Monthly recap: What have I been watching in July?
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
No spoilers review! Suspenseful, entertaining, good acting, and a surprising amount of emotion. Everyone's talking about Anne Hathaway, I actually thought Michael Caine's performance was the best of the bunch!
I recommend Rises, but I had some issues. For me, there are far too many characters. Tom Hardy did well with such a limitation of Bane's face, however Bane's voice I found implausible and not correct for a villain, and in a weird way sounded like an old man, maybe sort of Scottish, which annoyed me. The bad guys and their motivations I didn't quite believe either.
The action was praiseworthy, but I thought not really groundbreaking considering the reported 1/4 of a billion dollar budget...Several of the big scenes reminded me of Bruce Willis action movies and didn't seem all that original.
However the cave prison was really great stuff, and got my mind racing about Plato's Allegory of the Cave.
You have to judge a blockbuster on its merits, and indeed it succeeded in building tension, Hans Zimmer's soundtrack worked really well again. On a personal level, I was more into the Tim Burton Batman universe.
That said, I'm contemplating reviewing Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises later on. The Dark Knight Rises is worth a watch on the big screen. The story in Rises almost demands rewatching the whole trilogy.
Perhaps I'm stupid and missed it, why again does Bane wear a mask?
Could be among the best Batman films, not sure if it's among the most groundbreaking action films, though.
Perhaps Nolan's trilogy will grow on me in time, I have only seen Batman films once.
Earrings (2012) (short film)
Directed by blogger friend Alex Withrow, Earrings (2012) was released July 28th. Go check his 30 min short here if you haven't already. I thought it was a gripping and powerful experience!
It's difficult to rate the film when you know the guy. Once the Radiohead song was done, there were a couple of scenes afterwards I thought lost intensity, and maybe I would have shortened. But considering that it's a low budget independent project, he does remarkably well.
The choice of music made the scenes all the more memorable. Kieslowski's Blue (1993) apparently was an influence. Withrow decides not to explain what is causing the suffering, which is what has us glued to the screen. Interesting to see what Withrow could achieve with a bigger budget.
A Running Jump (2012)(short film)
A 34 minute short film written and directed by British director Mike Leigh. Basically the polar opposite to Earrings above; lots of characters and fast-paced dialogue, that at times is tough to keep up with. Sport is what binds the multiple storylines together. I'm not sure what Leigh was trying to achieve, besides showing a day in the life of a group of Londoners. The ending was a little predictable, and characters were introduced that didn't really have much to do. I did enjoy it quite a bit, however.
London 2012 Festival, Film 4 and BBC Films co-commissioned four UK directors, Mike Leigh, Lynne Ramsey, and others, to come up with short films to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Impressive performance by Bette Davis, sadly I couldn't stand her creepy and unlikeable character for over two hours. I also felt I had seen the washed-up old actress drama played out before in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950). I doubted I would enjoy it from the trailer, and turns out my instincts were correct.
Did not finish
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Directed by Billy Wilder, I was a bit suspicious about a running time of two hours for a comedy. Thankfully there's a reason why it's placed in the IMDB top 250. I had a smile on my face pretty much the whole time. Great performances by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. The dialogue is fast and furious. Marilyn Monroe is beautiful, the most attractive thing about Monroe to me is her sexy voice. Filming in black and white was partly a decision made in order to tone down the male make up. The American Film Institute named it the greatest comedy of all time.
On the Waterfront (1954)
Best film I saw in July. Powerful drama directed by Elia Kazan. I thought I might be put off by loud-mouthed gangsters and lowlifes hanging around the rough neighborhood by the harbour. I wasn't.
My favorite scene is when Marlon Brando sits on the park swing (above) and has a conversation with Joey's sister. Features the classic "I could have been a contender" speech. Pigeons on the roof reminded me of Ghost Dog (1999)
Favorite quotes: It isn't just brains, it's how you use them"
"That's what makes people mean and difficult, people don't care enough about them"
Morvern Callar (2002)
A good performance by Samantha Morton (Morvern Callar) About dealing with a loss, anomie, and not facing up to responsibility. Perhaps there wasn't quite enough meat to the story to warrant a feature length film. Tough one to call if filmmakers succeeded in what they set out to do, because the screenplays approach is purposelessness, and the main character is not particularly likeable. The atmosphere of youthful confusion was quite well-done.
My favorite scene is when the hotel boy keeps getting her name wrong over and over.
Not as interesting as Lynne Ramsay's next film We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
We Bought a Zoo (2011)
Family movie directed by Cameron Crowe. I loved the message and warm-hearted characters, but a little bit sentimental in some moments. Loved the ending, Sigur Ros music was perfect choice.
Favorite quote: “…sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage.”
M. Butterfly (1993)
A little-known film based on a true story of a French diplomat (Jeremy Irons) stationed in China who falls for an opera singer. Understandable why Cronenberg's film is not more widely acclaimed, because it simply is quite dull in terms of characters. Too many boring moments, and soon forgotten.
Rare Birds (2001)
An obscure indie film hardly anyone has seen. The accents were tricky to understand.
The quote from the script: “if it’s too wacky, nobody will take it seriously” sums up what I feel about the movie.
The tone was a bit all over the place, one moment discussing rare birds in the library, the next snorting cocaine. Then suddenly turns into a restaurant movie. The comedy was weird, one second a woman dies in an accident, the next moment it’s a jokey mood, weird humour indeed. If I had to compare the mood to anything, would be Twin Peaks.
Putty Hill (2010)
Experimental and uneven independent film. Didn't really connect emotionally with any of the potheads, although the dialogue I admired at times (scripted or unscripted). Wasn't sure if was a mockumentary with actors, or actual real people's lives.
