#355- Jacob’s Ladder

Quick recap: A Vietnam Vet’s life starts to get really weird and creepy when he starts having visions of demons and nightmares of torture.

I finally realized that Tim Robbins reminds me of John Green and now I can’t unsee it

Fun(?) fact: Much of the imagery for the film comes from photographs taken by Joel-Peter Witkin. I won’t post on here because it is super creepy and gruesome but you should Google it if that’s your thing. Or just scroll through Creepypasta on Reddit because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of his pictures there at some point.

Macaulay Culkin! Tim Robbins! Jason Alexander! This movie is peak 90s

My thoughts: SPOILERS APLENTY!!

I’d heard this movie was terrifying but I tend to take those warnings with a grain of salt. Basically, all I knew was that it had something to do with Vietnam and seeing as how I never fought in the war, I considered myself safe. What I did not realize is that Jacob’s Ladder is about visions and nightmares, of which I have PLENTY (nightmares, not visions). I was a little weirded out while watching the movie, but it was the lingering thoughts after that did me in.

One of my favorite things about this movie is how minor details seem so creepy and can add up to something terrifying. In the beginning of the movie, Jacob heads to his local VA to talk with a doctor about his flashbacks, only to find out there is no record of him in the system. It’s unnerving but seeing how this was Pre-Computer age, not entirely illogical. But as the movie progresses, more and more of Jacob’s life starts to fade. He realizes something awful happened to him in Vietnam but when he goes to see a lawyer, the lawyer tells him that he never actually fought and was dishonorably discharged. Combine that with the super creepy demons and this movie kept me up for hours after it was over.

And here’s the spoiler: The entire film takes place in the moments before Jacob dies. Turns out, he was mortally wounded in Vietnam after all and all these nightmares and visions are just his mind’s way of coming to terms with his mortality. I was a little annoyed by how hokey the scene was when Jacob is reunited with his dead son Gabe and they walked upstairs to a white light, but then the next scene was the medics crowded around his body and that stark contrast really threw me off. It reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in All that Jazz, when he does that huge musical number about saying good bye and then the very next scene is of him being put into a body bag. It’s such a sobering thought to realize that I just sat through a man’s final, horrifying moments on earth but I’m also grateful that Jacob finally got some peace.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Possibly more Horrorfest?

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#345- Three Colors: Blue

Quick recap: A woman’s husband and child are killed in a car accident and she must learn how to navigate this new life without them.

yes, there was actually a lot of the color blue in the movie

Fun (?) fact: The scene where Julie scraped her knuckles along a stone wall was real. Actress Juliette Binoche didn’t think a prosthetic hand looked real enough so she went full badass and did it herself.

I know she’s in a deep depression, but ordering coffee and then pouring it over ice cream is PERFECT

My thoughts: I knew this movie would be sad but I didn’t expect it to cut so deep. It’s a sadness that settled into me and took awhile to shake off after the credits were over. But Blue is also a beautiful film and actually hopeful in the end, even if only marginally so.

It is impossible to do this movie justice because the visuals are so rich. It’s not a dialogue-heavy film anyway and it doesn’t need to be. I’ve never been through grief like the main character but watching her try to continue on seemed so familiar. There aren’t any scenes of her completely losing it like you would expect. Instead, there’s a pushing down of emotions that somehow make it all the more depressing to watch, like her swimming in the pool and crying.

The score plays a huge part in this film, if not the most important part. Julie’s late husband was a composer, although it turns out to have been her writing most pieces. He also had a mistress who shows up pregnant towards the end of the movie. It feels weird saying I disagree with Julie’s decision to house the mistress and finish the symphony because this is such a personal story. It’s like it actually happened, as if I watched a woman’s grief in real time. And when someone has lost as much as Julie, what else is there to say or do?

Final review: 5/5

Up next: The Right Stuff

#339- Taste of Cherry

Quick recap: A man drives around town, looking for someone to make sure he carries out his job of committing suicide.

I can’t understate the amount of driving in this film.

