control of the frame.

After the 8 year stint at Warner Bros and being screwed over constantly, Zack Snyder has been welcomed into the Netflix family with full creative control and support from the streaming giant. Giving Snyder full creative control might be the best decision made in this film. From the fantastic and mesmerizing opening scene and opening credits sequence, that has become a staple in Snyder’s visual style, that provide the viewer with as much laughs as shots that are nothing short of pieces of art. Snyder’s latest is the gory fun that we have come to expect from him and his return to the zombie genre is full of twists, great action scenes, and very colorful and memorable dialogue. 

Army of the Dead Trailer

Army of the Dead is currently in limited theatrical release and streaming worldwide on Netflix.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.