VHYes (2019)

VHYes
Director: Jack Henry Robbins
Writer: Nunzio Randazzo, Jack Henry Robbins
Cast: Mason McNulty, Rahm Braslaw, Jake Head, Christian Drerup, Kerri Kenney, Mark Proksch, Thomas Lennon, Courtney Pauroso, Charlyne Yi, Madeline Zima, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 20.9.2020
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Plot:
Ralph (Mason McNulty) gets a VHS recorder for Christmas. He grabs the next tape he finds – unfortunately, apparently, his parents’ (Jake Head, Christian Drerup) wedding tape – and starts recording whatever he finds of interest, from his adventures with his best friend Josh (Rahm Braslaw) to the usually forbidden to him late night TV – where he learns about a haunted house in town.

VHYes is a beautiful love letter to TV of the 80s, and VHS, managing a unique blend of funny and unsettling that I absolutely loved. I think it was one of my favorites of this year’s festival.

The film poster showing a VHS tape with "Ralph's Tape" written on it, as well as a collage of various film characters.
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Re-Watch: Little Women (1994)

Little Women
Director: Gillian Armstrong
Writer: Robin Swicord
Based on: Louisa May Alcott’s novel
Cast: Winona Ryder, Trini Alvarado, Samantha Mathis, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, Gabriel Byrne, John Neville, Mary Wickes, Florence Paterson
Seen on: 10.8.2019
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Plot:
Meg (Trini Alvarado), Jo (Winona Ryder), Beth (Claire Danes) and Amy (Kirsten Dunst) are sisters, living with their mother Marmee (Susan Sarandon) as their father is off fighting in the war. Their lives are spent working or studying and trying to help the even poorer people in the neighborhood. In their sparetime, they like to play creatively. When their neighbor Mr. Lawrence’s (John Neville) grandson Laurie (Christian Bale) moves in with his grandfather, he quickly finds himself included with the girls. Together, they navigate life’s ups and downs.

There was a time when I was a teenager that I was very much obsessed with this film and I watched it quite a few times. But it took me until now to finally read the novel and it’s been many years that I saw the film, so I looked at it now with fresh eyes. I still love it, but I do see a couple of things more critically now.

The film poster, showing the four March girls (Winona Ryder, Trini Alvarado, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes) and their mother (Susan Sarandon).

[SPOILERS]

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My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (2016)

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
Director: Dash Shaw
Writer: Dash Shaw
Cast: Jason SchwartzmanLena DunhamReggie WattsMaya RudolphSusan SarandonThomas Jay RyanAlex KarpovskyLouisa KrauseJohn Cameron MitchellMatthew MaherEmily DavisKeith Poulson
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 23.9.2017
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Plot:
Dash (Jason Schwartzman) is annoyed that his best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts) has started to date Verti (Maya Rudolph). This would be the biggest catastrophe of his life if it wasn’t for the earthquake that made the cliff his high school is built on crumble and float out into the sea where it’s slowly sinking. Now Dash, Assaf and Verti are joined by popular girl Mary (Lena Dunham) and Lunch Lady Lorraine (Susan Sarandon) as they try to reach the roof.

I liked the animation style of My Entire High School Is Sinking Into the Sea, but storywise I think it would have been better as a short film.

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3 Generations (2015)

3 Generations aka About Ray
Director: Gaby Dellal
Writer: Nikole Beckwith, Gaby Dellal
Cast: Elle FanningNaomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, Linda Emond, Tate Donovan, Sam Trammell
Seen on: 22.12.2016

Plot:
Ray (Elle Fanning) is fighting to get the hormones he needs to transition. His mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) supports him as best she can, even when she does struggle herself sometimes with his being trans. They live together with Ray’s lesbian grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon) who tries to help, too, but doesn’t really understand what Ray is going through. They do not live with Ray’s father Craig (Tate Donovan) who has a new family and not much interest in Ray. But Craig needs to agree to Ray’s treatment, so Maggie and Ray have to convince him.

I knew going in that About Ray – retitled 3 Generations – wouldn’t be an unproblematic film about being trans, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. What I got was okay, but definitely not great.

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Romance & Cigarettes (2005)

Romance & Cigarettes
Director: John Turturro
Writer: John Turturro
Cast: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, Christopher Walken, Barbara Sukowa, Elaine Stritch, Eddie Izzard, Amy Sedaris
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 25.10.2016

Plot:
Nick (James Gandolfini) and Kitty (Susan Sarandon) have been married many years and have managed to build a very middle-class existence. When Kitty finds out that Nick has been having an affair, she’s outraged. Her three daughters Baby (Mandy Moore), Constance (Mary-Louise Parker) and Rosebud (Aida Turturro) are firmly on Kitty’s side, but also have their own issues to deal with. And Nick will have to figure out whether he wants to fight for his marriage or start a new life with the other woman, Tula (Kate Winslet).

Romance & Cigarettes is a very idiosyncratic film. A musical in that setting and with those costumes and an off-beat sense of humor, it’s funny and manages to entertain, but it’s also unfortunately steeped in sexism.

