Monthly recap: What have I been watching?
The Prince of Tides (1991)
Received 7 oscar nominations. Good watch, particularly if you like psychiatrist conversations between Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte. Maybe a little too sentimental and cliché in an American movie kind of way. I don't like Nolte, but was a strong performance by him. The main complaint I've read is that Pat Conroy's book is MUCH better.
Anna Karenina (1997)
Russian authour Leo Tolstoy's classic comprising of over 900 pages really looks beautiful on screen in terms of sets and costume design, and the acting is good in this 1997 adaptation. The timeless human themes of following your passion without thinking about the consequences, and falling in love without getting to know the object of your desire will never wane in interest. The parts of the story that have dated are to do with relationships in 1880s not being compatible with norms of society.
The problem with the film is so much of what made the book a classic is left out due to time constraints, the story really demands and deserves a long-running mini-series that provides nuances. My favorite character is Levin (Alfred Molina), but his narration and journey of finding meaning is sketchy at best. I'm curious to see what direction Joe Wright decides to go with Anna Karenina (2012) starring Keira Knightley.
The Hunger Games (2012)
I haven't read the books, so can't compare. With the success of the first movie, I'm sure there will be a sequel! What is so disturbing is how strangely exhilarating it is to watch, albeit morally damaging to take part. Who could go on living a happy life having killed other contestants? So the creators of the Hunger Games are the real culprits, because the winners are murderers.
Hunger games director Gary Ross on Charlie Rose: “What it means to find your own inner ethical line, your own sense of self, your own personal ethics.
Charlie Rose: It’s one of those things that asks you, what would I do if I was there?
Director: “That’s exactly what it means.” (…) “I’m not going to participate in a system that violates my own sense of ethics, my own moral line, and once you know that, you can’t unring the bell, and that’s the experience she goes through. I think it’s the assertion of the individual, and finding out who you are as an individual”
The lack of violence in the movie adaptation I was okay with, and the survival in the forest was exciting enough. If I had to criticize, there were a couple of characters that annoyed me, particularly Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), but I think that may have been intended. I wasn't the key audience, and I didn't think the story was particularly original. I agree with Eric's review: "I don’t know what’s more shocking — the fact that a movie about kids killing kids has been a monster box office smash, or that author Suzanne Collins claims to have never heard of the Japanese cult hit, Battle Royale"
Series 7: The Contenders (2001)
A satire similar to The Hunger Games, and arguably more suspenseful because there is no sequel. In the contenders adults are assigned in a reality tv-show to kill each other. Kill or be killed. Are we the audience hypothetically also at fault? Because as long as there are viewers, then the show continues. In that way its also critical of violence in movies today, because if everyone boycotted violent movies, they would have no market to sell to.
Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron (2012) (documentary)
Maybe you can analyze an event too much? I don't believe the doc would interest anyone except hardcore Titanic nerds. Very detailed and technical about how the ship sank. They even admit at one point it's nitpicking. I'm not sure there was enough new information to warrant a new documentary, even though they gathered Titanic experts in the same room. I think the experts were enjoying themselves more than I was. For me, why it sank, is a lot more interesting than their focus: how Titanic step by step sank to the bottom of the ocean. Cameron argues the things that are inaccurate in the 1997 movie would only bother 8 people in the world.
Into the Abyss (2011) (documentary)
„(The Doctor) got to treat me first, and then kill me, huh, that’s kind of crazy to think about, right?“
Moving, tragic, and important look at the death penalty. Considering the doc is made by Werner Herzog, a European, you'd think it's simply another film opposed to the US death penalty. What's interesting is you see it from the point-of-view of all sides. The victims, how a woman has lost her entire family. And from the criminal's viewpoint, who are humanized, and defend their actions. And the executioner, who's job it is to kill people. With all this information, the audience are free to make up their mind if they are for or against the death sentence.
I found the killers to be extremely dubious, I am against the death penalty, but would recommend letting the culprits remain in jail.
