Monthly recap: What have I been watching in November?
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I haven't done one of these mini-review posts in a while, so a few of the films below I watched in October.
I was in London recently, and got to visit a few free museums I had never been to. Went to The British Museum, which you could basically spend 3 days exploring, spent the day there, and saw the Mexican history area about the Mayans and Aztecs, and also the Egyptian mummies. Both with guided tours. On the way out we passed by the Rosetta Stone, which has taken many years to decipher, and has helped scientists work out what certain ancient symbols stand for.
Another day, we stopped by The Tate Britain art museum, and it was quite odd to watch Skyfall the next day, because Bond looks at a Turner picture in the movie, and we saw a Turner collection at the museum. We also walked past several other filming locations, which was kind of surreal to see those places again so soon in cinema.
An even bigger coincidence was that the Turner picture "The Fighting Temeraire" (above) seen in Skyfall is on my wall at home!!! I didn't go to The National Gallery, where apparently Bond saw it, I did walk past the museum by Trafalgar Square, though.
We also considered The London Film Museum. Decided against it, because beforehand I read a number of unenthusiastic reviews online, saying, besides the Chaplin exhibition, it wasn't worth £12. Maybe next time.
Was an expensive month. While in London, I watched a bunch of 2012 cinema releases. Only thing is the cinema prices are higher there than normal, c'est la vie...
Also filled my suitcase with a few new books, I was lucky enough to find a few film-related books from my wish list: Cronenberg on Cronenberg, Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh, and Gilliam on Gilliam. Also The Great Gatsby, which I still haven't read yet. Probably would have been cheaper buying those online or loaning from library, but I couldn't help myself, when I saw them lined up on the shelf!
NEW FILMS WATCHED:
Doesn't have a whole lot new to say that we didn't already learn in Oscar-winning The Lives Of Others (2006), but it does have a mood of distrust which is striking. The story made me curious again about 80s East Germany, so it can be a starting point for looking into the history.
I quite liked Looper, wouldn't say I loved it. Aside from the drugs in the eyes, there were no other moments where I felt "hey I've never seen that before in a movie"
A lot of the time travel stuff doesn't make sense, but it never does anyway in these type of sci-fi films.
Not among my favorites of the year, still, an entertaining ride. I definitely feel a second viewing is required to process my thoughts, whenever that may be.
Your Sister's Sister (2012)
Overrated, mediocre indie drama. To me, Emily Blunt was miscast having a British accent. Not as funny as I expected, and fairly predictable.
Know the feeling when all the reviewers praise a movie and you don't get what's so great about it? This is what happened. The only scene that was mildly interesting was when the two were drinking late at night and getting drunk. Watch the trailer and you've pretty much seen this movie. Not recommended.
Slick, US thriller. I think you could sum up the story in 2 minutes, yet they drag it out to 2 hours. Very little characterization, so I only care about the outcome, not the characters. I think this film is overrated, and not deserving of Oscars.
Extra points for the very suspenseful last 30 minutes, which was very well-done.
Perhaps, as Random Film Buff writes: "Argo attempts to give insightful observations of the ethics of the movie business, or lack of, that is"
I didn't think the story was suited for a film, and the novel should maybe have been left alone. The story is very monotonous, and the unlikeable main character (Robert Pattinson) I didn't care about if he got his hair cut, or his marriage goes well or not. None of them feel like real living characters, but puppets reading their lines. Not as good as the trailer suggested.
Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012) (documentary)
Entertaining documentary about the James Bond franchise. Starts off by focusing on writer Ian Fleming, and later on what was going on behind the scenes of the films. George Lazenby is remarkably honest, a pity no new interview with Sean Connery, only brief archival footage and audio of him. A number of films are not mentioned (Moonraker, A View To A Kill, Tomorrow Never Dies) so don't expect all the Bond productions to be discussed. Loved the music used in the doc, instrumental tunes from the Bond movies. Enjoyable to watch, if you are a fan of the series. Very little is said about Skyfall, except a clip from the trailer.
Ruby Sparks (2012)
The fictional character coming to life was a cool idea in a 'Being John Malkovich' kind of way. The scenes when they are just getting to know each other in the park and at the pool are my favorites. "I'm writing to spend time with her" pretty much sums up why authors love to write. Does an imaginary person have a will of their own is what I could see this film was saying. Also about being yourself in a relationship and not being too controlling. Don't expect any revelations about being a writer, though.
