In a small apartment on the Lower East Side, seven siblings who aren’t allowed to go outside live under the rule of a controlling father. This is almost a fairy tale, isn’t it?
The Uncondensed Version:
Homeschooled and permitted to leave their apartment on rare occasions (under adult supervision), the Angulo siblings reenact their favorite movies to pass the time.
It’s quite impressive, as they have little access to technology and equipment. One of the brothers writes down every line as he watches films and types out scripts on a typewriter. He also makes a Batman costume from cereal boxes and yoga mats and talks about the magic of film. It’s quite adorable.
Their parents are free spirits, giving the children Sanskrit names, long hair, and the sense of being a tribe. Or, as one of the brothers puts it, it’s like a prison. The tribal mentality seems to come from a rejection of the world and their father’s belief in his own enlightenment. This would be cooler if he weren’t so controlling and abusive to their mother.
However, the siblings use the power of film to escape until they begin to venture out on their own when the eldest is 15. As you might expect, the decision to go out exploring leads to some big changes in the way they see the world. The Angulos try to balance their longing for new experiences with the fear of strangers and the outside world instilled in them for the entirety of their lives.
I think the power of this documentary rests with getting to know the Angulo siblings and admiring how genuinely sweet and introspective they are, so I’m going to stop.
Also they have a cat.
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
Quite moving, and those siblings are so adorable it hurts.
It’s so hard not to want to punch the father in the face, esp. when he starts talking about Jesus and forgiveness in the context of him being the Jesus figure, essentially. It is the absolute worst part of this film.
Thankfully, this documentary focuses on the siblings and their creative power, which is really much more interesting than yet another controlling, emotionally manipulative middle-aged dude.
Let’s be honest: The Man Who Never Was let me down in terms of noir-y elements. This edition of Blog Free or Die Hard is an attempt to find a better film noir as Christa and I agree the genre is pretty fab when done well. Melodrama, flawed/awful human beings, and old time-y swearing are crucial elements of a film noir. Did my pick deliver this time? Read my review or, better yet, Christa’s.
The House on Telegraph Hill
Where to Watch:
A Polish survivor of the Holocaust steals another woman’s identity in order to immigrate to the US. Complications arise in the form of the woman’s family members, the fate of a rather large inheritance, and serious bitch face.
The Uncondensed Version:
I was trying to figure out what nationality the lead actress was, and I finally just Googled it. Italian. She looks and sounds a bit like an Ingrid Bergman knock-off, honestly.
However, for the purposes of our film, our protagonist, Victoria, is a Polish Holocaust survivor. This film is approximately 800x darker than I expected it to be, even for a film noir.
After losing her home and husband in the war, Victoria is a refugee. The Americans want to help her return to Poland, but Victoria is quite resourceful. She has stolen the identity of Karin, a friend who died in the camps, and who happens to have wealthy family in San Francisco. Family = son who was sent away before the war for his safety + Aunt Sophie, matriarch of the family.
However, Aunt Sophie dies, leaving everything to Karin’s son. Victoria is quick to realize she stands to gain safety, an opulent lifestyle, and a damn nice house, if only she can put up with raising this admittedly quite irksome child as her own.
The pieces fall into place quite nicely when Chris’s guardian, Alan takes an interest in her. He is rather shadily only related to her through marriage, which makes it okay. From a legal standpoint, anyway.
After like 3 days, BOOM, Karin/Victoria and Alan are married. Karen finally gets to meet her son, Chris, for whom she demonstrates a healthy level of disdain. She obviously hates playing catch with Chris and looks so incredibly uncomfortable when he calls her mom.
I think this is actually a remarkably well thought-out plan, but remember how this is film noir? Shit’s about to go horribly, horribly wrong.
Karin, who is haunted by guilt, wakes up one night to find Alan having a heated argument with Margaret, the governess. Alan, obv, makes up some really unconvincing lie, so you know there’s way more to that story than you really want to know.
Karin and Alan have a party one evening, and who should arrive but Mark, an American major who helped Karin get to the US. Mark and Alan are the original frenemies and do this annoying territorial douchebag thing with Karin.
In an effort to bond with Chris, Karin brings him ice cream from the party even though he isn’t supposed to eat after 8:00. As soon as he utters these words, it’s like Margaret is magically summoned, and the two ladies have a fucking face-off over this ice cream. Ultimately, Margaret is the master of mind games and plays the trump card by allowing Chris to make his own decision.
Karin makes one last attempt to outmaneuver Margaret when she discovers there was an explosion in the playhouse years ago that could’ve killed Chris. Margaret apparently knew about this but kept the details to herself. Proving herself the queen of the disdainful Bette Davis bitch face, Margaret gives zero fucks when Karin fires her. The following day, Alan reinstates Margaret as governess.
After a confrontation with Alan about the explosion, Karin’s has a brush with death when someone cuts her brakes. She realizes Alan is trying to kill her and confides this in Mark. He actually sort of believes her, which leads to several tension-filled outings all 3 attend. Plus they start having an affair.
The rest of the film is ridiculously full of tension as certain facts come to light about the attempted murder of Karin as well as the death of Aunt Sophie.
I don’t want to completely ruin the ending because it’s so suspenseful and got really annoyed when I realized it was time for lunch and had to pause the film for approximately 3 minutes while I reheated a burrito. The end is quite like fucking Notorious but without the terrifying German mother-in-law: full of suspense and nasty things in drinks.
Suffice it to say everything comes to a rather dramatic conclusion and there’s a refreshing moment of female solidarity at the end.
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
I loved this one. It’s not necessarily a new favorite, but I’m so glad Christa and I experienced this one together. Margaret’s bitch face is something I will probably never master, but I will try damn hard to do so.
I wish there were way more film noir options on Netflix b/c this would be noir blog all day, every day.
Does Christa agree or will we have to wax our brows, apply some bright red lipstick, and stare each other down? Read her review here to find out!
Blog Free or Die Hard, take two! This is Christa’s pick, which is nothing if not ‘70s-y. I’m…not sure what else I can politely say about this film. But hey, if I can pick Monkey’s Paw, then 3 Women is also fair game. Commence the brutally honest part of the review.
Where to Watch:
Sissy Spacek is pretty obsessed with Shelley Duvall until she suffers an unfortunate accident.
The Uncondensed Version:
I don’t know where to begin with this one.
Our film opens as Pinky, played by Sissy Spacek, starts working at a spa for the elderly. Millie (Shelley Duvall) is her mentor, and takes her through the job, which is mostly walking around a pool with the patient.
Pinky is a little on the creepy/watchful end of the spectrum, but I choose to interpret her as mostly just awkward. Idk if I was really supposed to like her that much considering how neurotic she is; however, I am always going to identify with the awkward girl who makes everyone slightly uncomfortable.
So Pinky is kind of obsessed with Millie and ends up moving in with her. Surprisingly, this doesn’t end up taking a Rosemary’s Baby turn…though, in retrospect, it probably would’ve been better if it had.
It becomes obvious that Pinky and Millie are at very different life stages, or they are at least very different types of people. Millie takes Pinky to an Old West-themed bar so she can pick up cops, but Pinky just thinks beer foam is the most fascinating thing.
Also of note is the lady who paints murals and sand paintings and shit around the bar. Mostly because she paints a pool with Aztec penises and such. As the title of this post suggests, there are LOTS. Of dramatic pool shots.
I admit Pinky could get annoying, but Millie is disproportionately bitchy about minor things like leaving the milk out, which could seriously happen to anyone. Esp. as it becomes clear that no one really likes Millie as much as she thinks they do. This becomes apparent when she decides to throw a dinner party, but her guests completely blow her off. I honestly feel this has more to do with the fact that Millie was serving cheez whiz on crackers at her dinner party. I have to remind myself that it was a different time—the ‘70s were a different time.
Millie, of course, blames everything that went wrong with the dinner party on Pinky. In response, Pinky jumps into the pool, falls into a coma, and the two women experience a dramatic role reversal. I feel that’s all I should say. Frankly, that’s all I care to say about this film anyway. This is a weird one, guys. W-E-I-R-D.
Christa describes this one as “atmospheric.” Take that as you will. You either like this one or you don’t. I fall into the latter category.
2/5 Pink Panther Heads
Prob 1 realistically, but I threw in an extra PPH for Sissy Spacek’s crazy eyes.
The next few weeks on the blog are basically anything goes as we Blog Free or Die Hard. Freedom, carpe diem, etc. This week I picked a WWII thriller because I didn’t think I could handle two Polanski films in a row. I do really love Chinatown, though. Our film for the week is the nonsensically titled The Man Who Never Was.
Those sneaky Brits come up with a plan to mislead the Nazis about where the invasion of Sicily will occur.
The Uncondensed Version:
Based on the introduction, this film is going to be super melodramatic. These two military dudes are talking, and the younger dude (Montagu) gets stuck with the job of tricking the Germans into thinking the invasion of Sicily will be somewhere else (NOTE: I was trying to place the younger guy, Montagu, and I finally Googled him [bad librarian]. He’s that really sketchy journalist in Laura!)
Even though he is apparently a reasonably important naval commander, Montagu seems to have a staff of two to accomplish this. But maybe that’s normal for the military, IDK.
Staff = assistant Pam and this lieutenant who is also an assistant. I felt he wasn’t particularly important in this film, so I didn’t really make an effort to figure out exactly what his role was. Pam is def important, along with her roommate of loose morals, Gloria Grahame. Obv Lucy/Gloria Grahame is American b/c no Englishwoman would have such low standards of morality. It sucks to be Lucy as the dude she’s dating is a pilot, and she is way more into him than she’d like to admit.
But back to the military strategy side of things. Montagu decides he will fool the Nazis by planting the body of a downed pilot off the coast of Spain. This is Operation Mincemeat, aka one of the worst codenames for a military operation in history. There are two major obstacles to overcome for the plan to work: 1. Montagu needs a body, and 2. The strategic meeting pretty much exists for all of the important military dudes to criticize Montagu’s plan and person.
However, Montagu eventually manages to wrangle a body from a Scotsman. He and his crew have to spend quite a lot of time deciding what the pilot should be carrying: passport, love letters, picture of Gloria Grahame, etc.
After Montagu sets the body on its way, he is troubled, which you know because there are shots of him thinking about the ocean while everyone else is laughing and having a jolly old time.
Surprisingly, things go according to plan, and the Greeks or Italians or whatever find the body. (It took me a while to figure out what nationality these ‘50s people were going for, but it’s Spanish.)
In a dramatic twist, a Nazi spy arrives in London and starts stalking Gloria Grahame. Will GG be able to fool the Nazis, save England, and preserve life as we know it? (Sorry, Christa, I just stole your blog technique.)
I’ll give you a hint: GG comes in really drunk and starts reciting Tennyson and half-assedly playing the piano and crying.
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
I expected this to be a bit more on the thriller/film noir end of the spectrum, but there were quite a lot of lengthy logistical discussions. Ex: there was a scene where Montagu was rubbing a letter on a cabinet to make it look old, followed by a discussion about why exactly he was doing so. Not the most gripping dialogue in the history of cinema.
And, typically, Montagu ends up with a medal and GG doesn’t even get a fucking mention.
One last film for Horror Month even though it’s November! Rosemary’s Baby, which I’m not ashamed to admit I watched during the day. Demon babies, you guys. As if I didn’t find childbirth horrendous enough to begin with.
I really hope you have a basic idea of the premise b/c I’m about to spoil the fuck out of this film. Please stop reading this review and watch the film if you haven’t.
The Uncondensed Version:
We’re off to an ominous start with the fucking creepy lullaby that opens our film. It’s really effective, but I hate it.
Basic setup is that Guy, a struggling actor, and his wife, Rosemary are looking for an apartment so they can settle down and make some babies. It’s really hard to watch the apartment hunt without constantly screaming “Don’t do it! Don’t fucking do it, Rosemary! Don’t open that door! Don’t move that fucking dresser!” Plus it’s really frustrating to watch all the men totally dismiss everything Rosemary says ALL THE DAMN TIME even though she is a really observant person and is usually fucking right.
Inevitably, Guy and Rosemary move into the creepy apartment even though their only genuine friend tells them in detail all of the shit that happened there.
It doesn’t take long before Rosemary meets a woman who lives in the building. This lady has a troubled past, but a seemingly nice couple has taken her in and given her a good luck charm that may or may not contain herbs to be used in Satanic rituals (it does). The two women decide to do laundry together, which is I guess is how women socialized in the ‘60s.
All of this comes to a halt when the lady from the laundry room ends up dead on the sidewalk in an apparent suicide. In their grief, Minnie and Roman, the “nice” couple from the apartment building, invite Guy and Rosemary over for dinner.
So begins the most disturbing relationship between neighbors I can think of outside of Hitchcock. Roman does give us some nice lines about religion being all show business, but it makes me really reconsider the appreciation I have for criticizing organized religion. I am running the other way from the next person I hear disparaging the Pope.
Even though Guy was not into the idea of hanging out with the nosy neighbors, he becomes close with Roman. Meanwhile, Minnie is constantly inviting herself over and giving Rosemary things, like a Satan good luck charm of her very own.
Shortly after, Guy gets a part he’d auditioned for when another actor suddenly goes blind. Guy feels conflicted for approximately 3 seconds, but takes the role anyway and decides he’s ready to try for a baby. The baby making goes terribly wrong when Minnie brings mousse that Rosemary says has a chalky aftertaste. Fucking Guy says there’s no aftertaste and tells her to finish the mousse. GIRL. GET THE FUCK OUT.
The mousse gives Rosemary really disturbing dreams, which she suddenly realizes weren’t dreams at all. When she wakes up, she has scratches all over her back, and Guy explains that he continued with their baby making plans when Rosemary was passed out. Gross gross gross gross gross.
I don’t want to completely spoil the entire movie, so let’s just say the creepiness continues to escalate (seriously, though, watch the damn film).
Everyone thinks it’s appropriate to control all elements of Rosemary’s pregnancy and even her hair. She gets so much shit for her pixie cut that I’m amazed she didn’t give anyone a black eye.
And I admit I know little to nothing about pregnancy, but the doctor tells her the stabbing pain in her chest is normal. Fucking men.
URGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH, I am even more afraid of childbirth after this film (that and parties). I think I should just get my ovaries removed now.
This film gets to the terror and claustrophobia of big city life or maybe that’s just the antisocial impulse in me. Also men being, as a whole, a bunch of douchebags. It’s incredibly frustrating that a film in which a woman is manipulated by men and has no control over her own body is still so relevant.
There is no film as suspenseful as this one besides Strangers on a Train or perhaps Chinatown. It occurs to me how similar this is to Chinatown, actually, and Mia Farrow/Faye Dunaway could be twins. I really want to watch that film now, but I should probably just leave it…it’s Chinatown.
5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I don’t know if this film is more creepy or enraging, but it’s a good one either way.
This hobby blog is dedicated to movie nerdom, nostalgia, and the occasional escape. In the late 90s, I worked at Blockbuster Video where they let me take home two free movies a day. I caught up on the classics and wrote movie reviews for Denver 'burbs newspapers and magazines. Currently, I am enjoying my new life as a new dad, but when there's free time, movies are standard. Comments and dialogue always encouraged. Happy Moviegoing!