Monthly recap: What have I been watching in March?

This month, I completed my Yearly top 10 lists 1950-2012. It was quite a big effort, and will be updated the more I watch. You can see how I did here. I decided for 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s to go by decade, as I haven't seen that many from that era yet.

So on to viewing, what did I watch in March? As always, my ratings below are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb.

Sister (2012)
Emotionally engaging French drama. Simple story of a brother and sister(Léa Seydoux) living by themselves, who struggle to make ends meet by a ski resort. The sister is immature in her decisions, and the boy steals from tourists. I had empathy for both. Recommended if you like cinema in the style of director duo the Dardenne's, this has a similar atmosphere. Switzerland's Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language film, though it didn’t receive a nomination. The film won the Special Award - Silver Bear at 2012 Berlin International Film Festival.
Rating 7.6

Laurence Anyways (2012)
Wow, now THAT's a movie. Will go in my top 3 of 2012. Atmospheric Canadian drama with a brilliant mix of haunting soundtrack and inventive visuals, gave me chills.
Best soundtrack of 2012, why is it not available to buy?
It’s not just style, the human drama is never forgotten. I was unsure whether I would have any interest in the story of a transsexual, but don't let that stop you from watching. The film depicts a 10 year period of Laurence Alia’s life. A bit overlong at 2 hours 45 minutes, yet you do get to know the main characters and care what happens. A lot of the dialogues are loose conversations without direction, I was okay with that.
The approach is a relationship between a heterosexual woman and a transsexual man, and what happens to them.
Clearly the object is for us to empathize with this marginalized, misunderstood group, who struggle to fit in, and have difficulty accepting who they are. The focus in this film is also how difficult it is to deal with the physical realities of their relationship, when the emotional need is undiminished.
Suzanne Clément won the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes for Best Actress. I can’t believe the director Xavier Dolan is only 23-years-old, I’m curious about his previous films.
Favorite quote: Confident no, determined yes”
Rating 8.2

Arbitrage (2012)
The title Arbitrage can be understood, in that you buy at one price, and sell at a higher price.
Better than average financial thriller with Richad Gere, in his best performance in years. Exceeded my expectations, and maintains tension and suspense throughout. I liked it more than Margin Call (2011)
Gere said in an interview for BBC radio, that “And that is what these guys do, it’s all motion. (...) They don’t stop long enough to evaluate their lives (...) They are gamblers, it’s very boyish, about playing games, it’s about winning the game.”
Rating 8.0

Cloud Atlas (2012)
People seem to either love or hate this movie. It looks great, but overall I disliked it, an overlong, ambitious, and confused mess. Trys to be about everything, but ends up being about very little. We don't know what is important, and what is not important in the story. The Jim Broadbent story was my favorite. Wachowski’s have disappointed me since The Matrix. Perhaps it would have worked better as short films.
Favorite quote: "If God created the world, how do we know what things we can change, and what things must remain sacred and inviable"
Rating 5.5

The Hunt (2012)
Drama of a man (Mads Mikkelsen) falsely accused of child molestation. I guessed where is was heading, but still very powerful. The story can be broadened to other flock mentality witch hunts. About the importance of not judging too soon. Mads Mikkelsen won the Best Actor Award for his role at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. I was surprised that it was a Cannes entry, as it's quite mainstream.
I think anybody watching The Hunt would think twice about looking for work at a kintergarden. Teachers must tread carefully, from one second to the next their reputation could be tarnished forever, if they are wrongly accused, or a student has a grudge.
Spoilers may occur:
Director Thomas Vinterberg acknowledges his film is "an old tale in modern clothes" when interviewed in Sight & Sound mag: "I've always said Lucas wants to believe in the good of his community, but in that sense he's also waiting for them to be good - and that's a test (...) They are all very good-hearted, like hobbits, but very stern inside. When they feel this strength of togetherness, they can be tough"
In interviews, Vinterberg has claimed that the film reflects a crisis in Scandinavian masculinity. There is a certain gulf between the Lucas we see off duty, carousing with friends or hunting, and the kindergarden worker being scolded by the headteacher. (...) On one warped level, the accusations can be seen as benefiting him, since they give him an excuse to fight back. In his defiance, he reclaims his identity and becomes ever more macho, confronting his tormentors"
Rating 7.8

This is Not a Film (2011) (documentary)
Brave, yet overpraised video diary documentary, which feels slow even though only 75 minutes. Noteworthy for being smuggled from Iran to Cannes on a flash drive hidden inside a birthday cake.
The Iranian filmmaker tells us about his latest script, and you do feel sorry for him stuck in his flat, as Iranian authorities prevent him from making cinema. I can see why this film is important for its critique of censorship. Maybe the genre of doc/drama is somewhat original, the director Jafar Panahi at one point saying he is not even aware he’s in a film for example(hence the title?). Film students might get a few useful tips here and there, but I should warn you most of the scenes are quite trivial and boring. If you like the dogme films or Lars von Trier's The Five Obstructions (2003), this doc is in the same ballpark, trying to find new ways of self-expression. Will divide audiences, not for everyone.
I don't know if there was enough material here to justify a film. The way the film is told seems more important than the content.
Rating 6.3