Something I can't put my finger on held me back from loving it, maybe it was the lack of surprises, and that Paul Dano has been playing that awkward geek character several times before. Didn't quite live up to the promise of the concept, in my opinion.
Holy Motors (2012)
Imaginative, absurd, experimental arthouse film, which demands a lot from the viewer, and will divide audiences. Sadly I’m not a fan.
Plenty of wild ideas. I struggled to put the pieces together to a meaningful whole.
It’s different and unique, I’ll give it that.
Is it set in the future, or an alternative reality? Who is controlling them? Why does he have to keep changing appearance? Are the disguises some kind of job, or pranks, performance art, day dreams of a businessman? Many questions.
Unpredictable and original, but didn't quite live up to the hype surrounding it for me. I admire the risk-taking of the filmmakers, and I was interested to see how this cinematic poem would play out. But for my liking too bizarre and too self-conscious of its own style. The episodic structure left me emotionally cold. A philosophical exercise that is not for everyone.
Favorite quote: “Your punishment is to live with yourself”
Beasts of The Southern Wind (2012)
The desire to live outside of civilized society has always interested me, The Mosquito Coast (1986) is among my 100 favorite films. I loved the visuals and poetic dialogue of BOTSW, and I ended up liking it more than Holy Motors, because I could connect with the emotions. I’d like to watch it again with subtitles next time.
Great acting. The last 30 minutes are powerful and memorable, yet the first 90 minutes feel very slow and borderline boring. The film didn’t need to be over two hours in my opinion, and not among my favorites of the year. I really wanted to love the characters, but I never really did. I felt there was an emotional distance, even though we are together with the old couple in their apartment for so long. Or may just have simply been folks that I couldn’t relate to personally.
Loved the opening credits scene on the train. The one-liners, love them or loathe them, reminded me of the 70s and 80s Bond movies, which is my favorite Bond era. I disliked Quantum of Solace, so it was a welcome return to form. Even though the motivations of the villain, especially in the underground, were not very clear to me. Bardem was a memorable villain, no doubt. I had a good time all the way through.
Marley (2012) (documentary)
To be frank, I know zilch about Bob Marley and his career, so I went in blind, only having previously heard a few of his biggest hits. It was interesting to learn about his origins, his black and white descent, neglected by his dad.
The doc covers his rise to fame, how he was wounded by a shooter, almost lost his toe playing football. Despite being worshipped by the audiences, he was not a very faithful dude in relationships, eleven children with seven different partners. Enjoyable documentary, which showcases his strengths and weaknesses as a man. He should have lived longer than he did.
Silver Lining Playbook (2012)
Considering this film won the audience award at Toronto film Festival, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed.
I don't know if Bradley Cooper stands a chance during awards season, his performance in this I thought was the best so far of his career. Maybe that isn't saying much, because he hasn't really been given many great acting roles yet.
There is something about Jennifer Lawrence’s eyes and acting that makes it difficult for me to bond with her character. In my opinion, Bradley Cooper is much easier to see what he is going through, and empathize with, from looking at his face.
I’m sure there is a mainstream audience for this, but count me as among those who wasn’t entirely won over by its charm. Maybe because I guessed where it was heading.
The Master (2012)
Great performances by the main cast. The characters are sort of unlikeable, though they are so fascinating to observe that it doesn’t really matter. Whether Lancaster Dodd’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is helping or harming Freddy Quill (Joaquin Phoenix) is open to debate.
I agree with Eric, that "it could represent any number of cults. The point here is not to bash a certain organization but to show the man in power and his influence over those near him."
Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Coming of age high school drama set in the 80s before internet and mobile phones. Loved the atmosphere and soundtrack.
I think it helped Emma Watson has gone to school in the US, her accent was flawless. Brit actors playing Americans often have dodgy distracting accents, not so in this film, at least nothing off that I noticed. I think she has the most promising future of the Harry Potter kids. I’m curious how this film would hold up for a rewatch.
OTHER FILMS WATCHED:
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Not an easy watch, a film that will divide audiences. Slow-paced, long, and dialogue-heavy western with an ensemble cast of name actors. You may want to view the film with subtitles, the accents are sometimes difficult to understand. I expected more action scenes than I got, since they were outlaws. Many scenes are just guys sitting around talking. The cinematography has a praiseworthy, Malick-esque beauty, and the acting is solid.
