The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)


The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

Written and directed by Dario Argento
(number 280)

Content warning for watching the movie: discussed violence to cats at a late point in the movie, plus seeing cats in cages 😦

Cool premise for a horror movie – after witnessing an attempted murder during a spate of serial killings, a writer is then stalked by the killer. I’m glad this isn’t as intense all round as Suspirira, it actually reminded me a lot more of an American horror movie from the 70s, which is a lot easier to watch.

Having said that, I don’t super love the movie about the killer who only targets thin, young, pretty women and we get to see the murders take place. One of them in a bedroom, with the woman’s nightclothes being tenderly removed at the tip of a knife. It’s gross – I don’t want serial killers sexualised like this.

The soundtrack is still awesome, very atmospheric and strange. I suspect Sofia Coppola takes inspiration from Argento when she thinks of soundscapes. I also like the attention given to art all through the film, the significance of it at various times and the impact that art has on the storyline. It’s interesting stuff.

I like that the inspector ensures that Ursula is put with the transvestites and not the perverts. I’m sure it’s just a joke, but I’m pleased that’s addressed.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, I really like Sam. I mean, I’m always on side with a writer, but also he’s an interesting character – he knows that his continuing to pursue the truth is putting him and then his girlfriend in danger but he really wants to know the truth. It’s relatable. Then Julia is cool too, despite her looking almost identical to the first victim and confusing me for five minutes, as a character she’s interesting because she’s smart, she puts clues together, she supports Sam and she’s generally unafraid of what it all means.

Bechdel test: There are lots of women, but they generally appear only talking to men. I guess, given it’s a movie about men killing women from 1970 it wasn’t likely to pass.

Best line:

Inspector Morosini: Bring in the perverts!

Sam: When will I hear from you?
Faiena: never!… well, maybe tomorrow morning.

State of Mind: It’s a good, entertaining movie and interesting. If you can get passed the repeated killings of pretty girls it’s enjoyable. So yeah, enjoyable but I don’t know about watching it again. Just so grateful it wasn’t Suspiria again. The mystery was pretty good and although maybe a little predictable, it has some good twists in it.

Watched movie count

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Mad Max 2: the road warrior (1981)

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Directed by George Miller
Written by Brian Hannant, George Miller and Terry Hayes
(number 288)

Content warning for the dog dying, which is a pity because it’s a really really pretty dog. Also rape, torture and human slavery so… that’s fun.

I didn’t love Mad Max, so I wasn’t much looking forward to watching this one.

On the one hand, the gay people in this are generally shown to be the nutso bad dudes. On the other hand it’s nice that nutso bad dude at the start has a pretty slave boy that he rides around with. I mean. Representation right? It’s this balance I keep seeing all through this list – there might be gay people but they’re probably bad guys. What a fun trope to keep coming up against.

Okay the twist where he hasn’t had any ammo for his gun through half the movie is pretty great. I rated that little reveal.

The on road battles were predictably impressive. Especially knowing that it’s all actual vehicles and stunts, not CGI. I guess this is why people loved Fury Road so much, I can see a lot of echoes of this movie in that one. Just… many fewer women in this one, but the same weird dictator controlling a bunch of people in leather, Max being the reluctant hero saving some more or less decent people and restoring a little bit of humanity to the world. I didn’t much rate Fury Road, but maybe I’ll watch it again after this and see if I appreciate it more.

Does it make me love the people? I mean. Yeah you like Max but only because he’s sort of all right, not because he’s a good person. Only because everyone else is just so much worse. The bad guys are masked, punk, using the strapping people to the front of the car decoration theme. The good guys wear mostly white so that’s easy to tell them apart.

I like feral kid. Feral kid’s got some good stuff going on. Even Gyro Pilot kind of grew on me but those awful teeth were painful to look at every time. (They fixed his teeth up for the big grin he shares with Max.)

Bechdel test: no, no named women, barely any named men. It is very much a sausage fest of a movie though, there’s a couple of a women who are shown to be lovers, or mourning widows or victims. Almost all the speaking parts, the plot points, the exposition is handled by men.

Best line:

Gyro pilot: a man lives by his word I reckon, and I’ve kept mine.

Humungous: I understand your pain my dog of war, we’ve all lost someone we love…

State of Mind: Overall this movie is pretty entertaining. It’s much much more engaging than the first one, and although there are some awful moments of violence overall it looks like the actors were having fun, that the storyline was interesting and easy enough to follow and the script was more clever. Big improvement on the first one, may even watch this again at some point, maybe!

Watched movie count

Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

Rocco and His Brothers
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Written by Luchino Visconti, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Massimo Franciosa and Enrico Medioli
(number 298)

Content warning for this movie: rape, victim forced into relationship with rapist, murder.

A three hour film about poor people in Milan and a girl who comes between some brothers. It’s well put together, stunning framing, great locations and well acted.

I suspect I lose a lot of context by not being familiar at all with Italy and the geography and of what that means. Beside Rosario’s family all being from the country and feeling out of place in the city I feel I’m missing some class intricacies which I can only guess at. It’s a pity I didn’t enjoy it enough to pay full attention and really absorb it, but my neck and shoulders are sore from the physio and I just want the movie over with.

