Viewing recap for March

Stop Making Sense (1984)
A concert film of the Talking Heads performing many of their well-known songs.
The band really go all out, in a very energetic show, dancing, running, jumping around. I love how he at the 30 min mark ironically asks, does anyone have any questions? And they all just yell and cheer.
It seems a lot of effort has gone into the background cards on stage, yet the show is called stop making sense. Maybe it makes sense, maybe it isn’t supposed to? Either way, it’s worth watching, as the music is great live.
Rating 8.5

The Hill (1965)
I saw it because SDG at U Me and Films has it in his top 100. I really liked it. An early Sean Connery movie, and quite possibly among his best films. A memorable depiction of a prison camp for disobedient soldiers, A simple story, but what lifts the film is the entertaining dialogue and fine performances. The scenario is ambiguous about how to discipline the inmates, the Major in charge says: “you would be lost unless someone shouted a bloody order at you” and “if you’re too easy on them, you won’t be able to do a damn thing with them, sir”
Rating 8.5

The Hunt For Red October (1990)
Submarine drama. For a Hollywood film, Sean Connery's character is surprisingly enigmatic.
It does lack a bit of tension the first hour, with too many boring dialogue scenes, if I had to find fault with the story. By the second hour there are more thrills and you begin to wake up.
Rating 7.8

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989)
The third film in a row with Connery! Famous because he plays Indy’s dad, but after a while that was also the most annoying aspect of the film, with Harrison Ford calling him "dad" about 20x. It’s always entertaining and never boring, just the structure is a little too similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark. For me, I had the most fun with the trilogy when I was a child/teenager. Rewatching them as a 33-year-old, I wasn't wowed in the same way that I once was.
Rating 7.5

Night on Earth (1991)
Rewatch. Probably one of my favorite Jim Jarmusch films. Set in 4 cities ariound the world, at nighrt in taxi's. 4 stories that each last about 30 minutes. The first three are the strongest and very funny in places, while the last short in Helsinki was a bit of a downer.
Both driver and passengers are very talkative. I don't know if there is point to it all, though, besides the world is connected through humanity.
Rating 7.9

Hotell (2013)
Swedish drama. An interesting idea, with memorable, likeable characters, and good performances. There’s quite a bit of humor and sadness. An entertaining story about a group of troubled people, who join a course, to escape their problems. The film is a bit clicheed, especially towards the end, so I'd call it good, rather than great.
SPOILER: The course they go on offers age-old truisms such as the importance of camaraderie, and learning to trust someone. There’s a feeling these people needed that, and had a significant experience. Taking risks and once in a while stepping out of your comfort zone in order to grow and gain confidence. These messages are hardly original, but cannot be repeated often enough, because they are vital in life.
Rating 7.0

Borgman (2013)
Dutch drama I saw some time ago, directed by Alex van Warmerdam, that just missed out on my top 20 of 2013. It leaves you with more questions than answers. How much of the film is a dream, how much is actually happening? Are the strangers aliens, or merely a weird cult, who want to brainwash a family? The violence is quite sudden, and nasty, so it's not for everyone.
On a symbolic level, maybe it's about losing control, letting yourself disappear, and having other people decide things for you. Maybe it's about how we cannot understand foreigners. Perhaps the director is laughing at us for trying to find meaning in all the madness. You could accuse the film of not really being about anything at all, except the shocks. The kind of open-to-interpretation film, that could mean something different to each person who watches it.
Rating 7.5

Out of the Furnace (2013)
Good performances, especially Woody Harrelson was memorable, he has seldom been nastier.
Rating 7.0

Rush (2013)
Suspenseful racing drama chronicling the Formula 1 rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt.
It helped I knew nothing about the 70s Formula 1 era.
Rating 7.5

About Time (2013)
Latest from Richard Curtis, the director of Love Actually. The main character’s voice-over is sooo similar to Hugh Grant, that it was kind of distracting. A charming, yet overlong romantic comedy. Goes on about 30 minutes too long, and the gimmick of going back in time to me becomes a bit repetitive.
Rating 7.0

The Last Samurai (2003)
The part when Algren (Tom Cruise) is with the samurai duing the winter was my favorite part. The last hour was a bit predictable, what would happen.
For a movie about war and conflict, it really is about the need for peace and understanding.
As talked about in the documentary Hollywood or History, it is revealed the movie is not completely accurate. The samurai are not angels, they were intimidating to the Japanese people, like an unelected government. The samurai were in fact the bad guys, wanting to go back to a bygone era when women had no rights, and a time when there was a caste system and no democracy. The Japenese Army were in reality not as bad as the film decribes, they were trying to introduce democracy to Japan.
Rating 7.5

My Father's Glory (La Gloire de Mon Père) (1990)
From the writer of Jean de Florette. Beautiful soundtrack in the opening credits. A depiction of childhood and growing up around the year 1900. It looks authentic, and is well-acted. But it doesn’t really stand out among other childhood movies, except the shooting expedition in the last 45 minutes. Perhaps it bored me the first hour, because there was no conflict.
If you enjoy stories that are very close to real life, and set in that era, you should give it a try. For me, only the last half of this movie is good.
Rating 7.3

Meet John Doe (1941)
The story has aged remarkably well. A man (Gary Cooper) needing money agrees to impersonate a nonexistent hero, whom Barbara Stanwyck character has invented so she can keep her job at the newspaper. I don't think I've ever watched a bad Frank Capra film, worth seeing.
Rating 8.0

