Viewing recap December

Marie Antoinette (2006)
Directed by Sofia Coppola. Worth seeing for the breathtaking production design and killer soundtrack, which are like chocolate for the eyes and ears. Kirsten Dunst gives it her all in the lead role and is gorgeous to look at, but the film is too long and let down by a weak story.
The film is from Marie Antoinette’s perspective, isolating the viewer as Marie herself was isolated from the harsh reality outside the palace walls.
In the making of, they talk about how the film is a social commentary on how tabloids existed even back then, and how Anoinette was one of the first victims of being misrepresented in the media. As others have said, Marie Antoinette’s life of privilege and endless scrutiny is not dissimilar to that of modern celebrities. 
Rating 7/10

Frank (2014)
The theme of celebrity and whether you make music to please your band or please the audience is hardly groundbreaking, but is moderately interesting. The film is slightly above average thanks to a few memorable songs( I Love You All and Frank's Most Likeable Song Ever), an involving voice-over, and the gimmick of him wearing a fake head works well cinematically. The tweets on the screen was a nice idea.
Rating 7/10

Force Majeure (2014)
A Swedish film set in a ski resort where a family experience an avalanche. The husband is accused of being a coward by his wife, and the story is about manliness in our contemporary society, with several other examples and situations on that theme. The men in the film are not superheros, but masculine failures, and highly sensitive. The characters are flawed, doing hurtful things towards each other. Perhaps the problem is the unrealistic expectations that women have toward their men. However the film also points towards the failure of the wife to comfort him and there’s a scene where he is locked out and she hardly acknowledges him, and just keeps chatting on the phone, despite him sending loads of text messages. So the wife also has flaws in terms of empathy, and manages to humiliate her husband.
The conflicts outweigh the happier moments in the film, and maybe that is a question of priority and point of view. If you are single you might actually be dissuaded going into a relationship because it is depicted in such a gruelling way. Or if you are currently in a relationship this could even push you to break-up. It’s not a film that celebrates relationships, and it’s tough to know if you should laugh or cry. The situations do have some humor, especially the inappropriate dialogues. It’s sort of tragi-comic. Several audience members were laughing a lot at the screening I went to, while others were quiet. I was somewhere in the middle.
As Alex Withrow perceptively wrote in his review: "a film that provokes discussion on how you’d react to fight or flight situations, and why. It’s also a film that makes you think about similar circumstances you may have faced."
Rating 8/10

Winter Sleep (2014)
Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes. If you want to listen to people attack other people verbally, this is for you. As a character study of a landlord and the relationships to his young wife, ex-wife, sister, and the community he governs, it’s quite interesting.
You can understand his desire to not let things get out of hand and for things to remain status quo with him as an authority. But you can also see the situations from the community’s point-of-view, how the landlord has lost touch with reality and is preventing progress by focusing on unimportant issues such as writing about the history of theatre.
I prefer the director’s previous film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011), where there was a greater opportunity for the audience to be in the role of detective and interpret events, but this one is worth seeing. I would probably recommend waiting for the dvd, so you are able to pause. Three hours of heavy, long-winded dialogue without any action is draining in one sitting.
SPOILERS: Besides the dialogue, there are a few striking visual shots such as the valley in the snow, him sitting among the grave stones, and a couple of scenes with the white horse being captured and running free. There’s also a symbolic moment when he sees the dead animal by the railway tracks and the crows waiting in the tree, which you could interpret as the evolution of time and his future demise. The scene with the money is powerful, and questions if progress is even possible in the community. The social commentary is similar to Ceylan’s earlier work, highlighting problems in Turkey and some of its causes.
There’s an interesting theory going around that the story is allegorical, not just about Turkey, but about the world. You could interpret the landlord family as the know-it-all condescending figure from the western world, and the proud, poor community as uncultivated, with the rich family attempting to force their “superior” opinions and values onto them. A parallel to what the United States do when they go to Irak etc. The intentions are good, but there’s also a feeling the west shouldn’t interfere in things that do not concern them. Pride means they might often prefer to build their own life. Would it make a difference if the rich family/Obama was less strict, would he lose his position, would the donations be spent on alcohol/wars, or progress, and so on. There are some lingering questions. Ceylan’s films require a 2nd viewing.
Rating 7.5/10

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
It feels like a tv-show that has been condensed into a movie. Which is actually not a criticism. For a low budget film the special effects are quite impressive.  The jokes were mostly amusing in the first half, and for me wasn’t quite as funny in the last half.
Favorite quotes: ”Vampires don’t do dishes!”
”I was wondering if we could talk about the deal” – ”the dishes?”
”Do you know of a night dentist? I have this problem here”
”I think of it this way, if you are going to eat a sandwich, you just enjoy it more, if you know nobody had fucked it”
“You will not eat the camera guys, oh….maybe one camera guy”
Rating 7.5/10

The Babadook (2014)
Australian psychological horror film. Made on a fairly small budget of $2 million, there are scary moments, but not relying too much on music or jump scares. I wonder if Babadook story is purely fictional or actually was based on something.
Rating 8/10

