Monthly recap: What have I been watching in June?

My current goal is to catch up on older films that have been on my watch queue forever...




The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Western. The music score is legendary. Also remembered for the classic close up shots of eyes moving from side to side, and hand hanging down ready to grab pistol (above). I'm not going to complain about the running time of 3 hours, because that's no doubt been done 100x before. I loved that there was no dialogue the first 10 minutes. Remarkably, the tension is maintained on a knife-edge during the whole film, one memorable scene after the other. These cowboys talk really cool, but have one-tracked minds. I wouldn't call it the 5th best movie ever made, as IMDB does, probably the best western I have seen to date. I don't know if it holds up to repeat viewing, though
Favorite quote: "If you're friends stay out in the damp, they're liable to catch a cold, aren't they, or a bullet...."
Rating 8.3


The Word (Ordet) (1955)
Reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman. Won Golden Globe for best foreign language film. By acclaimed director Carl Th. Dreyer.
August 1925 on a Danish farm. Patriarch Borgen has three sons: Mikkel, a good-hearted agnostic whose wife Inger is pregnant, Johannes, who believes he is Jesus, and Anders, young, slight, in love with the tailor's daughter. Examines the manipulative power of organized religion, the debate concerns who the "real" christians are. As James Blake Ewing writes at cinemasights: "Religion seems to only have distanced them from each other." Events occur that impact the faith of both families.
Everything works, acting, story, cinematography, well-made drama. The time issue held me back from identifying on a personal level. Recommended if you are interested in faith, or enjoy a period drama.
Rating 7.6

Harriet Craig (1950)
I've enjoyed other Joan Crawford films: Possessed (1947), Mildred Pierce (1945), and Autumn Leaves (1956).
Based on a Pulitzer prize-winning play, Harriet Craig (1950) was dull, preachy and the relationship to me unrealistic, only gave it a chance because was a BAD MOVIE WE LOVE. Next stop is What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), which has more acclaim and popularity.
Did not finish


3 Women (1977)
Recommended by Sati at Cinematic Corner, an atypical Robert Altman film with only a few characters. My first thought was, why the ominous music in a peaceful old peoples home, and why are the nurses that are being hired so young?
I had a feeling this was going to be a girly film, the title was a warning, and that turned out to be the case. The key audience are females, I still quite enjoyed it.
Especially liked the character Millie (Shelley Duvall), who talks but nobody listens, and is a classic case of wanting constant reassurance, maybe out of a feeling of inadequacy, unworthiness or lack of parental love. You empathize with her predicament, she is trying really hard (maybe too hard?), and feel sad when people laugh at Millie behind her back.
Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek) is so naive, that she doesn't notice Millie's weaknesses. Pinky is childlike and in need of a mother figure to guide her, and calls Millie perfect...Sissy Spacek's performance was amazing when you consider her character's journey. The more I think about 3 Women, the more it grows on me.
Rating 7.8


The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
Satire/comedy. You will never look at a Coca-Cola bottle in the same way, having seen this film!
The car scenes where like slapstick, Chaplin or something. The voice-over of the bush man when he meets the white folks is hilarious. Funny stuff!
Favorite quote: "So now its children are sentenced to 10-15 years of school, just to learn how to survive in this complex habitate that they were born into"
Rating 7.9


On The Beach (1959)
The premise is, what would you do, say or feel, if you only had a short amount of time left to live due to the spread of radiation?
I could have done with some captions indicating which country we are in, that was a little confusing, because characters don't have noticeable Australian accents. I didn't get the point of the first 45 minutes of the film, nothing happens, apparently this was to introduce the characters.
Oh dear, this adaptation should have been a lot better and more engaging than it is. So many scenes seem unnecessary and only sporadically interesting. Don't think it captured the atmosphere or sense of doom of the novel. I read Nevil Shute's bestseller in school some years ago, and the characters were more captivating in the written word. Read the book instead.
Rating 6.6



Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Rewatch. Wonderful, loveable characters. Based on the Italian director's own life, a love letter to the old movie theatres, and the joy of watching film with an audience, before the era of TV.
The story has a lot of warmth and universal truths about childhood, adolescence, and nostalgia, which transcend being set in Italy. A masterpiece of the 80s, I loved it on first viewing, and again for this rewatch. If you view the director’s cut, I suggest you split the screening into two, because it clocks up to 2 hours 45 minutes.
Rating 8.0