Ratcatcher (1999)
Director Lynne Ramsey’s first feature, and probably her weakest. (She later made We Need to Talk About Kevin). I was a little bored at times by Ratcatcher, the setting is a bit grey. More of a situation from the perspective of a boy, than a story.
Visually the film has some memorable highlights, children playing with a mouse and it being attached to an umbrella. Also a scene stayed with me when the boy goes off on his own on the bus, and reaches a corn field. I don’t remember any of the dialogue, the film aimed at atmosphere rather than writing.
Rating 7.0

Giant (1956)
An epic saga that is over 3 hours. The story holds up well. Particularly the themes of the American dream, wealth, and racism. James Dean's last performance before he died. Received 10 Oscar nominations, George Stevens won for Best Director.
Rating 7.6

Logan’s Run (1976)
Futuristic sci-fi dystopian adventure. About people who live in luxury. However they are not permitted to explore what lies beyond the world in which they live, and nobody is allowed to live past age 30. A man and a woman plan to escape. The special effects are a bit primitive, but the set design is impressive, and I felt I was in that universe. The rushed, implausible ending was the weakest part of the story, but didn’t bother me too much. Won an Academy Award for its visual effects.
Rating 7.4

The Dirty Dozen (1967)
WWII actioner. Not as funny as it thinks it is. A few memorable scenes, for example Donald Sutherland as a convict pretending to be a major. The training goes on a bit too long. The mission towards the end is entertaining, although I hated the inability of the film to fully question the morality of the soldier’s behavior when they trap those Germans underground. That was cruel, and the characters showed no remorse, at least not on screen.
Rating 7.4

The New World (2005)
Beautiful retelling of the Pocahontas story as is to be expected from a director like Malick. The weakness is the slightly predictable story. It was shot on location not far from the site of the historic events. Maybe the extended cut is better?
Rating 7.5

The Right Stuff (1983)
Don’t think it’s as good as its reputation. Roger Ebert calls it the 2nd best film of the 80s. Really? Overlong and feels like Tom Wolfe’s book would be better suited as a mini-series. Perhaps should have focused on fewer characters and fewer events. My favorite part was the portrayal of Gus Grissom and the controversy with the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft. I prefer Apollo 13 (1995) or even Top Gun (1986)
Rating 6.4

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Probably the best film I’ve seen in 2013. Won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film concerns Lawrence's experiences in Arabia during World War I. Wow, several ambitious battle scenes are just mind blowing, especially with that score, and since they filmed them without CGI. Shooting lasted 18 months, the actors were told it would take a few months! I liked the main character Lawrence was not just a hero, but had flaws as well.
A minor issue I had, would have preferred the intro scene had been cut. Same story device as Life of Pi (2012) and The Hobbit (2012), we know what happens to the protagonist in the opening scene.
Rating 8.4

Get Carter (1971)
A classic British Gangster drama that disappointed me. It’s quite slow, and I think story needed a few more action scenes. A couple of memorable moments. Perhaps it didn’t speak to me because the genre is not usually my cup of tea. The score and Michael Caine’s performance are the best things about it.
Rating 6.5

The African Queen (1951)
The music score feels a bit forced. The locations, and the chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn make it special. Bogart won his only Oscar for this performance. Much of the film was shot on location in Africa.
Rating 7.5

Things I Never Told You (1996)
The ending was pretty implausible, but I like Isabel Coixet’s style of filmmaking, and the characters are quite cute and introspective. An unknown gem, which I would gladly rewatch. Not the directors best film (I prefer My Life Without Me, or Secret Life Of Words). Things I Never Told You is still well worth checking out, if you like her other work.
Rating 7.5

The Lovers on the Bridge (1991)
Snuck into my top 10 of that year. A love letter to Paris, could almost be called a silent film, as the pictures tell the story, more so than the words. From the director of Holy Motors, only this time I could relate to, and get to know the characters. Stars Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant. A handful of cinematic visual moments stayed with me: fire-eating followed by air planes in the sky, the violinist providing the soundtrack in the subway, the confused woman who sees birds which become helicopters, the fireworks and speedboat, drugging the restaurant guests, burning posters in the subway, etc.
The construction of a new version of the Pont-Neuf - and its surrounding buildings in Paris - helped make the film one of the most expensive French films ever made.
Rating 8.0

