Jared Moshe’s decidedly non-revisionist, old-fashioned western The Ballad of Lefty Brown centers on the kind of character Walter Brennan used to play in his sleep: the good-natured codger who rides with the heroic cowboys if only to provide a moral (and sometimes literal) compass and crack the occasional fogeyish joke. The film reaches for pathos only to find tinsel instead. Udo Kier’s Count Dracula, unable to find virgin blood amid the sexually active women of a 19th-century Italian family, finds himself quite literally poisoned by change. The rippling of the witches’ bodies as they transform is rendered almost seamlessly. While advances in the quality of special effects since 1990 should theoretically have made the ballroom scene a blockbuster showcase, the CGI deployed here is for the most part unimpressive.
It wears its pedagogical message on its sleeve but is betrayed by a lack of substance. Elena (Marta Nieto) gets a call from her ex-husband’s number. Like Michael Reeves’s Witchfinder General, and set in roughly the same time period, Russell’s film serves as an angry denunciation of social conformity and the arbitrary whims of the political elite that effectively disguises itself as a horror movie.
That’s akin to saying that all an apple ever really symbolizes is an apple, and that symbols and subtexts essentially don’t exist. A sidekick (Bill Pullman) gets kicked upstairs in The Ballad of Lefty Brown. Anderson’s films toggle between valorizing and criticizing men of industry who’ve, with a few exceptions, made America in their own neurotic image. In human form, Robyn makes for a boisterously snarky hero, but she’s even more fun to follow as a wolf. Such “patterning” is an obsession of Nayman’s, as it should be given the films under consideration, and he shows how Anderson buried the overt psychosocial daddy and women issues of Boogie Nights and 1999’s Magnolia into an intricate formalism that’s complemented by a new kind of instability: unconventional, unexpected ellipses in the narratives that underscore a sense that we’re missing something in the psychology of the protagonists, in the America that contains the characters, and perhaps even in Anderson’s understanding of his own work. Josh Vasquez, Throughout Brain Damage, Frank Henenlotter’s images have a compact and gnarly vitality.
Cast: Octavia Spencer, Jahzir Bruno, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Kristin Chenoweth, Chris Rock, Codie-Lei Eastick Director: Robert Zemeckis Screenwriter: Robert Zemeckis, Kenya Barris, Guillermo del Toro Distributor: HBO Max Running Time: 106 min Rating: PG Year: 2020.
Gonzalez, Based loosely on one of Edgar Allen Poe’s most disquieting tales, 1934’s The Black Cat is one of the neglected jewels in Universal Studios’s horror crown.
The gauntlet that his film’s heroine, a “final girl” who’s abducted and tortured by a religious cult straight out of a Clive Barker novel, is forced to endure is considerable.
Failures. Dracula has “crossed oceans of time” to find Mina, and Coppola shows how the cinematically preternatural similarly finds and seduces audiences—how movies offer their own sparkle of immortality. Glenn Kenny was the chief film critic of Premiere magazine for almost half of its existence.
When the big confrontation comes, Come Play has already proven, despite its monster’s prodigious chompers, to be rather toothless. It’s a fable of modernity darkened with war, obsession, and madness. If there is one thing that makes The Ballad of Lefty Brown stand out from other westerns it’s Bill Pullman‘s performance. The sole detail about the stranger that Ivan relays, that he’s urinating, is more than enough to cast him as a potential threat. The feature-length Madre presents the aftermath of traumatic loss in all of its ambiguity—how what we lose revisits us in disguise, how from the outside this haunting can appear, as more than one character refers to Elena, “psycho.” By projecting her despair into the landscape, Sorogoyen shows us her grief inside out, where it cannot be judged, only witnessed. “Sorry don’t get it done,” Mrs. Johnson responds. Come Play approaches Oliver’s disability empathetically, if heavy-handedly, showing how easily his lack of verbal expression ostracizes him from others: A group of boys at school led by Byron (Winslow Fegley) bully the kid; Byron’s mother, Jennifer (Rachel Wilson), is quick to presume that Oliver’s occasional fits are dangerous; and even Oliver’s own mother, Sarah (Gillian Jacob), struggles to understand his lack of communication as something other than coldness. On their quest, the men meet Jeremiah (Diego Josef), an adolescent with dreams of becoming a legend of the West like the ones he reads about in pulp fiction. Boogie Nights, which Nayman calls a two-and-a-half-hour dick joke, even sets the stage for the ironic phallic references of the other films, with their plunging oil derricks, broken glass toilet plungers, and, well, Woodcocks. Soon after, a misadventure involving some horse rustlers leaves Eddie dead, and Lefty a sidekick no longer.
By brazenly conflating religious and sexual hysteria, and depicting both with his characteristic lack of restraint, Russell pushes his already edgy material into places that are so intense and discomforting that the film was subsequently banned in several countries and is to this day still unavailable on home video in a complete and uncut version. Moreover, as westerns seem to only exist today with asterisks attached (“It’s actually a horror film,” for example), The Ballad of Left Brown’s insistence on playing it straight should in theory also be a nice change of pace. The film isn’t nostalgic, as it argues that the past is awful, and that the present a delicious miracle. Just as some frames turn impressionistic, with borders of leaf patterns replacing more faithful forest scenery, the storyline’s edges are frayed just enough to give it the gentle distance of a tale recalled though the gauze of myth and memory. Just as mist smears the borders between land, sea, and sky, it’s never clear to Elena whether Jean is really her long-lost son, though a certain affinity between them cannot be denied.
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