Monthly recap: What have I been watching?

Didn't watch as much as March, still got to see a few films! Was a good month, in that I hardly saw any bad movies at all.

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.
Rating 7.2

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.
Rating 7.0

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"
Rating 6.8

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.
Rating 7.4

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.
Rating 6.5

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.
Rating 7.5

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.
Rating 7.5

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.
Rating 7.6

Tyrannosaur (2011)
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.
Rating 7.6

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.
Rating 6.0

Littlerock (2010)
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.
Rating 7.8

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.
Rating 6.9

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
Rating 7.8

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.
Rating 7.5

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 ( :
Rating 8.2

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.
Rating 7.5

Rosetta (1999)
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
Rating 7.4

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.
Rating 8.1

I'm going to add a new monthly feature at the end here...

My top 5 of April:

1.) The Day Of The Jackal (1973)
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?


  1. That's a lot of movies, Chris ^^' I think mine managed to get a little fewer because of my workload. But it seems you've seen many fine films.
    I like that you managed to look up at 'Collapse', sorry to hear that you don't like them. About Hunger Games, yeah it was upsetting to see the audience were like a sheep, following the games just like that. I so agree.
    I also have seen Tyrannosaur, want to do a full review later. I actually find it great, interesting point of view of faith in God.
    I've been wanting to see Walk The Line, like forever! I agree some topic can make you feel anxious, happens to me sometimes.
    Nice round-up!

    1. @Andina: I found a lot on youtube, so hard to say no, and mostly saw good stuff ( :
      Well 6.9 for "Collapse" is not an extremely bad rating, it's just a documentary that was okay. I wouldn't recommend watching, because I think that it could have been a lot better, and was one-sided. There are lots of theories about the financial crisis, and we only hear from one guy.

      I usually finish a film, Tyrannosaur I hated, I didn't care about characters. Will look to see your review, maybe you got more out of Tyrannosaur than I did (the faith issues)

  2. Interesting mixture of films.
    I'm eagerly awaiting the new Anna Karenina film, I've loved everything Joe Wright has done until now, and the promotional stills look wonderful.
    If you had read The Hunger Games, you'd know that the audience is forced to see the games - but of course, I can't blame you for that. I found the film really good, especially because it stays true to the book and the actors were perfect for their roles. The books are still a little better though, I'm really addicted after having read the first two now.
    I also liked La Strada, though I found it rather depressing than warm-hearted.

    1. @Mette: Yes, I like to mix up old and new movies, foreign, indie, and mainstream.
      I know your love for Atonement, so can understand the anticipation for the next Joe Wright film ( :
      Thanks for info on Hunger Games, I got confused, I must have been thinking of similar movie I saw this month "Series 7: The Contenders" (I moved the "audience hypothetically also at fault" sentence to that piece) Will be sure to keep an eye out for your future Hunger Games review, then!
      I would agree the ending of La Strada is not that optimistic, although most of the movie I had a smile on my face, the circus scenes especially ( :

  3. Great recap! As awful as it sounds I'm glad you didn't like Hunger Games - the overhype is just...sadening.

    1. @Sati: Thanks, I was entertained by Hunger Games, though a little too predictable for me. Kids killing kids being a box office hit is also horrifying if you think about it. Series 7: The Contenders (2001) I found a lot more suspenseful, because there is no sequel.

  4. Wow quite the list of films this month.

    Into the Abyss: I admire Herzog's talent for getting profound moments out of nothing. The chaplain at the beginning, the captain of the guard, and the one killer's father. But the subject is so unsettling I don't think I could ever watch it again.

    Tyrannosaur: Yeah the title is misleading, kind of like when musicians name an album after some unusual lyric. But I think Mullan was quite amazing, and his character is an old guy whose way of life is from a time gone by.

    Werckmeister Harmonies: I'm one of those people who think this is a masterpiece. The more movies I see the rarer it is for me to be totally entranced and taken away by what I see. But there is something unique about Tarr that makes the world around me melt away every time. I think this one definitely alludes to Eastern/Central European politics, but it also says something scary about how little control we really have over our lives.

    The Turin Horse: much of the same thoughts as above, his film's always transport me to another place, I do agree that this one can be excessively bleak but at the end it sure makes you feel better about your own life. Well, I guess Tarr is not for everyone.

    Rosetta: is my favorite Dardenne film because of Emilie Dequenne's amazing performance, and it was also the first film I encountered that up close intimate camera style that is now used everywhere.

    The Son: I'm glad you found a Dardenne film you liked. Olivier Gourmet always has the look of a creep or weirdo to me but he is an amazing actor. I love how this plays out so unexpectedly. Since you enjoyed this one I think you will probably like La Promesse as well.

    1. @Bonjour Tristesse: Thanks for your detailed comment!

      Into the Abyss: I actually considered adding an image here of the young guy from jail, his face and smile kind of creeps me out, so decided against it.

      Tyrannosaur: I suppose the performances were good. I loathe everything about the Mullan character, he is the sort of person I avoid in life(and in movies).