I found the characters tough to care about. It has it's moments, particularly near the end, but for this reviewer doesn't achieve the greatness it clearly strives for. Some of the supporting cast could have been edited out, for example the Paul Schneider story, was it essential? I love the ambition of the production, but to me needed tighter execution. Too dull and lacking intensity, I don't think I'd watch it again. There was little emotional connection for me.
The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976)
Having recently enjoyed Starman (1984), I was in the mood for another sci-fi that explores our cultures values and desires from the perspective of an alien outsider.
The director Nicolas Roeg's filmography is also largely a blind spot for me.
I've never been won over by David Bowie's acting, but he does have an interesting and secretive face, which makes him a good choice to play a mysterious alien. His motivations and ambitions are tough to read.
The story is quite simple, but still quite tricky to follow. I have read the editing was purposefully non-linear narrative, kind of like how Memento was not in order. I didn't quite see why that was necessary in this case, though? Also, why does he go to Mexico?
I could be wrong, the film to me is about an innocent being corrupted by temptations, sort of like Adam & Eve.
To me Roeg's film has big potential and wonderful ideas, yet the elusiveness is quite frustrating at times, there is very little substance in the dialogue, instead the viewer has to make up their own mind of what it's images are about. This filmmaking style has led opinions to be very polarizing, some calling it a masterpiece of the 70s, others calling it empty and pretentious.
Interesting how everyone supposes when you say "drink" that it means alcohol and not water, the modern life of automatically assuming someone wants alcohol. shows how far we've come in our excess society, that it would be somehow rude and impolite to offer what would suffice, a glass of water, H2O has been reduced to an unusual choice.
It must be quite something to have the ability to see the past in an empty field, and to view in your mind what people are doing in other parts of the country. An alien observation of what television is to him was another cool theme, but I never figured out what his position was on that, why he watches all those screens simultaneously was never explained.
A very interesting film I had mixed feelings about in terms of nonlinear style. There is no denying we glimpse fascinating ideas. Probably is more about what is not said, than is said. As a think-piece it stayed with me, as a watching experience I felt it was flawed, and not quite sure what it wanted to be.
A Serious Man (2009)
Cohen brothers drama. A Jewish teacher going through a difficult time in his life: his marriage, at work, & spiritually. The film looks great thanks to DP Roger Deakins. The story didn’t rise above average for me, and the ending was unsatisfying.
The Simpsons : The Movie (2007)
Entertaining, if a little predictable
Fast paced French action thriller, which doesn’t disappoint, despite the formulaic nature of the story
Senna (2010) (documentary)
A highlight reel if you will of Ayrton Senna’s life and career.
Captivating even if you, like me, have little interest in formula one.
I especially liked what Senna said about looking ahead to success in the future.
The Invention of Lying (2009)
Very disappointing. The idea is great, but to me the jokes are not as good as they should be.
Expect a “what if” drama rather than a comedy. Nowhere near as funny as The Office, and not as effective to me as Ghost Town (2008)
Decent story of a group of characters who’s lives intertwine. No masterpiece, but also not as bad as reviews indicate. Worth a watch.
Maltese Falcon (1941)
I liked the dialogue, even though it was blink and you’ll miss it. A film noir impossible to predict.
Nominated for Best Picture and with an iconic Humphrey Bogart performance.
Favorite quote: You always have a very smooth explanation ready. What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?”
Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival) (1951)
Great performance by Kirk Douglas as an ambitious newpaper reporter in a small town, he really had some good roles back then. I haven’t seen many Billy Wilder films before, only 3-4. This one, and Some Like It Hot have encouraged me to check out a few more: Witness for the Prosecution, Double Indemnity, Stalag 17, & The Seven Year Itch are next for me.
Favorite quotes: “I can handle big news and little news, and if there’s no news, I can go out and bite a dog” “I’ve met a lot of hard-boiled eggs in my life, but you, you’re 20 minutes”
The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d'Arc) (1928)
Silent classic. Great acting. A huge amount is said with body language and facial expressions, especially Joan, those intense eyes, passion indeed. You can perceive the film as a historical documentary.