The Long Day Closes (1992)
Does recreate the era of UK in 1950s. Has its own atmosphere of childhood, the lonely boy’s upbringing, and bringing back memories for me of head lice at school. A non-narrative story of random scenes, that ultimately feels like a pretentious version of Cinema Paradiso (1988). Filming a piece of carpet for close to a minute? Really? I prefer Terence Davies’ recent effort The Deep Blue Sea (2011).
Rating 6.3

The General (1926)
Classic silent with Buster Keaton with so many great moments. The recruiting office scene, and sitting on the wheels of the train, were for me stand-outs.
Judging from this film, Keaton is better at physical slapstick than emotional acting. I suppose the part didn’t call for anything else. Keaton performed many dangerous physical stunts on and around the moving train.
At the 1 hour 5 min mark, features the most expense shot in silent movie history, when the bridge collapses and train falls in river.
Very entertaining, and I’m certainly interested in exploring Buster Keaton’s other work.
Rating 8.3

Hot Fuzz (2007)
Mildly amusing and overlong, yet entertaining and well-written non-horror sequel to Shaun of the Dead (2004).
Still interested to see part 3 of the trilogy later this year, The World's End (2013)
If you’ve already seen the film, there’s an audio commentary with Quentin Tarantino and director/co-writer Edgar Wright, where they according to wikipedia discuss nearly 200 films, as Hot Fuzz had many influences.
Rating 7.4

True Romance (1993)
Tagline in trailer “Not since Bonnie and Clyde have two people been so good at being bad”
I liked Hans Zimmer’s score. It’s a memorable film, and probably deserves a higher rating than I’ve given it, but I personally disliked the characters. The only reason I watched is because Tarantino wrote the script.
Favorite quote: “You know Lee, most of these movies that win a lot of Oscars I can’t stand. They are all safe geriatric coffee-table dogshit. All those assholes make unwatchable movies from unreadable books. Mad Max THAT'S a movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, THAT'S a movie, Rio Bravo THAT'S a movie. And coming home in a body bag, that was a f-ing movie. It was the only movie to win a lot of Oscars with balls since Dear Hunter.”
Rating 7.4

Amores Perros (2000)
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Debut feature from director Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu, first part of his trilogy of death. An anthology film, sometimes referred to as the "Mexican Pulp Fiction". Very powerful stuff. My only complaint is it doesn't seem like the filmmakers know how to end each of the three stories, sort of up in the air what happens to them. Which is okay with me, but may leave some viewers dissatisfied. I could easily watch this movie again.
Rating 7.9

Agree? Disagree? Have you seen any of the above? How was your month?

My Top 5

1.) Lawrence of Arabia (1962) (8.4)
2.) The General (1926) (8.3)
3.) Laurence Anyways (2012) (8.2)
4.) The Lovers on the Bridge (1991) (8.0)
5.) Arbitrage (2012) (8.0)

6.) Amores Perros (2000) (7.9)
7.) The Hunt (2012) (7.8)
8.) Giant (1956) (7.6)
9.) Sister (2012) (7.6)
10.) Things I Never Told You (1996) (7.5)
11.) The New World (2005) (7.5)
12.) The African Queen (1951) (7.5)
13.) Logan’s Run (1976) (7.4)
14.) True Romance (1993) (7.4)
15.) Hot Fuzz (2007) (7.4)
16.) The Dirty Dozen (1967) (7.4)

Favorite music from 2013 (1 of 6)

So a slight change of plan, I'll be posting new music the next few weekends, and postpone my look at The National until we are closer to their new album in May. Eric has agreed to do a guest post of his top 10 The National tracks, and hopefully will be as big a hit as Nostra's Hip Hip Top 10 guest post.

Album: The Next Day - David Bowie

David Bowie is an artist who sticks out, always transforming and experimenting. You can’t separate Bowie the man, and Bowie the music. While I'm not one of his biggest fans, his comeback after a 10 year hiatus was a welcome return. He still has it at the age of 66. I've heard the album sleeve contains a mirror inside, which is kind of cool, and plays on his Where Are We Now? theme, and the song: If You Can See Me

Favorite tracks:
The Stars are Out Tonight (youtube version)
Where Are We Now
Love is Lost
You Feel So Lonely You Could Die

Album: Delta Machine - Depeche Mode

The album has received positive reviews, unfortunately it disappointed me as a whole. I did find one song that haunted me:

Favorite track:
The Child Inside

Album: Lost Sirens - New Order

A new-to-me song, that featured on a compilation album from 2011, and now is on an official New Order album. I really should do a career retrospective of New Order, I can feel I want to delve into their work.

Favorite track:
Hellbent (original mix)

Album: Comedown Machine - The Strokes

Loved these two tracks. The rest of the album didn't speak to me.

Favorite tracks:
Tap Out

Album: Anything in Return - Toro y Moi

Favorite track:
Rose Quartz

Readers, any thoughts on the music above? Agree with the selections, or do you have other favorite tracks? Which new albums are you listening to at the moment?