      Werckmeister Harmonies: Was technically masterful, the market square scenes where all the men were waiting around were my favorite moments of the film.
      "scary about how little control we really have over our lives" Yes, both in terms of the group of inhabitants in the town being manipulated, but also the main character János Valuska is being kept on a string as a spy by the community. Reminds me of a clip where actor Martin Sheen talks: If I can't identify myself in my own terms, then I'm forced to accept you're identifying me"

      The Turin Horse: excessively bleak and not for everyone is well put.

      Rosetta, and The Son: I'll probably give the Dardenne Br a break for now(don't want to over do it) Thanks for the tip about La promesse (1996). L'enfant (2005) is also on my watch-list for the future.

    2. Absolutely creepy. I saw a recent interview with Herzog where he says that guy was the scariest person he has ever met in his life.

  5. I'm going to have to go watch that Titanic doc RIGHT NOW! Also I thought Tyrannosaur was a brilliantly acted but absolutely harrowing drama. Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman particularly were incredible. I don't think I've been able to stop thinking about Collapse ever since I saw it. It's a frightening vision of the future. I'm tempted to stock up on seeds.

    1. @Pete: I know how much you like Cameron and Titanic, and your avatar icon is even from T2, so not surprised the doc is appealing!
      Collapse (2009) made some interesting points, but I felt because we only hear from Ruppert, he sounded like a crackpot at the end, who is not open to discussion(even if what he was saying has some truth to it.)

  6. Nice to see you also like mixing your movies. I do that all the time, keeps my interest alive. I usually get bored of the genre if I see many similar movies.

    I have seen exactly same 5 Fellini movies you have and I can tell you from my own experience that they have tremendous ability to grow on you, more you think about it, the better they become.

    I am also glad that you liked Walk the Line. I own it and watch it often just for the songs and Reese Witherspoon. Being biopic and musical, there was a lot that could have gone wrong but fortunately it didn't.

    1. @SDG: Yeah, you can mix movies, mix music, and mix up what you eat for dinner each night ( :
      Ok, I was on to something then, that Fellini grows on the viewer.
      Even though I am more of a fan of Johnny Cash's recordings from the 90s, I enjoyed Walk the Line and the music, I'm surprised took me so long to get round to watching! (I rented it once but the disc was a dud)

  7. Wow you really hated Tyrannosaur. I think I have only seen Walk the Line out of your top twelve last month.

    would like to check out your JC blogathon

    1. @3guys1movie: Maybe it's just me disliking Tyrannosaur, (I love Mike Leigh and how he depicts life in the UK). I'm puzzled at people defending Tyrannosaur, such a depressing, profanity-filled film. Though I have not seen the last half.

      Hope to get that Johnny Cash music blogathon off the ground soon!

  8. I don't quite get The Hunger Games - it's a fair enough film, but I just didn't think it was a good film. Average at best. And yep, I haven't read the books!

    I've heard nothing but rave reviews about Tyrannosaur, so it's interesting you couldn't even get to finish it.

    1. @Jaina: Thanks for stopping by, appears we agree about Hunger Games (I will check your review later)

      Tyrannosaur, I just found it very bleak, and would rather watch something else.

  9. Nice, varied batch of movies this month, though there are a few I haven't even heard of. Thanks for the link back on The Hunger Games! Glad we agree on that one.

    1. @Eric: I enjoyd reading your Hunger Games review, you're welcome

  10. I don't mind depressing if done right, so i am still slightly curious about Tyrannosaur. And i liked the Hunger games, though i can't say i loved it

    1. @dirtywithclass: Tyrannosaur did get good reviews. As I already said, was not my cup of tea at all.

      I agree about Hunger Games, was good, not great. Maybe the movie didn't work independently of the novels as well as it should have.

  11. I'm in the process of writing my monthly recap now and I wish I had seen as many movies as you!

    Oh man, I MUST see the Anna Karenina you mentioned, I mean Sean Bean as Vronsky? Sign me up! :D I am reading the book right now, took me forever to finish it, Tolstoy writing is really tough to get into for me but it's certainly fascinating.

    I'm curious about the Into the Abyss documentary as well.

    1. @Ruth: Anna Karenina (1997) was okay, pretty similar script to the black and white Anna Karenina (1937) with Greta Garbo, the settings and costumes impressed me more in the 1997 adaptation, probably due to the colours.

      Into the Abyss is well-made, recommended! I'll take a look at your monthly recap in next few days.

  12. Tyrannosaur was a fantastic, moving character study; one of my favorite films from 2011. I can completely understand why you turned it off, that first scene is pretty goddamn jarring. Is it depressing? Sure, but I think life, at times, can be as well. It’s a lot to stomach, but I think it is real and raw and oddly beautiful.

    The Day of the Jackal – shit man, THAT is a great flick.

    1. @Alex Withrow: I know what you mean, I'm ok with depressing and raw, and taking a look at a different way of life. Detachment (2011) is in my top 5 of the year so far, and that was pretty gloomy, so depends if the characters interest me.

      The Day of the Jackal, I'm a huge fan ( :

  13. Tyrannosaur was actually my favourite film of 2011. Here's my defense of the film:

    1. @Dan: Thanks, I'm pretty sure I'll disagree(as is to be expected from what I wrote above), though shall check your Tyrannosaur defense!


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