My 100 favorite films list is finally here!

Inspired by other movie blogs, I finally decided to put together my forever-delayed 100 favorite films list. Ten (mostly old films) I saw for the first time in 2012 made the cut.

To save time, I posted the list over at letterboxd. Let me know what you think! Have I left any important films or directors out? Other thoughts?

Horror mini-reviews (2 of 3)

A new batch of mini-reviews. As always, scores of 7.4 and above are recommendations. Again, I've tried to write reviews without spoilers:

Paranormal Activity (2007)
Genuinely scary. Really enjoyed this found footage horror movie. The girl kinda looked and sounded like Jenna Fischer, the secretary from the US version of The Office? Only minor issue I had were the last 5 seconds, which I could have done without. Also, why didn't the couple close their bedroom door at night?
Very well-done, got my heart racing, that's for sure. Better than I imagined it would be. There's a good chance I might watch the sequel(s) next year.
Apparently the most profitable film ever made, based on return on investment. Proved yet again that you don't need name actors and a big budget to make an effective film.
Rating 7.8

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Quotable zombie comedy. Partly inspired by an episode of the tv-series "Spaced" entitled "Art", also starring Simon Pegg. Also, a loving tribute to George A. Romero's Dead-trilogy.
The title is a reference to Dawn of the Dead, and deals with similar themes to that 1978 movie.
Shaun of the Dead looks at how we can walk through life in a zombie-like state and not even notice what's happening. So used to violence on the news we don't pay attention unless it concerns us.
The first 30 minutes or so were the most entertaining to me. The remainder follows any zombie movie you can think of. The jokes are not laugh-out-loud funny in my opinion, a few giggles here and there. If I were Dire Straits, I might think of suing! The profanity count was pretty high for this one.
Doesn't make sense they leave the flat to head out to the pub for safety, but maybe this is part of the irony that they are making fun of the genre cliches. The ending was memorable, even though it has been done before.
Quite a bit of attention was paid to the soundtrack.
Rating 7.5

The Descent (2005)
Best to know as little as possible about the story going in, I avoided the trailer. Recommended by Eric from The Warning Sign. British horror film with all-female cast. If you want to follow a group of cute 20something girls while you watch your horror, give this a try.
I felt I was down there with them, and you won't feel the urge to explore caves after a viewing, I can guarantee it! Confined claustrophobic spaces give me the creeps. The filmmakers considered it too dangerous and time-consuming to shoot in an actual cave, and the cave featured in the film was built at the studio, which surprised me reading that afterwards, never could tell!
For suspense and tension, The Descent is brilliant. A horror alternative to The Goonies. There are moments of gore, so not for the squeamish.
The timing of the release with the London underground bombings in 2005 was a rather unfortunate coincidence, which hurt box office sales. Brits were obviously not in the frame of mind to watch horror below ground.
Spoiler: You could interpret that the crawlers never existed, and Sarah was slowly going crazy, descending, because of the trauma of losing her husband and daughter. Not learning the full truth of the origin of the crawlers, and if they are partly human, may add to the terror.
Rating 8.0

Peeping Tom (1960)
Psychological thriller about a messed up loner with father issues who stalks models with a camera. You empathize with the villain, and this was a controversial issue when the film came out.
We follow his escapades in the first person, and are a voyeuristic accomplice to the crimes, we witness the pain and fear of his victims. Among the first films to question the audiences voyeurism. What keeps us watching a film such as this about a murderer? As film lovers we are voyeurs, spying into worlds that are unknown to us. The question is, what should we watch? The protagonists sick obsessions with the captured image are comparable to the audience wanting to watch blood and gore. In other words, we are confronted with ourselves, and our own morbid pleasures.
Great performance by Karlheinz Böhm as Mark. However it was a little tame for me by today's standards, not as controversial as it once was. Good story, but I couldn't figure out what the filmmakers were trying to say, except we should try and understand obsessive serial killers and their motivations, and that people have secret desires. Not bad, just not a masterpiece in my opinion. Not sinister or dark enough to scare me.
Serial killers and voyeurism have been done so many times cinematically, that Peeping Tom may not be as powerful to me for this reason.
I could imagine the Germans hate this film considering Mark's accent. I think a rewatch is needed in future to figure out if I like this film or not. Don't let my critical review stop you from giving it a watch :)
Rating 7.5