Who do I think deserves a LAMMY nomination?

So I'm not very comfortable praising myself. As with a job application, I think it is for other people to point out my strengths with quality references. To do so yourself is basically biased.

Anyhow, since LAMB members are doing For Your Consideration publicity, and if you have not yet voted, please consider Movies and Songs 365 for Best Community Builder for 2013 LAMMYs.

Why should you consider giving me a nomination for Best Community Builder?
I take pride in quality commenting and showing a genuine interest at many different blogs, and spend many hours compiling Monthly Links From The Blogosphere posts.
During The LAMMYs, I have offered a few pieces of advice to moderators Joel Burman and David, they agree with my idea of having a LAMMY promotion poster made for 2014 with the important voting date(s) on. This poster could be available at the LAMB site, and members could copy/paste it, and place it onto their sites to increase LAMMY awareness in the LAMB community. Similar to what you can see on my sidebar top right(which a friend made). I also suggested the LAMMY rules page needs tweaking for next year, maybe adding a few pictures, so the text is not so heavy to read.

This year I decided to keep a record of my LAMMY participation, so who did I vote for yesterday in nominee stage? I mostly went with sites I am a regular follower of, with a few exceptions.
I hope I'm not breaking any rules by posting this. If so, I'll take it down. If you want the link for any of the below, I can provide it in the comments. Hopefully I haven't offended anyone, by snubbing them for a nomination. If so, I hope you forgive me! :)


Best Blog:
And So It Begins/Flixchatter/The Warning Sign/U me and Films/Velvet Cafe

Best Podcast:

Best Vlog:

Best Movie Reviewer: Cinematic Corner/The Warning Sign/1001Plus/Amiresque

Best New LAMB: The Cinematic Spectacle/Lights Camera Reaction/On Page and Screen/Lisa Thatcher/On The Screen Reviews

Best Design: Cinematic Corner/Lime Reviews/Time Well Spent/Inspired Ground/Bonjour Tristesse

Best Ratings System:

Best Classic Film Blog: The Cinematic Spectacle

Best Horror Blog: Obscurendure

Best Film Festival and Convention Coverage: Life Between Films/Bonjour Tristesse/Big Thoughts From A Small Mind/Amiresque/The Film Emporium

Best Awards Coverage: Bonjour Tristesse

Best Movie Genre Blog: Life Between Films(independent films) / Bonjour Tristesse(foreign films)

Best Movie Element Blog: Soundtrackgeek

Best Blog-a-thon/Meme: Nostra Myfilmreviews Movie Jail Race/Nostra Myfilmreviews Movie Confessions//Flixchatter Small roles Big Performances/Mettel Ray Movie Alphabet/Lime Reviews Snubathon

Best Running Feature: Surrender to the Void-auteurs piece/Nostra Myfilmreviews Monday question/Screen Insight-incredible soundtracks/Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle-Decades/Public Transportation Snob-Top 5

Funniest Writer: 3guys1movie/Dusty from Playground of Doom/Sati from Cinematic Corner

Most Knowledgeable Writer: And So It Begins/The Cinematic Spectacle/Lisa Thatcher

Best Community Builder: Gotta vote for myself in the only category I feature in :) Ruth at Flixchatter is the favorite to win the award in my opinion, her site is among the most interactive and commented on, and she is a prolific commenter all over the blogosphere. Also Nostra from Myfilmreviews, for starting and keeping those blog-a-thons going, which seem to reach out to the far corners of the blogosphere. However, the most hard-working community builders at the moment are Joel Burman and David from NeverTooEarlyMP-but they are ineligible, as they are running the 2013 LAMMYs.

Highest number of nominations I gave to:
Josh at The Cinematic Spectacle (4)
Bonjour Tristesse (4)
Nostra at Myfilmreviews (4)
Sati at Cinematic Corner (3)
Ruth at Flixchatter (3)



Monthly links from the blogosphere: March

No, I haven't died...

Jessica has bad news about google reader shutting down in a few months. Calls for alternatives.

The Droid You’re Looking For amusing guest post: Films That Don’t Deliver on Their Titular Promises.

SDG provides us with his 15 Favorite Films of 2012

Aiden's poll results for best movie of 2012

Pete Turner asks, Who should direct the next Bond entry?

Sati's latest visual parallel: Skyfall + The Dark Knight

Josh's Ultimate Oscar Ballot

Mette shares 18 Movies That Make Me Wanna Move to New York

Dusty writes about Coming of Age cinema, with focus on the 80s.

Bonjour Tristesse lists the winners of 2013 Canadian Screen Awards

3guys1movie reviewed Kieslowski's A Short Film About Killing (1988)

Shala's results of her blog-a-thon London In Genres

Ruth also wrote a post on visiting London through films.

