I usually watch a fair amount of horror during October to celebrate the month of Halloween. This month, I didn't watch as many as usual, I just wasn't in the mood to see lots. I did see 5-6, as well as season two of Stranger Things.
Rewatch. This time for a Halloween big screen presentation! Suspiria is worth seeing, even if it doesn't quite live up to its lofty cult classic reputation. The story is predictable and paper thin, but it's really a mood piece, sustaining a sense of dread with its eerie atmosphere and striking colors. Supports my theory that set designs are more beautiful than CGI. Filmmakers take note.
The lead (Jessica Harper) is believable as a student far from home, she plays her role well, looking afraid and worried.
Without the chilling Goblin soundtrack the movie probably wouldn't be regarded as highly. Needs the music to cast its spell, and the experience benefited from having the sound system cranked up during the screening I went to. My ears are still ringing.
Without spoiling anything, maybe the tensest scene is a blind man with his dog walking through an empty town square.
It's possible the film is more spine-tingling when viewed alone. The audience sniggering at the voice dubbing took me out of the story a couple of times. I guess I just prefer watching horror by myself. I agree with this writer who names her article The exhilarating thrill of watching scary movies alone.
Recommended by The Vern. The Love Witch unapologetically retrofies the exploitation films of 60s/70s, and the lead looks almost identical to Italian giallo actress Edwige Fenech. I think it manages to holds its own next to the movies it homages. Telling a story with gender commentary, about a witch who seeks true love. Using a cast of fairly unknown actors, I love the highly stylized production design which show affection towards the films it was influenced by. Don’t know when the story is supposed to be, it exists in a place that is both past and present, with mobile phones and modern cars, yet wardrobes, haircuts and interiors from a different time. For what it lacks in scares, it makes up for in mood. A little long at 120 minutes, and some scenes feel self-serving, but worth your time. The sequence that stood out the most to me was near the end when she talks to the cop in the bar. I think especially a female audience will connect with main character Elaine, whose emotions for the most part are rationale and relatable.
*Spoilers* She is a flirty femme fatale, yet there's a sense of someone lost and trying to find a companion. Sex appears to be a means towards love, but the men she meets seemingly can't deal with the deeper emotions. Must be frustrating to be a woman in that predicament. Perhaps Elaine is just trying too hard to find a boyfriend. Perhaps also a commentary on that good looks sometimes result in lust and not love. As they mentioned on the recent Lambcast, "she's giving in to these guy's fantasies, trying to achieve her own fantasy of this guy who is truly going to love her". Elaine is shooting herself in the foot by using love potions as it's a fake devotion. As discussed on the Lambcast, her idea of what a relationship should involve is warped by an abusive former lover, the deceased antagonist Jerry.
Discussed in The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us, a documentary I reviewed below. The Day After set a record as the highest-rated television film in history, as more than 100 million people watched during its initial broadcast. A realistic and horrifying what-if scenario, about a contemporary, disastrous nuclear war. An important film showing the aftermath for US residents of Lawrence, Kansas, and Kansas City, where innocent people are helpless to the missiles and radiation. It’s frightening that society is so unprepared for this type of possible WW3 situation, with overcrowded hospitals, and uncertainty(for example growing crops in the soil). The scenes with the dead animals and the emotional preacher were especially affecting. A film that makes you appreciative of what we have and how vital it is to find peaceful solutions. Perhaps the most chilling line of dialogue is a quotation of Einstein: “He said he didn’t know how they would fight WW3. But he knew how they would fight WW4. With stick and stones”
Recommended by Wendell in his Top 25 Movies of the 1950s. Honestly it's difficult to talk about its qualities without spoiling it. As with another Vincent Price film, The Last Man on Earth (1964), there’s use of non-chronological storytelling. Cronenberg’s 1986 remake is more straightforward, while also improving on the special effects.
Calling The Fly a horror is a bit of a stretch, it’s really science-fiction, with a warning about experiments and playing god. The ending is pretty horrifying for a 1950s film.
