Sean Lemme

Sean is mildly pleased with most things in life, so I guess it's good he made this website.

Criterion Month Day 18: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

Despite only a limited knowledge of Paul Schrader’s filmography, I feel it’s safe to say that he is drawn to stories about loners making rash decisions. I think every movie I’ve seen that he’s written or directed has starred isolated characters who find themselves at odds with society. So it’s easy to imagine why Schrader would want to tell the story of Japanese author Yukio Mashima, who committed suicide after staging a failed coup d’etat fifteen years before this movie’s release. But it’s Schrader’s telling of the story that is so interesting, as it provides a template for why so many contemporary biopics seem like boring Oscar bait.

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Criterion Month Day 15: Grey Gardens

Grey Gardens (1975)

I’ve wanted to see Grey Gardens ever since watching The Queen of Versailles, a conceptually similar 2012 documentary about an hilariously stereotypical, obscenely wealthy family trying to build the biggest home in the country just as the Great Recession is about to hit. But I worried they were too similar, so I dragged my feet getting to the 1975 original. Thankfully, we have Criterion Month. Now that I’ve finally seen Grey Gardens, I can say that, while the “riches to rags” theme is shared between the two films, there’s one major difference: The Queen of Versailles is about that collapse, while in Grey Gardens the decline was decades and decades ago.

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Criterion Month Day 11: Charade

Charade (1963)

Happy 7/11 everyone! I hope you enjoyed your free frozen treat. Personally, I didn’t even try, around these parts the consensus is Slurpees were ruined by the switch to paper straws. If you haven’t guessed, I’m having trouble coming up with an angle to attack Charade from. It’s the most Hollywood movie I’ve ever watched for Criterion Month, and that means my experience watching it was a lot less emotional and I was left with much less to chew on when it ended. Which betrays how much fun Charade was to watch. It feels like having to write about It Happened One Night or North by Northwest, except for some reason this movie isn’t as talked about as those classics. Why would that be? Let’s see if we can figure it out.

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Criterion Month Day 7: Hiroshima mon amour

Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

When I think about the period following WWII, the first thing that comes to mind is fuckin’ boomers, man. America and the Soviet Union leapt straight into the Cold War, totally skipping over the decade of celebration that came after WWI (side note: the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles was June 28, did you know that?). And so my focus has always been on Germany being divided, the Korean War, and the global ideological battle between capitalism and communism. But in some places, rebuilding after the war took precedent. Seeing an insight into that experience was my favorite aspect of Hiroshima mon amour.

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Criterion Month Day 5: Aparajito

Aparajito (1956)

One thing that’s tricky about reviewing an older movie is balancing how it feels to see the film for the first time today versus appreciating its historical context. So when I have to write about a film like Aparajito, I have a hard time not making it sound like a typical coming-of-age story. But if I go too hard the other way, focusing entirely on the history of the movie doesn’t do it justice either. Cinematographer Subrata Mitra invented bounce lighting during the production of Aparajito, do you have to be the type of person who knows what cinematographers do and what bounce lighting is to enjoy it? Not at all, this is a much more universal experience than that.

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Criterion Month Day 3: Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter (1945)

One night in a refreshment room at a busy railway station, a gossipy older woman called Dolly (Everley Gregg) sees her acquaintance Laura (Celia Johnson) and a man sharing a tea. She invites herself to their table. The man introduces himself as Alec (Trevor Howard), politely buys Dolly a tea, and soon leaves to catch his train. Laura seems a bit ill, and tries to sleep on the way home, disappointing the talkative Dolly. She offers to walk Laura home, but is turned down. She’ll never know it, but Dolly was there for the most devastating moment in Laura’s life.

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Forked Up

Toy Story 4

How popular are toys with kids these days, anyway? Now that we have smartphones and tablets, children are more interested in imitating their favorite Twitch streamers and YouTubers and building towers in Minecraft and/or Fortnite than playing with their Batman action figures, right? And if that’s true, doesn’t it beg an even more disturbing question: is the limitless potential of digital entertainment actually stunting the development of creativity in our youth? After all, if you can play out the fantasies of a team of adult developers, why work on your own imagination? Well, if these hack writing prompts actually are interesting to you, I’ve got some bad news! The filmmakers of Toy Story 4 couldn’t care less about such modern issues. They just wanted to put a button on this saga that started back in 1995.

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