Alex Withrow confesses to his Top 10 Favorite Movies as a Kid

Sarah Ward listed her 125 Favorite Movies. A bunch of them I had never even heard of.

CS shares a conversation he had with his wife about 2001: A Space Odyssey.

le0pard13 reviews Collateral, one of my favorites

Nostra gave 10/10 rating to the courtroom mini-series The Staircase (2004)

Jason reviewed Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983), my favorite classic film discovery from last year.

Niels also saw Videodrome, admits he prefers the way Network (1976) handles the subject matter

Andina listened to the soundtrack from Warm Bodies (2013)

Erin reviews under-appreciated family movie Secondhand Lions (2003)

Kyle looks at his Top 10 from 1950s. He also did top 10s of other decades.

Dan lists Top 10 Films That Visit The Movie Theatre

Ryan McNeil reflects on reaching 2000 posts

Lights Camera Reaction shares Favourite Movie Scenes of 2012, and Most Anticipated Performances of 2013

Steven tells us why he enjoyed Damsels in Distress (2011), and look out for his upcoming Auteurs piece on the director Whit Stillman.

Dan Heaton also shares his opinions this month on Damsels in Distress.

and finally....

LAMMY AWARDS ARE HERE! Remember to vote for nominees March 21 - April 3, the link to SurveyMonkey can be found at the LAMB site.

An added bonus during the submissions stage (Feb 25 - March 17) is I have discovered LAMB member blogs I wasn't even aware of. For example, soundtrackgeek, or this list of the 30 Best Italian Movies Of The New Millenium.

The music of Fleetwood Mac (7 of 7)

Album: Behind the Mask (1990)

Behind The Mask - Fleetwood Mac

Album: Time (1995)

Sooner or Later - Fleetwood Mac

These Strange Times - Fleetwood Mac

Album: Say You Will (2003)

Thrown Down - Fleetwood Mac

Running Through the Garden - Fleetwood Mac

Say You Will - Fleetwood Mac

Some enjoyable tracks here and there, but it's a pity that the cigarettes have affected Stevie Nicks' voice of late, so her vocal is not as beautiful as it once was. Of the three albums above, Say You Will (2003) is probably the strongest of them, a return to form, benefited by the return of Lindsey Buckingham.
This concludes my look at the career of Fleetwood Mac. Any thoughts on Fleetwood Mac's output 1990-2003? Did I miss any tracks you love from these albums? Would you like to see new material from the band, or should Fleetwood Mac call it a day?

Next time, stop by, when I explore the albums of The National.

The music of Fleetwood Mac (6 of 7)

Album: Tango in the Night (1987)

Little Lies - Fleetwood Mac

Isn't It Midnight - Fleetwood Mac

Everywhere - Fleetwood Mac

Mystified - Fleetwood Mac

Family Man - Fleetwood Mac

Looking Out For Love - Fleetwood Mac

Seven Wonders - Fleetwood Mac

While this album overall may be too pop-friendly and lacking in depth for some listeners, there is no denying Little Lies is a classic from the 80s. With the release of Tango in the Night, Fleetwood Mac continued the approach of Mirage (1982), creating commercial easy-listening music with hit singles, the album became the groups biggest seller since Rumours (1977). Began life as a Lindsey Buckingham solo project, but by 1985 the production had morphed into Fleetwood Mac's next album. Contains plenty of inventively catchy tunes, with a sonic edge. This would, unfortunately, see Buckingham's departure from the pop/rock group, which would arguably influence the quality of the next records to come in the early to mid 90s.

Above are my selections. "Isn't It Midnight" is a personal favorite(especially the first half of the track). Readers, any thoughts on the music?

2013 LAMMY Awards: A mini-guide

Remember, voting is open to current LAMBs only (#1-1550).

This year, I decided to take part in LAMMY awards. In case you didn't know, the LAMMY’s are web awards that honor the talent, dedication and expertise that exists within our blogging community, the Large Association of Movie Blogs.

LAMB members have been busy at LAMB forums. You are encouraged to not be shy, put forward your own name, or suggest other LAMB sites you think are worthy of an award. Deadline for submissions is March 17.

What you need to know:
1.) Feb 25 - March 17: Members can put forward submissions(18 categories) (Using LAMB forums)
2.) March 21 - April 3: Voting for which submissions should be nominees (Using SurveyMonkey)
3.) March - April: FYC(For Your Consideration) Poster campaigning and tournament. (optional)
4.) April 15 - April 16 : LAMMY nominees on LAMBcast. Nominee list published at LAMB site.
5.) April 16: Nomination banners sent to LAMMY Nominees.
6.) April 17 - April 30: Final voting to decide LAMMY winners. (Using SurveyMonkey)
7.) May 6 - May 15: Official LAMMY winners announced through video presentations, 2 per day.
8.) May 16: Winner list at LAMB site. Winner banners sent to LAMMY Winners.