A few cute touches, similar to the loud disco scene in 'Twin Peaks Fire Walk with me' (1992), the tattoo scene in Putty Hill had subtitles due to the noise. Also explaining graffiti on the wall was a cool moment.
Favorite quote: Where do you go when you die? "Wherever God decides to put you, it's not really my question"
Was actually filmed in late 2005, but a protracted release drama has since unfolded. A post-9/11 New York story about a messed up young woman (Anna Paquin) and her family.
The transition from scene to scene is like chapters in a novel. Impressed by Anna Paquin’s performance. The script contained intelligent, well-crafted dialogue, and I could see myself seeking out this film again in future. Better than expected. Surprised it was initially scraped! Going on my top 10 list of 2012 so far, out on dvd/bluray July 2012.
The Gold Rush (1925)
Charlie Chaplin classic. Funny and touching. Never has the wind blowing through a door been used to such great effect. My favorite Chaplin film so far. Modern Times (1936) next month.
Red Badge of Courage (1951)
I first heard about the film as being underrated here. Then I went here and Sydney Pollack told me why to watch.
At only 69 minutes, and available on youtube, I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a shot. Directed by John Huston, about courage during The American Civil War (1861–1865). The battle sequences were solid and I felt like I was there, but messy and unmemorable story with at times unintentionally laughable dialogue and narration. Then again, war is messy when you are in the middle of it. Not recommended.
The Blood of a Poet (1932)
First leg of a Jean Cocteau trilogy, part of the criterion collection. If you are newcomer to the world of Cocteau, he was a poet, he drew, wrote, made films. Jean Cocteau: "As I've always said that I have used films as a vehicle for poetry to show things that I cannot say"
Peculiar, experimental and poetic, The Blood of a Poet has the logic of a dream. Statues turning into people, strange events when looking through key holes, you name it.
The metaphor of a mouth coming to life on his hand was an interesting idea, but not too difficult to decipher, as the painter communicates through his brush strokes. I was wondering if this filmmaker might be gay, considering the half-naked man in his apartment.
According to a documentary I saw, Cocteau wanted to make a film which included characters that resembled his drawings. The boy in the snowball fight was based on gifted teenage writer Raymond Radiguet whom Cocteau thought of as his own son and was a mentor, as is explained in the criterion documentary.
Favorite (absurd) quote: "By breaking statues, one risks, turning into one, oneself"
Second leg of a Jean Cocteau trilogy, part of the criterion collection.
May have been an inspiration for the death character in Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957)? and probably The Matrix (1999) drew inspiration from Cocteau too. Very dreamlike and enigmatic.
Technically some of the shots were great for the 1950s.
I was confused by the motivations of the main character, I didn't believe Orpheus was in love with the dark-haired woman considering he's known her for such a short amount of time, and if he loved his wife as well? The only solution I could come up with is that death is linked to immortality as a writer. Opens by telling us we are free to interpret the film however we please.
The Iron Giant (1999)
Family animation with a touching robot-kid friendship. Started out promisingly and there were a few laughs. What it doesn't have going for it is that it's essentially a remake of Spielberg's ET (1982). If I didn't know ET, The Iron Giant would have been rated higher.
Fish Tank (2009)
Points for realism and acting, and very powerful and memorable, though I didn't like any of the characters.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Creepy tale of Henry. The story makes the audience empathize with the killer, and see the events from his point-of-view, which is quite an accomplishment. About lack of parental guidance, and being capable of losing control at any moment. The worst advertisement ever for visiting Chicago. I sure hope this wasn't based on fact.
The Devil's Backbone (2001)
An excellent early film from Guillermo del Toro, the director of Pan's Labyrinth (2006). I loved the cinematography and art direction of the film. The child actors don't always speak as kids do, though you feel like you are among them. The ghosts didn't really scare, special effects were better than expected.
The Fearless Freaks (2005)
A documentary about the band The Flaming Lips. You really get close to the band members, their strengths and weaknesses as human beings. I could have done with more interviews about the acclaimed albums The Soft Bulletin (1999) and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002). The main focus is about getting to know the people behind the music and the journey they have been on, analyzing the albums is not the priority.
Scenes from a marriage (1973)
Why is this not in the IMDB top 250? Well-written Ingmar Bergman drama. My only complaint is several dialogue scenes felt scripted and not how people talk.
I liked it, but the non-stop dialogue for 2 hours and 40 minutes is a draining experience and I took some breaks here and there.
Most of the characters are psychologically interesting, yet quite unlikeable (except Liv Ullmann). Shows how you can simultaneously love and hate someone at the same time, the awkwardness of wanting closure, being confused, and not knowing what you really want. My favorite moments are when the grey-haired woman is at Ullmann's lawyer office, and when Ullmann reads from her book. I admire the script, there were moments when I thought it ought to have been a book instead. Maybe it is?
My top 5 of July:
1.) On the Waterfront (1954)
2.) The Gold Rush (1925)
3.) The Blood of a Poet (1932)
4.) Margaret (2011)
5.) Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
6.) Some Like It Hot (1959)
7.) Scenes from a marriage (1973)
8.) Fish Tank (2009)
9.) Orpheus (1950)
10.) The Devil's Backbone (2001)
*(Undecided rating) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Top short films watched this month:
1.) Earrings (2012)
2.) A Running Jump (2012)
Readers, any thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Have you seen any of the above? What are the best films you saw during the month of July?
ps On a sidenote, I've made small design changes to the sidebar on the blog, and have cleaned up the music lists. Added are my top 25 albums of 2010, 2011, and 2012, including links when the albums are available(on youtube, bandcamp or soundcloud)