The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
The tone was unusual, I had a tough time coming to terms with that approach. The decision to explain so much so early in the film may have killed some of the scares for me during the first 3/4 of the movie. Cabin in the Woods gave up its secrets a little too freely, while a more ambiguous angle early on may have kept me on edge. I couldn't care less who lived or died, and I didn't identify with the humour at all, barely even a half smile at the jokes. Not my sort of humour I reckon. Perhaps I'm getting too old to get thrills out of horror movies of this kind. The only scenes that had real suspense to me were the last 15-20 minutes, which pushed my rating up to a 7/10, despite being very far-fetched.
Maybe I was expecting too much given the reviews. Am I the only blogger who thought, aside from the ending, the rest of film was average? I have read there are plenty of subtleties and inside jokes for horror movie buffs(just didn't do a lot for moi)
Rating 7.0





Akira (1988)
Apocalyptic science fiction anime. The futuristic city atmosphere of 2019 during the first 20 minutes reminded me of Blade Runner, and that is a compliment in itself. The visuals were breathtaking, and the action so lifelike that I sometimes found myself forgetting I was watching animation. I liked the action-packed anime more than I liked the confusing story.
About having certain abilities, and the control of those powers, but not using them for good.
Favorite quote: "In the end, you won't be able to control it, and it will control you."
Storyline is fueled by the fear of nuclear destruction and the unpredictability of teenage rage.
Making Akira as a live action story would have cost a fortune, the anime gives them a lot of freedom to create imaginative sets and epic action sequences before CGI was available. If you enjoyed The Matrix, Akira could be for you. If you love animation, Akira is mandatory viewing. Those orange tracksuits and motorcycles are super cool, by the way ( ;
Rating 7.6



Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012)
Based on a true story. Great cast. I liked Nicole Kidman's performance as war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. Clive Owen on the other hand was unconvincing as Ernest Hemingway, particularly his accent let him down.
When the screenwriter doesn't know how to end a scene, we a) get a sing-song, b) a sex scene, or c) a character downing a drink (and I'm not saying scenes are ended like this once, but at least 5-10 times!!!)
Lacked memorable scenes, I did enjoy the onion-eating moment. My problem is that the character's interactions in the film pale in comparison to the written legacy you can get at the library. Even Hemingway himself proclaims half way into the film: "The last thing a writer should be asked to do is talk..."
Favorite quotes: Hemingway: "Best way to know if you can trust someone, is to trust them" "You never really know what your fighting for (during war) until you lose"
"Writing is like mass, God gets mad if you don't show up"
Gellhorn: "To expose the lies, that mask evil with glorious rhetoric"
Rating 6.4



Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
Directed by Woody Allen. Doesn't require an interest in jazz or guitar playing. About guitarist Emmet Ray. Rumour has it he was the second greatest guitar player in the 1930s, and idolized the greatest Django Reinhardt. Sean Penn stars as the sometimes unlikeable, sometimes charismatic guitarist. Basically a road movie, as he moves from place to place.
Woody pops up now and again as the narrator to fill us in with details, how much of the tale is rumour based. Great performances by Samantha Morton as the mute and Sean Penn as the eccentric genius.
Favorite quote: "This is my one day off, I want a talking girl!"
Rating 7.7



Patience (After Sebald) (2012) (documentary)
Currently has a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. About author WG Max Sebald and his novel The Rings of Saturn (1998), a fictional account of a walking tour through England's East Anglia. Marks ten years since Sebald's untimely death.
I have not read The Rings of Saturn, so I was obviously at a disadvantage. Sebald was asked by his publisher what category he would like his book to be in, and he replied: I would like my book to be in all the categories, I want biography, autobiography, I want travel, I want history.
The doc is presumably part of a marketing tool, if only all books/novels got such a thorough treatment. Is a very visual book in that it similar to Lord Of The Rings can be mapped, so seeing images and film of the locations is worth-while.
Favorite quote from the doc:
"The British tradition is of recovery, and the American tradition of walking is of discovery. That striding forward into the oncoming air of the world from the British romantic tradition, is a way to strip away the accretions, the hawking and hammering of time lived in cities, and return yourself to some original state, Rousseau, its European as well as its British. The American tradition is there in the road movie, it's there in the sense that we travel to liberate ourselves, to discover new ways of being"
Another quote I liked: "The Gods in there playful glee put us down in the wrong place, and we spend our entire life trying, not to find the place we are supposed to be, but to find who we are supposed to be."
Rating 7.5