Included in Sati's Favorite movies of all time list. Sci-fi/body horror. A future society in which you can live inside a game environment. Game designers (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are worshipped as superstars. Weird and unpredictable story. Parts of the film, such as the restaurant scene, feel weird for the sake of weirdness. Is Cronenberg questioning if gaming is good or bad for you? Blurring the line between what's real and what isn't, the audience is never comfortable. As all gamers have, feeling the awkwardness and differences of moving between both worlds. Able to pause a game or movie, but not able to pause real life. A cautionary tale that a game can become so real that you can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Without easy solutions, raises questions rather than giving answers. Too gross to become a favorite, but very imaginative in its design and props. Especially interesting to watch if you’ve played video games. You can make parallels to Tron, The Matrix, or Inception, though eXistenZ manages to carve out its own unique space rather than duplicating someone else's.
Recommended by Liam at Motion Picture Blog. There are some truly unforgettable scenes. I found the main characters had no likeability and became a series of shocks whereby she (and the filmmakers) could experiment and try out boundaries. About the potential and un-predictableness within all of us. Ultimately, a well-made film to be admired for its creativeness within a realistic setting, but with a nauseating story. If it’s goal was to make the audience feel ill at ease, then it succeeds. Deserves praise for provoking a reaction in me. Whether I like that reaction is another matter. Fits in the New French Extremity genre category.
An entertaining sci-fi/horror show with a mainstream appeal, easily digestible. I binge-watched it over the last few days. There’s a natural progression, with cliff-hanger endings, and a bit more genuine horror than season one, especially Hopper’s journey in E5 and the action sequence in E8. Though occasionally it can feel like the filmmakers are playing it too safe, with ideas that in some instances could be described as rehash of what worked in the original. The storyline with Max and Billy was the most involving and freshest to me. Eleven’s journey was separate from the main conflict and at times seemed like a different show, I’m undecided if that was a good or a bad decision. There’s a welcome supporting role for Sean Astin of Goonies fame, a fitting choice given how the 1985 movie influenced the tone of the childhood camaraderie in Stranger Things. Perhaps the charm of the show for adult audiences is nostalgia for the 80s, and reminding us about the joys and frustrations of growing up. Certainly characters I cared about, and enjoyed hanging out with the kids again from Hawkins, Indiana.
The non-horror films....
A safe, by-the-numbers biopic of Bjorn Borg's rise to fame, coaching that led to his ice cold, machine-like play. A thrilling, edge-of-your-seat sequence depicting the 1980 Wimbledon final is a definite highpoint of the film. The actor who plays Borg is very believable, whereas Shia LaBeouf is not as convincing as John McEnroe.
A gripping crime thriller with a fantastic turn by Robert Pattinson. An unpredictable story with twists and turns. The bizarre poster and Iggy Pop's song from the soundtrack make better sense when you've seen the film. Jennifer Jason Leigh seemed miscast and too old for her role.
See previous review
Adapted from the novel Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith. A neo-noir about a a picture framer (Bruno Ganz) who becomes involved in a seedy underworld of crime. I never quite knew where the story was heading. The motivations of the characters is interesting, though I felt the last 30 min was less believable on the train and afterwards.
A suspenseful, well-told cat-and-mouse thriller. One of the best 'nordic noirs' of recent years. Another book by Jo Nesbø, The Snowman, is in cinemas now, but I heard it's a poor adaptation.
The most interesting parts are when Spielberg’s life is connected to his movies, for example the bullies who pursued him becoming Duel, the “cry baby” scene in Close Encounters was autobiographical, and the separate parent in several movies was close to his own heart.
Many of Spielberg’s films are from the perspective of innocence and childhood. In the 80s, he remarks to an interviewer that his child-like demeanor ”keeps you young, keeps a smile on your face, and I don’t quite know what it would be like to become an adult”. There are signs of him maturing already in the mid 80s, and his family and friends are given credit for pushing him in new directions.
I’m glad the documentary is not just colleagues patting him on back. Takes its time, not just delving into the successes, but acknowledging his failures, such as his estrangement from his dad, his insecurities about himself, and the flop 1941 where he felt he had ”committed a war crime” by making a comedy about WW2.