It reminds me very much of the similar era French films I’ve watched – perhaps because of the stunning good looks and styling of the atcors, perhaps just because it plays as a sort of slice of life drama about pretty ordinary people.

Does it make me love the people? I.. Like yeah, Rocco and Nadia but also… Rocco is so weak and self sacrificing and it’s off putting. He’s cute as a button though which does help. I don’t know. This movie is one of those ‘everyone’s an asshole’ kind of situations.

Nadia is a pretty classic woman character trope. The sex worker who they all know is a sex worker but go ahead and fall in love with her anyway and then use her status as a sex worker as a weapon against her. She is largely a reactive character, living in this world where the men can do whatever to her and she’s basically powerless. Not fun.

Simone can go die in a hole, what a total jerky jerk of a rapey character.

Bechdel test: Yes, early on Rosario and Ginetta argue over where Rosario can or cannot stay. (Not in Ginetta’s apartment)

Best line:

Rocco: I’d like to join you, but I’ve just sent all my money to my brother.

(Okay that wasn’t strong. Script wise it wasn’t exactly full of zingers.)

State of Mind: I didn’t enjoy this one. I don’t like the treatment of Nadia or most of the women, I didn’t like most of the brothers, the storyline was long and meandering. Overall just didn’t grab me. It’s pretty but I didn’t much enjoy it and the violence against Nadia is unpleasant. Not one I’ll watch again.

Watched movie count

American Graffiti (1973)

American Graffiti
Directed by George Lucas
Written by Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz and George Lucas
(number 271)

This is kinda, the essential movie idolising sixties teens in America right? I looked up how this movie happened and if it led directly into the TV series Happy Days. Francis Ford Coppola challenged George Lucas to write something that’d appeal to mainstream movie audiences while they were filming THX1138. Lucas wrote this movie as a kind of autobiography/recording of how he’d spent his teenage years: cruising in cars to meet girls.

As expected the soundtrack is packed with hits of the fifties and sixties, lots of good stuff.

Unfortunately I’m watching it looking for the queer characters… bad idea. I started shipping just about everyone in couples that were never gonna happy. I was so sure Curt would be gay. He was so into that one teacher, and then he gets the nice man to man chat with the radio DJ.

Tiny baby Harrison Ford! Playing a total jerky idiot but it’s Harrison so that’s something.

Does it make me love the people? I dunno, sorta. I think my favourite characters are Carol and John which is weird because I’m pretty certain that he’s too old and cool for her, and she’s definitely too young to be cruising with him all night. But that said they have a really good vibe between them. Sorta reminds me of that episode in third season Veronica Mars where Logan has to babysit a young teenage girl and they end up getting on. At least there was no danger of romance between those two though.

Bechdel test: Laurie and Peg talk about how Laurie only wants to date Steve… and .. basically no, all women only spoke to men.

Best line:

Steve: why don’t you go kiss a duck?

You got the bitchinest car in the valley! You’ll always be number one, you’re the greatest!

State of Mind: Ultimately this is an early version of Dazed and Confused, but less… grimy. Less nastiness all round, although there is still nastiness. But it’s the same kind of American teenagers on the cusp, messing around and staying up all night, chasing people, making trouble and talking. I… am unsure if this is my kind of movie. I find it pretty dull all round. I guess the drag race was pretty interesting, bit rough on baby Harrison’s car.

Overall it’s a bit chunk of nostaligia for an era well and truly gone. It has almost nothing to do with me except I guess this movie had an impact on teen culture and on movies that came after it. I don’t particularly care, tbh. Also what the crap is with the bleak in the end credits with two of the main dudes dying? Bleeeeeaaaak.

Watched movie count

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Maltese Falcon
Directed by John Huston
Written by John Huston based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
(number 281)

A good classic, fast talking Noir starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. I know I’ve seen a couple of Bogarts but I hadn’t already seen this one. It was unfamiliar to me.

The story is a pretty good twisty mystery and generally, yeah I think this is a great example of the genre. It did get a little boring halfway through, but that might just be because I was watching it in the weekend while it was sunny and I sort of wanted to be getting chores and things done. Bogart is great in this, I feel silly even typing that. Of course he was! Mary Astor is the classic femme fatale, sort of into him and sort of not, but ultimately more trouble that she’s worth.

My favourite sequence is probably Cairo vs Spade in Spade’s office, with the gun and Spade disarming Cairo and being generally a cool guy in the manner of Spike from Cowboy Bebop.

It’s a pity about all the casual queer insults Sam’s happy to use. At least Cairo is allowed to still be shown as a homosexual character through obvious coding, although he is pretty much a villain so that’s not exactly great news.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, I love Sam and Effie, I’m not as sure about Brigid because yeah, was never sure when she was lying or what. The cops were great, and I totally got where they were coming from.

