12.27.2014

The Films of 2014: The Immigrant



To look at Marion Cotillard is to look at a woman with the kind of face that seems ageless.  I don’t just mean that she’s beautiful (though she is that)—it’s also that she looks like she’s stepped out of another time.  It’s no surprise that some of her most significant roles as an actor have been in period pictures, playing Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose (for which she won that surprise Best Actress Oscar) and a dream vision of the Jazz Age in Midnight in Paris.  In The Immigrant, her face could be that of a figure from an old photograph of Ellis Island, or of a forgotten silent film actress.  The director, James Gray, uses her like D. W. Griffith used Lillian Gish: she becomes a vessel for tragic pathos at the same time that she blows us away with her star power.   

12.19.2014

The Films of 2014: The short takes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—by which I mean awards season.  As the nation’s critics begin to cast their votes for the year’s best films, and as I prepare my own list of favorites, I’m catching up with some notable titles that I missed the first time around.


Ida (dir. Pawel Pawlikowski): This is Poland’s submission for this year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, and it very well could win; it’s already proven the favorite of over a dozen critics’ groups.  It’s set in the early 1960s and, with its black-and-white cinematography and weighty subject matter, feels like a vintage art house film from the same period.  The title character is a Catholic novice who learns that her parents were Jewish, victims of the Holocaust.  This news, which comes during a visit to her aunt—her first time away from the walls of the convent—causes her to question her identity, her religious faith, and her life’s mission.  It’s a lean, spare, intimate work, and while it didn’t resonate much with me it does have one sublime moment, when the curious Ida hears the sounds of John Coltrane’s “Naima” wafting up the stairs from the jazz club below her aunt’s hotel room.

12.16.2014

The Films of 2014: The Babadook



Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook isn’t just the best new horror film in recent memory—it’s one of the best films of the year, period.  It’s a horror film that understands, as all the best horror films do, that our scariest encounters are often with the people we know and love best; that the most familiar and intimate of spaces can also be the most dangerous; and that within a family the urge to protect one another can sometimes shade into the desire to kill one another.  It’s the same principle that drives the stories of the Brothers Grimm, in which a child can never be sure if his parents are going to save him, abandon him, or eat him. 

12.06.2014

The Films of 2014: Citizenfour



Remember back in the summer of 2013 when the Edward Snowden case was breaking, and we kept seeing that same picture of Snowden over and over again on all the news channels and all the websites?  The Onion even made a joke about it (“Nation Demands New Photograph of Edward Snowden”).  It wasn’t just that we were tired of that picture; it was that the man at the center of the story seemed to be an enigma.  Who was this guy?  All that we had to go on was a couple of minutes of interview footage of Snowden in conversation with Glenn Greenwald, shot by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in the Hong Kong hotel room where Snowden and Greenwald broke the story of the NSA wiretaps.

11.30.2014

The Films of 2014: Foxcatcher



The 2014 awards season will kick off this week as the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review name their choices for the best films and performances of the year.  Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher is a film that’s been in the Oscar race since 2013; it was originally slated to come out last fall but was pushed back, presumably because last year’s competition was looking too stiff.  I’m not sure that its odds will be any better this year.  It’s a very good film, and the only feature by director Bennett Miller (of Capote and Moneyball) that I’ve liked; but will Academy voters go for something this grim, quiet, and cold?  This has to be one of the darkest Best Picture contenders of this decade.  Based on a true story, it dramatizes the attempts of eccentric billionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) to lead a group of wrestlers, led by brothers Mark and David Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo), to victory at the 1988 Olympic Games.  But this is no upbeat, inspirational sports movie: du Pont is a mouth-breathing control freak with mommy issues, Mark doesn’t bring home the gold, and the tensions between the three men eventually culminate in violence. 