Also looks at the critical establishment, some of which called his work sentimental, empty escapism. Or in the case of The Color Purple too pretty to look at and sometimes not realistic enough.
It’s clear he loves to work with the same collaborators. ”I can’t really have sanity, unless I have familiarity”
All in all, an entertaining retropective that surprised me in how critical it was of his filmography. Could have gone a bit deeper into specific films, but then it might have become too dry for a wide audience. Key films are given higher priority.
Touches on many things and gives a historical overview of the decade. Learnt about the cold war, Soviets shooting down a Korean airliner in 1983, and NATO deploying intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe, despite the biggest peace demonstration in in the 20th century across European countries (Greenham Common) against the decision. The Stanislav Petrov incident in which warning equipment failed and war was narrowly avoided, the missiles turned out to be sunlight reflecting off clouds. The nuclear threat spawning the film The Day After (1983) (see review above) watched by 100 million Americans. The fear of nuclear war was one of the reasons private savings went down and spending went up. In the 80s, people got used to debt, an addiction to consumerism, which ultimately resulted in the crash in 2008.
A long list of other 80s events are covered, in no particular order: The ups and downs of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the 1981 assassination attempts towards Reagan and the Pope, Jane Fonda’s groundbreaking fitness video. The rise of niche TV, CNN, MTV, QVC, cell phones, the Walkman, Pac-Man, yuppies, crack/cocaine, Madonna and her fans, disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, hippie ice cream capitalists Ben and Jerry, founder of Apple Steve Jobs, boundary pushing Calvin Klein and Levis ads, the war between Pepsi and Coca/Cola, skateboard innovator Tony Hawk, the 1984 Manhattan subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz, Richard Branson’s luxury transatlantic flights in which champagne was served, the boy Ryan White who contracted AIDS, to show US and Russia are neighbors Lynne Cox bravely swam 4,3 km over the Bering Strait, the 1987 Wall Street Crash aka Black Monday resulting in a Federal Reserve bailout. cautionary movie Wall Street partly based on Ivan Boesky. The revenge fantasy movie 9 to 5, the space shuttle disaster with the first ordinary citizen (teacher Christa McAuliffe) sent to space, the popular Bill Cosby Show which paved the way for black actors and a black president. Music becoming a vehicle for charity and saving lives (Band Aid, Live Aid, Heal the World song), The Simpsons subverting American values and allowing us to rid ourselves of some of our anxieties through laughter.
Narrated by John Nettles. A lot of William Shakespeare’s life is speculation and the whole truth will probably never be revealed, though they do mention he narrowly escaped the plague as infant mortality was high in Stratford at the time, at school reading the classics by Virgil, Ovid and Seneca, learning to see both sides of a case, and using opposing voices in his plays. He had to rush into marriage due to a pregnancy at just 18, and his son with Anne Hathaway was named Hamlet (!). We don’t know how or why he began his theatre career, or much about his actual romantic life. From records it’s known the Queen’s Men travelled through Stratford and put on plays King Lear, Richard 3rd, and Henry the 5th. It’s possible Shakespeare joined their company and was inspired to write his own versions of the plays. The Holinhed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland is believed to have formed an inspiration for S’s historical plays. The popular comedic character Falstaff delighted audiences during the era.
Shakespeare even invented words like bedroom, zany, gossip, invulnerable, fashionable, eyeball, monumental, savagery, and lonely. And penned memorable phrases such as: made of sterner stuff, vanish into thin air, fight fire with fire, to be cruel to be kind.
The Bard’s body of work is hailed as unparalleled, but no there’s no mention of the authorship controversy and that others could have been ghost writers, nor is there any discussion of his flaws as a writer.
His father John Shakespeare worked his way up as glove maker, wool merchant, and mayor of Stratford. Fined for not paying his merchant taxes to the guild, the authorities confiscating the wool.