Alps (2011)
Currently has a 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A new film belonging to the 'weird wave' Greek contemporary cinema, from Giorgos Lanthimos writer/director of Oscar-nominated Dogtooth (2009). Alps is the name of a company that provides a service for relatives of the recently deceased, offering a 'replacement' of the departed family member. The premise was original, at least to me. The lead character has a lot on her plate, and my understanding is she is not happy, and filling in the emptiness, or absence of a mother figure by helping out. She is constantly working either at her job at the hospital, and for Alps, maybe to avoid thinking about herself and her own loneliness.
Too unfocused in the first half, the remaining 45 minutes were more involving. Who is a stand-in relative, and who is a buyer of the service is uncertain, and we the audience play the guessing game. Because everyone assumes many personas, we don’t know who the real person is. I suppose as in real life we have many faces, we behave differently when we spend time with various people, at work, with family, alone, going shopping, at a party, etc, etc.
Reading the premise beforehand I was expecting the story to go places, which I have to admit, it didn't. There were no real surprises. Hats off for the experimental idea, however I am deducting points here for the screenplay, which I would have liked to be more inquisitive about the subject matter. Not for everyone, Alps is a slow art film. Has grown on me a little, by writing my thoughts down. Felt a little bit like a wasted opportunity, this could have been great, and was only good.
On the flipside, it’s tough to criticize these arty films, which are so open to interpretation and misunderstanding. I’m sure there’s an audience for this somewhere, though I was the only one in the theatre besides some grandpa.
Rating 7.2



What's Up, Doc? (1972)
A comedy directed by 70s wonderkid Peter Bogdanovich. Contains a brilliant chase sequence on the streets of San Francisco (likely inspired by 1968’s Bullitt), you should see the movie just to witness that. The hotel fire scene was extremely laugh-out-loud funny too. My only problem was the dialogue, which was so fast I could hardly keep up, and the final scene wasn't plausible.
Wonderful performance by Barbra Streisand, she was cute back in those days. Bogdanovich sure put together some gems in the early 70s: The Last Picture Show (1971), Paper Moon (1973) and What's Up, Doc? (1972) included.
Too bad his career came off the rails and faded into obscurity after that, Mask (1985) I believe is his last hit?
Rating 7.7





White Nights (Le Notti Bianche) (1957)
Directed by acclaimed Italian director Luchino Visconti, and based on a story by Russian author Dostoyevsky, White Nights is a deceptively simple story of a man who tries to seduce a woman who night after night awaits for the return of her lover. The only problem I had was that the quiet woman character was portrayed having little will of her own on first encounter, a helpless, naive weakling ready to be rescued. Of course, it is possible to be shy even today, not all women are openly strong-willed(and even strong willed can be cliché)
I could relate to the pain of a woman saying neither yes nor no to her courter (Marcello Mastroianni). If you have personal experience of "a tease", you will know that it's a mix of frustration and exhilaration. A few words of appreciation to the evening cinematography, the film has a night time atmosphere all of its own. I have not seen any Visconi films before, but after this film I certainly intend to. Next stop is Rocco and His Brothers (1960)
Rating 7.8

Out Of The Woods (2004)
If you want Robert Smith interviews, this is not the one to watch, there are precious few soundbites. Mostly outsiders, journalists and musicians, who talk about the career of The Cure. Quite interesting for someone who knows very little about The Cure, but I don't think fans will get much out of it. Not endorsed by The Cure, so an unofficial documentary.
Rating 6.5

Johnny Cash: The Last Great American (2004)
Research for my upcoming music posts
Rating 7.5

Captain EO (1986) (Short)
An obscure 20 minute short film made for Disneyland, starring singer Michael Jackson. The story takes place in a Star Wars-esque universe, George Lucas is credited as a writer. Francis Ford Coppola director. The opening scene everyone is talking at once, so I didn't know what was going on. If you are a MJ fan, worth a look, otherwise don't bother. Features the rarity "We can change the world", which is similar to "We are the world", and "Heal the World".
Rating 5.0

Phone Call from a Stranger (1952)
Little-known drama starring Shelley Winters and Bette Davis. Good story and dialogue. Especially loved the first 40 minutes in the airport, and on the plane. Worth a watch.
Rating 7.3



Notes on a scandal (2005) (My review)
Rewatch. Powerful performances by Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. The music is very dominating, which I didn't notice the first time. There is a lot of denial going on in the story. The film questions who the villains and victims are and it seems like it’s blurred. I cared about them despite the mistakes they make, they got under my skin almost like in a book, which is not surprising, as the film is based on a novel.
Rating 8.0



My top 5 of June:

1.) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
2.) Cinema Paradiso (1988)
3.) Notes on a scandal (2005)
4.) The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
5.) White Nights (Le Notti Bianche) (1957)

6.) 3 Women (1977)
7.) Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
8.) What's Up, Doc? (1972)
9.) Akira (1988)
10.) The Word (1955)
11.) Patience (After Sebald) (2012) (documentary)


Readers, any thoughts? Have you seen any of the above? Agree? Disagree? What was the best film you saw in June?

22 comments:

  1. Good, Bad, Ugly: Nice to see you giving one of your least favorite genres a chance. I've always loved this one. Eastwood is the ultimate cool, that final showdown is perfect film craft, and then there's Morricone's score, perhaps the greatest aspect of the entire film.

    Ordet: One of my blind spots. One of these days I should do a classic Danish marathon to catch up.

    3 Women: I'm not a huge Altman fan, but his 70's stuff is great. Really loved Spacek in this.

    The Gods Must Be Crazy: Back in the 80's this film had a several year run at one of the arthouse theatres in my hometown. It is indeed hilarious, but it's one of those rare films that I think are better enjoyed with a crowd.

    Cinema Paradiso: Just a magical magical film. I love the director's cut, but I think the shorter version makes more of an impact.

    Akira: This was the first anime I ever saw, rented it on VHS in the early 90's, and it was amazing seeing an animated film that wasn't a children's story. I always wished the world would be like that in the future, and to own one of those bikes. I really need to watch it again.

    Alps: Still waiting to see it, I'm still intrigued, even though I know it doesn't have the same impact of Dogtooth.

    What's Up, Doc: Look up Dorothy Stratten, if you want to know what happened to Bogdanovich. A sad and twisted story.

    White Nights: Another one I haven't seen, but I love Visconti, and I love that story, Robert Bresson also adapted it in his hard to find Four Nights of a Dreamer.

    Captain EO: I actually saw this in Disneyland as a child. But I don't remember anything about it, except that Michael Jackson is in it.

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    1. @Bonjour Tristesse:

      Good, Bad, Ugly: With that position on the IMDB top 250, I couldn't very well call myself a cinephile without giving it a go.

      The Word: I think that classic would appeal to you.

      The Gods Must Be Crazy: I saw it alone, but I know what yoy mean about a crowd watching a comedy. Borat was way better with an audience in my opinion.

      Cinema Paradiso: I prefer the shorter version as well.

      Akira: Yes, the story seems quite adult if you want it to be. I guess when you are young the action sequences and motorbikes are what stand out.

      Alps: I don't think it's a bad film, just not a great film. Basically the opposite premise of Dogtooth. In Dogtooth the family were trapped inside the enclosed area, in Alps fighting to enter into the life of a family.

      What's Up, Doc: I'll take a look at the story

      White Nights: Thanks for info, I have never heard of Four Nights of a Dreamer.

      Captain EO: Pretty bad, the acting, the effects, the story. Oh well, worth a watch for the MJ song and dance moves!

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  2. I am glad that you saw Gods Must Be Crazy and liked it as well. That whole car scene was hilarious, I literally fell of my chair. I also saw second part this month, not as funny as this but still good watch.
    Love Cinema Paradiso, The Good, The Bad , The Ugly. Its legendary, even though I confuse all three dollar trilogy movies with each other a lot.
    Really need to watch Cabin in the Woods and Ordet - for some reason, I heard a lot about it in last month.
    I might also be one of the very few people who didn't like Akira. It felt really over the top to me, maybe I have seen Ghibli movies a little too much.

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    1. @SDG: Gods Must Be Crazy was a lot of fun, thanks a bunch for recommending! Opening those fenches made me laugh too.

      I may have to give the three dollar trilogy a look, we'll see.

      Akira is a little over the top, great if you love action spectacle, though

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  3. I really, really want to see Akira and Notes on a Scandal!
    Good month, I guess.

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    1. Yep, good month, not many stinkers. I guess rating scores and trailers warned me to avoid them ( :

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  4. Wow - you've had such a great month! I like this post. There are a few old favs of mine that you've reminded me of - especially The God's Must Be Crazy! What a great film. There are actually quite a few here that I haven't seen. I'm a complete sucker for bio-pics about writers - so I will be seeking out the Hemmingway Gellhorn one. I have to say though... I ADORE The GTBATU! I've been a Clint fan for as long as I can remember and I will always adore spaghetti westerns. (sigh) you had a wonderful month!

