6 Degrees of Separation Blog-a-thon

Nostra of Myfilmviews has created another blog-a-thon. The rules are simple. Connect an actor/actress with the movies they’re in or a director who helmed that film with another actor/actress/filmmaker in six steps or less. Steven at Surrender To The Void picked me to connect Ingmar Bergman to Toshiro Mifune. The rules are murky regarding help from internet searches. Is it cheating? I wasn't able to solve the puzzle without IMDb. Hope that's okay!

Participated so far in "our section":
Fisti at A Fistful of Films
Sati at Cinematic Corner
Alex at And So It Begins
Steven at Surrender To The Void
Chris at Movies And Songs 365
Josh at The Cinematic Spectacle

1. Ingmar Bergman directed Max von Sydow in eleven films

2. Max von Sydow was in Three Days of the Condor (1975) with Robert Redford

3. Robert Redford starred in The Sting (1973), which also featured Paul Newman

4. Paul Newman starred in Pocket Money (1972) with Lee Marvin (screenplay by Terrence Malick apparently!)

5. Lee Marvin starred in Hell in the Pacific (1968) with Toshiro Mifune

I won't reveal the alternative routes I could have taken, as that would make the next participant's job too easy :)
I pass the baton to Josh at The Cinematic Spectacle, and ask him to connect Toshiro Mifune with James Stewart. Have fun! I've noted the path down, so it’s do-able. I guess in more ways than one. According to Nostra there is a theory that in only six steps you can link anyone to any other person in the world.

2014 Blind Spot series: Hard Boiled (1992)

Entertaining Hong Kong action film, considered among director John Woo’s best films. Famous for the choreography with its slow-motion gun battles, sometimes labelled "bullet ballet" or "Gun Fu"(which combines the words gun and kung fu). Essentially highly stylized gunfights. Woo was a pioneer of this style and his film A Better Tomorrow (1986) was the first example of Gun Fu. The film launched the "heroic bloodshed" genre in Hong Kong, and Gun Fu action sequences became a regular feature in many of the subsequent films. The Wild Bunch (1969) directed by Sam Peckinpah was an even earlier example of slow-motion screen violence, only that was a western.
In Hard Boiled (1992), we see a guy jump over a motorbike in slow-mo, and rolling along a hospital bed while shooting.
A film you could watch without subtitles, because the story more often than not is told through visuals.
However it’s not just an actioner, there’s an emotional journey for the main characters.
Hard Boiled was John Woo's last Hong Kong film before his transition to Hollywood. After making films that glamorized gangsters (and receiving criticism for doing so), Woo wanted to make a Dirty Harry styled film to glamorize the police. Woo was inspired by a police officer who was a strong-willed and tough member of the police force, as well as being an avid drummer. This led to Woo having Tequila's (Chow Yun-fat) character be a musician as well as a cop.
The introduction of Tony (Tony Leung) character was memorable, the scene in the red sports car. Tony is shown as living alone and detached from others. Woo stated that this was influenced by Alain Delon's character in the French crime film Le Samouraï.
John Woo actually has a small supporting role as a character named Woo, which surprised me.
The stylized violence is not for everyone, the body count is up there. An accident occurred while filming the hospital sequence. Real glass was used and pieces of it flew toward Tony Leung and got into his eyes. Leung was sent to the hospital and after a week's rest, he returned to the set.
All the characters in Hard Boiled had their voices dubbed by their own actors in order to save money. Woo stated this was convenient as he did not have to worry about setting up boom mics and other sound elements.
As another reviewers wrote, I dread to think how many people were hospitalised during the making of the film.
At the 12th Hong Kong Film Awards, David Wu and John Woo won the award for "Best Film Editing". Tony Leung was nominated for "Best Supporting Male Actor", but lost out.
Favorite quote: It’s what you’ve got, and not how you made it, alright?

Rating 8/10

Agree or disagree? Have you seen Hard Boiled or other John Woo films? Are you a fan of his style? 

