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.
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.
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”
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.”
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"
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"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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)