Films of the month: January 2017






I, Daniel Blake (2016)
You know what you are going to get politically with a Ken Loach film, it's no secret he is left wing and fights (much like Charles Dickens did) the cause of the lower classes. His latest, which is rumored to be his last, could be Loach's most insistent and powerful, which addresses how poverty is also becoming an issue for the middle class and that the structure of the welfare system in the UK needs simplifying and humanizing.
9/10


Manchester by the Sea (2016)
As Kenneth Lonergan’s previous film Margaret, the story felt novelistic, many characters and storylines, but on this occasion not as interesting and rather simplistic.
Having a job as a plumber/handyman is not easy when tenants sometimes behave disrespectfully. Some of the sad or confrontational scenes had a dash of humor, thanks mainly to the teenage son, otherwise it would have been too melancholy.
A man dealing with grief and detachment has been done before. Captivated me in patches. The most powerful scenes to me are when he meets Randi with the pram and she break down, and there is a surprising development in the middle of the film than I didn’t see coming. The flashback chronology was a little confusing and I could have done without the constant swearing. A well-acted film, but not a favorite.
7/10


Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Beautifully shot and well-acted. Amy Adams looks stunning. The fragmented story was sometimes thrilling during the road rage, yet also unsatisfying with a number of loose ends. Michael Shannon was almost unrecognizable and his performance stood out. Perhaps what I’ll remember most is the anti-smoking propaganda cleverly inserted into the screenplay. The film lacked a consistent tone.
6/10  (changed to 7/10 as of 10 Feb)


David Bowie: The Last Five Years (2017) (documentary) 
I was confused by the title The Last Five Years, as the documentary jumps back to the 1970s quite a lot and addresses how he handled fame. The film opens with an examination of the Reality tour, which was a joyful time, yet also took its toll. The middle part of the doc looks into the album The Next Day (2013) with a number of revelations about the videos and lyrics. The idea he had for The Stars Are Out Tonight video is celebrities stalking normal people to study them, Tilda and David playing the normal couple, with a transformation occurring so the normal become celebs. Valentine’s Day apparently is a song about a serial killer at a school and the lyrics are from the point of view of the killer, a statement about gun control.
Finally in the last 30 min the focus is on Bowie's deteriorating health and burst of creativity that led to a musical and the Blackstar album.
8/10


Lawman (1971)
Watchable western, but too clichéed and predictable. Inferior clone of Hang 'Em High (1968)
5/10


The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)
Meryl Streep‎ as Sarah does mysterious well, so the audience wants to get to know her. She is complex and difficult to understand, and that’s what makes her character fascinating. Charles (Jeremy Irons) is convincing as her bewildered pursuer and their journey is the most compelling aspect of the film. 
The perspective of the servant life is given its due, and in some ways it's a story designed for us to empathize with their hardship. Charles' servant Sam is frustrated by the uncertainty of his job and other servants are not able to live a happy life because of strict, bullying employers such as Mrs. Poulteney. The jumps between eras was confusing (on first watch) and the modern narrative less memorable.
The film-within-a-film reminded me of Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973), only The French Lieutenant's Woman is more emotionally involving. Truffaut’s film on the other hand does a better job of showcasing the compromises, difficulties and everyday life of shooting a film.
9/10


Bronson (2008)
Biopic based on the life of notorious English criminal with nickname Charles Bronson. I couldn’t look away from his craziness. The first 30 min when he is imprisoned is the most gripping. The scene when he takes a librarian as hostage had suspense for its unpredictability, but maybe they shouldn’t have repeated that. A questionable decision to make entertainment out of his vile behavior. You can debate if the jail time made him worse or he was always a troublemaker. The worst kind of celebrity, wanting to be famous, even if it was for being bad. The audio intro (on the dvd) suggests he’s not proud, but not ashamed of what he’s done. I forgot to mention Tom Hardy, who delivers an award worthy performance. When he smiles and then does a stone face is both creepy and somewhat comical.
7/10


Bread and Tulips (2000)
A light comedy from Italy. Very sweet. Licia Maglietta's charming lead performance makes me want to look up what other films she's done. If you are stuck in familiar routines, a story that could inspire you. About a housewife who takes a spontaneous holiday to Venice. I feel this film should be better known. The Bruno Ganz scene with the tulip petals falling off is unforgettable, although I'm not too sure why bread is in the title? Won several Italian film awards.
8/10






Danish films:

Baronessen fra benzintanken (1960)
Considered a classic of Danish cinema, but to me weaker than its reputation. A couple of amusing scenes when the water pipe bursts in the bathroom, and the party when Dirch Passer eats the oyster. Another fun moment at the party is when the servant announces the guests and someone says he ‘already knows his own name’. But a few scattered laughs does not make a great film.
There was not enough story and the pacing was too slow for a comedy. I lost patience several times and fast-forwarded until something happened. 122 minutes was way too long. Ghita Nørby is one of Denmark’s most prolific and recognizable actresses and this performance is among her signature roles. Her character is quite charming, although it was Dirch Passer in a supporting role who I think gave the most memorable performance. The special effect of the ghost was impressive when you consider the film is from 1960.
4/10


Frøken Nitouche (1963)
Another classic Dirch Passer film I knocked off my list. A sweet but predictable period musical comedy. Based on the operetta Mam'zelle Nitouche, first performed in 1883. Sometimes I rolled my eyes at how dated it is. There are a few sporadic laughs, especially when a man chases after Dirch Passer with a sword because he made passes at his lady friend. 
Favorite quote:” I can’t stand the sight of blood, especially not my own!”
6/10


Olsenbanden i Jylland / The Olsen Gang in Jutland (1971)
Some fun ideas, going to a new location outside of Copenhagen without paying for petrol, Egon using diving equipment to access the bunker, and the trio stealing a train. The usual one-liners are there which audiences expect from the series. There's suspense and even though they're crooks you want them to find the gold.
The storytelling has some flaws, too contrived that all these people happen to be looking for the treasure at the exact same time. A villain fires countless gun shots and keeps missing, that's implausible. I found the humor to be a bit juvenile, but there is a certain charm to these characters. The military is made fun of which is quite amusing.
To me, the differences between Sjaellanders and Jutlanders is not explored enough. Jutlanders are not all bonderøve/hillbillies and the script does little to dispel that fallacy for the viewer. Surely Karl Stegger's character could have looked for the gold ages ago and not just because the gang are passing by. The filmmakers decided to focus mainly on action sequences and that is what works best. As someone who lives in Jutland, visiting the filming location at Vigsø Bugt, Hanstholm is now on my bucket list.
6/10


Gasolin’ (2006)
A rather superficial documentary about arguably Denmark’s most famous rock group of the 1970s. A few interview clips with the band members, but not as a group. Too much focus on their unsuccessful America tour and not enough focus on the actual albums. Most interesting were the parts about the early years and how they started.
5/10


Any thoughts on these films and reviews? As always, I'd like to hear what you think in the comments.


26 comments:

  1. I remember when word of Nocturnal Animal first hit the Internet that it would be an Oscar contender. It seems the general consensus is the film is kind of a mess...such a shame. I have yet to see it :\

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Courtney: There is suspense and beautiful frames in Nocturnal Animals, but yes, a bit of a mess. Maybe the director wanted to try out too many things in a single movie. I suppose the book was tricky to transfer to the screen.

      Delete
    2. Using a complex matrix of layers and flashbacks does not constitute a mess; its simply a choice of narrative structure to achieve a specific purpose. It shifts from one layer to another without warning to create a fine balance between logic and confusion while creating a powerful montage of haunting scenes. Its a remarkable film really.

      Delete
    3. @Cinemusefilms: Glad you liked it. To me, Nocturnal Animals was too fragmented and never settled on a specific mood. It kept changing, but a bold choice stylistically by the filmmakers.

      Delete
  2. Nocturnal Animals had a downright scary performance in Aaron Taylor Johnson. I never caught the anti smoking ad in the flashback. Bronson was my introduction to actor Tom Hardy and director Nicholas Winding Refn. We may not think life in prison is a form of entertainment but Bronson sure did. David Bowie:the last 5 years looks interesting. Tilda Swinton should portray him in a biopic

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @The Vern: Well it wasn’t exactly an anti-smoking ad per se, it was the way the storytelling handled cigarettes.
      I agree Bronsan treated prison as entertainment.
      I’m sure there’ll be a new Bowie biopic at some point, Swinton would be a good choice. They kind of already did one called Velvet Goldmine, which I haven’t seen, Apparently Bowie disapproved of the project and refused to grant Haynes the rights to his music.

      Delete
  3. I really want to see I, Daniel Blake because it's Ken Loach as well as the fact that it's a Palme d'Or winner which has me wanting to fulfill my Palme d'Or rankings. I also want to see The French Lieutenant's Wife as I've heard good things about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @thevoid99: My two highest rated of January. Hope you love those films as well

      Delete
  4. The only one I've seen is Bronson. I really enjoyed it and still think it's Hardy's best performance. I think it had some interesting things to say about celebrity culture and was darkly funny, to boot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Wendell: Hardy stole the show and you’re right the film is so many things at once: entertainment, character study, think piece, comedy, tragedy, madness, horror.