11.25.2014

The Films of 2014: National Gallery




“Some of the documentaries I see, they’re too simpleminded. They treat the audience like idiots.  And as a result they’re very condescending.  Or they’re trying to sell a political point of view or a particular ideology, which isn’t very interesting because it ignores the actual complexity of the subject matter.”  – Frederick Wiseman  

The greatness of Frederick Wiseman—our greatest living documentary filmmaker, rivaled only perhaps by Errol Morris or Werner Herzog—has to do with his willingness to problematize his subjects.  His films, which typically question institutions and systems of power, tend to appeal to leftists and academics, but they’re not left-wing propaganda pictures.  You won’t find Wiseman using his films to beat any drums or wave any flags.  At their best moments, they reveal the complexity of factors (economic, logistical, emotional, ideological) that make commonplace places and things run.  The films, many of which are over three hours (1989’s Near Death is six), work by accretion, as Wiseman slowly piles one moment on top of another.  He makes films the way that birds or wasps make nests.  We need him now more than ever in the age of Netflix, the “Documentary” category of which consists of mostly screeds and puff pieces running an average of seventy-five minutes.    

11.18.2014

The Films of 2014: Force Majeure



Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure is a tense, prickly comedy of manners in the key of Haneke.  Set at a winter resort in the French Alps, it concerns a well-to-do Swedish family (husband, wife, pre-adolescent daughter and son) who have come for a five-day ski vacation.  The simmering tensions within the family threaten to explode after they witness an avalanche that very nearly engulfs them in the middle of lunch at an open-air restaurant.  Just as a tidal wave of snow appears to be headed straight for the family, the husband bolts, leaving his wife and kids behind to fend for themselves.  It’s a split-second decision that he will come to regret: even though his family survives physically unscathed, their faith in him as a protective husband and parent has been shaken.  The avalanche comes to act as an objective correlative for the way in which a single moment of blind panic can set off a destabilizing chain reaction within a family.

11.12.2014

The Films of 2014: Whiplash



It’s impossible to talk about Whiplash without talking about J. K. Simmons’ maniacal performance as Terence Fletcher, for which he may well win an Oscar this March.  That’s a scenario with which I’d be fine, because Simmons is the real deal; he’s not a lazy actor baiting the Academy with histrionics.  The role is admittedly showy and flamboyant, but Simmons interprets it with tautness and intelligence.  He’s so good as Fletcher, a music professor who conducts the jazz band at a prestigious New York City conservatory with a tyrannical zeal, that audience members are likely to find themselves as terrified of him as his students are. 

11.01.2014

The Films of 2014: Birdman



Contrary to what the promotional materials would have you believe, the star of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s new film Birdman isn’t Michael Keaton.  It’s true that Keaton is onscreen for roughly ninety percent of the film, and it’s also true that he turns in a terrific performance—perhaps the best performance of a career spent mostly in the shadow of his star turn as the title role in Tim Burton’s Batman films.  By casting Keaton as Riggan Thomson, a once-hot star of big-budget action movies, now middle-aged, paunchy, discontented, and trying to prove to himself and the world that he can be a serious actor by mounting a ham-fisted stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Birdman plays (sometimes cleverly, sometimes obviously) on the absurdity and fickleness of celebrity and the ages-old feud between Hollywood and Broadway.  If the film (co-scripted by a team of four screenwriters—hardly ever a good sign) is never quite as sharp or perceptive as it tries to be, it’s buoyed up by Keaton’s performance, which is loose and funny and has a little bit of the manic, loose-cannon quality that he brought to memorable early roles like Beetlejuice.  His Riggan Thompson is tired, desperate, and may be losing his mind; he’s hen-pecked by the nagging voice of his superhero persona, Birdman, and he appears to believe that he possesses telekinetic powers, which he unleashes in fits of destructive rage.  In the quieter, more subtly drawn moments of the film, Riggan tries to forge emotional connections with his ex-wife (Amy Ryan) and estranged daughter (Emma Stone), and Keaton is given the opportunity to sound more dramatic notes, which he does effortlessly. 

10.07.2014

The Films of 2014: Gone Girl


The face of Amy Dunne—blonde, sleek, hard, unreadable—is the enigma at the center of Gone Girl, the highly touted new film of the best-selling Gillian Flynn novel.  Is Amy’s Mona Lisa smile the pose of a discontented trophy wife?  Is it the mask of a sociopath?  The film takes pleasure in teasing us with these questions, slowly revealing Amy’s character in flashbacks and voice-over narration as police, the media, and her husband (Ben Affleck) attempt to solve the mystery of her sudden disappearance from her home in the Missouri suburbs. 