Night of The Living Dead (1968)
The music is a big reason why it works. The camera cuts away from most of the gore, to save money I suppose due to the low budget. The audio of the actors speaking is also amateur level, but you get used to it.
I like the documentary style approach to the zombies, that there is a scientific explanation, and not just supernatural mumbo jumbo. Again, a classic that is not really scary to me, probably because flesh-eating zombies are so far from reality.
The girl's fake blond wig is very obvious, trust me to spot the little things that don't matter...
Acclaimed because it set the bar for future zombie movies. Noteworthy for its place in film history, and extra points for originality. I can only look at it with today's eyes, something tells me it was a little more powerful and impactful in 1968. These days, if this was a new release, it would be called one of many, and cliché. Back then it was inventive. Still pretty good, though I wouldn't call it great.
Apparently there is a sly political undercurrent, which has to do with unease, racism, armageddon, fear of the mob, and that you can't take anything for granted any more.
I couldn't see that at all, except the final couple of minutes, maybe people are reading too much into the film? I prefer Dawn of The Dead (1978).
The director George Romero has said in an interview: "It was purely an accident that the lead role was cast with a black actor, who happened to be a friend of ours, and who was the best actor available to us. That gave it some power, it didn't go unrecognized by us, but we were out to make a horror movie. (...) We were somewhat aware of it in the first film, in Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985) it was much more conscious, and therefore I think is much less innocent."
Rating 7.5

Friday the 13th (1980)
A little too by-the-numbers for my taste. There was a time in late 70s/early 80s when teen slasher was fresh, and classics such as A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) are still effective today.
I couldn't see anything amazing about Friday the 13th (1980) that hasn't been done in 100 other movies since then. That’s not the filmmakers fault, but just the movie business has drained the premise to cliché. Probably works as nostalgia and for teens.
Surprised it spurred numerous sequels. Part 1 does have a memorable ending.
Trivia: Siskel and Roger Ebert spent an entire episode of their TV show berating the film (and other slasher films of the time) because they felt it would make audiences root for the killer.
Rating 6.5

Insidious (2011)
I liked a couple of the ideas, the baby alarm and the coma. Overall a "meh". The movie suffers from being overhyped, was only decent to me. I never quite cared enough about the family, even though the filmmakers actually tried to make me feel for their plight. There are a couple of scares, unfortunately I was bored. Not essential viewing. Probably the most unmemorable of all the 20+ films I saw in the horror marathon.
Rating 6.0

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
Considered one of the greatest horror movies of the silent era. Recommended by David at Taste of Cinema and Gregory at Film Clatter
We are thrown into a nightmarish world in which no one is to be trusted. I had to look up somnambulist, which is another word for sleepwalking. Has a few creepy moments, but mostly it was the story and atmosphere that grabbed me.
As Gregory wrote in his review, the walls, shadows, and buildings are out of shape, and add to the surreal atmosphere. Even the acting is exaggerated.
A film I could easily rewatch. This movie is cited as having introduced the twist ending in cinema.
Rating 8.0

Re-Animator (1985)
The trailer sums up the movie. About bringing the deceased back to life. I think I was misinformed that this is a comedy? Didn't make me smile or laugh one time. HP Lovecraft is a famous horror writer, so gave it a chance. I don't see the difference between this film and Frankenstein. Perhaps a short film about a headless character was what this should have been instead. Great make-up and gore effects, I'll give it praise in that department.
Must be a group of people who enjoyed it, because the rotten tomatoes score is 93%. Not for me.
Rating 5.5

Agree or disagree? Have you watched any of these? Which horror films did you see this month? If you are a horror fan, don't forget to stop by in a few days for part 3 !

Film review: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

It was the first horror film to receive an Academy Award for best picture. (You could argue it's a thriller I suppose). Not since The Exorcist (1973) had a horror flick been so applauded.

Author Thomas Harris is perhaps most widely known for this Oscar-winning 1991 film based on his bestseller novel The Silence of the Lambs (1988).

The director Jonathan Demme wisely resisted the temptation of blood and gore in favor of a riveting and spine-tingling psychological thriller.

It isn't easy to explain why a civilized person would want to watch such lunatics on screen. Harris maps the inner landscapes of both detective and criminal. Perhaps public fascination with Lecter and the other psychopath in the story Buffalo Bill, is the fascination we feel with all serial killers, the attraction of the monster in society.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is only in the film for about 30 minutes altogether. A brilliant psychiatrist now safely under lock and key, and known as Hannibal the Cannibal, because of certain acts in his past.

What sets Harris's work apart from most run-of-the-mill crime-thrillers is his exploration of the motivations behind criminal madness. His killers are human monsters whose psychoses can be mapped, but Lecter remains frighteningly inexplicable. As a psychiatrist, Lecter is able to accurately analyze the inner depths of those he encounters, but he remains seemingly unreadable. Perhaps Lecter doesn't even know himself why he is a cannibal. As Clarice points out, maybe he is afraid to look at himself.

Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is the heroine detective, intelligent, competent, and also quite vulnerable due to her inexperience as an FBI investigator. The previous victims are women, and Clarice must transform the outrage she feels as a woman into something useful.

Although Jodie Foster was in Taxi Driver, and won an Oscar for The Accused, Silence of the lambs solidified her status as a leading actress. She won another Oscar for her performance as Clarice Starling.

The film and the book became attractive for both genders. The story from the point-of-view of Clarice is a reversal of the "woman-in-peril" or the "psycho chases girl", a formula seen often in "slasher" movies of the seventies and eighties.

Clarice is isolated from men, bonding only with father figures and mentors such as Lecter, and laconic Jack Crawford (above), the pragmatic head of the FBI's Behavioral Science division, who both respect Clarice’s abilities, rather than see her as merely a body. Clarice is simultaneously repulsed and curious about Lecter, as the audience is too.

The viewer can interpret the murders as clues without feeling guilty, because we are seeing things from Clarice’s case solving perspective. The FBI are only being rational in order to discover who the criminal is.

To "silence" the lambs has several possible elaborations. First, the victims of bodily violence are silent because they are invisible or dead. The other understanding of silence is the meaning that Clarice's emotion-laden narration is to represent: at 12 (the age of puberty) she heard the cries of the about-to-be-slaughtered lambs and rescued one (temporarily) from its fate (a fate it is returned to by a policeman). This rescue has become the ground of her code, the justification for joining the policemen against the world's criminals.

There are many close ups, which make you want to pull away. The Lecter character is talking directly to the audience, as if we are Clarice ourselves. We experience her fear and frustration. This transports us into the world we are observing.

Anthony Hopkins is perfectly cast as charming and psychotic Hannibal Lecter, as Jean Dujardin was born to play The Artist, you can’t imagine anyone doing it better. He walks the line of not being too over the top, and being a character we would remember forever. Feeding on pain and suffering, Lecter refuses to cooperate with Starling unless she provides him with details about her past. He is a walking contradiction, a cannibal, but he is extremely polite and intelligent. Lecter's combines the power to manipulate people through conversation, with being a good analyst, and finding the hidden vulnerabilities and motivations of others. His interviews with Clarice illustrate this power.

Director Jonathan Demme cast Anthony Hopkins because a mega star like Jack Nicholson or Robert De Niro would have focused the audience’s attention on the actor’s performance rather than the story – and thus would have weakened the film. (In my opinion, we still focus on the acting, so I don’t know if he’s right). Screenwriter Ted Tally talks about on the dvd that there was a danger Lecter would become a cartoon hero, so they needed a great actor for the role.

Demme claims Hopkins is so good that the audience finds itself rooting for Dr Lecter, in spite of his nature.

Horror director John Carpenter: “Someone like Hannibal Lecter is an interesting character because he combines this brilliant mind with an absolutely horrifying monster. We are all frightened of the unknown and also of the repressed people in our society”

The FBI viewed the film as a kind of recruiting movie for agents, which was a big issue at the time, they thought it would be a positive force in attracting more women to the FBI. However, according to the dvd booklet, the feds insisted they would never send a rookie agent alone on such a dangerous mission.

Jodie Foster interprets the Dr. Hannibal Lecter character in an AFI interview:

“I think the great thing about Hannibal Lecter is that he is not a cardboard villain, he is not somebody who sort of wags his tongue and hisses like a serpent only, he has a much deeper side to him, and it’s the fact that that deeper side is continuously disrespected by society, or perhaps by his parents, or any number of cultural problems. What’s caused him to become crueler and crueler and crueler, is the fact that his heroic side has never been respected. The thing you have to love about Hannibal is that he understands, and is interested in what is deeply emotional, and what is deeply human. He may not have that humanity himself, but he is fascinated by it, and in some ways is more empathetic to humanity, to the people who are marginalized, to the people who are trivialized. Much more sensitive to the underdog than your average villain.”

There were some critical voices that attacked the filmmakers for their portrayal of women and transsexuals, though you could argue Gumb does not represent a clear sexual identity.

Fans of the trilogy, and Michael Mann’s Manhunter (1986), will no doubt be curious about a new TV-show that is set to air in January 2013, based on a young Hannibal, starring Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Hugh Dancy as Special Agent Will Graham, and Laurence Fishburne as Agent Jack Crawford.

Have you seen The Silence of the Lambs (1991)? What did you think?

