Viewing recap for January








Several of the new films listed missed out on my upcoming top 20 of 2013. Ratings are from 1-10, with 10 the highest score possible.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Impressive on a technical level, especially the dragon scenes, the empty wine barrel chase, and the grand scale of Esgaroth(Lake-town).
It’s unnecessarily long, though, and only works if you watch the whole trilogy. So it’s not a stand-alone film.
I actually thought The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) was slightly more entertaining, maybe because I hadn’t been to Middle Earth for a long time. Desolation of Smaug was a bit predictable.
Rating 6.5


Wadjda (2012)
The Saudi Arabian entry to the 2014 Academy Awards. Wadjda, an 11-year-old Saudi girl living in the capital Riyadh, dreams of owning a green bicycle. The story is too slight to warrant a 90 min running time. Maybe a short film would have been more appropriate. I was bored by it. The performances are alright.
Notable for being the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and is the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director.
Rating 5.0


Museum Hours (2012)
The movie lost its way in the middle part, but the beginning and ending I was hooked. There are several perceptive observations about museums and museum visitors.
Favorite quote: ”Or more accurately, things standing in for money. I guess this is what he learned at university. He said this was clearest in Dutch still lives, which were essentially just piled up possessions of the newly rich of that time. He said these were no different than if someone today were to paint a pile of Rolex watches, champagne bottles, and flat-screen TV’s. That they were the rap star videos of their day. And he said they were only less subtle versions of all the other commodities the museum was hoarding, and this was now just part of the way things were disguised in the time of late Capitalism. He didn’t hold it against the museum, but he went on like that”
Rating 7.0


Bullhead (2011)
Belgian drama nominated for foreign language Oscar in 2012, but lost to A Separation. A violent and lonely man (Matthias Schoenaerts from Rust & Bone) tries to find love. I certainly felt sorry for him, especially for what happened to him as a child, and how that affected his whole life. The ending was a bit frustrating, and felt unfinished.
Rating 7.5


I Killed My Mother (2009)
Semi-autobiographical, with the director Xavier Dolan playing the main character. A confused, moody 16-year-old son doesn’t get along with his mother, they have a complicated relationship, he loves her one moment, seems to hate her the next. For him, it is not the love of a son. He feels they have nothing in common, and that there are 100 people he knows that he loves more than her. Yet, if someone hurt her, he would kill that person. Says to teacher, that maybe God has given him the wrong mother.
Favorite quote: “In this life you should only wish your inner enemy dead. Restrain him in art. Are we good artists?”
Rating 7.2


The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)
Great performance by Geoffrey Rush, as Peter Sellers. I didn’t realize Sellers' off screen life was so turbulent.
Rating 7.5


The Dreamlife of Angels (1998)
French drama. I liked the friendship we see, even though the blond is making stupid decisions. I wonder sometimes when characters are supposedly without money or a roof to sleep under, why they don’t just go on the dole, but it does have excellent performances.
Favorite quote: “I’m not the type to get attached to guys, they get on my nerves in no time”
Rating 7.8


Lorenzo’s Oil (1992)
Powerful, well-acted drama. I always thought it was about an oil rig, which it definitely is not! The story is about two parents (Nick Nolte & Susan Sarandon) in search for a cure for their sick son.
Rating 7.8


Road House (1989)
It’s entertaining all the way through, but pretty contrived that his old pal shows up EXACTLY when he needs bailing out at the back of the bar.
Big parts of the movie are clich├ęd, and the acting is below average, yet it does work, in a so-bad-its-good way.
Favorite quote: "People who really want to have a good time won't come to a slaughterhouse. And we've got entirely too many troublemakers here. Too many 40-year-old adolescents, felons, power drinkers and trustees of modern chemistry.
Rating 7.5


Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Rewatch. So many great scenes. Definitely fun from start to finish. The music by John Williams, and the character of Indiana Jones, are iconic. I preferred it when I was a child, though.
Rating 8.5


Network (1976)
Rewatch. A satirical and very loud movie, plenty of yelling. What could be labeled a "realistic Videodrome". Network chronicles corporate greed, and the ethical dilemma of showing sensationalism in the news, to increase ratings, in order to gain profit for stock holders.
In fact, the movie questions what is good television, and questions what the viewers want to see. Also how it can have a psychological effect on news anchors, that their popularity is measured in numbers.
The film could also be viewed as how actors feel, always being provided with lines to read, without having their own opinions heard.
The weakest part of the film could be the romance between Faye Dunaway and William Holden.
Rating 7.7


Weekend (1967)
Directed by Jean Luc Godard. The film has a unique look. There is social commentary, and there is also a lot of car horns and rudeness. The number of accidents seems unrealistic and extreme(kind of like a war zone), but there is a point with it. Perhaps that we are in too much of a hurry in our contemporary society, and therefore are a danger to ourselves and those around us. Or maybe there are other interpretations?
Interestingly the characters at one point say they are tired of being in the film, because people they meet are unhelpful in giving directions.
The second half with all those long monologues was pretty boring really. Preferred the first half.
Turns into a horror film at the end, maybe the whole film was supposed to be horror? I wish the animal cruelty scenes had been cut entirely, I hated those.
Rating 7.3