9.19.2014

The Sunday Night Movie: The Cartoons of Tex Avery (1936-1952)




I picked up the second volume of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection on Blu-Ray a year or so ago, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I had time to sit down with it.  My main reason for buying the set was that it marks the first time that the ingeniously clever cartoons of Tex Avery (the best of which was done after Avery left Warner Bros. for MGM, incidentally) have been made available on DVD.  It doesn’t hurt that the set also includes a wealth of Looney Tunes classics by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Bob Clampett (including the famously weird Porky in Wackyland).  Anyway.  The Avery cartoons represent mid-twentieth-century animation at its most antic and irreverent.  Here are five favorites:

Blitz Wolf (1942, pictured above)

Probably the best-known of the WWII-era propaganda cartoons (a title card informs us that the resemblance of a goose-stepping Big Bad Wolf to Adolf Hitler is “purely intentional”), it’s chock-a-block with corny puns, phallic weapons, jingoistic violence, and references to popular songs and movies.  Opens with a parody of Disney’s Three Little Pigs and ends with the Wolf being blown to hell, where he’s greeted by a chorus of grinning devils.  Delightfully unhinged.



Red Hot Riding Hood (1944) and Swing Shift Cinderella (1945)

Avery’s fairy-tale cartoons beg to be read as snarky, adult-oriented revisions of the Disney classics, which Avery would continue to mock throughout his career for their saccharine cuteness.  Red Hot Riding Hood begins with Little Red, the Wolf, and Grandma all complaining that their story needs a re-haul.  So Avery makes Red into a sultry nightclub singer and the Wolf a leering horndog whose insatiable libido is rivaled only by that of hot-and-bothered Grandma.  Swing Shift Cinderella is an unapologetic retread of Riding Hood, with a bonkers Fairy Godmother taking over the Grandma role.  Avery’s fairy tale cartoons were banned for years due to their keyed-up sexual humor, and one can see why.  These aren’t subtle acknowledgements of the adult themes that already lie beneath the original stories—they’re raucous, manic, panting travesties.  See also Little Rural Riding Hood (not included in this DVD edition, sadly).    



King-Size Canary (1947)

A good example of how under Avery’s direction a familiar conceit (cat pursues mouse) could be exaggerated to surreal proportions.  By the end, cat and mouse, having each taken liberal doses of “Jumbo-Gro” in an attempt to outsize the other, stand shoulder to shoulder on a basketball-sized Earth.  I first read about this one in J. Hoberman’s essay “Vulgar Modernism,” in which he singles out Avery’s work as an example of American mass culture at its most mind-bendingly experimental.



Symphony in Slang (1952)

It’s a testament to Avery’s cleverness that he could sustain what is essentially a single gag—the de-familiarization of common idiomatic expressions (ex. “he drew a gun on me”)—for the span of a seven-minute short.  That beautifully flat, angular animation style doesn’t hurt, either.

9.14.2014

Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part X




6.  Unforgiven (1992)

If you don’t count Cimarron (and really, why should you?) this marked the first time a Western won for Best Picture.  And what a Western!  Not since The Searchers had the genre so harrowingly laid bare the battered psyche of the frontier “hero.”  “I got scars,” says Clint Eastwood’s William Munny.  That’s one way of putting it.  By turns rip-roaring, terrifying, beautiful, and deeply moving.     

9.13.2014

Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part IX




15.  The Deer Hunter (1978)

Another one that really impressed me as a budding film lover but that I should probably revisit.  It may be one of the best uses of the three-act structure in Hollywood cinema, and one of the few three-hour movies that’s actually well-paced.  Also, Meryl Streep.  

9.12.2014

Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part VIII




23.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

The gender politics in this one—oof.  Setting that aside, some truly great performances here.  That a fiercely talented “character actor” like Louise Fletcher could land a starring role in a movie this big and ride it all the way to a Best Actress win is proof that the system can work (sometimes).

9.11.2014

Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part VII




34.  How Green Was My Valley (1941)

This is John Ford at his loveliest and most heart-breaking, as opposed to the hokey sentiment to which he sometimes stooped in lesser films.  Very fine.