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Baelo Allue, Sonia. "The aesthetics of serial killing: working against ethics in The Silence of the Lambs 1988) and American Psycho (1991) (1)." Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos 24.2 (2002).

Buxton, Jackie. "Thomas Harris: Overview." Contemporary Popular Writers. Ed. Dave Mote. Detroit: St. James Press, 1997.

dramatica analysis

Jodie Foster AFI interview

Mann, Karen B. "The matter with mind: violence and 'The Silence of the Lambs.'(depictions of women among male structures)." Criticism 38.4 (1996)

Horror mini-reviews (1 of 3)

Here's the first entry of my horror marathon. I managed to watch a big chunk of the horror films on my list, so I decided to divide my collection of mini-reviews into 3 posts, to be published during the end of October.

By the way, if you are not into horror, check out October's other mini-reviews, you might have missed. (link).

Scores of 7.4 or above are recommendations. I've tried to write mini-reviews without spoilers:

Sweeney Todd (2007)
The idea of horror and musical I was new to. Very well-performed, but I personally don't like the concept, and I think it was waaay too long at two hours. I'm not really a big fan of musicals. Depp is an excellent singer, better than Helena Bonham Carter is, anyway. After an hour I was bored with this one. The only surprises were in the last 5 minutes. All style and no substance.
I thought about giving it a very low rating, that would be unfair. Points for atmosphere, risk-taking, and singing. I like Tim Burton, but Sweeney Todd is simply not for me.
Rating 6.8

Hellraiser (1987)
Haunted house movie. Started out promisingly, quickly goes in a weird direction. It is quite entertaining, original and memorable. The pinhead character on the poster doesn't feature as prominently as I was expecting, he receives 15 minutes of screen time tops. That means when he does appear, he is all the more watchable.
A couple of minor things bothered me. Why doesn't she just go to the blood bank? Why do some characters speak British and others with an American accent? Never seen any of these actors before. There are a few well-made scenes, even though the special effects are not the greatest. Worth a watch, if you like horror, despite being unintentionally funny at times.
Judging from the trailer of the 1988 sequel, part 2 reveals things that are only hinted at in the 1987 original.
Rating 7.4

Children of The Corn (1984)
Adaptation of a Stephen King short story. Corn fields are really scary, because you can't see who's hiding in there. You have to ask yourself, what pushes these children to do these things? A 'what if' scenario.
Seems to be popular to hate on this film, I was entertained and definitely not the worst horror film you'll see, but I would have given the film a higher score, if it hadn't included a tonal shift for the last 20 minutes. There was really no need for that, and deserved a more mature conclusion that fits with rest of movie. Stephen King, I'm blaming you. King didn't like the movie adaptation.
Rating 6.5

Altered States (1980)
A smart, dazzling, and intense horror film directed by Ken Russell, starring William Hurt as a scientist obsessed with discovering mankind's true role in the universe. Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly's sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like ketamine and LSD.
A love it or hate it kind of deal, I thought it was overwhelming and captivating. The highlights of the film are a handful of stream-of-consciousness scenes, very imaginative and totally batshit crazy! The stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey is the best comparison I could come up with. Also there is a segment in the zoo which is very memorable.
To me, what holds Altered States back from being a masterpiece is the familiar path of taking an experiment too far, and that's been done before.
Favorite quote: "She prefers the senseless pain we inflict on each other, to the pain we would otherwise inflict on ourselves. But I'm not afraid of solitary pain".
Rating 7.8

The Beyond (1981)
Dubbed in English, my first foray into the world of Lucio Fulci, Italian horror director. Many have called this his best film and named it a cult classic. I was left with more questions than answers. Why does this guy keep shooting at the body of zombies, when he knows they only die from head shots? Why are the police not called? The story doesn't make sense, maybe it's a nightmare? Why doesn't the guy move when he sees the spiders are crawling on him? Who knocked over the acid onto the woman in the morgue? It is suspenseful, atmospheric, and genuinely creepy. The gore-filled murder sequences are at times unwatchable, especially the spider eating a guy's face. The effects are well-done, but I personally prefer a more restrained approach to horror that has more characterization. The gore genre is more about the effects than the characters. Was quite enjoyable, though.
As another reviewer writes, the cast are just there to be killed in various gore soaked ways. The film has a haunting ending, which stays with you.
I just wonder if the problems I had with the inconsistencies of the story were intentionally dream-like illogical situations, or simply sloppy filmmaking? Either way, mandatory viewing for any horror movie fan.
Rating 7.5