Read the full rules here.

I hope my mini-guide was useful.


The music of Fleetwood Mac (5 of 7)

Album: Mirage (1982)

Gypsy - Fleetwood Mac

Can’t Go Back - Fleetwood Mac

Hold Me - Fleetwood Mac

Empire State - Fleetwood Mac

Love in Store - Fleetwood Mac

That's Alright - Fleetwood Mac

The 80s saw Fleetwood Mac venturing increasingly into radio-friendly soft rock. By this time Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had each commenced a solo side-career, the former to multi-platinum #1 success with 1981's Bella Donna, the latter faring not as well with his first outing Law and Order (US Billboard #32). I haven't listened to the solo stuff yet. Gypsy was accompanied by a lengthy video, the highest-budget music video ever produced at the time.
Overall, the album doesn't hit me on an emotional, gut-level, as some of Fleetwood Mac's 70s work did, but Mirage (1982) has a number of pleasant enough tunes. I disagree with people ranking it among their worst.

Readers, have you listened to Mirage? Which are your favorites from this album?

Monthly recap: What have I been watching in February?

So the Oscars have come and gone. I liked the intro bits with Captain Kirk from Star Trek, and cell phone joke about Lincoln/DDL. There were not many standout oscar moments, except J Lawrence tripping, and sound category a tie. Ben Affleck and Adele speeches were my favorites. Maybe funniest moment was Joaquin Phoenix shaking his head. Flight as puppet show amused me too. Could have done without all that dancing, Dream Girls and Chicago stuff. The James Bond tribute was a bit of a letdown, although Shirley Bassey’s still got it at age 76. The backstage clips with J Lawrence are worth a look, if you missed them.

This month I completed my letterboxd ranking of films by year, so hopefully I can put a top 10 by year post together here on the blog, once I've watched the IMDb top 250. As planned in my New Year post, I managed to go all the way back to 1920, and now I can see where my cinematic blindspots are. Apparently I haven’t seen ANY films from 1949, and many years between 1920-1950 I’ve only seen one or two.

My ratings below are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb. So what have I watched during February?

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
A controversial and uncomfortable watch, the first 30 minutes contain scenes of torture. Kathryn Bigelow’s argument for keeping those scenes in is that she wanted to tell the decade long hunt for OBL as faithfully as she could, and in her opinion leaving things out would be whitewashing history. So fair enough for including that.
The last hour was pretty puzzling, why not just bomb that house? My main issue though is the film is so long, and we know how it ends. Aside from a couple of sequences, the investigation is not as gripping as I thought it would be. Can you blame it if it’s depicting actual timeline? I don’t know. I also felt the characters needed to be a bit more interesting.
For me, the strength of ZDT is that it asks the audience to question the actions of the military. The film doesn't explicitly say that torture caught bin Laden, but in portraying torture as one part of the successful search, it can be read that way.
Should the US military be applauded for gaining a victory by immoral means? Who knows? This is an area of the film people tend to question.
According to the director Kathryn Bigelow, Bin Laden was "defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines."
How far should interrogation go to obtain knowledge? Is this intelligence accurate when a result of torture? Is it right to keep people jailed at Guantanamo bay prison without a fair trial, and are the US creating more hatred towards themselves by allowing this?
Some may argue it’s too soon to get a proper perspective on these current events.
Film critic David Denby of The New Yorker wrote: ”the chairs of two Senate committees have said that the information used to find bin Laden was not uncovered through waterboarding. Do such scenes hurt the movie? Not as art; they are expertly done, without flinching from the horror of the acts and without exploitation. But they damage the movie as an alleged authentic account.”
Michael Morell, the CIA's acting director, criticized ZD30: for taking "significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate".
The Huffington Post writer, G. Roger Denson, countered this: Panetta speaking as the CIA chief in May 2011, said "enhanced interrogation techniques were used to extract information that led to the mission's success". Panetta said waterboarding was among the techniques used.
Blogger Amiresque praised ZD30: “Maya is a character as incomprehensible to herself as she is to us, which makes her final personal catharsis (or revelation, rather) all the more meaningful for me. This is a film that, in my opinion, succeeds precisely because it remains apolitical and expressionless throughout.”
Sight & Sound magazine interpreted the ambiguous final scene: “Maya is portrayed as someone with no friends, who ends up realizing shooting bin Laden has achieved nothing much”
Rating 7.4

Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Based on a true story from Rwanda. The main reason to make films about genocide is not just for the sake of profit, but so the atrocities are not repeated. Also asks us to stand together as a world community. A powerful watch with an important message. Not as violent as I had expected.
Rating 7.8

