Category Archives: Not Recommended

Charlotte and Her Lover (1960, Jean-Luc Godard)

Somewhere around minute seven–of an unlucky thirteen–Charlotte and Her Lover's ending started to seem inevitable; predictability makes the last six minutes even more tiresome. Writer, director, and de facto lead Godard (he looped in the ranting monologue for onscreen lead Jean-Paul Belmondo) could have done the whole thing in three minutes and maybe gotten away with it. At thirteen minutes, it's just annoying (though I guess it does move fairly fast).

The short opens with Anne Collette, who's not very good but how could one tell given she mostly just makes cute little noises and has maybe two actual lines before Lover's punchline. She's going to Belmondo's apartment, where he's chewing on a cigar–sometimes a cigar's just a cigar but not here–and being a soulful unpublished novelist. They're former lovers. She left him for a successful movie guy. He rants and raves at her for eleven minutes, saying very little of content. Given Godard then dubbed all the audio, it seems like Lover had an actual script, but… wow, if it did. It's real, real bad. Ad-libbing it maybe you could forgive some. But Godard intentionally writing out the rant for someone to deliver aloud?

Icky bad.

Nothing Belmondo says matters in the end because of the punchline. But it's mostly pseudo-macho blather with some nice passive (and active) misogyny thrown in. Though Godard presents Collette from Belmondo's perspective–she's an adorably dressed nitwit who has what seems to be a clown's theme accompanying her on the soundtrack. Again, if it were ten minutes shorter… might work. Ten minutes shorter with a minute for the opening and closing titles. So two minutes instead of thirteen. At that length, the lack of character for Collette might be all right and Godard's delivery of the monologue might not grate too much.

Alas, it's that thirteen.

Lover doesn't just not have the script going for it–and an entirely dialogue-based short with a lousy script is already circling the bowl–it also doesn't have any visuals going for it. Godard's composition and stage direction aren't any better than his dialogue (or his performance).

Like I said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but sometimes it's a metaphor for the short being a turd taking thirteen minutes to finally go down.

Charlotte and Her Lover is risible.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard; director of photography, Michel Latouche; music by Robert Monsigny; produced by Pierre Braunberger; released by Unidex.

Starring Anne Collette (Charlotte) and Jean-Paul Belmondo (Jules).


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Mesmerize Me (2009, Kate Hackett)

Mesmerize Me is frustratingly middling. It keep seems like it has to be going somewhere, only for it to go nowhere. It’s not a short short—it’s twenty-four minutes—and there’s a disjointed act structure. The third act is way too short, leveraging the “twist” ending way too much. Only it’s not a twist ending. It’s not exactly predictable, but only because it’s such an unbelievably tepid finish you don’t want to anticipate it. You’re hoping for something better.

The short is a period piece set in the late 1800s California. Good costumes, okay locations, not great attention to detail on making things dirty—clothes and people, competent direction, shallow but not inept cinematography (by Cat Deakins), and good music (by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum). If it were even slightly sensational, Mesmerize Me might at least come off as a romance novel cover turned into a movie. But it’s not sensational. At all. Even when it ought to be, like when lead Natalie Smyka seduces her opium-addicted fake doctor Cameron Cash while her parents are asleep elsewhere in the house.

Me opens perfectly solidly with Smyka seeing the ghostly apparition of her dead fiancé (Ned Hosford). Smyka’s really good running around in a panic and she’s got great expressions throughout the short. She doesn’t have any good line deliveries, but her expressions are awesome. Though it’s never believable she likes Cash at all because Cash is unlikable. Not because of the opium or because he’s a know-it-all. Cash is a mesmerist. Either Mesmerize Me takes place in a fantasy world where mesmerism isn’t bullshit or it takes place in some kind of reality. Writer (and director and editor) Hackett implies the latter a lot, but never definitely says the former is out. If we’re supposed to accept the ending, we also have to take Cash believing in his own “powers” too.

It’s problematic.

Also problematic is how it always seems like the characters are going to have a good conversation than Hackett cuts the shot. After a while (where the runtime works against the short)… it seems like Hackett’s cutting away from even worse line deliveries. Like it’s obvious Smyka and Cash couldn’t handle more.

Sarah Lilly plays Smyka’s mom. She’s kind of disappointing too. John Beck is fine as the dad, though his lack of interest in his daughter’s condition doesn’t come across right.

Hackett’s direction and editing instincts are often good; they can’t save Me from itself.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, directed, and edited by Kate Hackett; director of photography, Cat Deakins; music by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum; production designer, Matthew C.W. Page; produced by Nora Gruber, Hackett, Brian Maddox, Bette Stockton, and Christopher Stockton for Sonambula Productions.

