Monthly recap: What have I been watching in April?

Another busy month of movie watching! As always, my ratings below are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
Best to go in knowing as little as possible. Gripping drama, that stayed with me. I cared about what was going to happen, loved the haunting soundtrack, and as entertainment I think it worked fine. I was drawn to the characters, maybe they fascinated me, because they are so different to who I am.
Questions, can anyone be born clean?
Ryan Gosling’s character has comparisons to Drive (2011), but for me, Pines is actually more mature than Refn’s film. Pines is a more complete film than the directors last effort Blue Valentine (2010)-which to me had terrific individual scenes, but had a bit uneven pacing.
Director Derek Cianfrance: “It’s about family. My first film which nobody saw was called Brother Tied (1998) and is about brothers, Blue Valentine (2010) is about husbands and wives, and this one (The Place Beyond the Pines) is about fathers and sons. I started writing it in 2007 when my wife was pregnant, she was pregnant with our second son, and I was thinking all about legacy, thinking about everything I was born with, everything I was going to pass on to my son. As he was going to come into the world clean, I was the one who felt dirty, I felt like I didn’t want to soil him with my sins. I grew up catholic, so I felt like everything I did was a sin. (…) I believe in ancestry and legacy, and how things don’t go away, and I think especially in America, people are born into tribes. And I wanted to make a movie about two different tribes that ended up colliding. (…) I wanted to do something about how you can’t get away from history, that it’s always there. (…), I think about how we are now very civilized and domesticated, but I don’t think the brutality and ruthlessness which this country was founded on that ever goes away. But also deeply personal, about becoming a father, and passing things on”
Rating 8.3

Stories We Tell (2012) (documentary)
I was lucky to see an early screening. Personal and intense Canadian documentary. While I felt director Sarah Polley had more of an emotional interest in the story than I did, it was still a pretty interesting family chronicle. Didn’t make me think about my own family history, which apparently has happened with other reviewers.
At times I wondered if her late mother would have approved that all these private details are revealed to a worldwide audience. I know I wouldn't do this to my parents, after they died, no matter how interesting their life was. But that’s just me, Sarah Polley is of course free to do as she wishes. I liked it, but didn't love it.
Director Sarah Polley in interview for indiewire: ” It's not going to be completely objective -- no matter what -- and there's a lot of ethical responsibility in terms of how you're presenting people to the outside world. Because for a lot of people, that's the only context in which they'll know these people.” (…) I became really interested in these bizarre, human urges to make a narrative out of a very confusing mess of details, and how deep that goes -- like our need to create a narrative in order to make some sort of sense of life.
Rating 7.5

Room 237 (2012) (documentary)
I have to admit it was quite entertaining to watch in a trashy conspiracy theory kind of way. I think the American Indian thing is a legitimate interpretation, which has been brought up in other circumstances, but most of the other stuff is very far-fetched and implausible.
The problem is, with so much crazy stuff, it devalues any worthwhile elements. The only positive is it will get more people watching The Shining!
Rating 6.5

Sound City (2013) (documentary)
Musicians reminiscing about the good old days, when music was recorded analogue. It’s basically a history of the ups and downs of Sound City recording studio.
The documentary will probably be most interesting to those who record music, or just want to go behind the scenes of what it was like for these musicians to record their albums. We get to hear about 70s 80s and 90s, from the likes of Neil Young, REO Speedwagon, Rick Rubin, Nirvana, among others, who all recorded albums at Sound City over the years. The Rick Springfield dog story was hilarious.
The last 30 minutes of the doc are about the new album that was made specifically for the documentary. My favorite track from that I will reveal in my upcoming soundtrack post.
Favorite quote, Neil Young talking about the neve recording board: “it looks like the enterprise on steroids from a long time ago!”
Because so much ground is covered, it never really goes into any depth. I wouldn’t call it an essential doc to watch, unless you are a fan of the band’s that are mentioned.
Rating 7.0