Zulu (1964)
A long, somewhat boring war movie starring a young Michael Caine, which you can have on in the background, without missing much. Famous for the battle scene which sees the Zulus and English singing before combat.
Rating 5.0


The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa. The opening wedding sequence is interesting, and the presentation of the cake is a unique moment in cinema. But I’m confused why the families would allow those nosy reporters to be present at the dinner?
Told in a somewhat confusing way, but really is quite a simple story of revenge.
Loosely based om Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Whistling has seldom been more creepy than in a scene in this film.
It’s quite boring at times, so I can’t really recommend it wholeheartedly. The most memorable scenes are when they lock up the guy and starve him, in order for him to give them valuable information(kind of like in the 2013 movie Prisoners)
Rating 6.4


The Brothers Karamazov (1958)
Difficult to condense a complex 800 page novel into a 2½ hour movie. The film suffers from wooden acting, but there are good performances from Lee J. Cobb as the father, and Maria Schell as the love interest. I would love to read the book at some point.
Rating 5.5


Mr Hulots Holiday (1953)
Directed by and starring Jacques Tati. Not laugh-out-loud funny, and probably not for everyone. The gags are quite inventive and cute, and, well, Tati-esque. I like his style, but wouldn’t watch it every day.
Rating 7.5


Umberto D (1952)
Italian neorealist film directed by Vittorio De Sica. A story about poverty. The lead character, Umberto D, is named after the directors own father and the film is dedicated to his honor. Of his entire career, this was the film De Sica treasured the most.
Few professional actors were used, Carlos Z, who plays Umberto D, was a 70-year-old professor from the university in Florence. De Sica spotted him walking down the street.
The film came under attack. According to Andreotti, De Sica was guilty of “slandering Italy abroad” by “washing dirty linen in public”. The communist party also attacked the film calling it “pessimistic”. The film opened without organized support, competing against more popular fair Don Camillo (1951). Umberto D (1952) was a flop, but has since been reappraised.
Rating 7.8



Have you seen any of these films? Agree or disagree? Any favorites? As always, comments are welcome

24 comments:

  1. Too bad you didn't like The Desolation of Smaug that much. I'm not crazy about it but it's better than the first Hobbit film. But they are so long and with many unnecessary plots. We still end up watching them. With all the splitting of the story in three movies I feel like I'm watching a TV show with an episode as year.

    Network was brilliant and you couldn't have described it better than the term "realistic Videodrome". A very good film.

    This is all I've seen from this list. Also the first half hour of Museum Hours. After the nude scene I turned it off. I was on a train. And bits and pieces from Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was little.

    You had an interesting list of films. It seems you have finished watching all the classics and went on with less known films. Good for you. I still have a lot to catch up with.

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    1. @Cristi B: I know “Unexpected Journey” only has 65% on rottentomatoes, and I’ve heard people say Smaug is the better film, maybe if I watched them again, I would feel differently. Yep, I still watch them for the spectacle.
      Yeah, that scene of several patrons appearing completely nude in “Museum Hours” is probably the most intellectual nude scene of the year :)
      I wouldn’t say I’ve finished with the classics, I haven’t seen all the imdb 250 yet, I still have many to see, and rewatch, if you look at these lists:
      http://letterboxd.com/mas365/list/20142015-contenders/
      http://letterboxd.com/mas365/list/yet-to-watch-animated-films/
      http://letterboxd.com/mas365/list/yet-to-watch-film-noir-and-neo-noir/
      http://letterboxd.com/mas365/list/yet-to-watch-documentaries/
      http://letterboxd.com/mas365/list/yet-to-watch-horror/

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  2. Smaug is indeed too long, my God I was so bored with this movie, as I was with the first part. People keep saying the second one is much better than the first but I gave them 6,5/10 as you did, it's just such a soulless cash grab of a trilogy.

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    1. @Sati: Too long indeed. Just get to that dragon! Agree it’s a bit of a cash-grab, making a trilogy from one book.

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  3. In regards to The Hobbit, I think each would only works if you watch the whole trilogy and that's how it's intended. I feel that people who LOVE the Middle Earth universe will love it more than those who don't, I really enjoyed it and there are lots of scenes I could watch over and over.

    Very cool that you rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark. I love that one but the 3rd Indy movie will always be my all time fave!

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    1. @Ruth: That’s true, people who love Middle Earth will love the movies more than those who don’t, I’m not a huge admirer of Tolkien, so that’s no doubt a factor in my rating.
      I’m actually planning on watching the whole Indy trilogy, because I haven’t seen them since I was a teenager :)

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  4. I actually liked the second Hobbit film more than the first one, mostly because it was a lot less silly. Still not LOTR level, though. Road House is goofy fun, isn't it? Weekend perfectly illustrates what I feel about Godard: he's got a really good 45 minutes to an hour in him then he doesn't really know what to do to fill out the rest of the time and the movie suffers for it. I actually prefer Tati as a director, rather than as an actor taking prat-falls on camera. Physical humor can be tough to make work and I have to be in the right mood to appreciate it.

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    1. @Chip Lary: Fair enough, I kind of like the silliness. I prefer “Unexpected Journey” for the humor, the thrill ride, and the story to me was less predictable in the 2012 film. When I saw the trailer for Smaug, I knew where the story threads were heading. I didn’t have that with Hobbit Unexpected Journey. For me, There was also a freshness about first Hobbit movie, that I hadn't been in that universe for a long time.
      I agree the first half of Godard’s Weekend is stronger. Maybe he in some cases should have made short films instead :)
      Yep, the mood has to be right for Tati.

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  5. I adore The Dreamlife of Angels as I think it's overlooked by American audiences as I love Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, The Bad Sleep Well, and of course... Road House. I miss Patrick Swayze. Fuck you cancer for taking us away from him.

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    1. @thevoid99: The Dreamlife of Angels definitely is an overlooked gem. Road House is entertaining.
      I was a bit bored by The Bad Sleep Well, although it has a few interesting scenes.

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  6. the only movies I recognize are The Hobbit and Lorenzo's Oil (that's one movie I remember when I was a kid, because Leo was booming). I don't really eager to see The Hobbit for some reasons, but maybe I'll like the second one.

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    1. @Andina: Lorenzo’s Oil is a film that stays with you, probably my favorite Nick Nolte performance.
      Hobbit 2 is good for the visuals, but it won’t make my top 20.

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  7. Interesting bunch. Shame to hear you didn't like Wadjda. Interested to see that along with many others here.

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    1. @Pete Turner: Thanks! Wadjda didn’t do much for me, the message was too obvious. I admire the courage to make the film, though.

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  8. I appreciated the intensity of Bullhead, but those flashbacks almost made me sick to my stomach. I mean... holy shit.

    As for The Life and Death of Peter Sellers... I had no idea he was that whacked either.

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    1. @Alex Withrow: Agree Bullhead is powerful and at times an ugly experience.

      Life and Death of Peter Sellers was fun, worth making a movie about his real life.

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  9. Desolation of Smaug had the same impact on me too. Couldn't get into it. Felt long, like you say, and just unnecessary.

    I remember seeing Lorenzo's Oil when I was very young and just being totally overwhelmed by how powerful it was.

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    1. @Jaina: As I said over in comments at Nostra’s site, Desolation of Smaug I only liked for wine barrel chase and dragon scenes. Definitely feel it should be two Hobbit movies and not three. If they HAVE to make a trilogy, at least make the films shorter…
      Lorenzo’s Oil does hit you in the gut, emotionally.

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  10. I need to have a Jacques Tati marathon, as his films are a major blind spot for me. I Killed My Mother is also high on my watchlist, as I'm a big fan of Heartbeats and Laurence Anyways.

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    1. @Josh: I hope you like the Tati films, Mon Oncle, Playtime & Mr Hulots Holiday are probably his most famous. I would rank them in that order.
      I Killed My Mother (2009) was decent, though topping Laurence Anyways(which I consider one of the best films of the decade) was a tough ask. Haven’t seen Heartbeats yet.

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  11. I enjoyed Desolation more than the original Hobbit. But I do think I was more excited for that first one - I agree, being away from Middle Earth for so long made it a little more special in terms of anticipation.

    I need to watch the original Indy films again. There's been a lot of talk about Dr. Jones now that the rights are in the hands of Disney. I wouldn't mind a new film if it was done right (i.e., Harrison Ford comes back one more time in the lead role in order to hand it off to his "son" or something NOT Shia).

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    1. @Robert: Being away from Middle Earth for so long did make first Hobbit movie quite special, and it was my first try at High frame rate cinema. For me, Unexpected Journey had a bit more soul(especially in the early scenes). I barely connected emotionally with Hobbit 2.
      I think Harrison Ford is getting too old to do that kind of action movie, Indy 4 and 5 should have been released in 90s when he was younger. Though Sean Connery did play the dad in Last Crusade, so it could be done in that style today. Apparently H Ford will be in Star Wars episode 7, so we’ll see how that goes.

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  12. I'm right there with you on The Hobbit. I think we may be the only two people who preferred the first one.

    I watched Bullhead last year and was surprised at how damn depressing it was. Really well-made film. I also liked Schoenaerts' performance in Rust and Bone.

    I can't wait to finally watch Road House. "So-bad-its-good" is exactly what I want from it.

    Glad you were able to get something from Mr. Hulot's Holiday. That's one classic that I just don't get at all. I would like to give another Tati film a try though.

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    1. Eric@The Warning Sign: I think Jaina from time well spent and Ben Russel from themovieman liked first Hobbit a bit more, though you are right, many prefer Hobbit 2.
      Bullhead was indeed a strong performance by Matthias Schoenaerts, I expect to see him in English-language productions soon, in the same way Marion Cotillard has made that transition.
      Curious what you make of Road House, divisive cult movie.

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