The John Ford Blogathon and a Small Handful of Other Words

Hello! I’ve been away again, shame shame. But I bring good tidings, and a couple of short reviews for you all. Huttah!

First things first: My pal Christianne Benedict, of Krell Laboratories, and I are hosting a John Ford Blogathon July 7 – 13 this year. We’ve got ourselves a couple of those MASSIVE Ford at Fox box sets, which only scratches the surface of Ford’s oeuvre, and my typing fingers are itchy. And check this – Christi made banners!

Lovely! So please, come join us in July for a week-long celebration of John Ford’s films. If you’re interested, you can contact me here, or Christi over at Krell Labs. I’m probably just going to dive right into the Ford at Fox box set in chronological order throughout June, and blog about the best of the set, since I am woefully underwatched when it comes to Ford. Shame shame!

And now, mini-reviews of some things I’ve watched this year!

(2010, dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
A father taking care of his young children alone is diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, leading him to race against time to ensure their well-being after he’s gone. Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, who earns money by getting work for undocumented immigrants. He can also talk to the dead; however, this is far from a supernatural tale. Instead, Biutiful is a story of life in the face of death, and the bonds of family both blood and chosen. It’s hard to sum up a film like this, because there are layers upon layers of stories and emotions. Biutiful is more of an experience than a film, and one to be felt repeatedly.

Cutie and the Boxer
(2013, dir. Zachary Heinzerling)
Documenting the often-rough marriage of painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko, Cutie and the Boxer is a charmingly intimate look at the flux of art and love over time. Noriko comes out the champ here, channeling her frustrations into a brilliant series of cartoon-like drawings that cover the course of her life before and during her relationship with the occasionally-volatile Ushio. By far, this is one of the better documentaries in recent times, as it so perfectly captures the delight and turmoil of a long-term love affair, not just between two people, but between art and artist.

Sightseers (2012, dir. Ben Wheatley)
A couple go on a caravan holiday that quickly devolves into a killing spree in this black comedy produced by Edgar Wright. At times, the comedy almost seems too dark, and the tone is often uneven, but the leads play it just dry enough to make this worth at least one watch. There’s almost a whiff of Withnail and I here; the audience feels just as trapped in the hell of the situation as the main characters, and that most of the laughs come from the sheer horrific awkwardness of it all.

The Tale of Zatoichi
and The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962, dirs. Kenji Misumi and Kazuo Mori, respectively)
The long story of the wandering blind masseur and swordsman begins here, with the first two Zatoichi films. In The Tale of Zatoichi, Ichi is hired by yakuza boss Sukegoro as a defensive maneuver when war with another gang, led by Shigezo, looks to be inevitable. Shigezo in turn hires ronin Hirate, who is terminally ill and looking forward to the opportunity to fight Ichi before death. The Tale of Zatoichi Continues picks up almost immediately after the events of the first film; this time, Ichi is hired as a masseur for a mentally unstable nobleman whose followers are determined to protect him at any cost. Ichi is also faced with a notorious one-armed swordsman who shares a secret history with our hero. The characters and their relationships are just as important as the fight sequences, all of which are intensely thrilling, particularly the final duel between Ichi and the one-armed swordsman, which leads to an abrupt but satisfying conclusion to the second film.

Almost Human
(2013, dir. Joe Begos)
A man is abducted by what seems to be alien life and later returns a completely changed man in this low-budget independent horror film distributed by IFC Midnight. Taking cues from 1980s John Carpenter, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and video shockers like Xtro, Almost Human has a neat throwback vibe but never quite knows how to break out of its groove. This shows a lot of promise for director Begos, though, particularly when it comes to its scenes of shock violence and capturing the feel of a lost video horror, and watching it on good ol’ pan-and-scan VHS definitely adds to the experience. I’m definitely keeping an eye on Begos.


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