Rust and Bone (2012)
Not sure what to rate this film. Didn’t hit me on a gut level as it has other reviewers. I didn’t like the characters, but it had very powerful moments. We somehow empathize with the at times insensitive Ali, despite his flaws, as you feel he is doing what he is capable of. Also has some of the best use of CGI ever. My favorite scenes are on the beach and on the ice. Maybe on rewatch the film will grow on me?
Rating 7.5

The Third Man (1949)
Another film where you should go in knowing as little as possible.
Film noir set in post WW2 era. I liked the way it was filmed and the use of shadows. The last 30 minutes were memorable, the chase, and the final scene. The Third Man theme stayed with me, as did the cuckoo clock speech. It’s not a film where I have much emotional attachment, though. Orson Welles gives a complex performance switching smoothly between charm and menace, so we never quite know what to think of him. Very film noirish, in that the main characters (and the audience) are never quite sure of the motivations of the characters.
Rating 7.6

It Happened One Night (1934)
Directed by Frank Capra. An influential, early romantic comedy, maybe one of the best of the genre. Starring Clark Gable as a wisecracking, aggressive reporter, and Claudette Colbert as a spoiled, runaway heiress. I don’t quite know why they had to speak in such a loud voice. It had its cute moments too.
The film won Academy awards for best picture, best director, best screenplay, best actor, and best actress, the first time one film had won all the major awards.
Rating 7.7

Sherlock Jr. (1924)
Buster Keaton silent comedy. Several memorable moments: the ring and the magnifying glass, when Keaton closely follows a man, the characters that transform into other characters at the cinema, and how Keaton jumps in and out of the big screen(Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo shows its debt to that scene). The exploding pool ball, the rooftop escape into a car, the dangerous high speed motorcycle ride, etc. A film to rewatch again and again.
Rating 8.3

Daisies (1966)
Cult film from the Czech New Wave. Words to describe it would be atmospheric and colorful. Very distinct and inventive editing. The story is a simple one of two mischievous, free-spirited, directionless, rebelling teenagers having a good time, messing about, and looking for experience and attention. The girls make use of men before men can make use of them. The dinner table scene at the end was definitely the highlight for me, and put a smile on my face, despite the aberrant behavior. The stylish visuals by the filmmaker’s seem to be as playful as the girls’ attitude. A film about rule breaking and freedom of speech. Both by the filmmakers and by the characters.
As another reviewer writes: “Its rebellious protagonists and freewheeling spirit were essentially an allegorical but brazen denunciation by the director of the then regressive regimen behind the Iron Curtain”. It was released in its home country in 1966 but subsequently banned.
The director herself described it as being about ‘destruction, or the desire to destroy’. Her cinematographer, Jaroslav Kucera, wanted the film image to escape from a strictly objective vocation. Kucera believed that the film should acquire the same power of 'subjective meaning' as other modern arts such as poetry, music and painting. The audience's role in creating the film's meaning is crucial. The symbols throughout the film are open to multiple interpretations.
Rating 8.0

Hiroshima mon amour (1959)
I didn’t even recognize a young Emmanuelle Riva, who at 86 just got nominated for an Oscar for Amour.
50s French New Wave drama notable for its use of non-linear flashback storytelling, yet also pretty unmemorable.
Man and woman are having an affair. He tells her that she did not see horrors of Hiroshima. He says she made it up, she says it happened. We learn she is slightly nuts. The story is a mix of memories.
The way the male lead actor laughed kind of annoyed me. The protest with the crowd carrying Stop thermal nuclear testing banners, was memorable, and is still somewhat relevant today.
Perhaps because the screenwriter is an author, Hiroshima mon amour felt more suitable for a wordy book than a movie. Not as visually engaging as Alain Res masterpiece Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
As Lisa Thatcher wrote in her review: “The message the viewer is to get from this film is that these events (Hiroshima) are so enormous and so impossible to fathom, that the small incremental pain of the human individual is sometimes the best access to the reality”
Favorite quotes: “You’re destroying me. You’re good for me”
“What do you call having dubious morals? Being dubious about other people’s morals.”
Rating 6.5