However the local community were less harsh, allowing him to continue, and granted him the coat of arms for his services.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome
I admire this record, I don't love it. Lots of pop hooks on tracks such as La-La-La Lies, My Generation, The Kids Are Alright, and A Legal Matter, but I didn't connect emotionally with the music. The most surprising tune is the wild instrumental jam The Ox. I talked to my dad about the audiences who listened to this type of music. Whether the band members were mods themselves is debatable, although The Who had a mod following. Perhaps the group were confused about their own identity at this early stage, having changed labels and altered their name three times within a year. He told me about the mods and rockers conflict which was before my time. The mod subculture seems to have come and gone.
Rising by Rainbow (1976)
Thanks to Steven at The Void-Go-Round for the recommendation. I finally gave this LP a try. A hard rock/heavy metal band I was unfamiliar. Rainbow was formed when guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple over creative differences. Rising is often considered Rainbow's best work.
A compact, intense album at just 33 minutes. There's a lot to admire here, the various aspects of the musicianship, and the towering vocal by Ronnie James Dio (of Dio fame). The epic Stargazer is the stand out, although I think I prefer Tarot Woman with its synth intro and impressive guitar work.
Flowers in the Dirt by Paul McCartney (1989)
Receiving favorable reviews at the time. When it's good, it's really good. We Got Married is my favorite, elevated by David Gilmour on guitar. This One has a great melody and must rank among the best Post-Beatles McCartney singles. Rough Ride is enjoyable and the trumpet part fits well. I used to enjoy Distractions, though has lost its sting, maybe because it's so repetitive. The dance pop closer Où est le soleil? (a single included as a bonus track on the reissue) would be ideal for a road trip or disco playlist.
Elvis Costello can be heard as guest vocalist in You Want Her Too. Apparently there were creative differences during the making resulting in replacing Costello with other producers. The lost Costello/McCartney recordings can be found in the reissue package.
A fun, ambitious pop album, with a lot of instrumental experimentation. Listening on a proper sound system is the way to go, which brings out the layered production.
Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette (1995)
Could pass as a greatest hits album, there are many career-best songs.
The Ooz by King Krule (2017)
Album of the year contender. Archy Marshall is only three albums into his career (including his non-King Krule LP). For me, he is lyricist of the year and The Ooz could well be his magnum opus. The opening line "I seem to sink lower" is an indication of what to expect. His music isn't for everyone and evades typical genre classification. Melancholy, introspective art rock/jazz/spoken word is what you could label it as. A gloomy album to put on when you're in the mood for that. As opposed to fast paced hip hop, Marshall's deliberately slow, sad vocal delivery allows the listener time to reflect, and there's a timelessness to the lyrics and emotions. Weaknesses, there are minor tracks here such as (A Slide In) New Drugs, and 66 minutes and 19 tracks in one continuous sitting is a bit excessive for this type of dark music. It requires an investment for the music to be moving and impactful.
The artist explained the album title: "from back in the day with my band Zoo Kid; his (brother's) band was called Words Backwards. We got together and merged our bands, so we formed "zoo kid" backwards, which was Dik Ooz. Which is pretty disgusting"
Plunge by Fever Ray (2017)
Lacks the big radio singles of the 2009 solo release, but contains enjoyable electropop material w/ pretty good lyrics. The instrumental title track got stuck in my head for the synth production. Red Trails has a pleasing mix of violin and electro. The closer Mama's Hand might be the best moment. I like the single To the Moon and Back.
On second listen the sound I found a little harsh and disagreeable in some places, but a consistently good and cohesive record. Think will hold up to many plays, which isn't the case with most new albums these days. Only available as a digital release in 2017. Will be released physically on vinyl and CD on 23 February 2018.
Blade Runner 2049 by Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch (2017)
Works fairly well with the images and a big sound system in the cinema. As a stand-alone experience at home the new score is unremarkable and a chore to sit through. What generated much of the emotion and atmosphere in the 1982 original was Vangelis’ amazing soundtrack. Zimmer/Wallfisch try to recapture that, but the new score is nowhere near as good. Not something I'd listen to again, in contrast to Vangelis' classic soundtrack which is endlessly playable.
