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'The Zone of Interest' chilling antidote to multiplex malaise
Image courtesy A24 press room

'The Zone of Interest' chilling antidote to multiplex malaise

Damon Packard's movie diary

Damon Packard is the Los Angeles-based filmmaker behind such underground classics as “Reflections of Evil,” “The Untitled Star Wars Mockumentary,” “Foxfur,” and “Fatal Pulse.” His AI-generated work recently appeared as interstitials for the 18th annual American Cinematheque Horrorthon and can be enjoyed on his YouTube channel. After a long day making movies or otherwise making ends meet, he likes to unwind with late-night excursions to the multiplexes and art house cinemas of greater Los Angeles.

December 9, "Poor Things" (d. Yorgos Lanthimos), AMC Burbank 16

I've read that some people dismiss this as "just another superficially empowering girlboss narrative." And one friend of mine walked out in utter boredom. But I like Lanthimos, and I like his aesthetic and artsy European sensibilities (a blend of Fellini, Fassbinder, Gilliam, Caro/Jeunet, etc.).

I guess what didn't work for me was the eccentric humor. I just didn't find it as clever or funny as it was trying to be.

Don't get me wrong: There's a lot to like here, including the production design, the French brothel, the bizarre Kathryn Hunter character, the beauty of Emma Stone, and the excellent cast. Not to mention the use of Optex 4mm ultra-wide fish-eyes as well as antique 58mm and 85mm Petzval lenses and the fact that it's the first major feature to shoot on 35mm Ektachrome (though can you really tell in the end after all the obligatory digital tampering?).

December 11

RIP Ryan O'Neal. A great actor and a true Irishman.

December 14, "Zoot Suit" (1981, d. Luis Valdez), the Academy Museum

They are screening "Zoot Suit" in a very rare 70mm print tonight at the Academy. It's probably the same print that ran at the Dome in Sensurround in 1981. The story of the Zoot Suiters is really fascinating, and to this day there are some groups keeping the tradition alive. They really brought some style and pizzazz to an otherwise drab and formal era.

But I'm on the fence, as I'd have to bolt out the door right now (two hours before showtime) in order to navigate peak traffic and parking.

Update: Took me 30 minutes just to go two blocks. I'm going to have to turn around. I have to leave three hours in advance to make a 7:00 p.m. show now. It's insane, especially when I can literally drive from where I am in West L.A. to Santa Barbara or even San Diego in LESS time than it takes me to go seven or eight miles in L.A.

December 14 (later), trailer for "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F"

The Gen-Xers are almost seniors, the Boomers are refusing the convalescent homes, a former movie rental subscription service now has more power and money than all the studios combined, and Eddie Murphy more or less looks the same.

December 14 (later), "The Zone of Interest" (d. Jonathan Glazer), AMC Century City 15

This I've been looking forward to. Jonathan Glazer is the real deal. And 11 p.m. is a proper showtime.

A fascinating, disturbing look at the day-to-day domestic life of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his family. Since the horrors inside the camp are only suggested by what we hear, this is a movie that relies heavily on its (superb) sound design and very much needs to be experienced in a proper cinema with high-end multi-channel audio. I cannot imagine something like this working on a phone, computer screen, or small TV. And I can't imagine anyone pulling this off without today's advanced recording technology.

The attention to everyday detail, casting, and authenticity is superb, to say the least. Terrence Malick's "A Hidden Life" showed us we would all join the Nazi Party in a hot second under the right pressure. This movie shows us we're all in the Nazi Party already — we just don't know it. Rex Reed says "do not miss this film," and he's right.

December 16

I finished my unauthorized "sequel" to Nicole Kidman's AMC Theaters promo. You can watch it here. This time Nicole takes us back to 1200 A.D. Made mostly with Runway and Leonardo and featuring sound from the 2013 Russian movie "Hard to Be a God."

December 20 , "Winter Kills" (1979, d. William Richert), Vintage Cinemas Los Feliz 3

Los Feliz rainy nights have returned with a 35mm print of "Winter Kills" courtesy of Rialto Pictures. (Shout-out to Tom the projectionist.)

Featuring Belinda Bauer, who went on to star in "The Archer: Fugitive from the Empire" (1981) and "Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann." She now works as a "spiritual therapist" in Los Angeles. Believe it or not, I matched with her on OkCupid some years ago. She told me Lauren Hutton was often getting the parts she was up for. Unfortunately I think the fact that I knew who she was and was so smitten with her sword-and-sorcery phase scared her off fast.

December 21, "Wonka" (d. Paul King), AMC Santa Monica 7

I guess it's a 10 p.m. of that awful-looking "Wonka" thing tonight at the AMC Promenade. A friend of mine (Matthew Wilder, who wrote a couple of Paul Schrader films) told me this was good and I should see it. Why not? I have the AMC Stubs thing, so it's essentially free, and I like to get out at night. I'm not one of those people who do things during the day.

Update: Left after 45 minutes. Instant boredom.

December 22, "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom" (d. James Wan), AMC Burbank 16

Sigh, looks like it's an 11:30 p.m. of that "Aquaman" garbage tonight. Believe me when I tell you there was no other choice. Update: Got through 90 minutes of cartoony CGI and left. Master director James Wan does it again!

December 25, "Ferrari" (d. Michael Mann), AMC Marina Marketplace 6

Catching an 11 p.m. show at this cruddy little AMC Marina Del Rey multiplex nobody goes to. Not a single person here tonight but me. This is not a good place to see a movie. Seats are comfortable, but the screens are too small. The exterior did feel strangely familiar. When I walked up to it I thought, "I remember going to this place 100 million years ago."

Sure enough, I checked Cinema Treasures and this used to be the old UA Marina, where I saw "Poltergeist" in 70mm when I was 14. A much better theater back then.

Update: Oof! That was rough. Dull, sloppy, maudlin melodrama with silly accents and a couple of CGI car crashes that looked like they came from a PlayStation 3 game.

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Damon Packard

Damon Packard

Damon Packard is the Los Angeles-based filmmaker behind such underground classics as “Reflections of Evil,” “The Untitled Star Wars Mockumentary,” “Foxfur,” and “Fatal Pulse.”