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Entertaining and gripping mystery, that maintains suspense up to the end. Enjoyable, but surprisingly conventional and simple, so the film didn’t blow me away.
Must have the all-time record for the number of times the name “Charlie” is used.
Apparently, it was Hitchcock’s favorite among his own films.
Rating 7.5

Z (1969)
Won Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Film Editing.
About senator assignation attempt. Didn’t like this movie. Maybe I’m too stupid to follow the politics. I had no idea what all these French officials were talking about. Very vague, the filmmakers did a poor job of making the political situation understandable to me, especially the first part of the film. Are no characters I get to know or relate to. I didn’t care who is guilty or innocent, or who is a communist or not. The wife crying was the only emotional scene. Not "Z" but "zzzz", as another reviewer put it. At least the music was good, and there were a couple of okay chase scenes. A bit overrated. Anyone care to defend why this film is oscar worthy?
And hey, I got to see another Amour actor when he was younger, Jean-Louis Trintignant.
Rating 6.2

Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)
Often cited as the best court room film ever made, though not as powerful as I had expected. The acting is good, and the screenplay has some great one-liners. More attention should have been paid to the rushed ending. When you’ve been watching for 2½ hours, to wrap it up in couple of minutes makes you feel cheated.
Apparently the film was controversial at the time for using words such as panties and rape.
The most radial thing is we never see the crime that was committed, and are left to piece it together with the jury, and make up our own mind who is guilty.
Rating 7.5

Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)
French New Wave drama. The title seems misleading, as there’s only 3 minutes of boating. But at closer examination, the French wording "aller en bateau" has other meanings from that of taking a boat ride:"to get caught up in a story that someone is telling you"
My favorite section of the film is the intro, which raised many questions, did the brunette deliberately forget the objects for the redhead to find? Did they already know each other? Why is Julie(redhead) going to such effort in stalking Celine?
It seems they are daydreamers with a lively imagination, so everything they say could be real, or imagined. Many scenes feel like eavesdropping on private conversations between Celine and Julie. There appears to be a sense of deep communication between the two women, that perhaps takes place on a nonverbal level.
3 hours is a long time to watch. I confess I lost patience with the film, the alternate reality house scenes during the second half of the film were just not very memorable to me. I did complete it. I could certainly admire the ambition and cinematic experiment. Maybe it was an influence on Mulholland Dr?
A film of this length is bound to be a bit uneven, my favorite scenes were: the opening chase, the date with the cousin, Julie’s audition, the memory drink, the meeting with the old woman.
Interestingly, director Jacques Rivette entrusted his actors with shaping their characters, the principal cast members share writing credit. Ms. Berto and Ms. Labourier were cast because they were good friends off screen.
The 3 hour running time means it’s not particularly audience friendly, and will mostly appeal to cinephiles, yet if you have patience, it is a highly original and mysterious experience.
I'm curious about Rivette's other films, which other titles should I look up?
Favorite quote: “And you anyway, what can you do? Yes show me what you can do. You’re here ogling me. Ogling every inch of me. Behind refrigerated glasses. You’re not worth a bean. Bunch of pimps! Cosmic…Cosmic twilight pimps!”
As Jake at Not Just Movies wrote in his review: “The friends process more of the elliptical story with every visit and use of the candy, in the same way that re-reading a book or re-watching a movie can yield all new details and interpretations. Céline and Julie debate over the mystery and what this story has to say like critics looking for a film’s meaning”
A couple of other interpretations I read, Celine and Julie at the end have “ultimately rescued what amounts to their common inner child. In a sense, it might even be said that they have given birth to her (needless to say without the benefit of a male).” ”A haunted house, are they just bombed out of their brains and making it all up as they go along?”
Rating 7.8

Rashomon (1950)
Akira Kurosawa’s film won an honorary Oscar. The story device is original, we don’t know who to trust, and can’t trust what the film is telling. What stayed with me the most was the diabolical ha-ha-ha-ha!!
Favorite quote: “Just remember. A woman loves a man who loves passionately”
Rating 7.8

