#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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#351- Irreversible

Quick recap: A tragic night is told in reverse chronological order

just about the only screenshot I can show

Fun (?) fact: As if the film wasn’t gruesome enough, a low frequency sound was added to the first 30 minutes which causes nausea and dizziness. 3 people fainted during the Cannes showing and it’s claimed that 200 others walked out.

My thoughts: My main draw to Irreversible was the reverse chronological order format. Each scene ends at the moment as the one previous to it. For example, one scene starts as a group of friends walks to a party and ends as the two men talk about their sexuality. The previous scene started as the two men discussed their sexuality and ended as the woman left the party. It’s an interesting concept and made me pay attention more because I didn’t know what would be important later on. The beginning of the movie, which is really the end of the night, wraps up what happened but I didn’t realize it while watching because I didn’t know what would be significant.

The rest of the movie is disturbing on SO many levels. Nudity, graphic violence and a 10 minute full rape scene are just some of what I had to endure. Was it a worthwhile film for the list? Maybe? But probably not. I hesitate to throw full support for the movie because it’s just so dark for no good reason. Director Gaspar Noé began Irreversible as a study of married life and as his plan went on, the idea become more dark. So it’s not that he wants us to learn anything from this; he just wants to throw as many disgusting things as he can for the sake of art. The first 20 minutes are of the main character Marcus in a gay club, searching for a man. Noé was afraid he would come across as homophobic in the scene so he played one of the characters participating and enjoying himself, as if that makes it ok. The rape scene is just as horrible as you would imagine (please don’t) but later on we find out that the woman who was raped was also pregnant. What’s the point of adding that detail other than to shock and bum everyone out?

Final review: 2/5

Up next: La Dolce Vita

#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

#340- The Maltese Falcon

Quick recap: Detective Sam Spade gets caught in a web of criminals and murder and at the center of it all is a stupid bird statue.

smoke in front of the bird to show it who’s boss

Fun (?) fact: This one is an original! During the finale Joel Cairo is enraged and yells out, ‘You… you imbecile. You bloated idiot. You stupid fat-head, you’. The voice sounded familiar to me and I realized it was Ren from Ren and Stimpy. As it turns out, the voice of Ren, John Kricfalusi, was attempting a Peter Lorre impression (the actor who played Joel Cairo). Cairo’s explosion was a direct influence on the character and personality of Ren.

My thoughts: It was a sweltering June night and my dogs were worn out. I needed something nice and easy like a jorum of skee. I was behind the 8-ball on my reviews so what better way to kick off summer than with the greatest of film-noirs, The Maltese Falcon? This movie was no chippy, I’ll tell you that now. After watching it, I knew I would need someone to bump gums with, someone to check the facts with me. This cat, the guy I married, watched the movie with me as well as three literal cats. And seeing as I have run out of detective jargon, let’s get started. I’m not a dame who will make you wait.

So of course, I really enjoyed the movie. It’s been a hard few months and although I’ve looked forward to summer, the transition was a little rough. Film-noir is the chicken soup of movie genres to me. It hits the spot in all the right places. What stands out for me in the Maltese Falcon are the characters more than the mystery. Same Spade, played by Humphrey Bogart, was dashingly wonderful, although I could’ve done without all the forced kissing. Yes, it’s a trope, and a very odd one at that. This was my first taste of Peter Lorre, who was my favorite. He played the part of Generic Foreign Gangster so well, a man always on the brink of sanity. Mary Astor as Brigid O’Shaughnessy took awhile to grow on me, seeing as how most damsels in distress are young and blonde, but I warmed up quickly once Spade was on to her.

As for the mystery, I almost think it’s put there as an afterthought. When a director has to fit in all the tropes for this type of genre as well as fill a larger than life cast of characters, the actual murders just get shoved in. Let’s face it, I was mostly in it for the classic Sam Spade wisecracks, not for the puzzling clues. I enjoyed the ‘twist’ that the bird was a fake and the gangsters had fought and killed for nothing. It was like a wink from director John Huston, or actually from the writer of The Maltese Falcon-Dashiell Hammett.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: The 400 Blows