Top 10 Bruce Springsteen songs

The last few weeks I've been listening to all his studio albums. Some of them multiple times. I don't think I'll ever be a huge fan of the albums, which I feel have quite a lot of filler tracks, but I do love most of his best known songs. My favorite of his records is 1987's Tunnel of Love.

1. Dancing in the Dark (From 1984’s Born in the U.S.A.)
2. State Trooper (Trentemøller Mix) (Originally from 1982’s Nebraska)
3. The River (From 1980's The River)
4. Valentine's Day (From 1987's Tunnel of Love)
5. The Wrestler (From 2008's The Wrestler soundtrack)
6. Atlantic City (From 1982's Nebraska)
7. Jungleland (From 1975's Born To Run)
8. Tougher Than The Rest  (From 1987's Tunnel of Love)
9. We Take Care Of Our Own (From 2012's Wrecking Ball)
10. Devil's Arcade (From 2007's Magic)

Just missed out:
Born to Run (From 1975's Born To Run)
Badlands (From 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town)
The Promised Land (From 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town)
Hungry Heart (From 1980's The River)
Point Blank (From 1980's The River)
Nebraska (From 1982's Nebraska)
Born in the U.S.A. (From 1984’s Born in the U.S.A.)
Downbound Train (From 1984’s Born in the U.S.A.)
I'm on Fire (From 1984’s Born in the U.S.A.)
Brilliant Disguise (From 1987's Tunnel of Love)
Walk Like A Man (From 1987's Tunnel of Love)
Tunnel of Love (From 1987's Tunnel of Love)
Two Faces  (From 1987's Tunnel of Love)
Streets of Philadelphia (From 1993's Philadelphia soundtrack)
Missing (From 1995's The Crossing Guard soundtrack)
The Ghost of Tom Joad (From 1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad)
Secret Garden (From 1996's Jerry Maguire soundtrack)
The Fuse (From 2002's 25th Hour soundtrack)
The Promise (From 2010's The Promise compilation album)
American Skin [41 Shots] (From 2014's High Hopes)

Above are my personal favorites.  Feel free to share your own in the comments, or tell me what I overlooked

2014 summer playlist

I'm taking a break from the blogosphere for most of July, just so you know! In the meantime, enjoy this summer playlist I put together. There are many ways of doing such a list, I decided to only go with new music:

Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea) by Ariana Grande  (Has been called the song of the summer. hmm, is it?)

Bullit by Watermät

Do It Again by Röyksopp & Robyn

Boom Clap by Charli XCX (From The Fault In Our Stars soundtrack)

Gimme Something Good by Ryan Adams

Feels Like Summer by Panama Wedding

Hey Now (Tensnake Remix) by London Grammar

Salad Days by Mac Demarco

You're Mine (Eternal) by Mariah Carey

Avant Gardener by Courtney Barnett

Jealous (I Ain't With It) by Chromeo

Get Her Back by Robin Thicke (Maybe will grow on me over the summer? Not as good as his 2013 hit Blurred Lines)

Forgiveness by St. Lucia

NRG by Duck Sauce (From 22 Jump Street soundtrack)
Duck Sauce previously released the super catchy Barbra Streisand

Summer Noon by Tweedy

Which music are you listening to during summer? Any of these? Or something else that caught your attention?

Viewing recap June

The Princess Bride (1987)
Quotable fantasy/adventure/romance. The movie impressed me the most in the opening 30 minutes or so, with classics scenes like the grandfather introducing the story to his sick grandchild, the farm boy “as you wish” segment, the climb up the cliff, the talkative sword fight, and the wine drinking scene. After they roll down the hill, I felt the storytelling was weaker, and became a bit predictable. If the rest of the movie was as strong as the first half hour, it would be in my top 100.
So many quotes to choose from, here are a few favorites:
Inigo Montoya: “I do not mean to pry, but you don't by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?
Man in Black: Do you always begin conversations this way?”
Fezzik: “Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?
Man in Black: Oh no, it's just that they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.”
Rating 8/10