Walkabout (1971)
The scenery and cinematography of this film is extraordinary, and I’m talking in the same league as Terrence Malick!!! The technical tricky is in stark contrast to the primitive, uncivilized surroundings. I was confused if was a film for children or grown-ups? The opening of the film definitely is unexpected and ambiguous, and so too is the ending.
Loved the beautiful score by John Barry, which gives it a dream-like quality. I felt like I was a member of the group on their adventure into the Australian wild.
However, there are controversial elements, for example the actual killing of several animals in the film. Also, the naked scenes didn’t need to go on for so long, especially considering the age of the female lead. Some have called it “innocent nudity,” in which the characters swim in a deep rocky pool to cool off. The concept of nudity is almost entirely meaningless to the mostly naked aboriginal tribe, so maybe the director is trying to make a point that nudity should not be so shocking to us, because that is who we are.
Nicolas Roeg had his A-game in the 70s, including films like Don't Look Now (1973) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), which are also unique in the way they portray the world. Performance (1970) is next on my list.
Rating 8.0

Mad Max (1979)
Before Mel Gibson lost his mind, he made a name for himself in this Australian low-budget actioner, which was a huge hit. Basically a b-movie, with a budget under a million $. The opening 10 minute car chase was the stand out, as well as the last 30 min. Everything in-between didn't quite reach that level. I was surprised how dark certain parts of the movie are.
Troublemakers without any motive for following you are scary. Was this Knight Rider before Knight Rider?
Rating 7.4

Mad Max 2 : The Road Warrior (1981)
Bigger budget ($2 million), and better pacing overall. Good action flick. There’s quite a lot of disagreement in online communities as to how Mad Max trilogy should be ranked. This is probably my favorite of the series. Particularly the final chase sequence is brilliant.
Rating 7.7

Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
An entertaining sequel, that hardly feels like a Mad Max film. The series finally got the budget it needed to show what this world looks like, and features Tina Turner in a decent performance, I love her song in the end credits, We Don't Need Another Hero.
On IMDB message boards, the film is criticized for changing direction mid movie, and I can definitely see that unevenness. The ending was similar to Mad Max 2, which was disappointing.
Rating 7.0

The Long Good Friday (1980)
British gangster drama starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. Not bad. Starts out a bit confusing, then I realized it really was quite straightforward. Powerful theme tune.
Maybe this type of film has become a bit of a cliché, with many imitators since, hence the reason it wasn't that powerful to me. If you've seen other gangster films, there is nothing new here, and I guessed how it would end. Although it must be said the final scene is memorable. The small budget means it has comparisons to a tv-movie.
I prefer the director’s 1987 film The Fourth Protocol, which I found more suspenseful.
Rating 7.4

Mona Lisa (1986)
British gangster drama directed by Neil Jordan, again with Bob Hoskins. It definitely portrays the atmosphere of the seedy disreputable underworld very well, so you believe it. The elevator scene will stay with me forever, as will the songs “Mona Lisa” by performed by Nat King Cole,
and “In Too Deep” by Phil Collins.
I thought the characters were more interesting than The Long Good Friday (1980).
Favorite quote: “You’re a good man Mr George.” “How can you tell?”
Rating 7.6

The Big Sleep (1946)
Though the film noir plot is difficult to follow, it does have terrific dialogue, and the story has many twists and turns.
However, I was surprised that it didn’t have any truly stand-out scenes, which I expected, considering it has status as a classic in the IMDb top 250.
Notable also for the chemistry between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, who were married in real life 6 months after the shoot.
Favorite quotes: You don’t put on much of a front? “There isn’t much money in this business if you’re honest”
Quote: “You’re cute. I like you” “What you see is nothing, I’ve got a Balinese dancing girl tattooed across my chest”
Quote: What’s wrong with you?” “Nothing you can’t fix”
Rating 7.7

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
The life of an ambitious press agent (Tony Curtis). Well-written dialogue, just not any cinematic moments I remember. The ending was too predictable. I guess the acting was good. Overrated classic.
Rating 6.2

Lethal Weapon (1987)
To be honest, the character of Martin Riggs has the same back story as Mad Max, though Riggs is more talkative, suicidal, and funny. Difficult for me to take the villain seriously, as he (Mitch Ryan) played the eccentric father in tv-series Dharma & Greg. Enjoyable for the chemistry between Danny Glover and Mel Gibson.
Rating 7.5

Agree? Disagree? Have you seen any of the above? Watch anything good in April?