      Delete
  5. The French Lieutenant's Woman sounds pretty fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Vinneh: I’ll look out for your review!

      Delete
  6. I'm curious about I, Daniel Blake though Loach makes such somber films! Haven't seen Nocturnal Animals yet but will rent that as soon as it's on iTunes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Ruth: I, Daniel Blake is not for everyone. To me, it's among the most important, powerful films of the year. Gives a voice to a generation who struggle with new technology/computers.

      Delete
    2. Ruth - Daniel Blake is actually pretty damned funny. Its sad, but the first two acts have some pretty funny moments. The opening scene especially had the entire audience laughing

      Delete
    3. @epileptic.moondancer and @Ruth: I forgot to mention in my review Daniel Blake has several funny moments. It's not a totally bleak film :)

      Delete
  7. If it wasn't for Shannon I wouldn't make it through Nocturnal Animals simplistic and trashy storyline. The shots and the score were lovely but it's him that made it watchable

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Sati: I’ve read theories about the ending (http://www.slashfilm.com/nocturnal-animals-ending-explained-analysis/ ), and disagree the story is simplistic. But we can agree on Shannon and the shots are praiseworthy.

      Delete
  8. Found Manchester by the Sea unremarkable, uncompelling and Affleck's performance one-note. Perhaps high expectations skewed how I received it but I'm pretty baffled by its critical acclaim.

    Nocturnal Animals may've been better if more adroitly directed in spots perhaps, but I liked it. Its conceit, upon which the movie hangs, is novel (pun intended), clever and successful IMO. Adams, Gyllenhaal and Shannon are all very good as usual and strengthen the product.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Kar: Sometimes awards season results in films such as Manchester By The Sea becoming overhyped. I agree it’s overrated and the performances are very oscar-baity. I far prefer Lonergan’s previous film Margaret (2011) which is in my top 100.
      Glad you liked Nocturnal, it had a clever juxtaposition with the narrative, and was a fun ride, but I’m not sure the story added up to anything other than revenge. Still, it was good enough while it lasted.

      Delete
    2. I think Moonlight is overrated as well. Good movie, but not anywhere near the great one most critics hold it up to be.

      I don't think Nocturnal's about revenge really, although that's what gives it its kick. Rather, it's about what underlies that revenge, namely betrayal, selfishness and loss. I thought the novel as metaphor and Amy Adams' feelings of guilt gave the film emotional power.

      Delete
    3. @Kar: I’m seeing Moonlight soon and will try and watch with moderate expectations. Will review later.

      I agree those things underly the revenge in Nocturnal. Maybe I rated the film too low, because I did enjoy it for the most part.

      Delete
  9. Look forward to your review.

    I can see having problems with Nocturnal. There isn't much character development, some of the direction or the way things are sequenced may not be the best but I ate up the metaphor and found it engaging. I'm also partial to Adams and Gyllenhaal so that was working as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Kar: Nocturnal didn’t leave me with food for thought and I felt it revealed its secrets, but as a thriller the story was good. As I said in a previous comment, the book seemed to be difficult to adapt to the screen and Ford’s direction was a bit scattershot.
      Jake Gyllenhaal is an actor who often picks interesting scripts. I always look out for what he’s doing next.

      Delete
  10. It is interesting to me when I read reviews that kind of disagree with my overall assessment of a film but that still manage to capture in word form what it was I did not quite like, but couldn't yet explain myself. I think you have done that with Nocturnal Animals and Manchester by the Sea. In both cases, I agree with your criticisms yet I find the issues to be less important to the success of the final product than you (both scored 4/5 for me).
    I must give "I, Nathaniel Blake" and "Bread and Tulips" a place in my never ending watchlist.
    What made you start watching so many Danish films?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @niels85: Glad you appreciate my reviews even if we don’t have the exact same opinion. Maybe I’m nitpicking about the tonal inconsistency in Nocturnal Animals, and swearing+lack of originality in Manchester by the Sea.

      I hope you like I Daniel Blake and Bread and Tulips as much as I did, two fantastic films.

      Your question: Simple. Because I live in Denmark and want to watch the important, beloved films

      Delete

What do you think about the post? I look forward to hearing from you. Rest assured I will reply soon.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails