Tuesday, April 25, 2017

the happiest day in the life of olli mäki

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is a slice-of-life slighter than a featherweight (I'm sure the filmmaker would bristle at this bad boxing analogy). In this particular sliver of time, Finnish amateur boxer Mäki, "the baker of Kokkola," is training for the 1962 World Featherweight Title against American Davey Moore (John Bosco, Jr.). Mäki, is a muscled, tiny knot of a man (portrayed plainly with efficiency by Jarkko Lahti) with a quiet personality and dissonant desires--a hardened discipline of his craft but also a tendency to wander within his tender relationship with Raija (Oona Airola). Neither him nor Raija seem fond of or interested in the consumerist, bulb-flashing pizzazz his sport, managed by a hovering Elis (Eero Milonoff, in the movie's most interesting performance), brings.

Almost an anti-sports movie in the way it eschews sports movie cliches and de-glamorizes athleticism, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is coolly presented and heavy on ho-hum ironies (the buildup to the match is both predictable and somewhat of a chore). It's a fairly boring picture that derives its most tense moment with a weigh-in. While the direction from Juho Kuosmanen is smooth, seemingly effortless and despite being framed in elegant black & white photography by Jani-Petteri Passi, for some reason the movie never sticks. **1/2

-Jeffery Berg

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

one percent more humid

Director Liz W. Garcia creates an evocative slice of life with One Percent More Humid, now screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s a small scale character study, mainly of Juno Temple’s Iris, a young woman working in her New England hometown on summer break from college. She’s been reunited with her pal Catherine (Julia Garner), although they were formerly two thirds of a trio—their friend Mae died in an accident we learn more about as the film goes on. Both girls are struggling with grief and their feelings of guilt regarding the incident, which might be what leads Iris to embark on a passionate affair with her thesis adviser Gerald (a sexily down to earth Alessandro Nivola) while Catherine tries to smooth things over with Mae’s resentful brother (Phil Ettinger).

Garcia, who also wrote the film, gets a lot right. The cinematography is gorgeous and evocative of the small town setting. The dialogue sounds true to life and evokes the complexities of life and emotion.  At first I wanted the movie to avoid involving Iris and Gerald romantically, figuring it would feel exploitative and male-gaze-y. But the screenplay and performances ensure that the affair never feels gross or cliché and allows both characters to act like real people. Garcia stages explicit sex scenes that feel organic and earned, not trashy or overly choreographed.

The entire cast is solid—I liked seeing Garner, who was memorable as Lily Tomlin’s granddaughter in Grandma, in a more somber role here—but the film belongs to Temple. She makes Iris likeable, strong, and compelling, and manages to convey her emotions and desires without much dialogue. I’d never seen her before this, save for her tiny part in The Dark Knight Rises, but now I understand why she has a following.

One Percent More Humid is a story that emphasizes character and emotion, and its events unfold quietly and without forced climaxes or resolutions. That’s something to celebrate.

-Justin Lockwood

Tribeca Film Festival screening schedule for One Percent More Humid is here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

i tell myself

Nice track from the Diagrams. Lyrics by poet Dorothy Trogdon.

Weirdly enough I was hearing "lovely shards of cellulite" instead of "lovely shards of sky and light."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

march 1987

Meep and his guest, David Nofire, take us through the movies of March 1987!

Podcast download / streaming options here

Sunday, March 19, 2017

feel the night

Luxxury drops their Feel the Night remix EP.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Friday, March 17, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

lost in music

As we mourn the loss of Joni Sledge, here's a fun Don Dayglow remix of "Lost in Music" to keep the tunes playin'.

Awesome performance:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

song to song shots

Even if the movie ends up being a "humiliating wreck," I still would like to see it for Fassy, Lubezki cinematography and of course... Ryan.

Thanks to Jason at My New Plaid Pants for directing me to this imagery.

Monday, March 13, 2017

graveyard shift

No pun intended, but there definitely was a shift in the direction of horror from its still-peak decade of the 1980s to the lesser years of the 1990s. Perhaps there was so much saturation with mainstream movies like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street and their plethora of sequels and knock-offs, that the genre had hit a tipping point. In the 1990s, horror morphed more into "adult thrillers" like The Silence of the Lambs which traded teen schlock charm for serious adult drama sheen. Even the teen horror flicks which popped up near the end of the decade were more meta in their approach, riffing off their predecessors with both glee and condescension. Looking back at all the movies which hit number one at the box office in the 90s, a movie like Graveyard Shift feels like anomaly. It was a short lived success, dropping a near-fifty percent in its second week, and ended up raking in a million or so shy of its $10 M budget. Like many horror movies of its time (especially Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan), Graveyard Shift boasts creepy, intriguing poster art and publicity materials which fail to live up its promise. However, if taken purely as a corny monster movie, Graveyard Shift is fun and effective. The crisp photography by Peter Stein highlights the gorgeous greenery and near-dusk blue skies of the Maine locale. Even when their subject matter is swill, Paramount films of the late 1980s and early 1990s have a beautiful, defining look to them.

Based upon Stephen King's 1970 story, later included in his collection Night Shift, Graveyard Shift is set at a ramshackle textile mill in Maine that's infested with vermin. King's story is fleeting and packed with punchy, descriptive dialogue from the workers and the mill's foreman. And while the rats are described, the horror is more suggestive than literal. The story's abrupt ending also leaves the horror to one's imagination. Somehow the rats are less menacing in the film: all squeaky and docile-looking. Only skin-crawling when they are regulated to nibbling on bloody cotton and falling prey to gunky effects.

The movie also elongates the short story by adding more characters and drawing out the arrival of the central character, Hall (played competently by David Andrews), a drifter who unlike many of the other workers, is not only an outsider but one who attended college, and ends up in the town to take on a job at the mill cleaning up on a July 4th-holiday weekend in midst of threats of closure from OSHA. The foreman Warwick (Stephen Macht) is a bit of a brute, harassing and abusing his workers and haplessly dealing with the rodent problem. He'd be a little more intimidating if Macht didn't have such a fussy and affected Maine accent ("The show's ovah" is a laughable, quotable line). It's an interesting, tongue-in-cheek acting choice indeed. In fact, many of the actors seem to be acting in different films. Brad Dourif amps up his goonish, gum-smacking Vietnam vet exterminator role to the highest of heavens. I guess that's what you'd expect with Dourif, but I was more interested in the naturalism of others like some of the bit parts including Hall's fellow worker Winsconsky (Kelly Wolf). A little bit of wandering into the lives of others is usually the strength of the best King film adaptations, unfortunately screenwriter John Esposito skimps on much detail of the local folks.  A friendly car ride between Winsconsky and Hall is too brief and doesn't go too deep, even if it's beautifully shot and a nice respite from the movie's on-going sense of conflict and meanness. The film kind of falls apart in the second half before the giant rat finale.

But director Ralph S. Singleton (his only feature film to date), gets a lot of things right--the sweat and sets--an amazing use of a real-life Bartlett Yarns mill in Harmony, Maine. The movie goes for a different conclusion than King's story, but in the end, this is all shallow monster movie entertainment. The rickety "End Theme" with its mimicking of the titter-tattering sounds of the rats and the mill machines intertwined with a repetitive use of the movie's dialogue is oddball and genius. Despite its faults, Graveyard Shift is one of the better American horror films of a decade meager in the genre and one of the last high budget studio pictures of the era to meld light camp with dingy played-straight horror. **1/2

-Jeffery Berg


I've really liked the music released so far from Nelly Furtado's upcoming album The Ride which drops 3/31.

This tune, "Phoenix," is giving me Kate Bush vibes.