London: The Modern Babylon (2012)
A wonderful collection of images from London, past and present, but the documentary is too simplistic and lacks insight. The British soundtrack was quite entertaining. I didn't realize there used to be a beach by the tower of London. Mainly a historical throwback to the 20th Century, WW1, WW2, immigrants of the 1960s, etc. The last 20 minutes are about London today. I don't think it's essential viewing.
Rating 6.0

Separate Tables (1958)
Based on a play. Recommended by Josh at The Cinematic Spectacle.
Foreshadows Robert Altman’s filmmaking, in that we follow a group of people, and get to know them at a hotel. Spends a long time introducing the characters. I liked the dialogue. The film received 7 Oscar nominations, Niven and Hiller won Oscars for their performances.
Favorite quote: We are both so frightened of other people and we somehow manage to forget our fright when we've been in each other’s company”
Rating 7.7

Day of Wrath (1943)
Powerful albeit joyless drama by director Carl th Dreyer that concerns a community calling out women as witches. The priesthood are the enemy.
The church is supposed to be a system for good, yet in this film are inhumane. Are the priests really evil, or simply doing their job? Do the priests sincerely believe that witches exist, or is it to give the town a scapegoat? If the later is true, the priests are the real sinners. Perhaps a fear of an uprising and other rival beliefs.
When I see a film such as this, my reaction is so strong, that I feel the church should be abolished.
Rating 8.3

Enter the Dragon (1973)
Often cited as the most popular Kung Fu movie, and perhaps the peak of the famed Bruce Lee's career. The soundtrack and haircuts are very 70s. The script has surprising developments, the story isn’t dated, and there are a number of memorable scenes.
However, it does beg the Indiana Jones question, why not just use a gun to defeat the fighter? I guess then it wouldn’t be a Kung Fu classic.
Favorite quote: “We are all ready to win, just as we are born knowing only life. It is defeat you must learn to prepare for”
Rating 8.0

An Autumn Afternoon (1962)
Similar feeling to Floating Weeds (1959), I liked the visuals, but found story uninteresting and unmemorable. The premise is not dissimilar from other Ozu films of parent-child relationships, dependency, responsibility, marriage, financial issues. This was a rare outing in color for the director and was his last film. I didn’t get anything out of watching, perhaps it appeals more to an Asian audience.
Rating 6.0

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Woody Allen comedy-fantasy, and often referred to as among his best from the 80s. Set in the 1930s, it's a tribute to the magical power of escapism through cinema, something Americans needed more than ever during the depression years. Only by watching heroes on the big screen can Cecilia (Mia Farrow) put up with her dull life. The music wasn’t really my scene. I enjoyed the “what if” scenario. Woody Allen films can be hit or miss for me personally. I definitely liked this one.
Favorite quote: “The real ones want their lives fiction, and the fictional ones want their lives real”
Rating 7.6

Sin City (2005)
Has been called the most accurate adaptation ever done of a comic book. Great cast, but I should warn you also very violent. Aside from the praiseworthy visuals, didn’t leave a lasting impression in terms of story. I guess this comic book universe just isn’t for me, so I’ll pass on the 2013 sequel.
Rating 7.0

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Entertaining farce which was sporadically funny. Can safely say this family are a bunch of nutcases! The best Cary Grant performance I’ve seen.
Favorite quote: “Do you have to tie him up to get him to listen?”
Rating 7.8

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
Won 5 Oscars. I could tell what the outcome would be, but it is entertaining with good performances. About the movie industry, success, ambition and friendship.
Rating 7.5

Days of Wine And Roses (1962)
Beautiful opening credits. Good performances by Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. About alcohol addiction. The neighbors are the real cockroaches ( :
Rating 8.0

Vera Drake (2004)
Mike Leigh period drama which depicts England in the 1950s. Oscar nominated performance by Imelda Staunton, who plays a naïve kind-hearted housewife, who helps out as an abortionist.
Rating 7.5

The Seventh Continent (1989)
Powerful Austrian drama directed by Michael Haneke. Best to know absolutely nothing before watching. Based on a true story about a family. I had no idea where the story was heading, because there is no obvious direction at first. Keeps you guessing what is wrong. Towards the end I laughed out loud at the absurdity of what was happening. Will have to give it a rewatch sometime to look out for clues in the first part of the film.
Rating 8.3

Caché (Hidden) (2005)
Michael Haenke psychological thriller. A bit similar to Funny Games. A couple (Daniel Auteuil & Juliette Binoche) are stalked by a mysterious unknown. There are several suspects during the investigations. A number of things are unspoken or hidden, as the title indicates, so I didn’t really know what to make of it all. Is the mystery solvable? Apparently there is a 20+minute interview with Haneke in the DVD's special features, which I haven’t seen.
Rating 7.7

