Have You Ever Seen...
Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)
This was a first time viewing, and it had additional meaning and context behind it as it was one of my mother's favorite films. She never really explained why, but a large factor was definitely Raúl Juliá. He was always a favorite of hers, and his performance in this is utterly fantastic.
Adapted from the Manuel Puig novel, the film follows two prisoners in Brazil during the Brazilian military dictatorship. Juliá plays a political prisoner from a revolutionary group while John Hurt plays a homosexual man charged for "corrupting an underage youth." While Juliá is continually tortured for information, Hurt tells him tales of a film he watched as an attempt to offer reprieve and they start to form a friendship. The two challenge each other's assumptions and beliefs as their futures look bleaker and bleaker. It is just as depressing as you would guess, but also very beautifully told and acted.
It's the kind of film that I'm sad I didn't watch sooner, but at the same time I'm glad to absorb it now that I'm older and can appreciate more of its nuances and the layers of storytelling. And while I already had an appreciation for Juliá, it's definitely deepened a number of degrees after this viewing.
This is a film that I always considered to have a high degree of acclaim to it, but in general I've never really heard people talk about it. At least most that I've asked recently haven't seen it and only vaguely heard of it. I also discovered it was listed on https://missingmovies.org/ a couple months back, so easy access to the film was apparently tricky unless you had an out of print VHS or DVD. It seems though that the film has an updated status now thankfully, and I'm really hoping that maybe Criterion will be doing a new remaster.
So while a good chunk of you may have probably already seen it, I think it's at least worth putting a little spotlight on it, and if you dragged your feet like I have then I highly recommend taking the time to check it out.
Psycho Goreman (2020)
If you like over the top gory violence, weird monsters, tokusatsu type action, and generally dark humor then you should be into this film. It does seem to split people 50/50 all on the performance on the main child actress due to her high levels of bratty-ness, but I land in the 'it works for what they were going for' camp. And even if her performance wears you down a bit, it never really overshadows the other glorious aspects of the film. Seriously, I was sold pretty hard when I saw the 'hunky boys' preview clip.
The story follows a pair of siblings who unearth an alien gem and accidentally awaken a terrible creature that calls itself the Arch-Duke of Nightmares. The gem allows the little sister of the pair to control him, and thus she dubs him Psycho Goreman and essentially keeps him around as a pet/friend/curiosity. PG fully intends to murder the siblings, their family, and most of the cosmos because he truly is evil. The little girl may be slightly more evil.
The film is essentially a horror comedy mashup of things like Power Rangers, Heavy Metal, 80's coming of age films, and plenty more. It never takes itself too seriously, except for its monster design and costume work which are all gloriously campy and disgustingly detailed in all the right ways.
I recommend this if you're just in the mood for some schlocky fun that knows exactly what it is, and to stick around for the great design work and fun special effects. Also, if you're a Red Letter Media fan, Rich Evans does do a little voice acting for the film as one of Goreman's ex-minions, so that's a bit of extra fun.
Odd Man Out (1947)
I mentioned a while ago when I reviewed Carol Reed's Night Train to Munich that I would touch on this, so that may give you an idea of the gap between when I view a film versus when I talk about it. One of the (many) reasons for that gap though is to allow the films to have time to settle in my mind, because sometimes after enough time has passed I find I don't have much to chat about due to various reasons. If I don't retain a lot then the film didn't hit as hard, and I may just skip a write up all-together. Definitely not the case here though as Odd Man Out's noir stylings, impactful visuals and lighting, strong performances, and sad commentary on human behavior tend to linger for some time after a viewing.
The film focuses on the long night of one 'organization' member Johnny McQueen. McQueen attempts a botched robbery that ends up with him getting shot after he accidentally murders a guard. Left behind by his crew, he wanders the streets in a disorientated state and travels from situation to situation as various citizens have to decide to aid or avoid him for their own safety.
The crispness of the camera work and Reed's visuals constantly inform the atmosphere and urban landscapes that reflect the claustrophobic tension he's constantly building as the drama unfolds. This couples well with the tightly paced introductions of the entire supporting cast, and we get a lot of well portioned mini-tales as we see their various motivations unravel the limits of their compassion/empathy. There is a particularly engaging series of sequences that follow a poor man, a painter, and a failed medical student as they all seek different things from their encounter with McQueen.
This film checks a lot of boxes for me, from solid noir thriller to soul crushing examination of the human condition and to striking visual storytelling and amazing cinematography. I highly recommend tracking down a nice copy, and the Criterion edition has some great extras and it's well worth picking up for the high-definition digital restoration.