Practical Magic (1998)
I don't even know what genre this is, fantasy? Didn't win me over, probably more of a girl movie. Besides Nicole Kidman's boyfriend trouble, there was little else to latch onto.
The very loose structure of the plot will not appeal to all, perhaps this is exactly what the fanbase like about it.
The soundtrack to me often felt out of place. Reportedly cost $75 million, what did the budget go towards?
Rating 6.2

Don't Torture A Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino) (1972)
Italian giallo film dubbed in English. (giallo=crime fiction and mystery)
At first, the narrative shifts about a lot, so tough to get to grips with. Basically a whodunit murder mystery with many potential suspects.
The music is quite eerie and creates a sense of dread.
There is one nasty torture scene involving chains, and one other body horror scene, but overall not as gory as director Lucio Fulci's later zombie films.
Quite involving, and keeps you guessing to the end. The focus is on storytelling, and to a lesser extent on gore.
Rating 7.5

Zombieland (2009)
Quotable horror comedy. Love the early part of the film, worth it for that alone. Does become less and less funny after the 40 minute mark. Bill Murray cameo wasn't as effective as it should have been in my opinion. You care about the main characters and their survival. Enjoyable, light entertainment. Not really scary, because tongue-in-cheek. The rules on how to survive the zombie apocalypse was a fun idea. Cult classic potential.
Favorite quotes: "This woman could have avoided becoming a human happy meal"
"You are scary happy..."
Rating 7.5

Ghost Stories (Kwaidan) (1964) 
Atmospheric and colorful. Surprised I'd never heard of it until recently. Above are a selection of beautiful screenshots from the film. An anthology of four fantasy/horror stories that have a timeless quality, and a slow building tension. Based on Japanese folk tales. My first thought, is this horror, or a Samurai movie?
The stories are not connected, and each makes you think. My favorite was the tale in the snow. A couple of the sunsets look like background set pieces, which took some of the magic away for me, but mostly the film is gorgeous to look at.
I don't think it succeeds as horror (and I'm not even sure it was attempting to be frightening?), but it definitely is a one-of-a-kind experience I recommend.
Won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Part of the Criterion Collection.
Rating 7.9

Agree or disagree? Have you watched any of these? Which horror films did you see this month?

In appreciation: Roxy Music & Bryan Ferry (4 of 7)

Album: Avalon – Roxy Music (1982)

Avalon (1982) was a major commercial success and restored the group's critical reputation and contained the successful single "More Than This", which arguably is the group's signature tune.

Flesh & Blood (1980) and Avalon (1982) are my favorite Roxy Music albums.

More Than This – Roxy Music

Avalon – Roxy Music

While My Heart Is Still Beating – Roxy Music

Take A Chance With Me - Roxy Music

To Turn You On - Roxy Music

True to Life - Roxy Music

The Main Thing - Roxy Music

What did you guys think of the music? Share your reaction in the comments

Favorite Twin Peaks moments 13

Readers, any thoughts on the screenshots?

Monthly links from the blogosphere: October

With Halloween upon us in October, Gregory reviews what is considered one of the best early horror films The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari [1920] , and also Dawn of the Dead [1978]. Two films I love.

Eric shares mini-reviews of The Descent (2005) and Children of The Corn (1984), a couple of horror films I also watched this month.

SJ Honeywell and Pete Turner both reviewed 28 Days Later. Pete also reviewed Paranormal Activity 4

Sati announces her upcoming 7 Days of Halloween

David at Taste of Cinema lists 20 Classic Horror Movies in Criterion Collection

Bonjour Tristesse has been covering the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival, read his round-up

Alex at Boycotting Trends was at London Film Festival, and reviewed among others Holy Motors (2012) and Sister (2012)

Andina shares Memorable Movie Moments in the rain

Chip Lary celebrated his 500th post, and recommends ten favorite movies from among the hundreds he has reviewed.

Josh at The Cinematic Spectacle lists Best Cinematography: 2000s, and his Top 10 Favorite Directors of All-Time

Alex Withrow records an audio commentary for his short film EARRINGS (2012)

Nostra watched Sound of My Voice, a 2012 release that I enjoyed.

Mette at Lime Reviews was in London and loved Perks of Being a Wallflower and Liberal Arts

Stephanie reviewed controversial American Psycho

The Droid You're looking For lists Twenty Signs That You’re a Movie Geek

Dan Heaton writes about Top 5 Box-Office Disappointments That I Love

Robert explores Obsessive Cinematic Disorder: Bruce Willis Likes to Time Travel

Michael reviewed Ang Lee's Life of Pi (2012)

Julian at Movies and Other Things discusses the best song for the 2013 Oscars

EMSLF shares clips and writes about why she loves the TV-show The Big Bang Theory

This year, worldsbestfilms compiled Top Ranked Black and White Films

Too Fond of Books asks What is Your Favorite Book?