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Comedy. An exaggerated portrayal of a local TV newsroom, with Will Ferrell in the lead role. The story is fairy implausible, why would Christina Applegate character be interested in Burgandy after the way he talked to her at the party? Why would all those news anchors suddenly appear in the street? I can forgive these contrivances, because as a comedy it is quite original, and very quotable, and Ferrell and co are sporadically funny. Jack Black and Ben Stiller have cameos. Is the sequel worth watching?
Favorite quotes: 
“How now brown cow”
“60% of the time it works all the time” “That doesn’t make sense...”
"My name is Ron Burgandy?"
Rating 8/10

Ghostbusters (1984) 
Rewatch. An entertaining action/comedy, the actors have excellent chemistry, the special effects are still effective, and a wonderful soundtrack, especially the iconic Ghostbusters song by Ray Parker Jr,  and Savin The Day
Favorite quotes: 
"Nice doggy!"
"He slimed me" "That's great! actual physical contact. Can you move?"
"Tell you what, I'll take Miss Barrett back to her apartment and check her out...I'll go check out miss Barrett's apartment"
Rating 8/10

Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
Rewatch. The villain is creeper than the original, the film is quite quotable, but the story is, give or take a few new characters, essentially recycling the first movie's material. The statue of liberty coming to life is my favorite scene, but there are moments which make no sense, like when they jump into the river of evil and just expect to survive. Another thing that bothered me is the continued skepticism towards ghosts and the Ghostbusters, when 5 years ago the city was attacked for all to see. Also, if the villain is a god, why doesn’t he just kill the Ghostbusters when he has the chance? Murray insults the God and just expects there won't be consequences?
Favorite quote: “You know, I’m a voter, aren’t you supposed to lie to me and kiss my butt”
Rating 6/10

48 Hrs. (1982)
A clichéd cop story slightly elevated by chemistry between Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy-in his feature film debut. For me, not as good as Beverly Hills Cop (1984).
Rating 7/10

Wendy and Lucy (2008)
Full review here
Rating 8/10

Strangers on a Train (1951)
Hitchcock thriller.
#195 in IMDb’s top 250.
Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith (author of The Talented Mr. Ripley). About a tennis pro who meets a man on a train, who proposes to swap murders.
Edge of your seat stuff, 3-4 scenes that stuck with me, when Bruno Antony sits in the crowd and stares at Guy Haines, while the rest of the audience watches the tennis match (image above). When Bruno follows the girl in the amusement park, the party game with the older woman, and of course the action-packed merry-go-round scene.
One of the best thrillers, packed full of memorable moments. It’s not for nothing Hitchcock is called the master of suspense.
Rating 9/10

The Double (2013)
An odd setting, which emphasizes both the times of Dostoevsky's writing, yet also puts us in the present. I couldn’t understand when or where the film took place.
The movie logically doesn’t make sense, because nobody notices they are doubles. Which leads me to think maybe they are the same person. But how can others notice they look like each another, if they didn't notice him in the first place? This is why you need to rewatch the movie.
I did however dislike the ending, I expected more considering the fine buildup.
Favorite quote: ”I’ve tried talking to her, but I don’t know how to be myself. It’s like I’m permently outside myself. Like you could push your hands straight through me, if you wanted to, and I couldn’t see the type of man I want to be versus the type of man I am. And I know I’m doing it, but I’m incapable of doing what needs to be done. I’m like Pinocchio, I’m a wooden boy. Not a real boy, and it kills me”
Rating 8/10

Heartbeats (2010) 
I liked the soundtrack more than the movie. Not Xavier Dolan’s best film, at this point he was still honing his craft. There isn’t really a structure, the story is quite messy. Has cool stylistic flourishes mixing music and visuals.
Especially memorable: The slow motion sequence walking down the street with Dalida's song Bang Bang, the bright colors in the bedroom, and the disco scene using Pass This On by The Knife intercut with disco lights, drawings and sculptures.
Favorite quote: when they stand outside the theatre and discuss the play “Pains Migraines and Sonatas”: “These pseudo borderlines with their pain fetish as an escape from existential ennui. Fuck off” (…) “The characters were so Manichean”
Rating 6/10