9.10.2014

Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part VI




44.  Out of Africa (1985)

The best thing this movie has going for it is John Barry’s exquisitely romantic score, which is so good that it justifies the existence of the film itself.  Also, Meryl Streep.

9.09.2014

Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part V




53.  The King’s Speech (2010)

This was the year when many critics were rooting for The Social Network, a film I actively despised.  So I wasn’t exactly disappointed when this perfectly charming, well-acted, inoffensive dramedy ended up winning instead.  (Tom Hooper winning Best Director is another story.)  And so we enter the “damning with faint praise” portion of our program…         

9.08.2014

The Sunday Night Movie: The Rules of the Game (1939)



Is The Rules of the Game a comedy?  Re-watching it last night I was reminded of just how silly much of its middle section at La Colinière plays, with its jealous husbands chasing their wives’ lovers with guns, annoying mistresses throwing drunken tantrums, etc.  It’s a sequence in which we see the whole machinery of European bourgeois society going haywire, just at the moment that (tellingly) Robert’s much-prized mechanical theater proceeds to break down.  The screwball comedy of The Rules of the Game’s middle act makes the fatal coincidences of its ending all the more devastating; farce is replayed as tragedy.  And yet the film’s final wry observation, delivered by the unflappable old military general staying at the house as a guest of Robert, is a kind of punch-line that lands squarely in the gut.  It’s a poignant and unexpected ending, one that both caps off the film’s delicate intermingling of comedy and tragedy, the two swirling together like red and white wine, and joltingly re-frames the action of the film by viewing it from an unfamiliar angle.    

To set the scene: the idealistic, romantic lover Jurieux, his identity mistaken for that of his best friend Octave, has just been shot to death in the garden.  A consummate host, Robert responds by delivering an impersonal, official-sounding speech, itself framed as a theatrical performance upon a stage, bemoaning the unfortunate “accident.”  One of the guests turns to the general and responds with a snort of derision.  But the general points out that Robert’s bogus platitudes are actually a queer sort of comfort—a sign that Robert understands the rules of the game of class, and that he is committed to following them to the letter.  The defeat in the general’s voice as he says this is tempered by a note of mournful pride.  That the last words of a film so crowded with people are given to the general, whose role is relatively small, comes as something of a surprise.  Why not end with Christine, or a remorseful, humbled Schumacher, or a cynical crack from Lisette, or a word of remembrance from Octave, who after all is played by Renoir himself?  But instead Renoir defers to this sage-like figure who stands apart from the film’s tangle of lovers.  Watching them, what can one do but congratulate them on the grace with which they each play out their parts, doomed though they may be?  What else can one do but smile, and laugh?  The Rules of the Game may only be a comedy insofar as it is about choosing to smile through tears.  Watching Renoir’s film, you don’t laugh until it hurts—you laugh because it hurts.  

Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part IV



62.  Dances With Wolves (1990)

Ah, Kevin Costner.  I remember (vaguely) the days when you were an important player in Hollywood.  Haven’t seen this one in a while but I remember it being…watchable?  I’ll put it here for now.

9.07.2014

Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part III



72.  Ordinary People (1980)

This movie about white middle-class malaise may not really be any worse than, say, American Beauty, but it feels more egregious, what with its repeated use of Pachelbel’s “Canon,” wistful shots of falling leaves, etc.  Haven’t seen this in twenty years or so, though, so my memory of it may be unreliable. 

9.06.2014

Ranking the Best Picture Winners, Part II


80.  Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)

Critical concensus is that this star-studded extravaganza—very loosely based on the Jules Verne novel—is pretty terrible.  I have only vague memories of seeing this on TV as a kid and being amused enough to sit through the whole thing.  I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s worse than I remember.


79.  Gigi (1958)

Now here’s one that I saw on TV as a slightly-older kid and remember actively disliking, and not because I was one of those adolescent boys who thought musicals were dumb.  The dumbness of this movie transcends genre.

