Week Seven: So It Goes
The Last Blockbuster, dir. Taylor Morden (2020) ★★☆☆☆
Documentaries produced and distributed by streaming services always are hit or miss with me. The Last Blockbuster seemed like something I would enjoy going into it. I love physical media and I vividly remember visits to Blockbuster as a kid. I had amazing taste back then too; I begged for Disney's The Haunted Mansion every single time we went in.
While it set up a conflict early on revolving around the possible closure of the store, the title of the film left no room for suspense. Viewers aren't surprised when the other stores slowly close and the one in Bend, Oregon is the last one remaining. In addition to the failure to form conflict, it was repetitive. Every interview seemed the same and it struggled to find more relevant people. I hate when documentaries get celebrities just to raise the cast list. I understand getting someone famous to narrate it but I really don't need to hear from that one guy from that one movie.
Intruder, dir. Scott Spiegel (1989) ★★★☆☆
I have seen a lot of horror movies. It was one of my major gateways into loving movies and so when I go into one I usually know what to expect. This 80s gore fest wasn't original at all but I'll admit it is entertaining. With roles given to Sam and Ted Raimi as well as their good friend and b-movie icon Bruce Campbell, this flick provided that thrill all horror hounds are looking for.
You get your blood, you get your snarky jokes, and you get your handful of actual scares. The only thing this one was missing was nudity. I mean, there was some heavy make out but that was as far as it went. In good conscious I can't give it more than three stars due to its poor acting, character development, and disappointing ending, but I would highly recommended it as an overlooked cheesy flick.
Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time, dir. Robert B. Wide & Don Argott (2021) ★★★★★
I always struggled to get into reading as a kid; I had a few series I really got into and I sure collected a lot of paperbacks from garage sales but when it came to sitting down and reading I would always get distracted. This wasn't the case with Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. It was back in my Alice Cooper phase in High School and when I learned that this novel was his favorite, I knew I had to read it.
That book changed how I view reading and humor in general. A lot of my comedic timing and writing style is practically stolen from him. I'm not afraid to admit that. While I'm not able to make doodles between each paragraph like that piece of his, I always carry the idea of his work in my head.
This documentary covered everything I would want to know about him with a through line of friendship. The conflict arose really from the viewers knowledge that Vonnegut has passed away. The director approached him in the mid-80s and the documentary was released in 2021. Vonnegut died in 2007. We all knew the beautiful friendship would come to an end but in the meantime we enjoy the trip. And what an oh so gorgeous trip it was.
The Baron of Arizona, dir. Samuel Fuller (1950) ★★☆☆☆
I honestly have nothing to say about this movie. It wasn't special or noteworthy and its inclusion on the Criterion Channel seems more like an attempt to preserve media than it is to promote quality films. That being said Vincent Price is in it. It's not his only time going against his horror type-casting that would plague him in his later years but it's not a stand out time.
Down by Law, dir. Jim Jarmusch (1986) ★★★☆☆
This prison escape movie is somewhere between A Man Escaped and Riot In Cell Block 11 but of course in the distant style of Jim Jarmusch. Famous for pioneering the "indie" genre and using black and white to achieve a more naturalistic environment, Jarmusch excels at his craft.
Like most of his films, though, they struggle with pacing. In my eyes, the beginnings are usually dull and by the end I have lost interest. The middle is where things are at their peak, both in terms of style and entertainment. Interesting, humourous, and visually striking, Down By Law leaves an impression on viewers but will slowly fade into the background as time goes on.
Car Wash, dir. Michael Schultz (1976) ★★★★★
While the Kurt Vonnegut documentary left me with feelings of adoration and motivation to read again, this five star flick left me with quotable lines and aching cheeks from smiling so much. Revolving around workers at a car wash, this film is successful at making us care about so many characters in such a small time frame.
Antonio Fargas, who is not only one of my favorite actors in the blaxploitation era of film but in general too, plays a trans woman. While I would usually criticize casting a cisgender actor in a transgender role, I can recognize the limits of the time period. Fargas doesn't play it for laughs and doesn't over exaggerate; he doesn't even put on a high pitched voice. For the era and genre, the inclusion of a trans character at all is a major plus for me.
The Woman In Question, dir. Anthony Asquith (1950) ★★★★☆
Released in the same year as Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, this film follows a similar structure. When a woman is murdered all the suspects are brought in to tell their stories, except each one is slightly different or brings a new angle to the narrative. It's another one that I watched mostly for Dirk Bogarde (my third one this year) but the storytelling method kept me hooked and for a mystery from the 50s I was surprised that I couldn't guess the ending.