In appreciation: Roxy Music & Bryan Ferry (3 of 7)

Album: Flesh and Blood – Roxy Music (1980)

Now we are reaching my favorite Roxy Music era, the band changed the production for their late 70s and early 80s albums into a more pop-friendly, polished and smooth sound, and not as raw as it was in the beginning of their career.

As great as Avalon (1982) is, Flesh and Blood (1980) is probably the Roxy Music album I return to the most. Enjoy!

Same Old Scene - Roxy Music

My Only Love - Roxy Music

Oh Yeah! – Roxy Music

(According to Steven at The Void-Go-Round, during the chorus, Ferry sings about the joy of a radio that exudes nostalgia)

Over You - Roxy Music

No Strange Delight - Roxy Music

1981 non-album single

Jealous Guy – Roxy Music (John Lennon cover)

(Roxy Music recorded "Jealous Guy" as a tribute to Lennon after his death in 1980. The song topped the UK charts for two weeks in March 1981, becoming the band's only No. 1 single.)

What did you guys think of the music? Share your reaction in the comments

Favorite Twin Peaks moments 12

Readers, any thoughts on the screenshots?

Monthly recap: What have I been watching in October?

Note: Posting a shorter monthly viewing list now, because I have a horror special lined up for the end of October.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Doesn't have much depth, if any. Not every film has to have that. A cute, sweet and beautifully framed story that I think achieves what it set out to do. Every screenshot is meticulously thought-out.
In the past, I think Wes Anderson's quirkiness was too forced and didn't quite fit the material, this time I think he got it right.
My expectations were probably considerably lower than others. As a cinephile who disliked most of Wes Anderson's prior films, and who perceives him as an overrated filmmaker, I think Moonrise Kingdom is the director's best film to date. Put a smile on my face, and for adults is a nostalgic trip back to that time in your life.
Favorite quote: "Dear Sam, I do think you should think of their faces every day, even if it makes you sad, it is too bad they did not leave you more pictures of themselves"
Rating 7.8

Another Earth (2011)
Even with handheld camera for certain scenes, the film looks beautiful, particularly the panoramic sky screenshots, impressive for a low budget indie drama. Keeping Earth 2 an enigma maintains a sense of uncertainty and tension, we are in the dark together with the main character (Brit Marling) about the new planet.
Would have preferred more sci-fi and less guilt trip(the latter has been done countless times previously)
What does she say to the old man in the hospital with her fingers on the palm of his hand? I'd like to know. Maybe I'm not supposed to know. Might want to rewatch that scene later.
I liked how the film raises thought-provoking questions, but frustrates by never quite following through with its teasing, lofty ideas.
Favorite quote: "if you met yourself, what would you say? "Hey, are you up for a videogame..."
Rating 7.4

On The Road (2012)
Exquisite cinematography can't hide the fact that the screenplay feels hollow, and to me there are not enough memorable scenes. I didn't think it was as powerful as it should have been, particularly the ending felt flat, and this could partly be down to the lead performance by Sam Riley, which was rather anonymous.
I have not read Jack Kerouac's beloved American novel, but watching this adaptation sadly doesn't put me in the mood to do so. The characters just go from smoking marijuana, listening to jazz, having sex, driving to a new destination, smoking marijuana, and having sex again. The story goes in circles, and a pity the filmmakers didn't bring out more of the depth from the novel. The soundtrack was quite unmemorable too.
Several famous actors and actresses make cameo-like performances for 10 minutes, but they don't really add anything vital and don't have a lot to do, so Viggo Mortensen and Amy Adams seemed wasted here. Garrett Hedlund as Dean could be a star in the making, to me his performance stood out as the best of the bunch.
The director Walter Salles can’t quite repeat The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), which is a pity, because people have been waiting for an adaptation of On The Road for years.
Other reviews have criticized that On the Road (2012) doesn't capture why these characters are rebelling against society, and I agree with that assessment, it could just as easily have been set today.
To sum up: See it on the big screen for the soothing cinematography, which really is praiseworthy and gorgeous on the eye. Cinematographer Eric Gautier deserves an Oscar nomination for his work here in my opinion. Garrett Hedlund delivers a stand-out performance as Dean, but don't have high expectations of the screenwriting. The film feels like a wasted opportunity, which should have been better considering the source material is a classic.
Rating 6.4