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    1. @Lisa: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read my little blog! You're not the first person to tell me The God's Must Be Crazy is an early favorite, I had heard of it, just never saw it for some reason.

      I wasn't impressed by Hemingway & Gellhorn to be honest, maybe you'll get more out of it than I did.

      I don't usually like westerns, I''ll have to make an exception for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ( :

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  5. Yikes that's a lot of classic stuff! Loved Cinema Paradiso. Glad to see TGTBTU lives up to classic status, if not it's number 5 spot on IMDb. Been meaning to see that for a long time though I'm not a big Western fan. Akira's another one I need to watch from here.

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    1. @Pete: Not that many new films that I'm dying to see at the moment, so good time to catch up on the classics! I'd be interested to read your opinion on Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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  6. So many great movies here - Sweet and Lowdown is such an incredbile film, Penn and Morton both deliver such a strong work there. The Cabin in the Woods - I loved this one, but I am a horror buff and all those little refrences and nod took the movie to entirely new level for me. And Notes on a Scandal is really fantastic.

    Glad you saw and liked 3 women, I loved the film and really need to see it again it's kinda like Mulholland Drive so it requires multiple viewings.

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    1. @Sati: Penn and Morton were both great in Sweet and Lowdown, agreed.

      I could definitely watch 3 Women again, I think it's one of my favorite Robert Altman films now

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  7. That's a lot of classics. I'm ignoring the good, the bad and the ugly for sometime. Do you think I'll enjoy it?

    Researching Johnny Cash, related to walk the line? I just saw it last week, wonderful movie. not too familiar though with his music.

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    1. @Andina: Good, the Bad and the Ugly, I don't know, give it a try, and see what you think! It's not that violent.

      Researching Johnny Cash, because I'll be sharing some of his music pretty soon. Yes, Walk The Line is good movie, wonderful performances!

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  8. I adored Cabin in the Woods. I could go as far to say as that, so far this year, it's definitely in my favourite list. I do love my horror films and I LOVED all the references getting thrown our way. Not to mention some brilliant dialogue from Joss and Drew.

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    1. @Jaina: I have noticed the love for Cabin in the Woods in the blogosphere, so maybe I'm in the minority on my verdict. For a horror movie buff I can see the appeal!

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  9. Chris, I always enjoy reading your monthly recaps. You put a lot more effort into these posts than I do. :D

    I haven't heard of quite a few of these this month, but Cinema Paradiso is one I plan on seeing soon for my project. Heard nothing but amazing things about that one.

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    1. @Eric: I have cut down on other movie related posts, so I guess I put quite bit of effort into my monthly posts. That looks like changing in July, as I'm going to take part in the Lars Von Trier LAMB directors chair event, so expect a few reviews.

      Cinema Paradiso is a gem, see it! :D

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  10. Glad to see some love for What's Up Doc. I haven't seen anyone mention it for quite a while. I agree that it has a truly hilarious chase scene. Someday I am going to do a category of films with those and include this movie (Raising Arizona, too).

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    1. @Chip Lary: True enough, What's Up Doc (1972) doesn't get very much love in the blogosphere, which is a pity, because I think it is a highlight of Bogdanovich's career! (not just the chase scene, the whole film is entertaining)

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  11. A very impressive collection of films you managed to watch this past month Chris.
    Of the ones I have seen, my favorite of the bunch is probably Cinema Paradiso, which is one of the very few films I have given a perfect score to (out of a total of 14). Sure, it's not a perfect piece of cinema, but anything that comes close to changing my outlook on life, that makes me tear up, that gets me very excited and almost makes me want to hop on a plane to Italy must be given that kind of score.
    Notes On A Scandal is underrated. It's a very powerful film by two actresses at the top of their profession. Judi Dench is truly remarkable, she stole almost every scene she was in, except for the ones Cate Blanchett challenged her in.
    I had similar thoughts to you regarding "The Cabin in the Woods" and I'm glad you enjoyed "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" as much as me. It's a truly remarkable piece of film-making, especially from a visual and musical standpoint. Sergio Leone makes paintings out of films.

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    1. @niels85: Yeah, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has very distinct visual imagery, and a killer score. I hope to see Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) soon, which is #21 on IMDB.

      I got to see a few classics I had postponed watching, so finally gave them a chance.

      Cinema Paradiso, ha I know what you mean, I feel the same way about movie locations on other films, The Beach (2000) comes to mind.

      Notes On A Scandal, I agree about being underrated, the characters are fascinating, and you somehow can empathize despite the mistakes they make.

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