Begin Again (2013)
Really liked the first 25 minutes with Ruffalo and Keira. The scenes in the middle of the movie with Adam Levine are weaker and less involving. But it picks up again later on. The soundtrack is not as great as Once, although there are a few good tracks, and Keira Knightley doesn't embarrass herself singing. All in all, it isn't just a remake of Once, and manages to be its own thing.
Rating 8/10

The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
Rewatched because it ties in with Christmas. Has its cute moments, and the performances are good, but I had some issues. It's too predictable from the get-go, and the number of staff is implausible considering the size of the shop. It’s also unrealistic that they would talk so freely in the customer area. Not as great as its reputation.
Rating 6/10

The Jungle Book (1967)
Based on Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book (1894), I read the comic as a child so many of the scenes and images felt familiar. The Disney film is mainly remembered for its memorable characters, the innocent man-child Mowgli, likeable Baloo the Bear, devious Shere Khan the Tiger, stuck-up elepant leader, and hungry snake Kaa.
The music is iconic, especially Bare Necessities song which Balloo sings, and when King Louie and his band of apes sing the unforgettable I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song). While the last 30 minutes are not as strong, I still rate the entire film very highly. The kind of timeless animated film you can rewatch countless times, which I’m sure many kids have.
The friendship between Baloo the Bear and Bagheera the Panther has gay undertones, which is odd in a children's film.
Rating 8.5/10

The Unfaithful Wife (1969)
Gripping French Hitchcockian drama/thriller directed by Claude Chabrol. The story starts out pretty slow. Once it gets going I couldn’t look away, wanting to know how it would play out.
Rating 8/10

La Cérémonie (1995) 
My second Claude Chabrol film of the month, and arguably his masterpiece. Interesting characters, especially the females. Can't really say a lot without spoiling. I still don't get the title. A film you will want to discuss afterwards, and my favorite film of the month.
Rating 9/10

Oasis (2002)
Directed by Chang-dong Lee. About two people you would most likely not befriend in real life. If you can tolerate the disturbing scene when the couple first meet, this is a sweet romance between a male social outcast and a handicapped woman. That scene I refer to is a deal-breaker, and I almost turned it off because of it. I’m glad I stuck with the story and trusted the positive reviews, because it’s a South Korean gem. The best scene is possibly dancing on the freeway which transforms into a fantasy party with confetti, dancing, and a small elephant.
SPOILERS: It was an inventive cinematic idea for the physically handicapped woman to on occasion transform into a normal girlfriend, but it did slightly annoy me, because you get the feeling they are both dreaming of another life and wishing to be normal. That may be true for outcasts from time to time, but it kind of lessens the relationship and romance, if you want something else than what you’ve got. I disliked the last act, which on the one hand insinuates the main character was crazy and was dreaming he was in the relationship without her consent, and on the other hand suggests the justice department is dysfunctional not even listening to the victim and accused. To me it was ambiguous whether she hated or loved or him in the end, and I don’t know if that was the writer’s intention. Probably the latter if you are a romantic, and the former if you are a cynic. The ending is not believable that she would not speak up that he was her boyfriend, and just let him stay in jail. If she really loved him, why not tell the truth? Perhaps this happens after the credits have rolled.
Rating 8/10

Blind (2014)
Takes place in Oslo, Norway. The film makes you care about the characters, but is frustrating in how we don’t get conclusive answers. The characters suddenly turning up in odd situations was… weird. Why does her child Kim suddenly change from a boy to a girl on the beach? What purpose does it serve to the story. I never figured that out. Why do the two old friends sit in a cafe and then suddenly find themselves travelling in a train during the same conversation? Why are the two women suddenly wearing the same dress? Again, there is no logic. It felt like the director didn’t believe his characters were interesting enough so he felt the need to make these gimmicky changes.
That said, it does offer interesting perpectives on loneliness, how the Norwegians handled Otyla, and how blindness can affect your daily life and affect your relationships. But also pretty contrived story in what happens to the woman he meets over the internet.
Funny at times, but the blind woman is kind of a bore to watch. In fact there are many funny moments for a film that is about unfunny issues. 
I may have misunderstood the stylized approach, because in another review I've read the blind woman out of boredom wrote about the other characters, and they were therefore only imagined. Perhaps that explains the inconsistencies and scenes with no logic.
I like the little details, such as album sleeve of Bona Drag by Morrissey is in the guys flat, Kool Thing by Sonic Youth is on her music player.
Rating 7/10

Seen any of these? Agree or disagree? Watched anything great in December? As always, comments are welcome!


  1. What a great and vast array of films you saw this month! Some films I'm dying to see (especially those Cannes contenders).

    1. @Fisti: Of the Cannes films, Winter Sleep was pretty gruelling and bleak. Force Majeure I prefer of the two with its tragi-comic approach.

  2. I've only seen Begin Again, The Shop Around the Corner, and The Jungle Book. Of the three I liked The Jungle Book the most. I agree that those are two killer songs. I knew about Bare Necessities, but I had never heard the other song before.

