The films reviewed in Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo are pulled from a list of films that was started when the column started. The list covers everything I’ve seen for the first time between 2012 and the present.
The summer movie season is moving along, and all I can think about is Twin Peaks.
We’re closing in on the end of the long-awaited third season, or at least what will have to do for an ending. At this point, most TV shows, even a “limited event” series, would have given you a working idea of how things are going to end. With the current Showtime run of Twin Peaks, we have less of an idea, and more of a grave suspicion that our expectations on every level are going to be reduced to ashes. David Lynch and Mark Frost are not fucking around.
The new season has been hailed by many as one of the most extraordinary events in television history. This is not only in reference to the long, strange journey of the show from its season 2 cancellation in the early 90s to the present, but to the response to the new season, as well. The ratings don’t really reflect how potentially significant the new season of Twin Peaks might be to storytelling in film and television. Oh well. Most of Lynch’s work has never really found a rapport with the majority of the room over the years. I’ve never believed liking his films and television work makes you somehow smarter than someone who finds it pretentious, needlessly long, and pointlessly weird. However, I do think that if you’re enjoying the new season of Twin Peaks, your definition of entertainment is pretty eccentric as a whole.
So what kind of entertainment is Twin Peaks? Specifically, I’m talking about the new season. Are we watching a (mostly) week-to-week countdown to some kind of grand, permanent apocalypse? Is this the third season, or an eighteen-hour follow-up to the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me? Both Lynch and Frost are content to let us delve into the story one part at a time. However, this season/event/film will eventually end. When that happens, I suspect I’m going to do something really stupid, and kind of a little sad. Part of me wants to try to run the entire eighteen-hour beast as a single marathon event. I’m a writer, so it’s not like I don’t have time.
But we’ll see. I do want to experience a long run of these episodes back-to-back at some point. If I wind up feeling as though I really am watching an eighteen-hour film in eighteen chapters, I may have to consider the best film of 2017. So far, nothing in film or television in 2017 has thrilled me quite as much as Lynch and Frost have.
But again, we’ll see. 2017 has actually been a good year for film overall. At least a couple of movies are close to what I’ve felt with Twin Peaks. There are several films in 2017 still to come out that could match what I’ve experienced with what could be the final word on the town of Twin Peaks, its citizens, and the universes of light and darkness swirling around them.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): B-
Spider-Man: Homecoming plays it pretty safe, and that’s fine. The film just wants to be taken as a bright, winning, and splashy intro for Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It succeeds, fitting nicely into the current crop of MCU films.
At the same time, the movie doesn’t overstep itself. Despite the need to compete with the other summer blockbusters, Homecoming is ultimately a modest Spider-Man story. A story that is highlighted by a great cast that contributes much to Spider-Man’s new cinematic home, but without taking us away from the fact that yes, this is a Spider-Man story. It’s a good one, with Tom Holland proving that he is more than capable of playing this character. It helps that for the first time in the history of live-action Spider-Man films, they actually went with someone close to the age of a high school kid. Holland’s youthful, boundless energy gives the new Spider-Man a playful, exuberant personality that was lacking in other, respectable Spider-man performances.
No disrespect to Tobey Maguire, or Andrew Garfield, both of whom did well playing one of Marvel’s most iconic characters, but Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is the first Spider-Man who actually, truly struck me as, well, Spider-Man. Holland’s charisma and acting are not quite on par with castmates like Robert Downey Jr., (his scenes with Holland are naturally some of the most sublime in the movie), Michael Keaton (who offers a chilling, powerful presence as The Vulture), and Marisa Tomei (who tends to make thankless roles like this one better than they have any right to be). Nonetheless, these qualities are impressive with Holland thus far, and they’re only going to get better.
Society (1989): B-
The prevailing tone of Brian Yunza’s 1989 horror cult classic Society is cheerful, dangerous, and completely fucking mad. This makes Society disturbing for more than the brutally shocking practical effects and kill scenes that fill this story of a young man named Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock), who begins to suspect something suspicious, beyond human of his wealthy friends and family. Yunza takes a story by Woody Keith and Rick Fry, and moves forward with the assumption that we will follow along the mystery that compels Whitney deeper into the otherworldly activities of those in high society.
Most people (including myself) will follow along with the mystery. We ultimately want to know where Yunza is going with Bill’s fruitless, frustrating investigation, stonewalled at every turn by his confusion, and by his bonkers “family.” We hope Yunza won’t disappoint us. With the movie’s unforgettable, disgusting climax at a society party, we get a payoff that leaves us thinking that while the rich aren’t actually physically eating the working class, they may as well be. Society isn’t an overtly political film, but the parallels between its satirical horror comedy roots and the real world aren’t exactly non-existent either.
