Viewing recap October

Gone Girl (2014)
This movie may launch actress Rosamund Pike to A-list status. A thriller with unexpected twists. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his beautiful wife, Amy(Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. I enjoyed the thrill ride, though the main characters are actually unlikeable and cruel, so it’s ultimately tough for me to care about them. But maybe it's good for us to sometimes identify with what is not entirely palatable, because that's what makes us human, which Pike talked about in an interview.
Thanks to David Fincher, I was kept on the edge of my seat, wanting to see how the unpredictable story would play out. Thought-provoking, not just about marriage, also about media manipulation, how we can be judged without all the facts known, many buy into the news without being critical.
Having not read the novel, Gone Girl is a film I feel I need to watch again in order to understand how it ended up like it did, keeping an eye out for the details. Apparently every scene is important in the movie, so you have to keep your eyes peeled!
Spoilers ahead: Perhaps the genius of the storytelling is I don’t know who to root for, Nick or Amy, so it becomes something more complex than simply taking sides. Instead I get a fascinating character study of a marriage that I can’t look away from. The characters allow themselves to buy into the roles they feel they are supposed to play in their lives. There’s also the matter that neither Amy or Nick could we say are telling the whole truth with any measure of certainty, which invites the audience to speculate. Amy is very calculating and an unreliable narrator, so we don’t ever really know the real Amy. The ending is quite mature, whereas in the past Fincher has been too eager to hand us all the answers on a plate. I would say it's an empowering film for women who feel they have been wrongfully treated in life. Although confusingly Amy is a terrible role model. If anything, the film shows how difficult and hurtful it is for women with unfaithful husbands. Certainly a film you will want to discuss afterwards, the message is not obvious. Perhaps at its core the story is about the unknowability of your romantic partner, our personal need to suppress tendencies, expectations in a relationship, a couple growing apart, and the audience having empathy towards unlikeable people. Interestingly, Amy is not just the woman Nick wanted; she's the woman he constructed with his actions. As a reviewer perceptively wrote at Rotten Tomatoes: “with marriage you think you are getting what you desire when in reality you are getting what you deserve”. Sasha Stone wrote in her article at Awards Daily: "The point of Amy Dunne is that she criticizes the cool girl. She isn’t one. She could be at the snap of her fingers. She could be anything she wanted to be up to a point. But the Amy Dunne we know, the one Nick falls for, wouldn’t deign to be the kind of cool girl she’s talking about. She’s disgusted by these women, which is why she isolates herself from them. They appear throughout the film, either as Nick’s young squeeze or as girls we see in passing cars or girls who hit on Nick.  They are contrasted, however, by grounded, smart women like Go and Detective Boney.  (…) The truth about women as ticket buyers is that they “have to like” the female character. That is the big question, always. Do they like her. When Fatal Attraction was audience tested they didn’t like that Glenn Close committed suicide. They wanted to see her pay. So they had Anne Archer, the one they liked, shoot her. In Fincher’s film, the audience simply isn’t given that reprieve. Things aren’t allowed to go back to ‘normal’. We have to confront and live with this particular truth. They don’t turn on Amy the way they did in Fatal Attraction. They don’t sweep Amy up with a broom and dustpan and throw her in the garbage."
Rating 8.5/10

Two Days, One Night (2014)
A quite gripping story by the Dardenne’s, however I found the constant begging a bit repetitive. What makes the central dilemma interesting is you can empathize with both sides. Marion Cotillard’s performance is great though why she was depressed and eating pills is oddly not included, and might have given the film a less repetitive flow to focus on that. I wanted to understand her, was she capable of taking on the job? Perhaps the reasons for her depression are open to interpretation? Marion Cotillard is better than the film she is in. A tough film to rate.
Rating 7/10

Calvary (2014)
Directed by John Michael McDonagh who made The Guard(which I also liked)
Besides the humor(which really is needed in a story as black as this), there are also truths about our society. For example sad that a priest can’t talk to a child without the parent being suspicious of foul play, and also sad that the victims feel pain for life. The fact catholic priests have to put up with a lot of ugliness by listening to all the sins of others is a burden that can be tough to bear. I've read that some hated this film, and it certainly is bleak. Gleeson again delivers fine work in what could be a career best performance as the priest. If you can stomach the ugliness, the film definitely has some things to say.
The well-written dialogue held my interest, and the gallows humor was different to a lot of new films out there. References the novel Jernigan by David Gates which may or may not have been an inspiration for writing the script.
Rating 8/10

Snowpiercer (2013) 
Based on a French post-apocalyptic graphic novel from 1982, Snowpiercer paints an intriguing dystopian picture of the future. Takes place in a confined space on a moving train, yet somehow still manages to surprise visually. The set design is very impressive, and the filmmakers do a great job of maintaining suspense about the secrets of the train. The weakest aspect is the characterization, as we hardly know any background information about the main characters.
I really believed they were travelling on the train due to the SFX. There's a class system on board, and we witness a rebellion. In Snowpiercer, movement equals life, and I supose you can say that's a fact, no matter who you are.
Favorite quotes:
“-Curtis, everyone has their preordained position, that’s except you. –That’s what people in the best place say to people in the worst place.”
“You’ve seen what people do without leadership, they devour one another”
Rating 8/10