Fun (?) fact: The director shot each character separately in the car. First he would film the passenger and then the driver.

still more driving

My thoughts: Honestly, I’m having the worst time trying what to say about this film. Would I recommend to others? No. Does it at least redeem itself somehow with music, good acting or a beautiful scenery? Also no. But still, this movie resonated with me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I’ve found myself drifting back to various scenes throughout my day and wondering if I’m just reading too much into something. I probably am. Scratch that. I definitely am. But that’s how film works  sometimes. So for that reason, I’ll attempt to give an honest run down of my thoughts and hold off on the sarcasm you have come to know and love. Shit’s about to get real, yo.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: I get that Taste of Cherry is boring. And not just boring, mind numbingly boring. A man drives around and picks up various passengers and then begs them to help bury him once he commits suicide. It goes about the way you would expect it to. One man runs out of the truck in fear, another admonishes the man for entertaining the thought of such a sin and the third man tries to talk him out of it. And at the end, the man lays down into the hole he dug for himself and watches a storm gather over head. It is never resolved whether or not he goes through with it. It wasn’t until I had finished the movie and started reading trivia that it dawned on me why I felt so uncomfortable throughout the whole thing: It’s because this is my life most days. With depression, my number one feeling most of the time is one of isolation. It doesn’t matter how many people I talk to or text with, I still feel alone. As mentioned before, the director chose to film conversations separately and the result is a disjointed dialogue I am all too familiar with. The main character desperately needs help but it’s as if he isn’t being understood, as if he is operating on a different level. I try not to dwell too much on unhappiness but seeing these scenes played out like they were, made me come to terms with feelings I’ve never been able to put into words until now.

The last scene is the most jarring for me. As the man lays down in his hole, the screen fades to black. The next scene is somewhat blurry and out of focus, as if someone was filming on a hand held camera. The main character is standing in a field, smoking a cigarette. He walks over to some men carrying cameras and they joke about something. Everyone is smiling. In the distance, on a beautiful green hill sit a group of soldiers. They are waiting for their part and take the time to talk to each other and laugh. I found out later the director wanted a different ending but the shots were destroyed and so he just threw in a ‘behind the scenes’ shot. But for me, this was the perfect ending. I grapple everyday with perspective and spend most of my time trying to convince myself that what I think probably isn’t true. The whole movie is set in what looks to be a desert but in reality, it was a lush green field. The main character was lonely and on the brink of suicide and left to beg for companionship when the reality was that the actor was very much loved. Like the title, A Taste of Cherry, there is always the hope that there is something out there to live for, something to cling to. And maybe reality isn’t as dark as one makes it out to be.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: The Wrestler

#338-Heat

Quick recap: A group of robbers feel the HEAT from the police, while the police feel the HEAT from the robbers. Bystanders feel the HEAT from the massive shootout. I felt the HEAT from Val Kilmer’s long luxurious locks.

It’s possible to be underdressed but never overdressed. Even to a shootout.

Fun (?)fact: Actor Kevin Gage, who plays Waingro in the film was imprisoned in real life for a couple of years. Naturally, all the inmates referred to him as ‘Waingro’.

Honestly, the best part of the movie.

My thoughts: I was told by a friend that I had to be in the ‘right mood’ to enjoy this film, so I waited until a Saturday night when I was in the mood for lots of murder. Unfortunately, maybe I misread my own signals because I just didn’t fall in love with Heat like I thought I would.

All the ingredients are there: a stellar cast, top notch directing, a fast moving plot. Really, I can’t think of anything else I would want more in a movie. And yet, I just didn’t really care for it. At a basic level, I failed to care about any of the characters, so when one of them evaded police or when the police got closer to catching the bad guys, I remained meh. I thoroughly enjoyed Al Pacino’s performance as Vincent Hanna but just couldn’t bring myself to really care about his character. I felt like Robert De Niro as Neil had much more depth, but if we are being honest here, the goatee really bothered me. Something about it just screamed ,’this is the 90s and don’t you forget it!’ and I didn’t. Even the music was so 90s- a cross between every heist movie from that time period and the kind of music you would find on Showtime at 2 in the morning back then.

To take a bit of the blame here, I spent way more time trying to figure out what the con was, rather than focus on the relationships. At its heart, this is what makes Heat so powerful. Not just the symbiotic relationship between Neil and Vincent, but all the relationships between the characters. One scene in particular really drove this home. All of the gang got together at a swanky restaurant and brought their significant others as well as a few children. Neil sat at the head of the table, looking around and feeling sorry for himself that he didn’t have someone special to share the night with. But to go to a deeper point, all of these men were in a dangerous profession and in fact, cops were watching their every move as they dined together. There was this impact point when I realized that every single person at that table was about to have their life ruined in some way. It brought to mind the whole idea of choices and at what point our choices become another person’s destiny. So, to that effect, I totally get this movie and it’s importance. But I still don’t like the goatee.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Taste of Cherry