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My Letterboxd reviews for June 2017

A still from Glow: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Despite promising to myself that I would more carefully audit the quality of the films I watch for pleasure/personal edification, I still managed to watch one of the worst things I’ve seen in many a year. Must do better in July.

5 Centimeters Per Second:

Achingly beautiful, if too slight in story for a higher rating.

Fist Fight:

Simply amazing considering the talent involved, there are few if any genuine laughs to be had in a ‘comedy’ that’s so generally mean-spirited, lazy and unfunny as this. I sat through 95% of it stone-faced, no joke.

Aftermath:

Arnold’s latest old-man revenge flick has pretensions to nuance, with a suitably drab visual tone, not to mention the lead’s conspicuous fragility in his dotage. But the lines are clearly drawn from the outset, and its manipulation is boldfaced.

Roman (Schwarzenegger) is a Good Man seeking old-school restitution for the loss of his family in a plane crash, for which he — and the audience, by proxy — deem weedy geek air traffic controller Jacob (Scoot McNairy) directly responsible. In spite of, you know, things like the systemic malpractice the film invents to build its straw man. (The ATC privatisation lobby will be delighted, I’m sure.)

Roman is a caricature of a grieving father. His obsession is selfish to the extreme: he literally couldn’t give a hoot about the lives destroyed beyond his own family. And the audience isn’t supposed to either — even when it comes to Jacob’s wife and child, who did nothing to deserve such opprobrium. Why is the audience expected to be on Roman’s side? Because he’s a Real Man who builds fences and shit. The semiotics aren’t exactly subtle.

Jacob, meanwhile, is set up as such a bogeyman, the personification of ‘big government’ incompetence, that the film simply accepts the vigilante ‘justice’ against him and his loved ones as a thing, unquestioned. It’s not his fault, the suits tell him, but it really is, because someone who graffitis his house says so.

Don’t even get me started on the regressive treatment of mental illness, and the overtones of suicide as the coward’s way out. Fuck. That.

The Philadelphia Story:

What a weird film this is, both of and ahead of its time, with an oddly cut-up story that feels like it’s going one way in the first act, then drops a whole bunch of plot points never to be mentioned again. Kudos for a James Stewart performance that tones down his oh-golly-gee-ness; he’s also got some sparkling chemistry with Katharine Hepburn, though the film often seems in denial.

Glow: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling:

An unexpectedly tender and moving look back at the pioneering women’s wrestling promotion that’s been all but forgotten by the grappling cognoscenti. (Originally reviewed May 2014.)

Gaea Girls:

I have problems with this pseudo-documentary on life ‘behind the scenes’ at GAEA Japan, a joshi puroresu promotion that existed from 1995 to 2005. Were the makers aware they were getting worked by Chigusa Nagayo and her colleagues and trainees at their dojo, where the bulk of filming takes place? If so, they don’t show it, and simply take everything they’re sold at face value. And many whoppers they are sold, indeed. However, it’s still revealing of the tough training regimen for budding pro wrestlers in Japan, women and men alike, even if everyone involved here refuses to break kayfabe.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

First time watching this properly since the original theatrical release, and it holds up. It’s pretty much two 90-minute films in and of itself, let alone being the first part of a trilogy, but with a pace and flow that leaves one wanting for more of the remarkable world Peter Jackson built.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

Turns out this one is much improved when you skip the Frodo/Gollum bits.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:

By the third instalment, Peter Jackson thankfully realised Aragorn’s story is far more important, and far more interesting, than Frodo’s.

All Things Must Pass:

Directed with style and warmth by Colin Hanks (yes, that Colin Hanks), this oral history traces the ebbs and flows of what was once the world’s biggest music retailer without getting too bogged down in the executive boardroom side of things. Perhaps more could have been made of why and how the company couldn’t refocus to survive the challenges of the internet age. But it’s worth the hour-and-a-half. (Even if it forgets that Tower still exists outside of Japan; there are two stores in Dublin that seem to be doing OK.)