American Gigolo (1980)
So after watching Arbitrage (2012) last year, and being entertained by the impersonation of him in The Trip, I was curious to check out Richard Gere's best performances. Directed by Paul Schrader, this movie feels like a Brian de Palma film. Told in a visually stylized way, which is probably the main reason to see it.
The plot turned out to be quite straightforward, just a standard crime drama. There was potential for something deeper, but it didn't quite happen.
The movie's main theme song "Call Me" sung by Deborah Harry & Blondie was a massive hit, and today a classic.
Favorite quote: “Are we talking about what he wants, or what you want? I can’t tell anymore”
Rating 7.0

Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
It was never boring, a story of a young Richard Gere, who comes from a troubled background, and goes into the Navy. He meets some people there. Entertaining, with a few surprises, but also a bit predictable.
Favorite quote: “Then be a friend, get out of here"
Rating 7.5

Nikita (1990)
An influential French action/thriller directed by Luc Besson, which spawned a remake, and also a tv-series. The female main character is like a wild animal.
I liked how it didn’t go for a big action scene to finish, but something emotional instead.
I'm a fan of Eric Serra, and his soundtrack added to the films atmosphere. I’m surprised Anne Parillaud didn’t become a bigger name after this.
Rating 7.6

Agree? Disagree? Have you seen any of the above? What are the best films you saw during the month of March?

mini-reviews of 2014 albums (2 of 3)

Divergent soundtrack by Various Artists (March 11)
Thoughts: A mixed bag, a few pop tunes that I'm enjoying, epecially My Blood by Elle Goulding. Unfortunately about half the album I disliked and have no interest in returning to. The compilation obviously is aimed at the young adult audience
Favorite tracks:
My Blood by Elle Goulding
I Need You by M83
Lost and Found by Pretty Lights (ODESZA Remix)
Big Deal by Dream Machines
Album rating: 6/10

The Classic by Joan As Police Woman (March 10)
Thoughts: I usually find 2-3 tracks that agree with me on each new album from her. For me, her latest doesn’t really kick into gear until midway with “Good Together” and the tracks that follow: “Get Direct”, “What Would You Do”, & “New Year’s Day”, all of which were quite good. Thought-provoking lyrics, with traces of existential angst in the writing. It’s brave of her to go in completely new directions musically (Motown-esque, doo-woop), but it isn’t catchy or memorable. It does grow on you on repeats listens, though, so don’t give up on it too quickly. An album that requires you invest a bit of time.
For reasons best known to herself, the album sleeve has a movie-related theme from Goldfinger, of the singer covered in gold paint, with a Harry Potter magic scar on her finger. The artwork is open to interpretation, I suppose.
You can stream the full album for a limited time at the Guardian. Track-by-track discussion with Joan at The Line Of Best Fit.
Album rating: 7/10

Lost In The Dream by The War on Drugs (March 18)
Thoughts: An early contender for best album of the year! Probably the band’s finest collection of songs. Has been described by a critic as a springtime record-in how full of life it is.
The album's title refers to a broken America, but it could just as easily describe the immersive qualities of the hazy, dreamlike music, which you can get lost in.
Track mini-reviews:
Under the pressure: what an epic opener, with a terrific beat.
Red Eyes: Another strong early track. The single.
Disappearing: A beautiful, soothing mix of rock/ambient, that takes you to a peaceful place in your mind.
Eyes To The Wind: There’s a hint of Bob Dylan in the vocal. The saxophone ending is a nice touch, though hardly groundbreaking.
The Haunting Idle: Has an atmospheric, Tangerine Dream vibe, which I like.
Burning: Reminds me of Bruce Springsteen
Album rating: 8.5/10

Out Among The Stars - Johnny Cash (March 25)
Thoughts: Should please existing fans. My initial reaction is it would hold up to repeat listening. Not a classic, but pleasant enough to have playing in the background. I never expected greatness, because this posthumous album was shelved by the record company in the 1980s. They rerecorded the guitar parts and added layers of sound, which no doubt improved the production.
You can stream the full album for a limited time at the guardian website, where his son writes a few words about each track.
Favorite tracks: She Used To Love Me a Lot, I’m Movin’ On feat. Waylon Jennings , Out Among The Stars
Album rating: 7/10

Agree or disagree? Heard any of these new albums yet? Share your opinions in the comments.

Top 20 films of 2013

As with my 2012 best list that I published earlier this month, I'm going by IMDb year, which is the world premiere for the films. So that means Mud, The Place Beyond The Pines, The Hunt, Frances Ha, The Act of Killing, and Stories We Tell are logged for 2012.

At the end of the post, I've linked to 20+ year-end lists from other movie bloggers, hope it's useful!

Honorable mentions:
12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
Rush (Ron Howard)
Hotell (Lisa Langseth)
The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola)
Philomena (Stephen Frears)
Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)
Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine)
Michael H – Profession: Director (documentary) (Yves Montmayeur)
Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener)
Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper)
Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
The Way Way Back (Nat Faxon, Jim Rash)
Borgman (Alex van Warmerdam)
Captain Philips (Paul Greengrass)

The Kings of Summer (2013) (Jordan Vogt-Roberts)
A love or hate it kind of experience, judging from other reviews. Has some funny one-liners, especially from Nick Offerman. Captures that teenage period when you rebel, and your family are embarrassing and controlling. The parents in this movie are so whiny, that they border on unrealistic, but they are quite amusing.
I agree with reviewer in Sight and Sound magazine, that the police manhunt is incompetent. Despite these flaws, recommended, if you enjoy coming-of-age movies.
Favorite quote: It’s never going to end, even when I’m an adult, she’s going to find me, question me”

August Osage County (2013) (John Wells)
Family ensemble drama with an all-star cast. I thought Meryl Streep character was funny to watch, I’m not sure if that was how it was meant to be viewed. Other scenes were really serious. It was a sad story, and most, if not all the characters suffer.
I liked it for the writing and the performances.