2 Days In New York (2012)
Woody Allen-ish culture clash comedy. I never found Chris Rock to be that funny, so that wasn't a very good start. For large parts of the film I felt as if I was intruding on Julie Delpy's family gathering, and that was a little unsettling. The humour was a little too vulgar for my taste. To me, the pizza dream was the funniest scene. Too bad these characters were more whiny than cute.
Favorite quote: Child: "I thought brothers and sisters should love one another? Mother: It is love, honey, it's...crazy love..."
Rating 6.0

Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
Good acting. Without giving too much away about plot, the message is a positive one about loving children the right way, and how strict school rules have become, and thus not allowing affection. But I think most people had already thought about that, and I really didn't need to be banged on the head with that truth. Perhaps the film can start a discussion among teachers, so the rules can be looked at.
Favorite quote: "I imagine them grown up, but still speaking like children. And it's my fault, because I've forgotten to put some color in their lives" (...) "Even the ones we are not able to reach, we don't abandon"
Rating 7.3

Woody Allen: A Documentary (2011)
Review is based on the longer 192 min American Masters tv edit. A shorter 113 min version is also available.
A bit uneven, not having a clear focus if it wanted to be about the man or his films. For me it was best when discussing Woody Allen's early years up to about 1980. The last half was a bit shallow in my opinion, glossing over the later films, for example Match Point, and no mention of Another Woman (1988) was disappointing.
Even so, the documentary made me interested in Allen's films, particularly the better reviewed ones I haven't seen: Interiors (1978), Zelig (1983), Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). Actually, I'm not a huge admirer of his movies, but he is an auteur, a persona that has entered the culture. I feel for every 5 films, he only makes one good one.
If you've read Woody Allen's biography(which I hadn't), there probably isn't much new material here. However an advantage of film is how random scenes from his movies can be intersected with anecdotes about his childhood, youth, relationships with co-stars, and so on. I wasn't aware he grew up in a madhouse, wrote 50 jokes a day for a newspaper, dated Diane Keaton.
I especially enjoyed what the doc had to say about Manhattan (1979), that is a love letter to New York, black & white colors creates a nostalgia for the present, and was Woody's idea, because both he and the cinematography perceived NY as a b/w city with its stone and concrete. Woody says himself he wanted to show NY in a very beautiful way, the way he sees it, his romanticised view of it. The iconic bridge scene is talked about, and the way people remember that scene, because that is how they want to fall in love, or had fallen in love, it either plays to your memory or plays to your hope.
Despite how uneven the documentary is, I still recommend you give it a look. The problem is it has to cover so much ground. I'm in favour of concentrating on one particular film rather than a whole career.
Rating 7.5

Starman (1984)
I saw this John Carpenter sci-fi film 20 years ago as a kid, I had completely forgotten the storyline. Essentially a chase scenario involving an alien. The US military is the bad guy and clearly is being critiqued.
You've got to wonder why the woman wasn't more curious about where the starman came from, she hardly asks him any questions, which is a little odd. Heart-warming, and a way for us to look at ourselves as humans from the outside. The atmosphere is closer to Spielberg than Carpenter.
Rating 7.5

The Swell Season (2011) (documentary)
Currently only available on region 1 dvd. I didn't know a lot about the band except the movie Once (2007), and while I thought the age difference was a little jarring, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova seemed to match up well as musicians. The film is very personal and honest, plenty of backstage conversations will interest fans. About the relationship of the duo, and Glen's relationship to his parents. While there are songs here and there, it doesn't get bogged down with endless tunes as some concert films I've seen, which was refreshing. About the struggles of fame. I liked the documentary a good deal more than I thought I would, the emotions are very raw and intense, I wasn't expecting that at all.
Rating 7.8

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
All the $30 million dollar budget is up there on the screen. A sight to behold how the streets of that era were recreated. The film has gained appreciation over the years, but was a box office flop in the 80s.
Very long and probably could have been cut in half for a sequel. Even with 3 hour 40 minutes running time, there are loose ends, the Joe Pesci character, or the baby swapping for example. Apparently the directors original cut was even longer and over 4 hours!
The scenes with the old De Niro could have been shortened in my opinion.
It does have an epic feel of a classic novel, but also there is a sense that it is too similar to The Godfather trilogy at times, and while the screenplay has many memorable scenes, the writing is pretty shallow if you think about it.
Despite the issues I had, I did enjoy it, though.
Favorite quote: "You can always tell the winner at the starting gate. You can always tell the winners and tell the losers. Who would have put a penny on you?"
Rating 7.8

Secretary (2002)
About a newly hired secretary, as the poster suggests, it is kinky and provocative, you never know what's going to happen next. Good performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. Could have done without Lesley Ann Warren as the mother, she annoys the hell out of me with her smiling.
Rating 7.4