Starring Natalie Smyka (Estella), Cameron Cash (Daniel), Sarah Lilly (Eliza), John Beck (Lawrence), and Ned Hosford (Stephen).


The Blue Door (2017, Paul Taylor)

The Blue Door opens with home healthcare worker Gemma Whelan starting a new job working for infirm, bedridden Janie Booth. The house is a mess—the kitchen is full of dirty dishes, there’s a room with sheets on all the furniture—and Booth is a mess. Whoever last fed her not only didn’t take the dishes into the kitchen, they left a quarter of the meal on Booth’s face. Besides the general creepy factor of being alone in a strange house working for someone who doesn’t speak (or even seem to realize you’re there), Whelan doesn’t see much out of the ordinary. Booth’s got a tattoo on her wrist, which Whelan—and the short—focus on hard. A little too hard as it turns out.

After doing a handful of dishes—also, when she goes to throw out the old milk, Whelan just puts it on the floor? She doesn’t dump it so she’s presumably not recycling. Is recycling not a thing in the UK? Anyway, after doing like five dishes (leaving ninety), Whelan goes in to take the sheets off the furniture in the one room. Because… well, because it’s an effective way to introduce the titular Blue Door. It appears out of nowhere. One moment it’s there, the camera tracks away, following Whelan, then when they get back, there’s the door.

And there’s something on the other side, leading to Whelan running around the house trying to escape the blue door, which pops up and someone on the other side tries to get in. Eventually Whelan ends up back in Booth’s bedroom and it’s time for the big surprise finish. Only it’s not much of a surprise once all the pieces are revealed because director Taylor doesn’t really do nuance.

The film’s well-shot (by Benedict Spence) and Taylor’s composition is fine. The script… well, the script is thin. Because it’s just stage direction for Whelan.

Whelan’s awesome. Until the finale, her expressions reacting to her surroundings and the goings-on is the whole show. The short kind of dumps that approach in the last moments, which is just another of the many problems.

It’s disappointing; Whelan puts in a lot better work than the short deserves, especially with the predictable finish.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Taylor; written by Ben Clark and Megan Pugh; director of photography, Benedict Spence; edited by Dan Mellow; music by Ben Carr; production designer, Lynn McFarlane; produced by Clark and Pugh for 13th Door.

Starring Gemma Whelan (nurse) and Janie Booth (client).


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Caught in a Ham (2019, Miguel Jiron)

I think I went into Caught in a Ham with unduly high hopes (I’ve been a Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham since 1983) and apparently I’m enough of a purist to be a little upset Spider-Ham loses out on half his four minute cartoon so it can tie into Into the Spider-Verse. There’s also the issue of him getting the shaft on the runtime. If you’re going to ape an old Looney Tunes cartoon, give it at least seven minutes. Four just isn’t enough. Especially not when half of it is bridging material, which is the nature of the made-for-home-video-supplement beast but whatever. Have some respect for the brand.

Anyway.

The cartoon opens fine. Spider-Ham swinging through the city, making jokes about the hot dog he’s about to eat (I don’t remember cannibalism from the old comics but I was in grade school) and he gets into trouble with a painfully uncool villain, Doctor Crawdaddy. Oh, right. John Mulaney voices Spider-Ham, Aaron LaPlante voices Doctor Crawdaddy. They’re both fine. There’s not much for them to do. LaPlante’s the butt of Mulaney’s jokes and gags, which are lifted—most obviously—from Bugs and Elmer and then something else with slamming doors and hallways. I can’t remember if it’s Tom and Jerry but it’s something. I feel like there’s a cat in it.

Caught in a Ham, considering how “meta” it gets, would do just as well if not better to give citations on screen with the nods because they’re not meant to be discreet and citations would—do something.

Because once LaPlante’s Doctor Crawdaddy disappears and the cartoon gets very meta about Spider-Ham being a digitally animated creation being digitally animated, it becomes obvious it’s not adding up to anything. And it doesn’t. It just sends Spider-Ham, presumably, off into the Spider-Verse, where—hopefully—he gets more to do than in his own truncated cartoon.

Maybe it plays better after Spider-Verse but it certainly shouldn’t.

The animation’s good. Wish there was more of it and less perfunctorily animated meta-nonsense.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Miguel Jiron; screenplay by Jiron, based on the character created by Tom DeFalco and Mark Armstrong; animated by Daran Sudric; produced by David Schulenburg; released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Starring John Mulaney (Spider-Ham) and Aaron LaPlante (Doctor Crawdaddy).


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