Breathe In (2013) (Drake Doremus)
From the director of Like Crazy (2011). The reviews for his new feature have been all over the place, probably as the story has been done before many times. The reason it’s on my list is because it’s a beautiful forbidden love story. It could easily have been creepy, yet avoids that due to the performances, and I believed in their feelings towards each other, despite the taboo age gap. Sometimes those souls you truly connect to are younger or older, or from another culture. I didn’t expect to be moved by this film in the way that I was.
30-year-old Felicity Jones believably plays a younger college exchange student, who is attracted to an older Guy Pierce.

Frozen (2013) (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee)
For the sake of variation, I’m including an animated film in the top 20, and probably you won’t find a better one from 2013.
For the first time in forever” I surprisingly prefer over oscar-winning song “Let It Go”.
The animation is beautiful, the dialogue has the right amount of humor, and the message of getting to know someone before you fall in love is so true, however tempting it might be for those who are impatient and impulsive. I also liked the way it used the symbols of cold and warm, in how we affect other people emotionally. Inspired by "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen.
Favorite quote: “Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart”

American Hustle (2013) (David O. Russell)
Not sure why there is quite a lot of hostility towards this movie, it's not that bad. I was bored during some moments in Silver Linings Playbook. Hustle I enjoyed all the way through.
My favorite soundtrack of the year so far: A Horse With No Name by America, played in the opening scene when he adjusts his hair. Other favorites are, I Feel Love by Donna Summer from the disco scene, and 10538 Ovature by the Electric Light Orchestra, when they walk out of the plane. Good Times Bad Times by Led Zeppelin is good too.

Blackfish (2013) (documentary) (Gabriela Cowperthwaite)
So irresponsible that the Sea World trainers were not given the full information about the killing at Sea Land, and just kept on training with Tilikum. And thoughtless that they split the orca families apart, and kept them in such small tanks. The cover up of whale attacks was disgraceful. No understanding that orcas thrive with their own family with the same language.
The doc has been called misleading, only showing certain aspects of the case, but even so, there’s no hiding the fact that Sea World made mistakes.
Favorite quote: “These are animals that have highly elaborate, emotional lives. It’s becoming clear that dolphins and whales have a sense of self, a sense of social bonding, that they’ve taken to another level. Much stronger, much more complex than other mammals, including humans. We look at mass strandings (on beaches), the fact that they stand by each other. Everything about them is social, everything. It’s been suggested that their whole sense of self is distributed among the individuals in their group”

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Main performance is great by Oscar Isaac, performing, singing and playing guitar, and he makes the character someone you root for. You sympathize with him, even though he at times behaves like an asshole. A tribute to the underdog, the struggling artist looking to become a star. Different to other Coen brothers films, in how serious it is, and probably not great enough to become a classic. Yet it worked for me, and I can see myself returning to it again in future. If you like the Llewyn Davis character played by Isaac, I think you will be drawn to his story, regardless if you are a folk enthusiast or not. Has one or two nice folk tunes. One of the tunes is very funny actually.
I liked the bummer humor of the film, or whatever you want to call the amusing parts. For example settling down on a sofa which is not long enough. The road movie element was the most memorable part.
Beautifully shot, it does feel like we are back in 1960s New York, but the ending wasn’t as good as it should have been.

We Are The Best (2013) (Lukas Moodysson)
Heartfelt Swedish childhood drama set in the 1980s. A story of rebellious girls who want to start a punk band. They don’t look like girls at all(see poster above), surely the two friends are male actors!? A sweet story, with unforgettable characters you care about, but also a bit predictable. Even so, I had a good time on that journey to the foreseeable ending. It’s not a requirement to enjoy it, that you like punk music. The best depiction of that tricky period between childhood and teenager you will see in a film from 2013.

The Past (2013) (Asghar Farhadi)
From the director of the Oscar-winning 2011 film A Separation. There are quite a few loose-ends, and the conflict doesn’t really become apparent until 45 minutes into the film. Very well-acted, and the everyday story is interesting to follow, and told in a way that slowly reveals family secrets. The ending is my favorite scene.
Perhaps, as another critic said, it's about the changeable nature of emotions, how you can be intertwined in another person's life, because of the history you share. You think you know where you stand, and the rational thing would be to leave, but you can't help getting involved, despite shackled with past wounds, because there is still a glimmer of affection.
About miscommunication and messy lives. Not desiring to be pulled into the dirt, yet wanting to help and figure things out.
Asks questions like, how much should you sweep under the carpet, before it starts hurting you? Do you have a responsibility to help other people, even if it's painful for those involved? What's their responsibility, and your responsibility?

The Best Offer (2013) (Giuseppe Tornatore)
Probably won’t appeal to a mass audience, the main character (Geoffrey Rush) is an introvert, and the woman he is interested in is reclusive. I loved it, and the mysteries kept me watching.
Comparable visually to the other Italian film on this list, The Great Beauty, The Best Offer looks amazing, every frame is beautiful on the eye.
While it has been criticized for being predictable, I didn’t have that experience at all. The ending was a surprise to me.
The sort of story that could have been told 50 years ago, it feels quite Hitchcockian, though there are mobile phones in a few scenes.
Deserves to have a wider audience. By the director of Cinema Paradiso (1988), the film won several awards in its native Italy.
Notable also is Ennio Morricone's beautiful score, he won Best Composer for this at the European Film Awards.

