Midsommar

In this unapologetic horror film rip-off of classics like The Wicker Man, Jack Reynor and Florence Pugh play American college students Christian and Dani, a boyfriend+girlfriend combo that doesn’t really work anymore. Dani is having “family problems”, but Christian doesn’t want any part of that (or of her). Christian is a slacker–He’s too lazy to break-up with the “overly-needy” Dani, and too lazy to come up with a doctoral thesis of his own. Christian is a procrastinator of the worst sort. Don’t be like Christian.

Amid their relationship of discontent, a fellow classmate invites the couple and a few friends to visit Sweden for summer solstice, to take part in his commune’s drug-ladened, pagan celebrations and meet the extended family. Fiction doesn’t have to always be believable, but Midsommar stretches that license to unbelievable extremes?

Some related horror to watch if you liked Midsommar:

Motel Hell — for planting humans in a vegetable garden with the hope they’ll grow (or at least fertilize the other plants).
The Cabin in the Woods — for sacrificing a group of young men and women to appease the gods, ignoring for a moment that they all brought cell phones which will lead Swedish police straight to your unholy garden.
The Hotel New Hampshire — for thinking a person in a bear suit is ever the least bit entertaining.

Venue: SIFF Uptown
Country: USA
Language: English
Genres: Drama, Horror

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The Captain

Assume for a moment that none of this story is true. That it’s the product of over-active imagination and a team of Hollywood screenwriters run amok. Given that, why is there so much desertion from the German military, and so much talk about looting? Neither concept breathes any sympathy into the story’s already-unsympathetic characters. A man, in attempt to evade his aggressors, masquerades in plain site as the type of monster from which he’s running. After a while, I started rooting against The Captain and wishing he’d surrender before raining any more carnage down upon those around him. The captain never stops fighting for his survival though.

In April 1945, a corporal in the German army named Willi Herold became separated from his unit. Shortly thereafter, he hooked up with a bunch of other deserters. Together they occupied an Emsland camp and began ordering the execution of its prisoners. 18 months later, after Herold’s capture by the British, he was guillotined for his war crimes.

In Willi Herold’s case, there’s no screenplay with notes in the margin to explain why he did what he did. According to a PBS story from a few years back, army deserters rarely face prosecution. My feeling is that such cases are often handled by the internal command structure of a post, making it hard to see any commonalities of cause from the outside. A more recent case involving Bowe Bergdahl resulted in no prison time and has been, in contrast, heavily reported on–The verdict still being contested at this time.

And then there’s this guy: https://www.navytimes.com/opinion/medals-misfires/2017/08/07/misfire-how-much-trouble-can-one-sailor-cause/

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2018
Country: Germany, France, Poland
Language: German
Genres: insane biopic

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Afterlife

This is a story of death and suicide, but told in less brutal and consequential ways. Less consequential because Sam is well fed, sheltered, schooled and merely inherits the chore of caring for her two little brothers and aging father after the death of her mum–who climbed a ladder wearing high heels to take down the Christmas lights, clearly suicide.

The film is less brutal than those stories written solely for adult audiences. Many years after her mother’s death, Sam is run over by a truck. The gentle demeanor of the angel who greets her in “purgatory” and guides her through the process of choosing whether to be reincarnated or pass on to the afterlife reminded me of The Good Humor man from my childhood. Not really, I never had a childhood. Maybe he seemed more like the milkman? or Maytag Repair man.

And then there’s the number 400. Sam survives for 400 days after her mother dies before she’s run over. 400 seems to be a recurrent number in film, or is it just a coincidence. ‘The 400 Blows’ by Fran├žois Truffaut, the ‘4o0 Days of Summer’ starring Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn. 400 Days which is currently hovering at 4.4 on IMDB.

This film introduces a new number, 836. That was my takeaway number as the count of lifetimes before you need an afterlife.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2019
Country: Netherlands
Language: Dutch
Genres: Drama, Comedy

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The Favourite

As Rachel hucks books at Emma from atop a ladder, one senses the kindred relationship of these two cousins to be sub-optimal. Rachel is consort to the queen. She is married to the war du jour’s supreme commander, but I can’t tell whether she’s a lesbian, and she speaks her mind a little too clearly (-1 for Rachel).

Emma is a monster risen from the cesspool of brothels and tainted by a murderous father’s reputation (-2 for Emma). I can’t say enough good things about The Favourite’s characters and acting.

The film also boasts 17 bunnies, or so we’re told by the queen.

Venue: SIFF Egyptian
Country: Ireland, UK, USA
Language: English
Genres: Drama, Comedy

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an article about the buns

Mountain

When I heard that someone was making a movie about mountains and that Willem Dafoe was narrating it, I was aroused. Dafoe’s voice has the same effect on me as that of Christopher Walken’s. Both expouse a fluctuous, accentuated, almost stumbling stream of words that either enchant or encite. Dafoe has a softer, laid-back cowboyesque flavor, whereas Walken is that New Yorker dropping acid on NJ transit during rush hour.

Mountain is much more than a voice-over though. We were once afraid of mountains, that is what the film teaches us. We were also curious about, then obsessed with, and sometimes indifferent to them. I don’t see a lot of Warren Miller pictures, so I’m unclear how spectacular the photography should look, but the footage of this film seemed pieced together from differing stock and quality? That’s my first impression, just forget musical score–Maybe we saw it in one of the small theaters at SIFF, maybe the volume was down, we didn’t sit in the perfect seat, we didn’t know to care more about the music than Dafoe’s voice or the GoPro footage at the time. The soundtrack is available on Spotify.

I was not in awe of the mountain’s majesty or its photogenicity. The social interaction between man and mountain, and man and man and mountain is what seemed most interesting about this production. What was first an insurmountable obstacle later became an adventurist’s playground and engrained in our socioeconomic makeup. Photography, painting, travel, railroads, highways, snowshoeing, hiking, rock climbing, skiing, fishing, logging, fresh water supply, hydroelectric power, and wildlife habitats are just what immediately come to mind.

At 70 minutes running time, it’s worth a look. If mountains are in general what you seek, there are festivals dedicated exclusively to the subject. You might find more of what you’re looking for by reviewing some of their submissions:

www.mountainfilm.org/festival/films
www.banffcentre.ca/banff-mountain-film-competition-2017

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2018
Country: Australia
Language: English
Genres: Documentary

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