This is the kind of classic which sets a lot of tropes. Watching it I was reminded of so many other, later media. Notably Brick, which follows a similar sort of macguffin based plot, but also shows like Veronica Mars, or event the Beyond Belief episodes of Thrilling Adventure Hour which mention Pterodactyl Jones.

Bechdel test: Effie and Brigid talk off screen several times, but that obviously doesn’t count. There was also Miles’ widow but she only talked to Sam. I’m sure there were even scenes with Effie and Brigid together but only talking through the males present, so no. If they’d just brought one of the scenes with Effie and Brigid onto the screen instead of having Effie relate it to Sam… sigh. Effie’s an outstanding ‘Girl Friday’ type, loved her to bits.

Best line:

Sam: when you’re slapped you’ll take it and like it!

State of Mind: A good mystery and plenty entertaining. I’m not sure if I’m energised to watch it again, particularly. I can see why it’s a classic, and I recommend people watching it, but I guess it wasn’t a huge amount of surprise.

Watched movie count

Scarface (1983)

Scarface
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by Oliver Stone
(number 292)

Here I go with another crime/gangster movie, with another almost three hour movie, with another critically acclaimed movie about people being assholes and I’m meant to care about it somehow? Oliver Stone, Brian de Palma, it all feels like the usual suspects of stuff I’ve already watched. Just set in a slightly different town and with people pulling different accents as they swagger and talk tough.

I didn’t know the Mariel boatlift was a thing, so reading up about that on wikipedia was pretty cool. And that this movie was made just a couple of years after it happened. Does this film count as immigrant fear mongering? Because it does seem to focus on how Cubans are all criminals.

So, okay. This movie is a little more brutal than other gangster/crime movies I’ve watched maybe. The sequence with the chainsaw in the bathroom is just nightmare fuel. I guess it’s a kind of making Tony look better thing – he’s not as nasty as the people with the chainsaw, he’s not the one carving people up. You feel like him chasing the guy down and shooting him was justified rather than just y’know, brutal. So yeah. I guess although the sequence was deeply unpleasant it was a way to frame Tony in a more sympathetic way.

I like the Miami landscapes, the lushness of the sets and the ridiculous OTT mansion Tony buys himself.

Does it make me love the people? I… no. No, it does not. I feel a little sorry for Elvira but.. eh.

Bechdel test: Elvira Hancock and Gina are our biggest characters, but they never speak. Then there’s Tony’s mother and she does talk to Gina, but it’s about Tony – arguing over whether he should be allowed to stay in the house or not. So we’ve covered the three main roles women can play: mother, virgin/little sister/needs protecting innocent and whore/love interest. Yayyy…

Best line: The world is yours

nah, it’s probably gotta be Tony with his gun: Say hello to my little friend!

State of Mind: I just… am not interested in these stories to be honest. I am feeling so done with these crime movies, which is bad news because I know I have more on the list to get through. Hopefully they won’t all be three hours long… I don’t think I love Oliver Stone movies.

Watched movie count

Chopper (2000)

Chopper
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Written by Andrew Dominik based on the book by Mark (Chopper) Read
(number 299)

One of these movies I don’t think would be on an international best 500 movies list, but this is an Australian film and therefore it is. I guess it’s not so surprising given the number of movies on this list about crime and violence? So it starts with a bit of character colour, Chopper making fun of himself and the person detracting him on TV and then it just goes to a bit of totally senseless violence between him and another inmate. Like, brutal, bloody, violence.

There are some astoundingly good moustaches in this movie though, especially on the police in the start of the movie.

First half hour has way more stabbings than I had expected. Really just… a whole lot of stabbings and homoerotic ones at that.. like, clutching onto each other with the mouths so close and what the fuck is this movie? I just.

Chopper is a real person, this is loosely based on a real story. But I feel like this movie is tapping into the Ned Kelly legend, the Robin Hood criminal with a heart of gold, or at least…a desire to stick it to ‘the man’. Chopper in court is shown to be intelligent and erudite, making people smile with his quick wit. Feeling sympathy for him is hard though given the willingness to
stab. I can see how this movie has a cult following with the kind of smart enough to know they’re smart audience who prizes old school masculinity – kind of like Fight Club, come to think of it. This attitude that because they’re smart they’re okay to do whatever they want, that basically, they’re better than everyone else because of being smart. I don’t like this attitude.

Does it make me love the people? I don’t… nah. The smarter than you attitude is gross, the violence and the bloody Australian seedy underbelly is all off putting. At least Romper Stomper showed the characters having some depth and vulnerabilities. When Chopper is shown with his father he just seems impatient with the old man.

Bechdel test: Uh, no.

Best line:
Chopper: Look. The bloke’s been me best mate since 1975. We’ve had our fallouts from time to time, it’s no big deal. Y’know, it’s like… if ya mum stabs ya, whaddya do? Y-ya don’t get upset. Ya don’t get angry, ya go, “Shit, mum’s stabbed me, I better get off to the hospital.”

State of Mind: Nah, bro. I didn’t like it. At least the end is a bit introspective, a little meta. But meh.

Watched movie count