My Top 5

1.) Sherlock Jr. (1924) (8.3)
2.) The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (8.3)
3.) Walkabout (1971) (8.0)
4.) Daisies (1966) (8.0)
5.) Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) (7.8)

6.) Rashomon (1950) (7.8)
7.) Mad Max 2 : The Road Warrior (1981) (7.7)
8.) The Big Sleep (1946) (7.7)
9.) It Happened One Night (1934) (7.7)
10.) Mona Lisa (1986) (7.6)
11.) The Third Man (1949) (7.6)
12.) Shadow of a Doubt (1943) (7.5)
13.) Lethal Weapon (1987) (7.5)
14.) Stories We Tell (2012) (7.5)
15.) Anatomy Of A Murder (1959) (7.5)
16.) Rust and Bone (2012)(7.5)
17.) Mad Max (1979) (7.4)

Favorite music from 2013 (5 of 6)

Album: Bankrupt! - Phoenix

A pretty strong comeback, and could finish in my top 10 albums of the year.

Favorite tracks:
Trying To Be Cool

Album: Ultramarine - Young Galaxy

Favorite track:
New Summer

Album: Free the Universe - Major Lazer

Probably have been inspired by Gorillaz, that's my guess.

Favorite track:
Get Free feat. Amber (of Dirty Projectors)

Album: A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart – Bill Ryder-Jones

Favorite track:
The Lemon Trees #3

Album: Child Ballads - Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer

Favorite track:
Tam Lin (Child 39)

Album: Random Access Memories - Daft Punk (May 2013)

Get Lucky - Daft Punk Feat. Pharrell Williams

Album: Me Moan - Daughn Gibson (July 2013)

The Sound Of Law

Album: The Ballad of Boogie Christ - Joseph Arthur (June 2013)

All The Old Heroes

Album: Modern Vampires of the City - Vampire Weekend (May 2013)


As always, share your opinions on the music in the comments below. Next week, for 6 of 6, a look at 2013 soundtracks

Favorite music from 2013 (4 of 6)

Album: The Terror – The Flaming Lips

Like a throwback to atmospheric Soft Bulletin territory. The tunes are good for chill out purposes, but a bit difficult to tell apart. Some critics will applaud that it has the feel of a complete album, others will complain it lacks variation. The lyrics have an inaudible dreamy sound. Is there any significance or prank in the album released April 1st?

Favorite tracks:
Be Free A Way
Try To Explain
Butterfly How Long It Takes To Die
You Lust

Album: Muchacho – Phosphorescent

For me, among the most haunting new tracks of 2013 so far, with emotional vulnerability.

Favorite track:
Song for Zula

Album: Ghost On Ghost - Iron and Wine

The lyrics are ok, and the music pleasant enough, but unfortunately the album is unmemorable.

Favorite track:
The Desert Babbler

Album: Walkin on a Pretty Daze - Kurt Vile

Still growing on me, not sure if as powerful as his 2011 album. A few tunes I liked:

Favorite tracks:
Was All Talk
Never Run Away
Pure Pain
Too Hard
Shame Chamber
KV Crimes

Album: The Deserters - Rachel Zeffira

Thanks Josh for the recommendation!

Favorite tracks:
The Deserters
Here On In

Album: Pale Green Ghosts – John Grant

Sounds more like a 90s album than contemporary. His vocals and lyrics remind me of The Divine Comedy. Pretty melancholy if that appeals to you, apart from upbeat track Sensitive New Age Guy.

Favorite tracks:
Pale Green Ghosts
Sensitive New Age Guy

Album: Mosquito - Yeah Yeah Yeah’s

Probably the coolest album cover of the year so far? Thanks Steven for suggesting.

Favorite tracks:
Under The Earth
These Paths

5 of 6 will include: Phoenix, Young Galaxy, Major Lazer, Daft Punk, Daughn Gibson, and Anaïs Mitchell

Agree or disagree with the track selections? Feel free to comment on any aspect of this list.

Monthly links from the blogosphere: April

3guys1movie question, What is Your Favorite Tarantino Film? (Quentin Tarantino's 50th Birthday was on March 27 )

Alex Withrow dug up from his archives, Top 15 Song Moments in Quentin Tarantino Films

Nostra rated Touching the Void (2003) 9/10

Dan Heaton reviews Margaret (2011), which is newest film in my top 100

Steph reviews underrated Arbitrage

Bonjour Tristesse highly recommends the Czech new wave film, Larks on a String (1969)

Steven, Ryan, Eric, Chip, Dan Stephens, Dan Heaton and Pete said goodbye to Roger Ebert (1942-2013). A massive number of tributes, so I can't list them all.

Niels85 used his knowledge of architecture to write about Jacques Tati's Playtime (1967)

James Blake Ewing writes about his favorite film, Days of Heaven

Ruth asks, what is a perfect movie?

Squasher88, Mark Hobin, Alex, 3guys1movie, Jack, Dan O, Fogs, Steven, Lisa, Tom, Courtney, Kevyn Knox, Alex Thomas, Jake Cole and Nick Prigge reviewed The Place Beyond The Pines (2012), which I loved.

SDG reveals Top 5 Films that I changed my opinion on

3guys1movie ask What films are on your need to watch list?

Eric, Alex, Kevyn Knox, Steven, and Ruth review Stoker (2013)

Shala lists Five (Independent) Movies That Challenge The Perception of Reality

Jack celebrates 1 year anniversary of Lights Camera Reaction.

Andina shares her favorites from Oblivion (2013) soundtrack by M83.

Pete kicks off Great Actor/Director Collaborations #1 with David Fincher and Brad Pitt.

Michael C asks, Can a sequel, prequel or remake actually be so bad that it diminishes the quality of the original?

Sati shares Scene of the Week - Batman Returns

Courtney shares Two Important Scenes Deleted From Alien (1979)

Josh talks about his Criterion Collection.

Keith recommends third film in George A. Romero's famed Dead series, Day of the Dead (1985)

Alex Withrow's 101 Cinematic Reasons Why I Love the ‘40s

3guys1movie ask, What Film Blogs Should I Check Out?

Derek lists his Top 10 Songs of the Year So Far

Congratulations to those who received LAMMY nominations! The nominees were announced on LAMBcast April 15. The nominee list is available on the LAMB site here. Final voting to determine winners runs April 17 - April 30.

Funny scene - Five Easy Pieces

The art of ordering a meal that's not on the menu...

Favorite music from 2013 (3 of 6)

Album: Girl Who Got Away - Dido

Favorite tracks:
No Freedom
End of Night

Album: Welcome Oblivion - How To Destroy Angels

Favorite tracks:
On The Wing
Ice Age
Too late, all gone
Welcome Oblivion
How long?
Strings and attractors

Album: Wonderful, Glorious - Eels

Favorite track:
On The Ropes

Album: The Beast in Its Tracks - Josh Ritter

Favorite track:
Joy to You Baby

Album: Awayland - Villagers

Favorite tracks:
Nothing Arrived
Earthly Pleasures
My Lighthouse

Album: Graffiti on the Train - Stereophonics

Favorite track:
Take Me

Red Comet Dust - CFCF (Jason Molina cover)

Part 4 of 6 will include: The Flaming Lips, Phosphorescent, Iron and Wine, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Kurt Vile, Rachel Zeffira, and John Grant

Thoughts on the music, readers? As always, share your opinions in the comments below.


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