That torture wheel is the scariest thing I’ve seen for a while. Never seen a character cry that much in a movie before. She has a lot of presence.
The director Dreyer admitted in Neergaard’s biography that the close-ups “made it possible for me to bring the audience very near to the physical and mental torture that Jeanne suffered, and also showed how her judges and tormentors reacted to her tears”
Leave Her To Heaven (1945)
I like Douglas Sirk's melodramas, however this one directed by John M. Stahl is just too old-fashioned for my taste. There is something very dated, unrealistic and plasticy about the whole movie. Only so much gee! golly! and gosh! I can handle. Probably worked okay in the 40s, today it’s not for everyone.
Favorite quote: “To a man like that, two years in prison is worse than hell”
A Place in The Sun (1951)
A film that stayed with me. I agree with Alex Withrow’s assessment, that George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) is a vulnerable character, drifting along, going with the flow. However you can also blame the decision-making of naïve Shelley Winters character to a certain extent, she doesn’t think ahead either, by entering into a relationship that is frowned upon.
There’s a great quote that relates to the main character, which is not in the movie, but popped into my head while watching: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody”
Favorite quote: “I guess I loved you before I saw you”
A candidate for my top 100 film list. A Place in the Sun won six Oscars, including Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, although it lost Best Picture to An American in Paris.
The Case of The Scorpion’s Tale (1971)
Entertaining Italian giallo, with the trademark murders, unknown killer, beautiful women, and a twist ending. Intricate plot is closer to a Hitchcock whodunit than to horror. Don’t expect anything deeper besides a suspenseful, well-told story, though.
L’argent (Money) (1983)
Director Robert Bresson’s last film. Powerful story, although the emotionally detached acting style of Bressons films with characters stripped of theatricality means that it’s difficult to connect. Good story with a haunting ending.
A Gentle Woman (Un Femme Douce) (1969)
Robert Bresson directed French drama. A young woman whose relatives use her as a servant meets a man. A major theme is jealousy and relationship issues. Based on a story by Russian author Dostoyevsky.
Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971)
Robert Bresson directed French drama. Again based on a story by Russian author Dostoyevsky. The scenes with the eccentric painter in his flat I found dull. The lodger scenes and following women in the streets were memorable, as were the heart-to-hearts by the water. I couldn’t say if this is better or worse than Visconti’s adaptation of the story, both are good, and very different stylistically.
The Ladies of the Bois de Boulogne (1945)
Robert Bresson directed drama about a couple drifting away from each other.
Favorite quote: “There is no such thing as love, only proofs of love”
Tokyo Twilight (1957)
I decided to watch a few Ozu. About an unwanted pregnancy and how impacts on family.
I found it overlong and mostly dull. The last hour was the best part, and I liked the innkeeper scenes, but even so, feels contrived that the woman meets someone to go on the train with.
I was born, but… (1933)
Silent film by Ozu. Loved the yawning scene
The story of a group of mischievous children is timeless. Suitable for all age groups, the film reflects the falseness of adulthood, yet is also a bit predictable towards the end.
Tokyo Story (1953)
The balancing act of following your own path, and allocating time to family, is part of life. How we treat are parents is a sign of who we are, no matter if they have been good, or not so loving parents. Since our parents sacrificed their best years to raise us, is it a sin to neglect them, when they are old? Is it also the parent's duty to let their children lead their own lives? These are the type of questions which Ozu's most famous film asks. I quite liked it, definitely improved on rewatch, but a little slow in places.
My top 5:
1.) A Place in The Sun (1951) (8.2)
2.) Senna (2010) (documentary) (8.2)
3.) Maltese Falcon (1941) (8.0)
4.) The Master (2012) (8.0)
5.) Ace in the Hole (1951) (8.0)
6.) The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) (8.0)
7.) Skyfall (2012) (7.9)
8.) Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) (7.8)
9.) Beasts of The Southern Wind (2012) (7.8)
10.) Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012) (documentary) (7.7)
11.) Marley (2012) (documentary) (7.7)
12.) The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) (7.6)
13.) Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971) (7.6)
14.) Tokyo Story (1953) (7.5)
15.) L’argent (Money) (1983) (7.5)
16.) The Case of The Scorpion’s Tale (1971) (7.5)
Agree? Disagree? Have you seen any of the above? What were your favorite films watched in November?