The Great Beauty (2013) (Paulo Sorrentino)
Winner of foreign language Oscar, Golden Globe, and Best Film at 2013 European Film Awards.
Arguably one of the most impressive openings of any film this year, the first 15 minutes are a treat for both eyes and ears. Great cinematography. Does a good job of describing the shallowness and decadence of that subculture in Italy. Also a love letter to Rome and its beauty.
The spiritual and physical decay, with the crumbling architecture in the background was a nice touch. The main character Jep is stuck in life, and has lost his creative spark. As Jake Cole wrote: "Instead of finding beauty, however, Jep criticizes his surroundings for lacking it. The images of the swimmer not getting anywhere in the tub reminded me of the intro in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere (2010).
To be honest, I’m not sure how original the story is, because it feels like a contemporary tribute to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), and Antonioni's L'avventura (1960).
As Film Actually perceptively wrote: "his crisis stems from curiosity rather than true disillusionment. In the end, it seems like he'll continue to indulge and I can't blame him. Unfortunately the film wants to dig deeper than this, but it eventually becomes overwhelmed by the great beauty it displays"
The guardian reviewer noted: "They are drunk on excess (...) Jep is in his 60s; he knows that time is running out. More crucially, perhaps, he knows that it's been squandered."
Loved the soundtrack, especially in that closing scene. On a macro level, maybe the film is about how Italy are racing along, and not stopping to contemplate where they are going.
Favorite quote: “The most important thing I discovered a few days after turning 65 is that I can’t waste any more time doing things I don’t want to do”

Prisoners (2013) (Denis Villeneuve)
A nail-biting thriller which I couldn’t look away from. You have to see it through to the end. There is moral ambiguity, where victim and perpetrator and good and evil are not so clearly outlined. I sure hope this wasn’t based on fact. About taking the law into your own hands.
The motivation of the villain is unexplained, but I guess that adds to the mystery and makes it scarier. Fine performances too from the cast. I've read other bloggers were disappointed how it played out, but if you just watch it as a thriller, as I did, then I think it works.

Before Midnight (2013) (Richard Linklater)
I couldn’t resist revisiting the characters. It took a while for me to reach a verdict on the film. The long takes in the car and walking outside are impressive in terms of acting. It’s one of the best films of 2013, but it breaks my heart to see my favorite screen couple so cynical. I like to remember the characters in love. I would prefer to have met them when they are young, than now.
Dialogue about technology and gender, and other issues, is interesting enough, and as said on LAMBcast, they are thoughts most of us have all had, and can relate to personally. I agree with LAMBcast, that the naked scenes are uncomfortable, because the couple are almost like our friends.
The arguing turned me off, yet the cute philosophical discussions they have I love.
It’s a brave move to make the characters unlikeable one moment, and likeable the next.
It might improve on rewatch, but my initial reaction is I prefer the first two installments in the trilogy.
I also listened to Across The Universe podcast, interesting how the hotel room could be perceived as a prison. And that Celine & Jessie accuse each other of things they did offscreen, so we can never know who is right.

Stoker (2013) (Chan-wook Park)
Atmospheric mystery, which held my interest throughout. The production design and overall look of the film is beautiful on the eye. The first 40 minutes for me is the strongest part. The second half of the movie is intent to reveal most of the mysteries.
I agree with Eric from The Warning Sign, that the director’s use of color and flawless transition shots are a thing of beauty, even if at times they do distract from the film itself.

Her (2013) (Spike Jonze)
A futuristic, raunchier Lost in Translation is a way to describe it. If you love computers, you should see it.
The Oscar worthy production design is really stylish, with a dash of red in almost every frame, and the acting is good. Although lacking in variety, maybe there are too many scenes of J Phoenix staring into space, some of those could easily have been discarded.
The strongest aspect of the film for me are the scenes when J Phoenix is running around with a smile on his face.
I thought it was cute, but I didn’t completely connect with it emotionally, which is why my rating is not as high as other bloggers. The raunchier moments I could have done without, and somehow didn't work for me with the romantic tone. Perhaps my mood wasn’t right, who knows.
I do want to see Her again in future. Has the potential to become an old-time favorite. The score is beautiful, I've been listening to that since I saw it.
On a side note, Kate Bush's brilliant song Deeper Understanding should have been on the soundtrack, the lyrics are about the same themes.
Favorite quotes: “Since my break up, I haven’t really enjoyed my writing. Sometimes I’d write something and I’d be my favorite writer that day”
“Sometimes I feel I’ve felt everything I’m ever going to feel, and from here on out I’m not going to feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”

Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) (Abdellatif Kechiche)
A powerful film, though I had a few minor issues, which is why I gave it 4/5 and not 4.5/5. How long has she been with Emma?, is she still studying, or is she now qualified teacher? Do her parents know she is a lesbian, and what do they think about that? Considering the film is three hours, it's odd these things are so vague. Interestingly a scene where Adele's parents kick her out for being with Emma wasn't used in the theatrical cut, that partly explains it.
The film’s strength is the depiction of first love, and the powerhouse performances by the two leads. The two lead actresses deservedly shared the Palme d’Or with the director. Especially Adèle Exarchopoulos, who appears in virtually every scene, gives an unforgettable performance, which is full of passion and vulnerability. The camera work is very in-your-face, so we witness every little facial expression. Another highlight is the use of the color blue, which gives the whole film a common thread, and a unique visual look.
To me, the film doesn’t feel too long, as you go on a journey with Adèle, and if you’ve ever been in love, you will likely identify with her emotions.
You don’t need to be lesbian to connect with this movie, just as you don’t need to be Chinese to enjoy a film about Chinese people.