9.05.2014

Ranking the Best Picture Winners: The Good, The Meh, and the Ugly (Part 1)



These lists were going around the Internet a year or so ago, so I’m a little late to the party.  But I didn’t think it was right to weigh in without actually having seen all 86 films in question, which I can now proudly (read: exhaustedly) claim to have done (where’s my prize?).  Here goes:


86.  Cavalcade (1933)

While none of the films to win Best Picture seems to me downright execrable, there are a fair number of them that border on unwatchable, this one probably being the unwatchable-ist of all.  It’s a March-of-Time-type deal written by Noel Coward, whose name meant more to audiences of 1933 than it does today.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with for this film having appealed to anyone, ever, though there’s also the bigness factor to be taken into consideration (the production values were, for its time, colossal, and when it comes to winning Oscars bigger is often better, today as then). 

9.03.2014

Blogging Best Picture: 1989, "Driving Miss Daisy"



Having just finished watching Driving Miss Daisy (dir. Bruce Beresford, 1989) for the first time, I have now seen all eighty-six films to win Best Picture.  (Stay tuned for an upcoming series of posts in which I rank them from worst to best.)  Beresford’s film falls somewhere in that hazy gray area between good and bad cinema.  It even looks hazy; the cinematography is burnished and soft, almost bleached out.  Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy are first-rate, but their roles are soft-ball parts, so cozy and unchallenging that there’s not enough for them to do, and the performances end up feeling phoned-in.  (They’re powered by the sheer magnetism of Tandy and Freeman’s personalities.)  If the film never really does anything egregious, it also contains no surprises: we know immediately that Freeman’s devilish charm will soon melt Tandy’s icy heart, which we also know really isn’t icy at all. 

While the racial politics of this film are only quietly distasteful in the same well-meaning, middlebrow way that they are in, say, The Help, it’s impossible for Driving Miss Daisy not to feel roughly fifty years more old-fashioned than it is when one remembers that 1989 was also the year of Spike Lee’s trenchant Do the Right Thing, one of the most devastating movies about race relations in America (or about anything) ever made.  (FYI: Do the Right Thing was nominated for two Oscars that year, for Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay.  It won neither.  Driving Miss Daisy was nominated for nine awards and won four.)  To look at the two films side by side is to see an image of the Hollywood film industry in black and white.  Do the Right Thing is a “scary” black movie, a radical defense of black militancy, and a call to arms, with tragic overtones (and edgy, in-your-face comedy).  Driving Miss Daisy is, by contrast, reassuring, quiet, and tasteful.   

I don’t like to beat up on films like Driving Miss Daisy and The Help too badly, because I don’t find them insidious; they’re essentially soft liberal social-problem pictures of the kind that Hollywood has always made.  Watching them, you’re likely to squirm not because they betray some latent bigoted ugliness but rather because you can feel the well-intentioned white filmmakers and actors trying to say something ennobling and meaningful about race but not knowing what to do with the black characters and actors.  The latter become sanctified and boring, and the whole thing enterprise ends up feeling awkward.  Are Driving Miss Daisy and The Help reprehensible films?  I don’t think so.  But they’re limited by the blind spots that inevitably come from approaching the question of race from a white perspective.  They’re embalmed by their own fear of saying anything real.

9.01.2014

Blogging Best Picture: 1981, "Chariots of Fire"



File this one under the heading “What Were They Thinking?”  Granted, 1981 was not exactly a banner year for cinema, American or otherwise.  My favorites from that year are nearly all cult or exploitation films: Abel Ferrara’s Ms.45, John Waters’ Polyester, Joe Dante’s The Howling, Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising—none of them what one might call Best Picture material.  I guess I can also see why Raiders of the Lost Ark, which did manage a Best Picture nomination, was probably thought to be too frivolous and lightweight ever to be a serious contender.  None of this helps me to understand the appeal of Chariots of Fire, though, which fails to engage on the level of its characters, its subject matter, its style, or its performances.  Why does this movie exist?  And, more bafflingly, who liked/likes the thing?  I did perk up when Brad Davis appeared in the final half hour, and my inner Savoyard appreciated the smatterings of Gilbert and Sullivan that punctuate the soundtrack.  Good God, is this a slog, though, and it does nothing to disabuse audiences of the common misconception that English cinema is a generally prissy, bloodless affair.  Avoid.     