Burden of Dreams (1982): A+
In the specific context of capturing and preserving the actual filmmaking process, and not simply creating and preserving films, Burden of Dreams is invaluable. The film from Les Blank documents the extraordinary misfortune that plagued Werner Herzog’s production of Fitzcarraldo, which in of itself is still regarded today as a masterpiece. Some would even call it the best of the troubled collaborations between Herzog and Fitzcarraldo star Klaus Kinski. Among other things, Fitzcarraldo is remembered for depicting a rubber baron’s efforts to get his steamship over a mountain/waterfall piece-by-piece by actually goddamn doing that. Filmed in jungles throughout South America, the movie ran afoul of every imaginable production nightmare. Klaus Kinski was even more of a lunatic asshole than usual, getting into altercations with cast and crew that you can see in another documentary called My Best Friend. Fitzcarraldo also ran into problems with casting. Jason Robards was originally set to star, but left early on due to dysentery. When Herzog recast with Kinski, he had shot approximately forty percent of Robards’ scenes. Working with Kinski, which quickly became something akin to a psychological battle of wills, Herzog was forced to start over.
Then there was the matter of getting the boat over the mountain and the waterfall. The inspiration for the story had done it with a 30-ton piece of equipment. Herzog’s boat was around 300 tons.
The hellish production goes on like that, and in other ways. Documentarian Les Blank himself believes he barely made it out of the documentary shooting schedule in one piece. You can feel the pervasive energy of the film’s production in every moment of Blank’s film. You can feel his burnout. You can’t even begin to imagine how anyone involved with Fitzcarraldo got out of that thing alive. You don’t have to watch that film to appreciate Burden of Dreams. This documentary about film and filmmaking stands on its own. However, it should go without saying that you’ll have a much more interesting time, if you’re willing to go through both of these movies in a single sitting.
Hiroshima mon amour (1959): B+
I have a weakness for movies that spend eons on subjects other films cover in a few minutes. Hiroshima mon amour from Alain Resnais spends its entire length on the impending death of a brief, frenzied affair. Marguerite Duras could create fascinating portrayals of figures, giving us people who were not defined by a small handful of broad traits. Rather, she often depicted their boundless potential and perspectives by expanding and expanding on the minute. Her natural dialog and characterizations give us a firm footing in a film that is often depicted with non-linear, often abstract visuals. We are so intensely drawn in by the conversation, we feel secure enough to accept these visuals as they come to us. We can pay attention to them in relation to the frank dialog between a French woman (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese man (Eiji Okada) without too much trouble. In being able to do so, we appreciate the relationship between the words and images in a way that most films do not allow us.
Hiroshima mon amour is pretty much just as interesting and bold as it was during its 1959 release. Where it truly counts, the film hasn’t really aged.
Dunkirk (2017): B+
Regardless of how you see it (the film is being made available in IMAX, 70mm, and 35mm formats), Dunkirk is worth seeing. I’m honestly a little surprised by that, although not so much in terms of performances.
To be honest, I’ve been more than a little tired of war movies for at least a few years now. Still, I watch the major releases, and I’m often horrified and impressed by how spectacular and brutal we can now make war look. More often than not, if you want to see what film technology is truly capable of at a specific moment in time, the big budget war movie for that period can tell you quite a bit. Christopher Nolan is releasing Dunkirk at a point in which I really don’t think there’s a lot left you can do with war movies. To say nothing of movies set during the Second World War.
And I was closer to being wrong about all of this than I ever would have guessed. Despite the rising pretension and overindulgence of his films, Nolan is still a writer and director who at least seems to exist in a reality in which his films are not made exclusively for his entertainment. Dunkirk is another of his epics, but it goes about that grandeur in a style that can best be described as wholly unlike Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, or Interstellar. With Dunkirk, Nolan makes it clear to even his most intense detractors that he is not settling into a familiar groove. He seems to be as focused as ever on creating films that are, if nothing else, willing to prove that large-budget movies like these can challenge and captivate audiences in new ways. His arrogance is still pretty distinctive, and it is impossible to ignore in this unbelievable, full-scale depiction of the Battle of Dunkirk. However, his audacity is still being chased by a desire to also remain creative. Dunkirk can be described as Oscar bait, and I honestly hope it doesn’t win a goddamn thing. Let the movie stand without awards, or anything similar in that arena. Let it also be one of the last films we make about the inescapable arena of war for a little while.
Dunkirk doesn’t make war look glamorous, but it does make us appreciate the amazing respective timings of the seemingly countless elements that move about this story. It also makes us feel very small, at times helpless to do anything but simply react to the coming, mountainous tide.