Sorrow and Joy (2013) (Nils Malmros)
Danish autobiographical drama. Among the best Danish films of 2013. After a promising opening, my initial reaction was the middle section of the film had the wrong priority, focusing excessively on their backstory, and was not concerned enough about the period after the tragic event.
I do feel the subplot with Ida goes on too long, but obviously the director has a point with this choice, showing how Signe’s emotional struggle could be partly influenced by her husband’s lifestyle, and maybe other factors too. The husband even admits that the family is to blame, because he turned her off taking her medicine, and they were not there, when she needed someone present with her and the baby.
The audience is in the position of the judge, which punishment does she deserve, if any? Was she insane, was it an accident, or did she do it on purpose, and then deny everything? Even though these are flawed people, you care about them, and that clouds your judgment.
The film questions, what would you have done? What is the correct punishment? Can you ever forgive, or is it too much to ask? Is it responsible for Signe to ever be allowed to work as a teacher again in future, even with all the parents’ acceptance?
A though-provoking drama that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.

Gravity (2013) (Alfonso Cuarón)
The Sandra Bullock character is written in a slightly manipulative way, so the audience cares about her. But the special effects are groundbreaking, and the score is brilliant too. I really felt like I was in space!
It doesn’t top my list, because I feel the story is probably not good enough to make it an all-time favorite. Also, it might have that Independence Day problem, that it isn’t as great to rewatch on TV.

Nymphomaniac (2013) (Lars von Trier)
A controversial choice, I know. It seems Lars von Trier in his new film wanted to live out all his sexual fantasies (or sexual nightmares) on camera. I watched the abridged version including vol 1 and vol 2, which was still 4 hours.
I'm not sure when and where the story is supposed to take place. Told in flash backs, I'm guessing the UK between 1960s-1980s, judging from the accents, remarks about £s, and Skarsgård's music cassettes. The Playlist claim "the film is set in a weird sort of no man's land"
A challenging film to watch, and a challenging film to rate. Surprisingly funny in places, and hugely ambitious on a cinematic and intellectual level, full of memorable scenes and thought-provoking issues. Yet an ugly experience, with a sex-addicted main character, but that was also the intent, to show the main theme of loveless sex, so you can't really criticize it for going in that direction. Stellan Skarsgård is probably the most likeable of the characters, who listens to Charlotte Gainsbourg's wild, and possibly exaggerating stories.
Where exactly Lars von Trier stands on the many issues raised I am none the wiser. To me he is just opening a window for a debate, as scenes present both sides of the argument. For example on the one hand feeling sorry for the helpless addict, and on the other hand reckless behaviour that causes suffering to others.
I agree with reviewer Anthony Lawrie, that "those who are most offended are generally the ones who are least open to discussion."

There were moments, especially in vol 2, where I felt there were scenes missing, and character motivation was difficult to follow (especially Mia Goth in vol 2), so the abridiged version is not perfect. A number of the intellectual musings went over my head, and didn't make a lot of sense.
I think a second viewing of the director's cut 5½ hour version is needed to reach a more conclusive verdict.
I liked how the music blends with the scenes, highlights for me were "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads and Führe mich (Lead Me) by Rammstein(which brought back memories of Lost Highway soundtrack), and Hey Joe by Charlotte Gainsbourg
Favorite quotes: "If you buy a tiger, you have to feed it"
"If you have wings, you should fly"

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) (Martin Scorsese)
Could be Scorsese's best since Goodfellas. Belfort deserves our disdain, but it somehow is a good story for cinema. It does seem wrong, though, in light of the victims, if Belfort earns money from the movie.
Although it’s over 3 hours long, it’s never boring for a second. A highly entertaining film, that’s good fun, full of life and great scenes. Perhaps my favorite scene is Matthew Mcconaughey's chest beating in the restaurant.
I’ve heard it labeled as a black comedy. Scorsese has said it isn’t just another formulaic movie you forget about where they get what they deserve, and that’s that. It’s a little different.
Don’t usually associate Scorsese with comedy, but they made it work. It goes without saying that Leonardo DiCaprio should have won the oscar for what could be described as a career best performance.
Worth a mention is the fantastic trailer

What do my fellow movie bloggers think of the year in film? Here are their best of 2013 lists:

Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob
Steeve at Cinematic Paradox
Nostra at myfilmreviews
Alex Withrow at And so it Begins
Ryan Pollard at Top 10 Films
Griff at 3guys1movie
Lisa Thatcher
Sati at Cinematic Corner
Ruth at Flixchatter
Steven at Surrender To The Void
Josh at The Cinematic Spectacle
Alex Thomas at Time for a film
Paste Magazine
Dan the Man's Movie Reviews
Shala Thomas at Life Between Films
Mette at Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions
Shane at Film Actually
Eric at The Warning Sign
Catherine at Cinenthusiast
Satua at fairytalepictures
Robert at To The Escape Hatch
Bemis at Cinevistaramascope
Courtney Young at On the Screen Reviews
Jessica at The Velvet Café
SDG at U, Me and Films
Cristi B at To The Movies And Back
Pete Turner at I Love That Film
Chip at Tips from Chip
Fernando Rafael at Committed to celluloid
Atli at The Cinematic Katzenjammer
Jack at Lights Camera Reaction
Jon at Films Worth Watching
Andina at Inspired Ground

Yet to watch from 2013:

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke)
The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt)
Enemy (Denis Villeneuve)
Snowpiercer (Joon-ho Bong)
Joe (David Gordon Green)
The Immigrant (James Gray)
The Rocket (Kim Mordaunt)
A Story of Children and Film (2013) (Mark Cousins)
Mistaken for Strangers (documentary) (Tom Berninger)
Venus in Furs (Roman Polanski)
The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard)
The Zero Theorem (Terry Gilliam)
The Double (Richard Ayoade)
Tracks (John Curran)
Palo Alto (Gia Coppola)
Locke (Steven Knight)
The Reunion (Återträffen) (Anna Odell)
Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt)
Another Me (Isabel Coixet)
Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan)
Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang)
Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)
Exhibition (Joanna Hogg)
Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz)
Die andere Heimat (Edgar Reitz)
Jodorowsky's Dune (documentary) (Frank Pavich)
Desert Runners (documentary) (Jennifer Steinman)
At Berkeley (documentary) (Frederick Wiseman)

Agree or disagree? Have I encouraged you to watch anything? Did I miss anything great from 2013? As always, thoughts are welcome in the comments

Mini-reviews of 2014 albums (1 of 3)

St. Vincent by St. Vincent (February 25)
Thoughts: The album artwork pays homage to a favorite film of hers, The Holy Mountain (1973). I didn’t love every song(the first track I disliked), but definitely an interesting album from then on, with lots of variation. As stereogum wrote, a reminder that experimental music and pop music don't have to be mutually exclusive. An album I’ll be going back to.
Favorite tracks: Digital Witness, Prince Johnny, Every Tear Disappears, Psycopath, Severed Cross Fingers, I Prefer Your Love
Album rating: 8/10

Morning Phase by Beck (February 25)
I'm sure there will be those who label this album monotonous, and those who label it tranquil. I would call it music you need to be in the right mood for. A record for people who enjoy folk music. All 13 songs are set around dawn, and probably designed to wake up to.
A beautiful album, as if Beck has travelled back in time. NME calls it "A love letter to the late 60s and early 70s, as typified by The Byrds, Mamas and Papas, and Neil Young". "Turnaway" has been compared to Simon & Garfunkel's Sound of Silence, "Heart is a Drum" to Nick Drake.
Mojo describes the album as: "a search for stillness, peace of mind." "Introspective, wonderfully alive to the way the days tender hours can flip over perceptions".
Favorite tracks:
It's tough to really say if one track is superior to another, as they all blend together. However I do especially love Waking Light, Blue Moon, and Unforgiven
Album rating: 8/10

Present Tense by Wild Beasts (February 25)
Thoughts: Glancing at the album wiki, has received rave reviews in the music press. I'm not a big fan of his vocal style, so that's why I'm reluctant to give it a higher rating. A couple of tracks I enjoyed:
Wanderlust (The single, and an impressive one)
Sweet Spot (the jangly guitar reminds me of The Smiths)
Album rating: 5/10

G I R L by Pharrell Williams (March 3)
Thoughts: The catchiest pop album of 2014, so far. We'll see, if I'll still be listening to it later in the year. I think it will grow on me, as 2013’s Random Access Memories did, though G I R L is not as groundbreaking. If I'm being critical, it seems several of the tracks are weaker reworkings of his 2013 guest appearences. But as a critic wrote: "it's a lot better than most crap on the pop radio nowadays". Wow, I googled Pharrell, and turns out he’s 40! What!? I thought he was 20something.
Track mini-reviews:
Marilyn Monroe: Great chorus, solid opener
Hunter: Very catchy
Gush: the guitar sounds like Daft Punk. The ”dirty girl” lyrics are kind of annoying, though.
Happy: Since I heard it during Oscars, I’ve loved it. From the soundtrack of Despicable Me 2
Come Get it Bae: Again, reminds me of his 2013 work, the song Blurred Lines
Gust of Wind: Feauturing Daft Punk, maybe it should have been on Random Access Memories?
It Girl: It kind of has the rhythm of a Michael Jackson track from the Off the Wall era.
Album rating: 7.5/10

Atlas by Real Estate (March 4)
Thoughts: Pleasant enough, but also kind of boring and samey. Overrated.
Highlight: Talking Backwards
Album rating: 4/10

Heard any of these new albums yet? Agree or disagree? Want to listen to them? Share your opinions in the comments.

2014 Blind Spot series: The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Directed by Billy Wilder, and starring Marilyn Monroe. Arguably her most iconic movie moment, when she’s wearing the white dress, and stands over the grate.

It takes a bit of getting used to, that the main character talks to himself. They would never get away with that today, perhaps it would have been a voice-over in a contemporary film?
You are never quite certain which scenes are imagined, or real, because it soon becomes evident that the male protagonist is a dreamer.

The seven-year itch is a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven of a marriage. The Seven Year Itch is based on a 1952 three-act play.

I liked the performances, and Marilyn Monroe obviously is the reason to see the film. Tom Ewell, who reprises his role from the stage, is very good as the man who is infatuated with her.

A cute, easy watch, if you are in the mood for something light and romantic. I would call it good, rather than great. An essential watch, if you are a fan of the classics.

The film was listed at number 51 on the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 American comedy films of the past 100 years. Ewell won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

Agree or disagree? Have you watched The Seven Year Itch? Which are your favorite Billy Wilder films?

Top 20 films of 2012

Why make a list? For me it's a way of remembering which are my favorites of the year, and using my blog to recommend smaller films to others, that maybe went unnoticed during awards season.
I stumbled across an interesting podcast, who ask that very question, and is well worth 20 min of your time: The Incompletists, Ep. 1: What’s in a List?

In case you’re wondering, I’m going by IMDb year, which is the world premiere of the films. Many ”2012” films didn’t get a general release until 2013. So I thought I would share both my updated 2012 and 2013 best lists. Top 20 of 2013 will follow soon.These are not necessarily the most popular or most critically acclaimed films, simply a collection of the ones that mean something to me.