Labor Day (2013)
To hell with the bad reviews, I enjoyed it, and it even brought a tear to my eye. Granted the relationship is not that plausible, but I still got swept away due to a fine performance by Kate Winslet.
The story seeps of nostalgia, which I liked. Plenty of culture references, Empire Strikes Back poster, Jim Taylor, Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate sleeve, Spielberg’s ET etc.
The critics had a field day and crucified the movie, and while it is no masterpiece, the characters are definitely likeable.
Favorite quote: “I don’t think losing my father broke my mother’s heart, but rather losing love itself”
Rating 7/10

20.000 Days on Earth (2014)
Worth seeing on the big screen. Depicts a fictitious 24 hours in the life of Australian musician and writer Nick Cave. It’s interesting to listen to what the man behind the music has to say. The structure of the documentary is quite varied. There’s partly him recording music, partly concert footage, and partly listen to him being questioned by a therapist. Also conversations with various famous or less known people during Cave's journey. The therapist scenes are the most revealing, while the recording sessions drag on a bit too long and at times felt like filler.
He discusses the importance of memory and how that’s the thing he is most worried about losing, as he cherishes his childhood and adulthood memories.  It’s like Cave wants to pass on wisdom about being an artist and songwriting, and talks about what he strives for, and the joy of escaping from himself into different personas, both in writing and on stage.
He talks of the rainy days in the UK, and how he turns that into an advantage, as it's easier to write about bad weather than good weather. He later reveals a picture from his memorabilia depicting cats with a red background, which he calls "fire of the mind agitates the atmosphere".
It was off-putting that he would screen Scarface (1983) to his young boys, but maybe this parallels to Cave’s father reading Lolita to Nick when he was a child. Giving the children an experience they shouldn’t really be having yet.
The intro scene, while quite daring and original, I didn’t like, and blasts you with hundreds of images. Thankfully the editing settles down after that.
I wish Cave had talked more about specific albums, he only really talks about his music sparingly, and in very general terms. For example regretting that the songs go on too long on some of his previous albums. In fact many of the conversations are not about his music, which means it’s about Cave’s life in general. Perhaps the film would have benefited from music critics commenting on Nick, rather than just him talking with friends, but I guess they took a different approach to the standard album-by-album Under Review documentaries.
Rating 7.5/10

My Night at Maud’s (1969)
French new wave drama directed by Eric Rohmer. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for the Palme d'Or. The main character Jean (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is tempted by the women he meets. There’s an inner conflict between his affairs and Christianity.
I love dialogue-heavy films. Françoise Fabian plays it well as the seductive and complex Maud, who Jean finds it easy to confide in.
Fairly good film, but the conversations on religion, atheism, love, morality and Blaise Pascal were not as thought-provoking as I had hoped they would be.
Favorite quote: Girls brought a lot to me morally. (…) Each time I’ve known a girl. It’s different each time. You can’t generalize. I’ve discovered a new moral problem I didn’t have to face before. The experience was beneficial. It shook me from moral lethargy”
Rating 7/10

A Night at the Opera (1935)
Marx Brothers comedy classic, I laughed a lot. The contract reading sequence is timeless. The scenes aboard the ship are especially funny, from the 27 min mark and onwards. What prevents it from becoming a top 100 film are the music and singing sequences which go on far too long. The brothers play the instruments well though.
A bit of trivia. Queen borrowed the title for their 1975 album. The band’s next album A Day at The Races is also the title of a Marx brothers comedy.
The scenes addressing the crowd, in the hotel room with the four beds, ad the finale are good fun, but has to be said rely on stupidity from the police. What lifts it above average for me are the sheer number of amusing one-liners by Groucho.
Favorite quote: ”Did I pack you?”
Rating 8/10

Salinger (2013)
About JD Salinger, the author of The Catcher in the Rye. The documentary received mixed reviews from critics. I found it interesting, even though it is intrusive and goes against Salinger's wishes, since he wanted to be known only through his fiction. Salinger famously refused public celebrity. He sounds like someone who wasn't suited to marriage at all. He is portrayed as reclusive, and completely devoted to his craft. Someone who wasn’t there for his kids, was sensitive to disloyalty, and had a thing for the innocence of teenage girls. Interestingly it is revealed that Salinger will release several posthumous works between 2015-2020.
We get an overview of his work and life in chronological order. I didn't know Salinger had a nervous breakdown after 300 days of army duty during WW2. I wasn’t familiar with his past and all of his fiction, having only read Catcher (1950) and Franny and Zooey (1961), so quite a lot was new to me.
Has encouraged me to check out his notable short stories. Here are several that are mentioned:
Slight Rebellion off Madison (1946) short story about Holden Caulfield, is the first story he had published in prestigious New Yorker.
I’m Crazy (1945) was another short story about Holden Caulfield.
A Perfect Day for Bananafish (1948) was about a WW2 veteran.
For Esmé – with Love and Squalor (1950) Considered one of the finest literary pieces to result from the Second World War.
Rating 7/10

Friday (1995)
A cult 90s comedy. The father character is hilarious in the opening scenes, talking in his sleep, and always grumbling. Unfortunately there were not many laughs beyond the intro. The story, or lack thereof, is a weakness. Maybe I need to live in da hood to ”get” this movie. Not for me, and I find it overrated.
Rating 5/10

How was your month? Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome


  1. I've only seen My Night At Maud's, which didn't do much for me, and coincidentally A Night at the Opera, which I thought was probably my favorite Marx Brothers movie.

