Weekly Round-Up: November 29 – December 05, 2015

This past week took things to a prehistoric level, with no fewer than three viewings of dinosaur movies:

  • The Good Dinosaur (2015) – A gorgeously animated, delicately told prehistoric western about a young dinosaur and his pet human finding their way home. (I liked it so much I watched it twice last week!) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • All That Heaven Allows (1955) – Strong melodrama about the romance between a widow and a younger man, and their struggle against societal pressures. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • My Own Private Idaho (1991) – A young male prostitute goes on an international search for his mother. I must be missing something, because I don’t understand why people like this movie. NOT RECOMMENDED.
  • Pather Panchali (1955) – The story of a struggling family living in rural India. Beautifully shot and genuinely moving. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • Shame (2011) – A sex addict reaches his breaking point when his sister comes to stay with him. Tremendously directed for how seriously it takes takes its subject matter. Certainly not for everybody, but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you’re okay with emotionally draining sex scenes!
  • Jurassic World (2015) – Mindless CGI sequel/remake of Jurassic Park. The scenes of Jurassic World as an operating theme park are the film’s strong suit. NOT RECOMMENDED.
  • Youth (2015) – Thoughtful, emotional story of a retired composer and the people close to him. RECOMMENDED.

What did you see last week? Am I wrong about My Own Private Idaho or Jurassic World? Let me know in the comments!

Mala Noche (1985)

If you thought Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho was a charming gateway to the Portland male hooker scene, you may want to dig even further underground into the world of Mala Noche.

This is the story of a young man, Walt, who falls in love-at-first-sight with Johnny, an even younger Mexican hooker who walks into his shop one day. Walt tries to flirt with Johnny, then directly propositions him, talks his friend into having him over for dinner, then even offers to pay him for sex. Johnny refuses, leaving Walt with his companion Pepper as the next-best option, which Walt takes.

Walt is unphased by Johnny’s rejection though, and goes to great lengths to woo him, ranging from what he sees as subtle manipulation to literally begging on his knees. The bizarre journey sounds too preposterous to be true, but when guided by Walt’s warped narration, almost every decision Walt makes is rooted in his broader scheme to get Johnny (at least, that’s what he tells us). Even after Johnny leaves town, and Walt and Pepper enter an “erotic friendship” (Walt’s words), Walt’s narration still brings up Johnny constantly.

What makes Mala Noche so fascinating is both what it is, and what it isn’t. On paper Walt sounds like a genuine psychopath, but he doesn’t do anything too extreme to get Johnny. His is a story of obsession but not hysteria. A part of Johnny clearly enjoys being pursued. Pepper first tells Walt “No sex,” but several scenes later, his rule shifts to “sex only at nighttime.”

The confounding sense of order and structure is so pleated yet flexible. It’s as if the characters tell themselves they live within boundaries, only to compromise out of them when it’s convenient. Mala Noche is not just a bizarre love triangle, but a thought-provoking piece on how we define ourselves and our actions.