    1. @Chip Lary: I too loved those two songs in The Jungle Book, classics

  3. Oh this reminds me I still need to see Marie Antoinette. Been wanting to since I went to Versailles last Spring. I did see Farewell, My Queen which has a similar topic but done entirely differently. I feel the same about The Shop Around The Corner, it's cute but I prefer the remake You've Got Mail. La Cérémonie sounds intriguing, I have to look that up now.

    1. @Ruth: I haven’t seen Farewell My Queen, I mainly watched Marie Antoinette as it was Sofia Coppola, not because of a historical interest.
      I didn’t even think about You’ve Got Mail, I can see the parallel now you mention it’s a remake.
      Director Claude Chabrol is referred to as the French Hitchcock, and La Cérémonie (1995) is considered among his best films.

  4. I know Marie Antoinette is considered Sofia's weakest film but I certainly enjoyed the hell out of it through re-watches. I would totally recommend Farewell, My Queen as well which does play into those final days in Versailles.

    1. @thevoid99: There's a lot to like in Marie Antoinette , however it's also quite weak in terms of story, maybe I'll see it again some time. Thanks for recommending Farewell, My Queen,

  5. Great recap. I loved 'Marie Antonette' from Sofia. I thought it was very avant garde. I also gave high marks to the 'Babadook.' Great thriller. I've always wanted to see 'Shop Around the Corner,' since "You've Got Mail" is based on it.

    1. @msmariah: Thanks for reading. It's certainly an interesting approach to the Marie Antonette story, Sofia's style made the topic relevant to a young audience.
      Shop Around the Corner underwhelmed but it does have a cult following, so maybe will work for you, who knows!

  6. Great list. That Unfaithful Wife movie does have my interest. I do agree with you about Marie Antoinette being weak in the 2nd half but the production design, soundtrack and Dunst's performance keeps me coming back for more. Babadook is one I need to see soon

    1. @The Vern: Thanks, I remember reading your comment at Lights Camera Reaction ( where you said Marie Antoinette is your favorite Sofia Coppola film, and I can definitely see the appeal.
      Hope you like The Babadook

  7. Great stuff. Sad that you didn't warm to The Shop Around the Corner, but I'm thrilled that you liked Begin Again. I really need to watch some of these, especially Force Majeure, Winter Sleep, and La Ceremonie.

    1. @Josh: Thanks, I know The Shop Around The Corner has many fans, I just felt the situations are unrealistic.
      Begin Again feels like a film that could be rewatched again and again.
      Le Ceremonie surprised me in a good way, and I'm now interested in tracking down Claude Chabrol's other films.

  8. You watched some great films last month. Glad you liked The Babadook, Begin Again and Force Majeure (I agree with you on this one). We also share opinions on Marie Antoinette. I just think I liked it more than you.

    I also saw La Ceremonie a few yaers ago and while I liked the film quite a lot and the acting is extraordinary I didn't understand where the title was coming from.

    Surprised to see you rating The Jungle Book so high. Haven't seen it in its entirety but am familiar with the characters. I should also watch Winter Sleep but I feel I need to be in a certain mood to be able to get through those 3 hours.

    Happy New Year!

    1. @Cristi: Marie Antoinette is in my top 10 soundtracks of all-time actually.

      The director or screenwriter must know the reason for the title Le Ceremonie, I haven’t looked into it.
      The Jungle Book is good fun, with such memorable characters.
      Winter Sleep is not for everyone, and demands a lot of concentration. My gut feeling is the director should have won the Palme for his previous fillm instead.
      Happy New Year to you too :)

  9. Interesting set of films you watched. Marie Antoinette was a pretty film to look at as you rightly point out, flawlessly executed from a production standpoint. I agree in that the story doesn't really merit such a long running time.
    I've been meaning to watch both Frank and Force Majeure, the first for Michael Fassbender's involvement (I'll watch anything he is in) and the latter because I've heard many great things about it.
    I also plan to watch The Babadook in the coming days/weeks as it has been getting quite the critical acclaim that most horror films do not.
    Jungle Book was one of my favorite films as a kid, but I don't remember much about it. You're not the only blogger I've seen that has revisited it recently. Maybe I should do it too.

    1. @niels85: Marie Antoinette has its own seductive atmosphere yet does feel a tad overlong in terms of the actual historical contents that is conveyed. I hope you enjoy Frank, The Babadook, and Force Majeure, very different films.
      The Jungle Book is a Disney classic that feels suitable for both children and adults, that was my reaction anyway

  10. You've got me even more excited to see Force Majeure. I've seen that pop up on a handful of year-end lists.

    Just saw The Babadook recently as well, and I loved it. Really impressive that it was made on such a low budget. It's so much more effective than most modern horror flicks.

    Not familiar with Claude Chabrol's work. Sounds like someone I should dig into.

    1. Eric @ The Warning: Force Majeure is in my top 10 of 2014, and I noticed Keith really liked it too, if you want a second opinion:
      Agree The Babadook worked well, I like how it can be watched as psychological horror, and something I no doubt will be rewatching.
      I recommend both those Claude Chabrol films


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