The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
Included in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. A young Cybil Shepard is gorgeous as the femme fatale. Besides that there’s a story about figuring out your place in life, Charles Grodin, in an excellent performance, is on his honeymoon, and must face the facts about life, that sex and romance maybe aren’t quite as magical as you dreamed about.
The humming night club performer was laugh-out-loud hilarious, and so are his lies about hanging out with an old army buddy, and the dinner scene about the an honest meal.
I was waiting for the punchline from the director at the end, which never happened. Perhaps it’s about how some people fall in love without really getting to know the other person properly.
Favorite quote: “There’s no lying in that beef, there’s no insincerity in those potatoes, there’s no deceit in the cauliflower. This is a totally honest meal”
Rating 7.5/10

The Fault In Our Stars (2014)
The performances by the young actors are good, and it does have cute moments. I had a few problems though. I disliked that the book references are fictional. I agree with another reviewer that it preaches realism but then delivers the exact opposite. Also bothered me how black and white the characters are, either good or bad. Entertaining enough, despite these flaws. I wasn't the intended audience, so take that into consideration.
Rating 6.5/10

Exhibition (2013)
I'm a fan of Joanna Hogg's earlier films, Unrelated (2007) and Archipelago (2010), which take place during holidays.
Her latest is a lot more abstract, set in a domestic situation, and about life as an artist, when you are married. Unfortunately I never believed that these two people were in a relationship, the dialogue didn't ring true to me. The couple are planning to sell their house. The story feels like a few visual ideas that were slapped together(wearing artsy neon clothes, sleeping in odd places, watching yourself from the outside), but there really wasn't enough here to engage me. A tedious watch, and difficult to care what happens to the characters. I'm sure there is a point to it all, if you are willing to make the effort. Won't be for everyone, because of the slow pacing. Told in an unconventional way, the film put me to sleep more than once.
I'm surprised I didn't like the film, considering my appreciation for the director's previous work.
Rating 5/10

Thanks for reading! Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree? Share your views in the comments.

Top 10 albums of 2014 so far (Jan-June)

To Be Kind by Swans
NME: "To Be Kind' is not easy or pleasant; it will probably repel and confuse as much as it inspires. It’s a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life, impossible to tear your eyes away from despite the grotesque atrocities it depicts. Because in the modern world, where The Human Centipede and Anal Cunt are a part, however small, of popular culture, this album still has the ability to shock and scare. It’s an insane and challenging, ambitious and exceptional work of art."

Thoughts: Experimental rock. In terms of ambition I'd give the album a 10/10. Dark, angry and intense, takes you on an epic journey. I'm unfamiliar with the band's output, and it's different to anything I've ever heard before. Takes you out of your comfort zone, that's for sure.
The singer is like a grown man who is as scared as a baby. Perhaps he is remembering ugly moments in his life. The most haunting moment perhaps is on 'Just A Little Boy' when he sings "I need love" which is followed by laughter, that particular track reminds me a little of David Lynch's music.
For me, disc 2 is weaker, although the final track was pretty stirring. I wish he didn't end several of the tracks with thrash-metal. A bit overlong(was disc 2 necessary?), my ranking is mainly in acknowledgement of the extraordinary opening 27 minutes of disc 1.
Favorite tracks: Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett), A Little God In My Hands, Screen Shot

Love Letters by Metronomy
Thoughts: I didn't think it was that good on first listen. I was wrong. Really improves on repeat spins. I liked the variation in the instrumentation from track-to-track. Especially the first half of the album impressed me.
I'm pretty certain Aquarius (Let the Sunshine in) by The Fifth Dimension was an influence.
Favorite tracks: The Upsetter, I'm Aquarius, Love Letters, Monstrous

Too True by Dum Dum Girls
Thoughts: Thanks to Steven at Surrender To The Void for the recommendation. An impressive album that I completely overlooked, full of powerful tracks. While some of the lyrics are a bit repetitive, you sort of forgive that, because the sound is so well-produced. Has been talked of as a career pinnacle for the band.
Favorite tracks: Cult of Love, Lost Boys And Girls Club, Too True To Be Good, Rimbaud Eyes

St. Vincent by St. Vincent 
Thoughts: The bizarre album artwork pays homage to a favorite film of hers, The Holy Mountain (1973), directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky.
I didn’t love every song, but definitely an interesting album, with lots of variation. As Stereogum wrote, a reminder that experimental music and pop music don't have to be mutually exclusive. An album I’ll be going back to.
Favorite tracks: Digital Witness, Prince Johnny, Every Tear Disappears, Psycopath, Severed Cross Fingers, I Prefer Your Love, Rattlesnake

G I R L by Pharrell Williams 
Thoughts: Not as great as 2013's Random Access Memories. Still, there are a number of catchy tunes. As a critic wrote: "it's a lot better than most crap on the pop radio nowadays". "Happy" is a contender for best song of the year.
Favorite tracks:  Happy, Marilyn Monroe, It Girl, Gust of Wind feat. Daft Punk

Salad Days by Mac Demarco
Thoughts: An artist I was not familiar with, and had no expectations for. The album is quite addictive, and at only 30 minutes, a quick listen. Apparently his previous output is supposed to be just as good or even better, so I'll be seeking that out. I don't know if the tracks work individually, as a full length listen the record works really well.

Hot Dreams by Timber Timbre
Thoughts: An album with few weaknesses that I don't get bored of. I don't skip over any of the tracks. Has been described as the bands strongest album to date. Atmospheric, brooding sound. To do the album justice, you really have to listen to the whole thing in its entirety. If you're looking for big hits, you'll be disappointed. What you get is a very cohesive set of tracks. Like a companion piece to the 2012 album All Hell by Daughn Gibson.
Favorite tracks: Hot Dreams, The New Tomorrow, Run from Me, Curtains,

Benji by Sun Kil Moon
Thoughts: Who says albums have to be listened to over and over? Sometimes an album arrives that you listen to once, just like a movie or a book, and that experience stays with you for life.
While it’s quite a morbid affair, about death and sadness, it is interesting how the singer created a family history, by having songs about his relationships to his mother, father, grandma, uncle, aunt, second cousin, neighbors. He documents girlfriends and pop culture he remembers from his youth, and life on the road as a musician. You really do feel you get to know the guy, because he's so candid, and there's no apparent filter in his musings. Sort of like reading his diary entries.
For what it lacks in variation in terms of instrumentation, it makes up for with relatable, vulnerable and heartfelt writing. Boy was it powerful and moving. Not something I’d listen to often though.
The title is a reference to the movie Benji (1974), which he explains in lyrics he saw in theatres.
Favorite tracks: Ben's My Friend, I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love, Pray for Newtown, I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same, Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes

Luminous by The Horrors
Thoughts: An album I was underwhelmed by on first listen. It took a bit of time to get into the music, I feel the record holds up to repeat plays. Tough to pinpoint what genre the music is, has been described as dreamy synth-goth/pop. I like the production and layers of sound
Favorite tracks: So Now You Know, I See You, In And Out Of Sight, Chasing Shadows, First Days Of Spring

Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
Thoughts: When people look back at the 2010s, I think Lana Del Rey will be remembered. I just can’t connect emotionally with many of today’s female pop artists such as Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Adele, Rihanna, Shakira, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys. I’m slowly warming to Lorde and Ellie Goulding. Lana Del Rey is my favorite to listen to of these female singers.
Took a few spins to get into her latest. Not as instantly catchy as her previous album Born to Die, but it gets better on each listen.
I enjoyed about 2/3 of Ultraviolence. "Old Money" sounds like a sequel to "Young and Beautiful"(a song from Great Gatsby soundtrack which I’m surprising she didn’t include here)
Tough to know which are real or made up situations on the album, I don’t think it matters, it’s just art/music.
On tracks like "Money Power Glory" and "Fucked My Way Up to the Top" I didn’t care for the seemingly disreputable messages she is communicating, even if the music sounds alright. Some would say Lana Del Rey isn't condoning a situation, but simply describing one.
"I was in more of a sardonic mood," she says of writing "Money Power Glory". "Like, if all that I was actually going to be allowed to have by the media was money, loads of money, then fuck it …What I actually wanted was something quiet and simple: a writer's community and respect." (quote from The Guardian)
I feel the lyrics are the weakest element of her music. That said, I think she has a talent for creating pop hooks, and the album has many highlights.
Favorite tracks: West Coast, Shades of Cool, Brooklyn Baby, Pretty When I Cry, Cruel World, Old Money, The Other Woman.

American Hustle by Various Artists
Thoughts: Technically from 2013, according to amazon released December 24th. Terrific soundtrack of 70s music. A Horse With No Name by America, played in the opening scene when he adjusts his hair. Other favorites are, I Feel Love by Donna Summer from the disco scene, and 10538 Ovature by the Electric Light Orchestra, when they walk out of the plane. Good Times Bad Times by Led Zeppelin is good too. And I haven't even mentioned Live and Let Die, which is possibly the best song Wings ever created.

Lost In The Dream by War on Drugs
Thoughts: An early contender for best album of the year. Probably the band’s finest collection of songs. Has been described by a critic as a springtime record-in how full of life it is.
The album's title refers to a broken America, but it could just as easily describe the immersive qualities of the hazy, dreamlike music, which you can get lost in.
Under the Pressure, what an epic opener, with a terrific beat.
Favorite tracks: Under The Pressure, Red Eyes, Disappearing, Eyes To The Wind, The Haunting Idle, Burning

Honorable mentions:
Sun Structures by Temples
Blank Project by Neneh Cherry
Morning Phase by Beck
Lazaretto by Jack White
Turn Blue by The Black Keys
In Conflict by Owen Pallett
Caustic Love by Paolo Nutini
48:13 by Kasabian

Which are your favorite albums of 2014? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome

2014 tracks I'm listening to (2 of 2)

Treat by Kasabian (love the chorus: “everybody knows, I work it like a treat”)
Glass by Kasabian (the spoken word last section of the song hit me in a "Trainspotting choose life" kind of way)

Fuckers by Savages (Kind of a female Joy Division. Opening 4 min wow, the rest is just...noise)

Hunger of the Pine by Alt-J (what is this I'm listening to? Really odd and captivating )

Guilty All The Same (feat. Rakim) by Linkin Park (Only track I enjoyed on album. I like the guitar riff )

Take Me To Church by Sinead O'Connor (She has a lot on her mind, the lyrics are dense)

Midnight (Giorgio Moroder Remix) by Coldplay (I prefer the remix. From new album the opening track Always In My Head is quite haunting)

Palace by The Antlers (A melancholy album, featuring a storyline about abusive relationships and loss. Silberman has stated that the album is mostly auto-biographical. The LP as a whole was underwhelming and too samey, and especially the saxophone is overused on too many tracks )

The Dancer Disappears by Dean Wareham (I remember enjoying his collaborations with Britta Phillips, this was the most memorable track on new solo album)

Turn Blue by The Black Keys ("I got to stay on track just like Pops told me to")

I'm Less Here by Mazzy Star (new single, the guitar play is what stands out to me)

Trouble’s Lament by Tori Amos

Past Life by Lost in the Trees

Natural Harp Monitor  by Bradford Cox of Deerhunter/Atlas Sound (As if you are swimming with a whale underwater)

Agree or disagree? Heard any of this new music yet? What are you listening to, old or new? As always, comments are welcome


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