    1. @Chip Lary: My Night At Maud's feels overrated to me, I watched the key scenes twice and its not growing on me.
      A Night at the Opera could be my favorite Marx Br comedy as well. However I still have two of their most popular films to see, A Day at the Races (1937) & Animal Crackers (1930)

  2. Great that Snowpiercer is still getting great reviews from all around. One of my favourite films I've seen this year. It's just so damn entertaining. And it feels so original, compared to a lot of films of the same genre that have come out this year. Chris Evans does a cracking job in it too.

    1. @Jaina: Evans was convincing in Snowpiercer, I just wish the characters could have been developed a bit more, but still among the best of the year for me.

  3. I also kinda liked Labor Day though I do think it's Jason Reitman's weakest film so far (haven't seen his newest one and probably won't). Mostly for the performances of Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet.

    1. @thevoid99: Labor Day is not as terrible as certain critics claim it to be. I agree it’s good and kind of underrated. Don’t know if holds up to multiple viewings though

  4. Whoa so you enjoyed Labor Day. I love the drama and romance, but just didn't expected it from Reitman. Definitely want to see what the fuss about Gone Girl, and always want to see Cotillard's new performance.

    1. @Andina: Labor Day is quite different to Jason Reitman’s other work, glad you enjoyed it too! Look forward to your thoughts on Gone Girl

  5. I like your theories about Gone Girl. Very interesting.
    I respect your opinion on Labor Day but I can say I agree.
    Glad you liked Snowpiercer. You chose a great and representing quote for the film.
    Interesting stuff about Salinger. I know people hate this doc. Maybe I will give it a try someday.
    Have a great month! Looking forward on your thoughts on Nightcrawler. Heard it's amazing.

    1. @Cristi B: Thanks, glad you got liked what I had to say about Gone Girl.

      Many disliked Labor Day, so I’m in the minority

      If you know very little about Salinger, the documentary is worth seeing. If you already have knowledge of his life from wikipedia, it probably isn’t worth the time.

      I’ve seen Nightcrawler and loved it. I posted my monthly viewing before I saw it though

  6. I wouldn't say only every woman who was wronged would find Amy empowering, I'd say a character like that with the movie not taking the coward's way out like Fatal Attraction did is empowering for every woman.

    But of course in the world we live in every woman is wronged by society so there is that.

    I hated Calvary but i have high hopes for Snowpiercer.

    1. @Sati: Hope you enjoy Snowpiercer! Calvary is probably not for everyone.

      Yeah, Gone Girl (SPOILERS AHEAD) didn't take the coward's way out. Amy is determined and not just letting life pass her by.

  7. Glad you love Gone Girl and Snowpiercer too, Chris. Oh man, I really want to see Calvary, such a tough subject matter but I generally love Brendan Gleeson's work.

    1. @Ruth: Brendan Gleeson gives a great performance in Calvary, the film has tough subject matter like you say.
      At the moment Gone Girl and Snowpiercer are in my top 10 of 2014, glad you like them too!

  8. Very cool list of movies Chris. I'm glad you liked Snowpeircer but I didn't think the characterization was too weak. We get just enough information on the characters to make their journey interesting. I agree Gone Girl is something that should be seen twice

    1. @TheVern: Thanks, I too liked Snowpiercer, there is a scene where Chris Evans character reveals his inner thoughts, but for the most part I felt the film was kind of like Tintin(the journey and surroundings are more fascinating than the hero)

  9. I liked Labor Day as well. I knew most people and critics would hate it, but I respected Reitman for trying something so outside of the films he had already made. Men, Women and Children, on the other hand. Wow... that one did not work for me at all.

    1. @Alex Withrow: Yeah, glad you too are on board for Labor Day, it was better than I expected.
      Men Women and Children I might watch for a sense of completion, but I’m not in any hurry to see that.

  10. Glad you liked Gone Girl, Two Days One Night and Snowpiercer - I was a big fan of all three.
    I think I'll be giving Labor Day a miss though haha.

    1. @Lights Camera Reaction: Gone Girl and Snowpiercer are in my top 10 of the year, Two Days One Night could drop out once I see more films. Actually a majority in the comment thread liked Labor Day :)

  11. You saw some great films that month. Dying to see Two Days, One Night, which I'm sure I'll love. :) I didn't hate Labor Day, but I was a bit underwhelmed by it. I liked Winslet's and Brolin's performances, though, and I'd give it 6/10.

    1. @Josh: Winslet and Brolin did good work in Labor Day, it wasn’t a perfect film, but still managed to captivate me.


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