Walk The Line (2005)
Johnny Cash certainly had an up and down life. Good performances, I admire how the two leads learnt how to sing convincingly like Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). Both actors have never been better, and deservedly were rewarded with nominations and awards. Is a film to watch rather than write a lot about in my opinion. Makes me anxious to begin a blogathon of Johnny Cash music here on moviesandsongs365.
Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
Said to be Kirk Douglas' favorite amongst his films, and most overlooked. I have never been a huge Western fan, so I'm not the right person to judge. I enjoyed watching, and does seem to deserve more widespread popularity. Kirk Douglas has been quoted saying "This is what attracted me to the story - the difficulty of being an individual today." The police force are spending so much on so little is an ironic undertone. Story is set in 1960s America about a free-spirited cowboy stubbornly not wanting to conform to societies rules, and nostalgic for the Old West. Is he naive, is his individuality to be admired? The poster reads: Life can never cage a man like this! Or is his friend Paul the brave one for settling down, giving up his freedom, and raising a family? See it for Kirk Douglas' fine performance as the cowboy. Also, if you liked the movie Rambo First Blood (1982), check this out. A must-see for those who love a good western.
The title is misleading, not about dinosaurs at all! Put me off, that every sentence was f-this, and f-that. Unlikeable characters and depressing to watch. I’d be interested to hear a defense of this film, anyone?
Did not finish
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
A black and white Hungarian film directed by Béla Tarr. My expectations were high considering the love for this film in the blogosphere.
Beautiful cinematography and music score, certainly. Technical achievements aside, I didn't find it quite as absorbing as I had hoped, and the many slow-building scenes made my mind wander to other things. It was very clear that Tarr isn't interested in traditional plot based storytelling. I admired the filmmaking, but I didn't connect emotionally. Perhaps the acclaim is because Bela Tarr's directing style is so unique and different, and the images are symbolic.
I think a case where I would rather discuss the film than watch it again. Anybody reading this like to make a defense of why Werckmeister Harmonies is a masterpiece? Limited appeal with such a slow pace. I have no idea what to rate it. I hated how slow it was, and loved how haunting it was, I feel bad going below my recommendation level of 7.4.
(spoiler) The message I could decipher was of a town blindly following a leader who is not who they think he is, but it all could be a dream or an unreliable narrator. Are they so desperate for a ruler that the townspeople would listen to a fool? Obviously the film is critical of Eastern European politics. The whale may have cursed the town is another thought I had. The ending was ambiguous, what has happened to our narrator in the hospital is unclear.
The Turin Horse (2011)
You need to be very patient and in the right frame of mind to sit through 2 hours 30 minutes of Bela Tarr. Though technically the film looks amazing and doesn't put a foot wrong, there really is no story to speak of, and the repetitive, drawn out atmospheric scenes with no dialogue may put off a lot of viewers. There is no denying if the film wins you over, then you get sucked into another world, in this case 1889. If you have any historical interest in that era the film may be of interest, unfortunately I found it to be a very depressing watch, nothing much happens at all, even if it was realistic of the time it depicted. The music was very sad too. Was like an inferior The White Ribbon (2009) with fewer characters and a lot less dialogue. To be admired more than enjoyed, I find this film overrated and boring.
An independent film with a tiny budget released on dvd/blu-ray April 2012. The story is Lost in translation-esque, as a Japanese brother and sister visit the US. I gave it a try based on a 10/10 rating at picknmix flix. The atmosphere reminded me of the Japanese novelist Murakami, particularly his book Norwegian Wood. In some ways it's the best Murakami movie Murakami never wrote. Littlerock had the obligatory indie film traits, pot-smoking, party-going dudes, and whatnot, this was a little clichéd I felt. However the characters held my attention, even if the filmmakers were obviously making them cute. I loved the final scene. The technical aspect of the girl's eyes as a camera was quite fun to me, and the cinematography was beautiful (see above image for proof). Definitely recommended.
Also, the soundtrack was enjoyable, in an indie movie kind of way, with lots of obscure band names: Buster Douglas, Amiina, FM Bats, Love Fingers, Kathleen Maressa, The Cave Singers, and Hello Fever.
