It rings false — Beach Rats is a catalog of desires, a kind of aesthetic carnival of lazy afternoons near the water, glistening skin, boardwalk trysts, neon clubs (which reminded me of Hittman’s excellent 2011 short Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight), desperate fumblings between bodies in secluded spaces, fireworks — but there’s an element of truth to it.
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Since its founding in 1984, the aptly-named Oddball Films has constituted one of the stranger spaces in the cinema world. An archive as interested in orphan home video, Italian psychedelic cartoons from the 60s, and instructional bumpers about hygiene intended for American classrooms as any neorealist classic or lost masterpiece, it was the brainchild of Stephen Parr, who passed away on October 24th.
Although their SNL shorts and music videos are generally cherished by comedy and/or cannabis enthusiasts, the Lonely Island boys haven’t had the best of luck on the big screen. Hot Rod raced through both theaters and the public consciousness, raking in all of $14M at the box office; a few years later, the Jorma Taccone-helmed MacGruber failed to recoup its budget, outpaced, as Matt Singer once pointed out, by Furry Vengeance, “starring Brendan Fraser as a real-estate developer at war with a raccoon.”
Poised somewhere between the fast-zombie viscera of 28 Days Later and the existential unease of Ex Machina, with a dose of Cronenbergian sympathy for the virus thrown in for good measure, The Girl With All The Gifts is micro-targeted to a very particular horror fanbase.
You don’t have to be a fan of improv — often referred to as “the Irritating Art”, by me — to enjoy Mike Birbiglia‘s ensemble dramedy. Don’t Think Twice is very much grounded in that world of audience prompts and miming, and very much enthralled with its performative nuances and history, but the film also tells a more basic story about belatedly growing up and growing apart.
Chess is not, shall we say, the most cinematic of games. But Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe gamely tries to resolve this dilemma with compelling characters, a quietly heroic, underdog narrative, and a whole lot of Ugandan sensibilities and imagery. It mostly works.
Twenty three years before Billy Idol crooned its title while disconcertingly staring at music video audiences, Eyes Without A Face was a horror masterpiece.
The Love Witch is a two-hour MASH-note to bygone genre films, with the blindingly bright color palette of a late 60s cheapie and the stilted dialog to go with it. For producer/director/writer/editor/set and production and costume designer/non-harp-playing harp-music composer Anna Biller, it’s clearly a labor of love: there’s a handmade quality to every aspect of The Love Witch‘s pulp-horror stylings, and a witty, feminist self-awareness.