So here’s the list, ladies and gents:

Honorable mentions:
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
Amour (Michael Haneke)
Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
Mud (Jeff Nichols)
Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard)
Woody Allen: A Documentary (Robert B. Weide)
Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
What Richard Did (Lenny Abrahamson)
A Hijacking (Tobias Lindholm)
Paradise: Love (Ulrich Seidl)
Disconnect (Henry Alex Rubin)
Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
Byzantium (Neil Jordan)
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Felix Van Groeningen)
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (documentary) (Alex Gibney)
Searching for Sugar Man (documentary) (Malik Bendjelloul)
After Lucia (Michel Franco)
The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard)
Compliance (Craig Zobel)
Sister (Ursula Meier)

Frances Ha (2012) (Noah Baumbach)
A contemporary indie with a fine performance by Greta Gerwig. There is a lot of fun dialogue. If you watched Noah Baumbach’s previous film Greenberg, Frances Ha is more of the same thing, only in black and white, with a female protagonist.
I loved the use of music in several scenes, a highlight was her running down the street with uplifting Modern Love by David Bowie(even though this was lifted from an 80s Carax movie), Another memorable music choice was Every 1's a Winner by Hot Chocolate, at a time when Frances is struggling to define who she is.

The Almost Man (2012) (Martin Lund)
Underrated Norwegian drama/comedy. About how we find it easier to communicate in a relaxed manner with irony, yet how this alienates us from knowing how to be serious. Especially when someone is in the mood for silliness, and the other is in the mood for something else. The main character’s girlfriend is pregnant, and he must come to terms with the responsibility of growing up. Behaving more mature is difficult for him.
He is neither here nor there, trapped in a no man’s land. If you’ve ever felt like the odd one out at a party, this film would probably appeal to you. It’s kind of a companion piece to Frances Ha, from a male perspective. About having tact, knowing when and when not to use irony, when to speak your mind, and when to hold back and be quiet.

Palme (2012) (documentary) (Kristina Lindström, Maud Nycander)
Documentary about former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, which is not another conspiracy theory film about his assassination in 1986, but instead about the man’s career and how he was/is perceived.
Might not interest people outside of Scandinavia, though it is an insightful look at Palme’s life. He was a somewhat controversial politician, who still managed to achieve things along the way, and, if you believe what they say, with his heart in the right place. He neglected his children, because he had a busy working life, and this was perhaps his greatest failing. I saw the longer tv edit, there’s also a shorter version.

Blancanieves (2012) (Pablo Berger)
Silent film in black and white. The characters are stereotypes, but it has a lot of atmosphere, and worth watching just for the stunning visuals.
It's kind of this year's The Artist, only difference is it didn't get a big marketing campaign.

Stories we Tell (2012) (documentary) (Sarah Polley)
Canadian documentary, that should have been nominated for best documentary at the 2014 Oscars. While I felt director Sarah Polley had more of an emotional interest in the story than I did, it was still an interesting family chronicle.
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.
Difficult to really talk about the family secrets, without spoiling. We get to know especially her parent’s on a deeper psychological level, all about their strengths and weaknesses. It’s an excellent doc, but it does feel like eavesdropping on something private.
Interesting how it was told from a personal angle, truth and memory are subjective entities. It kept me on the edge of my seat to the end. You could even compare it to Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950), in terms of storytelling.
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.

Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012) (documentary) (Stevan Riley)
Entertaining documentary about the James Bond franchise. Starts off by focusing on writer Ian Fleming, and later on what was going on behind the scenes of the films. George Lazenby is remarkably honest, a pity there's no new interview with Sean Connery, only brief archival footage and audio of him.
A number of films are not mentioned (Moonraker, A View To A Kill, Tomorrow Never Dies) so don't expect all the Bond productions to be discussed.
Loved the music choices in the doc, instrumental tunes from the Bond movies. Enjoyable to watch, if you are a fan of the series. Very little is said about Skyfall, except a clip from the trailer.

Beasts of The Southern Wind (2012) (Benh Zeitlin)
The desire to live outside of civilized society has always interested me, The Mosquito Coast (1986) is among my 100 favorite films.
I loved the visuals and poetic dialogue of BOTSW, and I ended up liking it more than Holy Motors, because I could connect with the emotions. I’d like to watch Beasts with subtitles next time, the words aren't that clear. It has a sort of mythic quality.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) (Colin Trevorrow)
Has a quirky, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind vibe.
The going-back-in-time angle was interesting, because meeting up with an old friend is a kind of time travel.
Favorite quote: "go out, get out of your funk" "I have no funk, I'm funkless"

The Imposter (2012) (documentary) (Bart Layton)
Centered on a young Frenchman who claims to a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who has been missing for 3 years. Brilliant, edge of your seat documentary. Had me glued to the screen right to the last frame. The family were gullible, since his eye color was different, but maybe they wanted him back so bad that they didn’t mind?

Liberal Arts (2012) (Josh Radnor)
Many college movies are juvenile with airhead characters. Liberal Arts is probably the smartest movie I've seen, set on a campus, since Good Will Hunting.
The structure of the story is not groundbreaking. The main reason to watch are the conversations and dialogue. I just love the way they talk in this movie. The performances are excellent by most involved, with Elizabeth Olsen the stand-out.
Zach Efron is surprisingly funny. The Allison Janney teacher subplot I could have done without, though.

Arbitrage (2012) (Nicholas Jarecki)
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 Richard 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: “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.”