Collapse (2009) (documentary)
Interesting opinions by independent reporter Michael Ruppert, who is said to have predicted the financial crisis. I just would have preferred the filmmakers to be more critical of what he says. Was a bit one-sided. A speech more than a discussion. Ruppert says he doesn't deal in conspiracy theory, but in conspiracy fact. I agree when he talks about the transportation of food across the planet is a waste of money and energy. He is asked by the interviewer is it possible to create a reality based on picking news stories that support your world view? Michael Ruppert did seem a bit arrogant, answering he doesn't do debates anymore, because he is right.
La Strada (The Road) (1954)
My fifth Fellini film, having previously seen La Dolce Vita (1960), I Vitelloni (1953), Nights of Cabiria (1957), and 8½(1963).
La Strada was more straight-forward and simple. The characters were funny and loveable, and lots of things happen on the trip they go on. It didn't leave me with a lot of questions, but was quite enjoyable to pass the time. The warm-hearted nature of the script certainly wants me to rewatch at a later date, and I could see this one growing on me. I'm interested in getting myself the interview book Fellini on Fellini, would be fun to read about the thought-process behind the making of his films
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
Marmaduke Ruggles (the butler) is lost in a game of poker to an American from the small town of Red Gap, Washington. Obviously the characters are dated, the aspects of getting drunk, and a British butler being a fish out of water in the US are timeless.
The Day Of The Jackal (1973)
To me, far better than the mediocre remake from 1997 with Bruce Willis and Richard Gere.
Even after 6 or 7 lifetime viewings the 1973 spy thriller still keeps me on the edge of my seat, despite knowing how it all ends. Based on the bestseller novel by Frederick Forsyth, the story comprises of many short scenes. The Oscar-nominated fast-paced editing a modern filmmaker would be proud of today, cutting between the investigation and the assassin. The tension builds slowly and the story shifts between many different countries. A minor weakness is the script becomes a little heavy-handed at times, explaining what they are doing rather than just showing it. The lead performance by Edward Fox is quite mysterious and chilling as the ruthless assassin, nonetheless you find yourself rooting for him as we are along for the ride on his quest, and if you don't, then you root for them to catch him ( :
Lilies of the Field (1963)
Warm-hearted and simple story of a black man who arrives at a farm, where nuns ask him to help out, and they are very persuasive, and he is not good at saying no. The only problem I had was Homor Smith is able to go head to head with a nun and remember exact passages from the bible, which seemed contrived. They don't make them like this anymore. Has an innocence about it that is refreshing and makes a nice change when you need a break from the inescapable violence, profanity, and sexual undertones of today's world. Poitier won the 1963 Academy Award for Best Actor, the first time a black actor won an Oscar.
Won the prestigious Palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival. Fine debut performance by actress Emilie Dequenne. The close-ups made me feel as if I was there. Subtitles were fast and furious, so tricky to keep up. If she was so poor, why did she catch fish in the river, and then throw them out again? I've read in "1001 movies you must see before you die" that the film had an impact on teenage salary laws in Belgium. The Rosetta plan was set in motion in November 1999. Good film, but I was mildly disappointed that it was give or take here or there the same story as The Kid With a Bike (2011). I don't think these two Dardenne films lend themselves well to being watched in a short space of time. If I had not seen that other Dardenne film, my rating would be 7.8
The Son (Le Fils) (2002)
The most gripping film I saw, for the first time, this month. Again, as above, directed by The Dardenne brothers. Initially, I didn't know what to think of the protagonist teacher at the wood shop, creep? weirdo? Nerd? As we learn more, we begin to discard such notions.
I'm going to add a new monthly feature at the end here...
My top 5 of April:
2.) The Son (Le Fils) (2002)
3.) The Road (La Strada) (1954)
4.) Littlerock (2010)
5.) Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
Since I saw so many good films this month, here's a bonus:
6.) Lilies of the Field (1963)
7.) Into the Abyss (2011) (documentary)
8.) Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
9.) Walk The Line (2005)
10.) Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
11.) Rosetta (1999)
12.) Series 7: The Contenders (2001)
Readers, any thoughts? Agree? Disagree? What was the best film you saw in April?