There are brief moments of brilliance, but they are all too short. A modern synthesizer piece that stands out is during Mesa, a segment that is repeated in the track Blade Runner. There's a haunting outro on That's Why We Believe, and parts of Sea Wall are beautiful. This soundtrack isn't Zimmer's best work and I disiked Almost Human by Lauren Daigle. Should have hired Vangelis. My rating is for the stand-alone listen. Just to be clear, I'm not rating the Elvis and Frank Sinatra songs.
Weather Diaries by Ride (2017)
Ride is a blindspot for me. All I know is they are considered an important act from the early 90s shoegaze movement. In the same vein as Slowdive's comeback, Weather Diaries is fan service, bringing back Ride after an absence of 21 years.
Lannoy Point, Charm Assault, Home is a Feeling, and Weather Diaries are tracks I'd want to return to, the rest are rather bland.
Visions of a Life is Wolf Alice (2017)
There's quite a bit of hype surrounding this UK band, and some critics claim the album is one of 2017's best.
Heavenward, Beautifully Unconventional, and Dont Delete the Kisses are three memorable tracks on the first half. One or more of these have a good chance of featuring in my upcoming top 100 songs of 2017.
The record can't sustain the early promise. Perhaps Wolf Alice are destined to be a band who release impressive songs (Silk was the stand out on their debut), but hit-and-miss albums. The closing title track Visions of a Life is good for atmosphere and guitar work.
All American Made by Margo Price (2017)
Her singing on this isn't as novel as last year's brilliant debut album, but All American Made has its moments. Especially the opening three songs stood out. I'm certainly interested in getting the cd, and seeing if will grow on me. Like on Midwest Farmer's Daughter (2016), her lyrics are personal yet relatable. According to the New York Times article, she "Tells It Like It Really Is". Though sometimes sticking too close to the same formula, there is a willingness to experiment with the Willie Nelson duet Learning to Lose and adding (gospel?) backing singers on Do Right By Me and All American Made. There's also a surprising sound bite (is it Bill Clinton?) on the closing title track If you were a fan of Price's first LP, I think you'll be satisfied with the second LP.
Masseduction by St. Vincent (2017)
I think her music tends to be overrated, but the 2014 self-titled album was enjoyable, so was curious to give Masseduction a try. There's plenty of variation and pop hooks. The opener Hang on Me showcases her vocal. Pills has an irritating start and nice finish. On Masseduction, she channels Alison Goldfrapp. Sugarboy is playful and possibly samples Donna Summer's I Feel Love. The single Los Ageless is catchy, even if the lyrics "how could anybody" do get old fast. Happy Birthday Johnny is a simpler, more conventional birthday song, and might be my favorite of the bunch. The song New York, I'd love to know more about the hero/friend, those lyrics (including the swearing) have got stuck in my head. The vocal performance at the end of Young Lover is powerful.
Good, but not a life-changing album. To me, it's flavour of the month music. That was the case with her 2014 record as well. Reviewers calling Masseduction a "masterpiece" is a bit over the top. I'm really confused about what to rate the album. I like quite a few tracks here, so I might be underselling it. Listen to Masseduction yourself and make up your own mind!
Colors by Beck (2017)
Too polished to elicit much emotion, but the breazy singles are entertaining enough. Especially fun is the piano-driven Beatles-like Dear Life. Dreams is Beck at his best.
Glasshouse by Jessie Ware (2017)
Boring, vapid love songs, with the occasional strong pop single (Midnight, Selfish Love, Alone). The closer Sam feels more personal and experimental.
To me, Tough Love (2014) is her most rewarding album, and the LP she's done with the least amount of filler, and most replay value.
ken by Destroyer (2017)
I like his elusive, dark lyrics. Slightly more memorable than Poison Season (2015), but not able to better career peaks Kaputt (2011) and Destroyer's Rubies (2006).
Tinseltown Swimming in Blood is an album highlight, and other tracks have potential to grow on me. The lyric repetition at the end of songs is a bit tiresome, although it works very well on the track Ivory Coast.