The Master (2012) (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Great performances by the main cast. The characters are sort of unlikeable, though they are so fascinating to observe, that it doesn’t really matter. Whether Lancaster Dodd’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is helping or harming Freddy Quill (Joaquin Phoenix) is open to debate.
I agree with Eric at The Warning Sign, that "it could represent any number of cults. The point here is not to bash a certain organization but to show the man in power and his influence over those near him."
Not sure it’s PTA best film, but it has grown on me, the more I think about it. I think there is more to discuss afterwards than his earlier work.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) (Christopher Nolan)
Suspenseful, entertaining, good acting, and a surprising amount of emotion.
Everyone's talking about Anne Hathaway, I actually thought Michael Caine's performance was the best of the bunch!
I recommend Rises, but I had some issues. For me, there are far too many characters. Tom Hardy did well with such a limitation of Bane's face, however Bane's voice I found implausible and not correct for a villain, and in a weird way sounded like an old man, maybe sort of Scottish, which annoyed me. Yet it was a new approach to a villain, so maybe it's alright, once you get over the initial surprise of it.
The action was praiseworthy, but I thought not really groundbreaking considering the reported 1/4 of a billion dollar budget...Several of the big scenes reminded me of Bruce Willis action movies and didn't seem all that original.
However the cave prison was really great stuff, and got my mind racing about Plato's Allegory of the Cave.
You have to judge a blockbuster on its merits, and indeed it succeeded in building tension, Hans Zimmer's soundtrack worked really well again. On a personal level, I was more into the Tim Burton Batman universe. The story in Rises almost demands rewatching Nolan’s trilogy. Could be among the best Batman films, not sure if it's among the most groundbreaking action films, though.
Rises probably has the most iconic ending of any film in 2012. I see this one improving on rewatch.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)(Wes Anderson)
Doesn't have much depth, if any. Not every film has to have that. A cute, sweet and beautifully framed story that I think achieves what it set out to do. Every screenshot is meticulously thought-out.
In the past, I think Wes Anderson's quirkiness was too forced and didn't quite fit the material, this time I think he got it right.
My expectations were probably considerably lower than others. As a cinephile who disliked most of Wes Anderson's prior films, and who perceives him as an overrated filmmaker, I think Moonrise Kingdom is the director's best film to date. Put a smile on my face, and for adults is a nostalgic trip back to that time in your life.
Favorite quote: "Dear Sam, I do think you should think of their faces every day, even if it makes you sad, it is too bad they did not leave you more pictures of themselves"

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) (Stephen Chbosky)
Coming-of-age high school drama set in the early 90s before internet and mobile phones. Loved the atmosphere and soundtrack. The scene with Bowie’s song Hero's while driving in the tunnel is an iconic scene. The rest of the soundtrack is good too.
I think it helped Emma Watson has gone to school in the US, her accent to me was impressive. Brit actors playing Americans often have dodgy distracting accents, not so in this film, at least nothing off that I noticed. I think she has the most promising future of the Harry Potter kids.

Skyfall (2012) (Sam Mendes)
Loved the opening credits scene on the train. The one-liners, love them or loathe them, reminded me of the 70s and 80s Bond movies, which is my favorite Bond era. I disliked Quantum of Solace, so it was a welcome return to form. Even though the motivations of the villain, especially in the underground, were not very clear to me. Bardem was a memorable villain, no doubt. I had a good time all the way through.

The Act of Killing (2012) (documentary) (Joshua Oppenheimer)
Overlong and slightly repetitive documentary, but the concept is original and thought-provoking. Extraordinary that these killers are free to walk the streets and wanted to take part in the film. They fluctuate between pride, pain, and guilt, and seem to have been inspired by gangster films and westerns, which is quite shocking.
I sensed the filming was therapeutic for the killers. Are they guilty, or merely following orders? The documentary humanizes them, so they are not simply ruthless killers, but real human beings.
A powerful documentary, and a history lesson that illuminates atrocities in Indonesia, and points a finger at the military dictatorship(and even western governments) as the cause. Disturbing that the current vice president says “beating people up is sometimes needed”, and “we need gangsters to get things done”, and how in their mind gangster=free man. For an election, voters are bribed to go to a rally, and to vote.
This type of killing of “communists” is still going on today, the intro claims.
Spoiler alert: There are some unforgettable scenes, particularly towards the end, involving a teddy bear, a killer sitting in a reenactment of the torture situation and breaking down, a musical number by a waterfall with the killer being given a gold medal, the same killer sitting with his grandchildren, and later in a yellow suit revisiting the torture area and throwing up.

The Hunt (2012) (Thomas Vinterberg)
Drama of a man (Mads Mikkelsen) falsely accused of child molestation. I guessed where it 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 any male 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"

Laurence Anyways (2012) (Xavier Dolan)
I’m straight, not gay or transsexual. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a film about someone with those tendencies, if the story is told in a way that is appealing.
Forget about Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, Laurence Anyways is the best recent film about a transgender. It has it all, great performances, interesting conflict, the soundtrack of the year, and the photography is beautifully put together with the music.
Not everyone appreciates the music video style, but that stylized approach was actually what made me love the film. The director has spoken about his love for James Cameron’s Titanic, Dolan stated that he wanted this film to be his Titanic: "It's just so epic and ambitious and I wanted Laurence to be as epic and as ambitious".

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (Derek Cianfrance)
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. The structure of the film is quite unusual and unexpected.
While Pines was criticized for the two boys looking older than teenagers, that didn't bother me.
Questions, can anyone be born clean? About becoming a father, and passing things on.
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.

Agree or disagree? Have I encouraged you to watch anything? Did I miss anything great from 2012? As always, thoughts are welcome in the comments


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