Dear friend,

once again, this was a good week for social activities, but the week-end contributed a lot not to lower the viewing statistics too much:

  • Babylon external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. directed by Damien Chazelle, US, 2022: Margot Robbie getting a ticket for a film in which her character is the lead actress, and enjoying the reactions of the cinema audience? I’ve already seen this. Brad Pitt speaking Italian for comedic effect? Seen it before. Wild parties in the Roaring Twenties? Seen it. Silent film actors struggling when sound films arrive? Seen it. People sitting in a cinema remembering the good old times of their lives? Yep, been there. There’s so little that’s new and interesting in this film, and what is new I would have happily lived without. And if Chazelle hates his characters so much, what opinion must he have of his audience? ⭐️⭐️
  • Paranormal Activity 4 external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, US, 2012: last week I liked the third episode of the series, so I was mildly looking forward to this one, for which both the directors and screenwriter Christopher Landon are back. But the franchise has completely lost its steam, and PA 4 basically merges the two previous instalments (a couple of kids + a protective teenage sister) and aspires to tie them together narratively. It tries to add something new by using Microsoft Kinect external link to Wikipedia to deliver creepy scenes, and I think a laptop is kicked around in order to achieve some sort of camera movement (at least, that’s how I justify it). The first part of the film is haunted by Kathryn Newton’s extremely annoying boyfriend, who also spies on her, but, apparently, that’s alright and a plot device to justify the cameras installed in the house. The blatant reference to The Changeling is perplexing. On a positive personal note, the cat clock and fake nose and moustache glasses made me think of Zak McKracken external link to Wikipedia and invested me with a wave of nostalgia that helped me pass the time, while absolutely nothing relevant was happening on screen. How I loved that game! ⭐️½

  • Hit Man external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. directed by Richard Linklater, US, 2023: one of Linklater’s light/dark comedies. Finally a ’true story’ where they tell you explicitly that some parts have been made up for dramatic reasons. Nothing groundbreaking or incredibly exciting, except for one very agitated scene towards the end, but the chemistry between ’new movie star of the decade’ Glen Powell and Adria Arjona (both excellent) is incredible. ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

  • The Coffee Table/La mesita del comedor external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. directed by Caye Casas, Spain, 2022: it doesn’t happen often that I like a movie but I don’t feel comfortable recommending to friends. Spanish cinema is capable of telling the bleakest stories with a hint of humour, and this film may be the bleakest of them all. A simple 10-minute premise (a couple buying a kitschy coffee table) supports 80 minutes of almost unbearable (and unbreakable) dread. I don’t have the stomach for ’extreme horror’, but I feel this is what it would feel like (though probably this one has much less gore). ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

  • Godzilla Minus One/ゴジラ-1.0 external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. directed by Takashi Yamazaki, Japan, 2023: Godzilla back to basics. In practice, a remake of the 1954 film that knows how to connect with a modern audience. The giant beast is really terrifying here, but still you can’t escape feeling a bit sorry for it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • When Evil Lurks/Cuando acecha la maldad external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. directed by Demián Rugna, Argentina, 2023: what a way to end the week. A story that drops you, with no explanation given upfront, in the middle of rural Argentina, in a world that looks like ours, but is under the threat of demonic evil. The characters don’t know exactly how these things work. We as viewers don’t know either. The reality of this situation reveals itself bit by bit, and maybe nobody really understands it. So, I’m not sure that all of this makes sense, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t remember the last time a film had me agape in shock, and this one did it twice in half an hour. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Plus I finished watching a series:

  • Awkwafina is Nora from Queens created by Awkwafina and Theresa Hsiao, US, 2020-2023: “Who the xxxx is Awkwafina?” says the vanity card of the In Fina We Trust production company, and the same line opens the last episode of the series. I think I first registered the existence of Awkwafina in 2018 while watching Ocean’s 8, so by the time she starred in the wonderful and moving The Farewell, and then in Shang-Chi, she already was a familiar face, and a difficult name to spell. I still haven’t approached her music, but I like her as an actress, probably because she often plays the role of unassuming and awkward people. So when I found her series available on Paramount+, I started watching it without knowing much about it. Plus, the series fit in very well with my recent interest in the Chinese language and culture. I easily fall in love with shows where people play a fictionalised version of themselves, and when I realised that Awkwafina’s real name actually is Nora, and that she grew up in Queens, and all of the details that the real person shares with the character, I was automatically on board. My weakness. How close is fictional Nora to actual Nora? Maybe not very much, or maybe the two Noras are exactly the same, and Awkwafina is a separate persona (or just the more confident woman Nora has grown into). Anyway, the series was very messy and quite enjoyable, sometimes a bit too focused on body parts, but it pretty much guaranteed a laugh-out-loud moment per episode, which is perfect for twenty minutes of relaxation before going to bed, and most characters are adorable. And the title of the last episode (Nora is Awkwafina from Queens) is a classic word inversion that, don’t ask me why, is another one of my weaknesses. ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Statistics: six films and the end of a sitcom. For once, the films (and, narratively, the series), cover four continents and three languages: 3 are from the US, one is from Japan, one is from Spain, one is from Argentina; four horrors (including Godzilla), one comedy, and whatever Babylon is. One sequel, one prequel, three original films, and an adaptation from a newspaper article external link . Film-of-the-week and maybe even of-the-month is Cuando acecha la maldad.