8.31.2014

Blogging Best Picture: 1973, "The Sting"

 
This past winter I wrote about how the appeal of David O. Russell’s American Hustle seemed to me to be rooted in its sense of fun—in the pleasures of watching good-looking, well-liked Hollywood stars dressing up, mugging for the camera, and making each other laugh.  The Fun Factor isn’t always enough to win a movie a Best Picture Oscar (it didn’t work for American Hustle), but it was in 1973, when George Roy Hill’s The Sting beat out more Serious fare such as The Exorcist and Cries and Whispers.  The Sting was also something of a reunion film for Hill, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman, who had previously collaborated on the popular (and similarly Fun) buddy Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969.  A caper comedy set in Depression-era Chicago, choreographed to the music of Scott Joplin (in jaunty new settings by Marvin Hamlisch), The Sting sells itself as a delicious soufflé.  And it mostly succeeds as one.  If while watching this movie it’s sometimes hard to decide who is sexier, Newman or Redford, that’s because the star power of each is so great that you can’t help but feel a little blinded by both of them.  Watching them work together to tag-team a con artist of legendary stature, dressed to the nines (in costumes designed by Edith Head, no less), it’s impossible not to feel a kind of giddy joy. 


Having fun: Newman and Redford.

8.30.2014

The Sunday Night Movie: Contempt (1963)


 
Things changed up for this week’s Movie: instead of screening a classic Sunday night at home, my boyfriend, a friend and I caught a 35mm screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt at the Harvard Film Archive on Friday.  It’s actually not the first time I’ve had the good fortune to see this film screened theatrically; I caught a revival screening at Athens, OH’s Athena Cinema some five or six years ago, which was attended by myself and only a handful of other people, two of whom being a pair of bewildered (and noticeably frustrated) undergraduates.  Not surprisingly, the audience last night at the HFA was larger—the screening room looked to be almost sold out—and a good deal more receptive. 

I don’t think I’d seen Contempt since that screening in Athens.  Turns out it’s still a masterpiece.  Breathless may be cooler and sexier, Les Carabiniers and Weekend more pointed politically, but Contempt strikes me as probably Godard’s most beautiful movie, filmed on location in Rome and on Capri and lushly photographed in Technicolor by Raoul Coutard.  Georges Delerue’s plangent score is so good that one doesn’t even mind hearing Godard repeat the same fourteen-bar phrase approximately ten times in the course of thirty minutes.  It also may be the most accessible of any of Godard’s films, or at least the one in which his desire to experiment with style, editing, sound, dialogue, story and ideas—in other words, to re-order the very elements of narrative cinema—is done so elegantly and cogently that it never feels like he’s straining to make his points or to be difficult for the sake of difficulty.  Call it a perfect synchronicity of form and content.  In his very good piece on the film from 1997, Jonathan Rosenbaum writes that Contempt may be seen as an example of how Godard “fails as a storyteller, as an entertainer, as an essayist, and as a film critic in the very process of succeeding as an artist”—which is one way of saying that Godard’s genius lay in taking the pieces of cinema apart, finding a new way to put them together, and making the whole thing greater than the sum of its parts.  There may be films that tell the story of a dying marriage more movingly, or that make a point about the struggle to reconcile art with money more sharply, or that deconstruct the grammar of film more daringly, or that are funnier in their send-up of the greed of the film industry, but I can think of almost none that so perfectly fuses these elements into a single whole, and I can’t really think of any other filmmaker but Godard who would have been able to do so.  Contempt very well may be the summa of the European art film’s golden age.     


The Films of 2014: Manakamana



Manakamana, directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez, consists of only eleven shots, each one running some ten or eleven minutes, filmed in 16mm.  Each shot is taken from inside a cable car as it moves toward or away from the top of the Nepalese holy mountain Manakamana, carrying one or more passengers at a time.  The film documents six rides up, followed by five rides down.  Passengers include an elderly Nepalese couple bearing flowers and a rooster; two women who, laughing, struggle to eat a pair of melting ice cream bars; a trio of teenage rock musicians carrying a kitten and posing for selfies; and a herd of confused-seeming goats.  Some of the trips unfold quietly, the only sound being the creak and rumble of the cable wire overhead.  Others are noisier, as passengers chat and make observations about the journey, some of which (“my ears are popping”; “look, that’s the sal forest”) repeat throughout the film, creating subtle rhythms and repetitions.