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Re-Watch: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Director: Jim Sharman
Writer: Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman
Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Jonathan Adams, Peter Hinwood, Meat Loaf, Charles Gray

Plot:
Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) just got engaged and decide to visit their former teacher in whose class they met. But on the way there, they get lost and a flat tire and so they end up at a weird manor where strange things are going on. Not only is there a strange celebration, but the host, Dr Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) has announced that what they’re celebrating is that he built a man.

Looking objectively at it, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not a particularly good movie. The acting isn’t very good, the dialogues are cheesy, the special effects aren’t great. But none of that matters the slightest because it is one of the best movies ever. It knows what it is and what it wants and it takes it with a sense of humor and an excellent soundtrack. Also, Tim Curry’s legs just deserve their own film.

the_rocky_horror_picture_show

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The Company You Keep (2012)

The Company You Keep
Director: Robert Redford
Writer: Lem Dobbs
Based on: Neil Gordon’s novel
Cast: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Terrence Howard, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, Sam Elliott

Plot:
30 years ago, The Weather Underground robbed a bank and shot a guard. Nobody was arrested. Now the FBI managed to arrest Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon). Her arrest has journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) digging into the story. He talks to lawyer Jim Grant (Robert Redford) who turns out to have been one of the Weathermen, Nick Sloan. Grant/Sloan goes on the run, but there seems to be more to the story than that.

The Weather Underground are certainly a topic that deserves discussion and cinematic treatment. Unfortunately this movie skirts the interesting bits and ends up being boring, unrealistic and self-congratulatory.

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Snitch (2013)

Snitch
Director:  Ric Roman Waugh
Writer: Justin Haythe, Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Susan Sarandon, Michael Kenneth Williams, Rafi GavronNadine Velazquez, Melina Kanakaredes, Benjamin Bratt, David Harbour, Harold Perrineau

Plot:
When Jason (Rafi Gavron) is arrested on drug charges that are not really called for, his father John (Dwayne Johnson) tries to bargain with the prosecution to get his sentence reduced. But the prosecution is quite unwilling to help. It’s only when John offers to basically go undercover for them and get some bigger fish arrested, that they agree to help. So John asks his employee and ex-con Daniel (Jon Bernthal) for an introduction into the drug world and soon finds himself a little in over his head.

Snitch isn’t a great movie. But it is quite ok and surprisingly full of social criticism.

snitch

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Arbitrage (2012)

Arbitrage
Director: Nicholas Jarecki
Writer: Nicholas Jarecki
Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker, Monica Raymund (for a few seconds)

Plot:
Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a generally successful business owner, though he has encountered some troubles in the past and is now trying to sell his company as quickly as possible. He and his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) are also already negotiating a deal and all seems to be going well. Robert’s wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) doesn’t know about the problems, and she also doesn’t know about Robert’s affair with the young artist Julie (Laetitia Casta). But then Robert gets into a car accident while driving with Julie and Julie is killed. Since he wants to avoid the scandal, Robert calls Jimmy (Nate Parker), a poor, young guy who owes Robert a debt through his (Jimmy’s) father to pick him up. But when Det. Bryer (Tim Roth) gets involved, things seem to slip Robert’s control.

Arbitrage is a frustrating film, on two levels: one, it is so close to being great, but it just doesn’t manage the last bit to actually get there. Two, the ending wants to be frustrating (because the world is frustrating when it comes to powerful people) and Jarecki absolutely succeeds with that.

Arbitrage

[Slight SPOILERS]

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Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas
Director: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Writer: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Based on: David Mitchell’s novel
Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhuo, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Robert Fyfe, Götz Otto

Plot:
Cloud Atlas tells six interlocking stories where the same set of souls cross paths over and over again. In The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, we follow the young notary Adam (Jim Sturgess) on his way back to the US on a ship in the mid 19th century where he meets a doctor (Tom Hanks) and a slave (David Gyasi) who both greatly influence his fate. In Letters from Zedelghem, the young composer Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), who finds himself in financial difficulties, comes to Belgium to work with Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent), a famous but ill composer. In Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, we read about the journalist Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) who uncovers a conspiracy regarding a power plant which puts her in grave danger. In The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is a publisher who asks his brother (Hugh Grant) for help to get out of his debts. When the quiet getaway turns out to be a senior home, he seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place. In An Orison of Sonmi~451, the clone Sonmi~451 (Doona Bae) tells an archivist (James D’Arcy) her life story from the fast food joint Papa Song where she worked as a waitress until her life took a turn in a very different direction. In Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After, Zachry (Tom Hanks) is one of the few people in the world who survived The Fall. His life with his family gets disrupted when one of the Prescients, who still have technology from the Old Uns, called Meronym (Halle Berry) comes to stay with them.

I didn’t love the book, but I liked it overall. I thought that I would probably feel the same way about the film, with the added advantage that the film would provide me with the stunning visuals the trailer promised. Unfortunately the movie did not work for me at all.

[SPOILERS]

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