London River (2009)
Brilliant acting, story so so. A mother searches for her lost daughter in the aftermath of the 2005 London terrorist attacks. What's with the title?
Rating 6.7

Dark Horse (2011)
I love the dark, subtle humour.
Favorite quotes: "I really like the way you named your dog, "dog", so ironic"
"You always ruin things for me, and you always act like it was my fault somehow. You're so superior, you're not really sorry, because it's not possible for you to be wrong, no, because you are so f**king moral"
Rating 7.5

Voices of a Distant Star (2002)
Beautiful 25 min animated short film. Though it is set in the future(or a parallel reality?) I didn't think it was plausible that youngsters would text message poetically about nature and such.
A precursor to Makoto Shinkai's feature length anime The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004).
Rating 7.3

The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)
Perhaps an auteur director in the making, Makoto Shinkai has a distinctive directing style. 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) was a breath of fresh air to me, and while this earlier anime is good, it didn't have that wow factor on me in terms of animation technique that 5 Centimeters Per Second did.
His 2004 film features heavy dialogue which is not suitable for children, and a lot of it should have been cut out if you ask me, it's difficult to admire the visual splendor and read constant subtitles, all at the same time. A good amount of the subtitles don't really add much anyway. Something tells me this story would work better as a graphic novel, when you can linger on the words and images. Also, a little too cloying for my taste.
Makoto Shinkai is a director who I feel has a firmer grasp on animation than narrative storytelling. So much care to every screenshot.
The filmmakers create tranquil, exaggerated scenery, which is always beautiful to look at.
Should have been great, but due to the draining, non-stop subtitles, turned into an experience which was not as enjoyable as I had expected.
Rating 6.7

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Only flaw I could find was during the machine-gun shoot-out, when the guy miraculously misses all the horses.
Contrary to popular belief, the Clint Eastwood character did have a name in all three of the films, 'the man with no name' was actually a marketing concept somebody at United Artist came up with.
Favorite quote: "When a man with a 45 meets a man with a rifle, you said the man with a pistol is a dead man, let’s see if that's true. (...) Go ahead, load up and shoot"
Rating 8.0

For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Enjoyable, except the odd casting decision to have the same actor Gian Maria Volonté from A Fistful of Dollars (1964) play a villain again (El Indio) in this film, that was confusing to me, and a bit repetitive.
The dubbing for the trilogy is very good, something that could have been a big distraction, but isn't.
Overall, for me, The Dollars Trilogy is deserving of the classic tag, and has got me interested in Westerns again, which I never thought would happen.
Rating 8.0

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)
Not to be confused with Deep Blue Sea (1999)! The sadness, confusion and self-destruction is boiling under the surface, but I never got to know the characters well enough to find it truly moving. The pain was somehow too rushed. Based on a theatre play. The look of the film is old school. British drama that takes place around 1950. The performances are good, Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, etc. Small production, big on emotions. The characters are suddenly in love, suddenly want to die, or suddenly we hear they are married, but we don't know why, there is no build-up. This is a stylistic choice it would seem. Even with things left unsaid to create tension, to me the film needed more characterization and more running time so I could care. I think it‘s normal for one person in a relationship to love more than the other, such is life, we can’t help it, and that was quite powerful. Overall, good, but in my opinion not great. A film that will divide audiences, tough to give a rating.
Rating 7.3

Out of the Past (1947)
Loved it, the highlight of my viewing in October so far. A film you could watch again and again. Film noir starring Robert Mitchum. I like how unpredictable the story is. If you enjoy plenty of one-liners and snappy retorts, this is for you. The dialogue is some of the best I've heard in a while. The conversations between Mitchum and Kirk Douglas were especially memorable I thought. Also, the framing of shots and lighting was very well done. (see above screenshot)
I liked the first half of the movie in South America the most, midway it kind of became a second story about tax documents, which I found a little less intriguing.
I wish I had watched it with subtitles, because there are so many great quotes, this is one of my favorites:
"Why me?" "I know a lot of smart guys, and a few honest ones, and you're both"
Rating 8.5

My top 5 of October (and late September)

1.) Out of the Past (1947)
2.) A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
3.) For a Few Dollars More (1965)
4.) Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
5.) The Swell Season (2011) (documentary)

6.) Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
7.) Dark Horse (2011)
8.) Woody Allen: A Documentary (2011)
9.) Starman (1984)
10.) Another Earth (2011)
11.) Secretary (2002)

Have you seen any of the above films? Agree? Disagree?


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