"Should've seen it coming
Should've taken care
Should've tried pretending that anything was there" (from Sky's Grey)
"Good things come to those who wait forever" (from Ivory Coast)
*This year, I listened to the discographies of Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Cream. Saving those reviews for a post on each group.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome
History has proven that rarely is the sequel better than the original. It was going to be an uphill battle to equal (or improve on) a film as groundbreaking and quotable as the 1982 film. Blade Runner 2049 is good but not a masterpiece. I knew was going to be fan service and that is basically what it boils down to.
Several actors have smaller roles than expected. There are a few cameos, but I won't go into specifics. The filmmakers have said all along that you should go in knowing as little as possible, as the plot is a spoiler in itself. There's an expansion of this world and the slow pacing is daring for a blockbuster, yet I felt the storytelling was too concerned with honoring the original. In that sense, it's zeitgeisty, in paying homage.
The writers waited too long, in the 35 year gap since 1982, various TV shows and films (again, without going into spoilery territory) have already run with the philosophical themes presented in Blade Runner 2049. And you could argue most of what is presented in the sequel was alluded to tacitly in the original.
Yet an admirable effort that held my interest. The plotting is quite intricate, and fun to be back in this universe. Just isn't as emotional, chill-inducing and memorable as Ridley Scott's classic. The first film could be considered sci-fi-noir, the second has been described as an "Arthouse-Blockbuster". Worth watching on the big screen to meet Deckard again and for the stunning visuals, but go in with moderate expectations.
The 1982 film is among my top 10 of all-time, and the atmospheric soundtrack is a big reason why. Vangelis didn't return as composer. At the end of the month, I'll review the new score by Benjamin Wallfisch/Hans Zimmer.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome
I recently went on an enjoyable holiday to Berlin for a week. In the DDR museum, I learnt about what it was like to live behind the wall in East Germany. Travel was forbidden, limitations on what food was available, stuck on a waiting list for years in order to own a low quality car (Trabant), and having to sign a written agreement of loyalty to the party so as to be allowed to study at the university.
Opposing the regime was forbidden. Those were different times, yet it wasn't so long ago! If you had to point to a positive of that era, then it was the low unemployment in the DDR. In fact after the fall of the wall in 1989, many East Germans who fled to the West struggled to find work.
Books and music were examples of censorship. Popular culture was viewed as dangerous and potentially subversive in communist Eastern Europe, designed to corrupt its young people, turning them away from socialist ideals. Most music fans simply resorted to taping their favorite songs directly off West German radio stations and exchanging them with their friends. Western bands were not permitted to play in East Germany, and East German rock bands were essentially protected against foreign competition. A limited musical exchange between East and West Germany would gradually happen in the 1980s. Punk was an underground movement; many bands performed concerts in their own garages and recorded and distributed their music on self-made cassettes. However, as the movement grew, Stasi agents were increasingly able to infiltrate the punk scene. East Berlin punk group Namenlos were arrested and sentenced to between 12 and 18 months in prison for ‘disparaging the state’. Klaus Renft Combo were banned in 1975, the committee told the band that their lyrics ‘had absolutely nothing to do with socialist reality'.
The highlight of the museum was a listening area where I could hear DDR hits via headphones. With a chart on the screen in which visitors could vote for their favorites. Der Blaue Planet by Karat was in the top 5. I later discovered it's not just a song but a full length album from 1982, released on the state record label AMIGA. The majority of the music on the playlist I had never heard of. Other popular DDR groups included The Puhdys, City, and Silly. Since the museum's cd stock was sold out, I looked for and found a greatest hits by Karat in Media Markt, a nearby multi-story electronics store at Alexander Platz. Also bought a compilation of (mostly 70s and 80s) rock called Das Beste Aus Der DDR. Each cd cost 6 euro. I guess what I found out is that the German music scene has many interesting acts besides Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Can. Not all quality, but some of it still holds up. My German isn't as good as it used to be, so that may diminish what I take away from the music. If the melodies are strong enough, then the lyrics are of lesser importance.
Der Blaue Planet by Karat (1982)
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome