Every month, A Place for Film brings you a selection of films from our group of regular bloggers. Even though these films aren’t currently being screened at the IU Cinema, this series reflects the varied programming that can be found at the Cinema and demonstrates the eclectic tastes of the bloggers. Each contributor has picked one film that they saw this month that they couldn’t wait to share with others. Keep reading to find out what discoveries these cinephiles have made, as well as some of the old friends they’ve revisited.
David Carter, contributor | Magic Mike XXL (2015)
There are few films I hold with the intense love and affection I hold for Magic Mike XXL (Magical Michael Extra Extra Large if you were raised right) and why wouldn’t I? A Channing Tatum vehicle at the apex of his tenure as a leading man? Check. A road trip movie about friends coming to terms with their own dreams and how it intersects with their chosen role as an object of desire? Check. A sequel that so far surpasses its original (and the first Magic Mike is a really good movie) it establishes its own world and stakes so quickly that it makes watching the original film unnecessary? Check. A SECRET MUSICAL HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT? That’s a BIG check. All these things combined with the particular summer movie vibe of 2015, its unexpectedly kindhearted core, and just how mindbogglingly hot the whole movie is from start to finish, it’s no wonder that I would hold this movie in such high esteem. I think it’s a movie that deserves more attention from the general public, especially as some emerge from the pandemic back into the realm of… I think scholars would call it “knockin’ boots”?
Despite being filmed with and edited with your typical mellow Steven Soderbergh palette and pacing, the movie is rapturous. Full of showstopping sequences, genuinely career-best performances from some of the cast and, of course, Ginuwine’s “Pony.” Take a chance on watching it and I hope at the virtual round-up I can convince you that it’s more than just the sequel to the sad-male-stripper movie from 2012. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Laura Ivins, contributor | The Hole Story (2006)
The Hole Story is a film about lies, or at least about the fudging of the truth. Based on an actual news story of a mysterious hole developing in the middle of a frozen-over lake in Minnesota, the film quickly launches into a character study of a man driven to manufacture reality.
The character Alex Karpovsky (played by the film’s writer and director) and his production crew arrive in the town of Brainerd, Minnesota in the winter of 2005. They are filming a pilot for a non-fiction documentary series called “Provincial Puzzlers,” and they plan to do their first episode on North Long Lake’s unexplained “black hole.” However, their first interview subject has disappointing news: “It ain’t open no more.”
The hole has frozen over. The production is doomed before it even began.
The rest of the film follows Karpovsky’s obsessive attempts to get townspeople to lie on camera, to shoot footage that can be edited as if the hole is still open, and even to open the hole himself via sledgehammer and chainsaw.
The film works because of our desire to retain unknowability in our world. We want mystery, and we get a thrill from not knowing, from the yearn to know. We love Bigfoot and Nesse because they represent the possibility of magic in a mass-produced world, and we are fascinated by the obsessive, Herzogian character who just can’t let the mystery go.
Jack Miller, contributor | Some Came Running (1958)
At the end of the 1950s, a group of major American directors produced a series of masterpieces that closed out that great era of traditional studio filmmaking: Ford makes The Searchers (1956), Hitchcock makes Vertigo (1958), Welles makes Touch of Evil (1958). To this list one should add Vincente Minnelli’s incendiary ‘Scope melodrama Some Came Running, an adaptation of James Jones’ novel of the same name set in the small town of Parkman, Indiana. Minnelli stated that he based the color scheme of the movie on the inside of a jukebox, and it remains an object lesson in the expressive use of color and widescreen. But beyond its stunning formal qualities, Some Came Running deserves to be seen as one of the few truly novelistic films, successfully approximating the density and the aesthetics of literature. And Shirley MacLaine’s performance as Ginny is one of the greats.
Jesse Pasternack, contributor | DekaDonen 5: Dekalog: Five (1988) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
(Once a month, Jesse watches a double feature he calls the DekaDonen, which consists of an episode of Krzystztof Kieslowski’s miniseries Dekalog and a film by Stanley Donen. He’ll be watching and writing about these double features until October. Due to this month’s virtual edition of our round-up, Jesse switched up the order of the DekaDonen and talked about Dekalog: Six and its Donen companion, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, last month.)
There is no double feature in the DekaDonen that is more of a tonal whiplash than this one. Dekalog: Five is one of the most depressing episodes of television I have ever seen. Singin’ in the Rain is one of the most cheerful films ever made. Cinematographer Sławomir Idziak (who would go on to lens The Double Life of Véronique and Three Colors: Blue for Kieslowski) shoots Dekalog: Five with filters that give every shot a nightmarish feel that is evocative of some of the greatest classics of dark, contemplative European cinema. Veteran director of photography Harold Rosson (who shot everything from The Wizard of Oz to The Asphalt Jungle) works well with Donen to create a Technicolor wonderland that is an incredible tribute to the imaginative, optimistic spirit of 20th-century American romantic cinema at its best. You can get no greater idea of how vast and rich the world of cinema is than to watch and contrast these two brilliant works of art.
You can view a trailer for Dekalog here.
Michaela Owens, Editor | Dangerous When Wet (1953)
To know me is to know that I’m obsessed with Esther Williams, the champion swimmer who became one of classic Hollywood’s most dazzling and unique stars. One of her best films, and my personal #1 favorite, is Dangerous When Wet, a delightful mixture of songs, romance, and, of course, swimming. With future husband Fernando Lamas by her side, Esther sparkles as a farm girl whose family enters a competition to swim the English Channel. As with many of her movies, the premise is a bit daffy, but the breezy, colorful escapism this cinematic mermaid offers, as well as her depiction of a physically strong, resilient, ambitious woman, is downright divine. Expertly crafted by director Charles Walters, Dangerous When Wet has plenty of laughs and heart — and one splendid sequence of Esther swimming with Tom and Jerry!