Funny Games (2007)
Michael Haenke’s US remake of his own provocative psychological thriller. You watch with morbid curiosity, at the back of your mind it’s a guilty pleasure, you know this kind of situation happens in real life, and shouldn’t be entertainment. The way the film is told questions audiences paying to see torture. However I also feel Haenke's story could be misunderstood and used the wrong way. Just think about recent Acapulco violations in the news.
Rating 7.5

Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
Won best foreign language film Oscar.
Strong performances, just too melancholy for my taste. Questions whether a woman’s family are making her even more sick. Perhaps the writer is an alter ego for Bergman, about the nature of the artist, neglecting his children.
Bergman writes, "These three films deal with reduction. Through a Glass Darkly – conquered certainty. Winter Light – penetrated certainty. The Silence – God's silence – the negative imprint. Therefore, they constitute a trilogy."
Rating 7.0

Winter Light (1963)
Second part of the faith trilogy.
Technically flawless in terms of acting, cinematography, lighting, and so on. A depiction of Tomas, a priest having faith issues, likely brought on by the death of his wife.
His ex-mistress doubts he loves her, and he feels humiliated by the gossip of the affair, and is too caught up in his own suffering to listen to a suicidal who visits Jonas(Max von Sydow). Tomas and Jonas later talk.
The last 30 minutes were the most compelling to watch, it’s just all so melancholic and depressing. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a masterpiece.
Ingmar Bergman cited Winter Light as his favorite among his films. One of Bergman's most intimate and autobiographical films, it deals harshly with personal elements of the director's life and worldview. Bergman claims that he only "realized who he really was" and came to terms with himself through the making of Winter Light.
Rating 7.2

The Silence (1963)
Received less acclaim, though this atmospheric third part is my favorite of Bergman’s faith trilogy. The easiest to watch and least melancholic of the trilogy, contains less dialogue than the previous two films.
As written on wikipedia: The erotic action is motivated as a kind of last resort in a world where language has lost its function – the trio in the centre don't know the language of the strange city, and Anna and Ester continuously misread each other when they talk.
Rating 7.5

Cries and Whispers (1972)
Probably among Bergman’s most beautiful films to look at frame by frame, especially the use of red. Deservedly won an Oscar for Best Cinematography. An emotionally painful one to sit through, a film I wouldn’t rewatch.
As with the faith trilogy above, Bergman's films I can certainly admire, but seldom do I love them. Wild Strawberries, Scenes From a Marriage, and Persona are my favorites of his films.
Sadly I didn’t connect with the intersecting stories and melancholic characters in Cries and Whispers. All I can say is, if this is semi-autobiographical, it must have been a nightmare to have grown up in Bergman’s family!
The heavy breathing reminded me of scenes in The Seventh Continent (1989).
Rating 7.1

Headhunters (2011)
Norwegian action thriller. Good for fast-paced suspense and with enough unpredictable twists and turns to satisfy. One of the best Scandinavian films of recent years. A Hollywood remake of Headhunters is planned.
Rating 8.0

The Up Series (1964-2012)
Documentary series from the UK, which is a marathon to watch, yet was also very involving. Even though there is a lot of repetition, I enjoyed following the group of 14 children from age 7 to age 56.
The original hypothesis of Seven Up was that class structure is so strong in the UK that a person's life path would be set at birth.
Every 7 years a new doc was made, so we see them at age 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, and 56. You get to know them on an intimate level and experience their highs and lows. They are pretty cute as kids, and some of them are quite interesting to listen to as adults. Everybody watching can probably relate to someone in the group, and you want them to find happiness. My favorites to watch are Neil and Bruce, because they are a bit like myself: mild-mannered, introverted, and with their own opinions. Nice those two became friends.
The series forces the viewer to think about their own life. Many of the interviewees are critical of the way they are presented, and there is some truth to what they say, that due to time constraints we are only seeing a snapshot of who they are, from the perspective of filmmaker Michael Apted.
It will be interesting to see if 63 Up will be recorded in 2019!
Rating 8.1

Agree? Disagree? Have you seen any of the above? How was your February?

My Top 5:

1.) The Seventh Continent (1989) (8.3)
2.) Day of Wrath (1943) (8.3)
3.) The Up Series (1964-2012) (documentary) (8.1)
4.) Headhunters (2011) (8.0)
5.) Days of Wine And Roses (1962) (8.0)

6.) Enter the Dragon (1973) (8.0)
7.) Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) (7.8)
8.) Hotel Rwanda (2004) (7.8)
9.) Separate Tables (1958) (7.7)
10.) Caché (Hidden) (2005) (7.7)
11.) The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) (7.6)
12.) The Silence (1963) (7.5)
13.) The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) (7.5)
14.) Funny Games (2007) (7.5)
15.) Vera Drake (2004) (7.5)
16.) Zero Dark Thirty (2012) (7.4)


Related Posts with Thumbnails