2015 Blindspot series: Mary Poppins (1964)

My contribution to Ryan McNeil's 2015 blindspot series blogathon where I watch a film each month that I have never seen before.

Included in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and received 13 Oscar nominations, winning five Academy Awards for Best Actress, Editing, Visual Effects, Original Song and Original Score.

The fantasy elements can be interpreted as happening in the children’s imagination. Mary Poppins is the new nanny and encourages play, while the kid’s father is in favor of adult virtues such as purpose, discipline and learning about real life. I loved the scene when Mary pulls objects out of her magical bag of tricks, which any child would love, the film definitely leans towards play as important and inspiring.

Great special effects for the time it was made. Animation and live action is combined, the animated animals sing together with Mary Poppins and Bert. Although it was odd during the song and dance that Bert and Mary seem to forget about the children for a while. Even though Bert (Dick Van Dyke) was my least favorite character due to his annoying happy face, his dance with the penguins is a highlight of the movie and impressive from a technical standpoint.

The characters are exuberant the whole way, even when I began to tire during the middle part, involving the laughing uncle, bird lady, and visit to the bank. It’s a long film at two hours and 20 minutes, and maybe some of that middle section could have been cut. The story picks up again when they go up the chimney, and the smoke staircase is fun. The London rooftop scenes are spectacular, especially for the view over the capital.

A Disney musical, the reasons to watch are for the groundbreaking visuals, memorable sing-along music, and feel-good factor. Ideal to watch together with the family and children of your own. The iconic soundtrack contains classics such as Chim Chim Cher-ee, A Spoonful of Sugar, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Let's Go Fly a Kite.

With most of the film, the reasons for doing things remains unclear, about just having fun, and attempting to get the dad to see the world differently. The latter is a theme that will never get old.

I was surprised Julie Andrews’ character Mary is quite similar to her role in The Sound of Music (1965). I prefer the 1965 movie for the story, but both films have amazing soundtracks. If I had discovered Mary Poppins as a 7-year-old, I'm sure my enthusiasm for it would have been stronger. I wasn't really the right age group to see it for the first time.

I guess now I am able to watch the Tom Hanks film Saving Mr Banks (2013), which is about the making of Mary Poppins.

Will be interesting to see which direction the upcoming reboot goes in, word is Emily Blunt is rumored to play the lead in the new Mary Poppins. Wonder why it took so many years to make a follow-up?

Favorite quote: "I wouldn't stay in this house another minute, not if you heap me with all the jewels in Christendom!"

Rating 7/10

Agree or disagree? Have you watched Mary Poppins (1964) and what did you think? Which is your favorite film starring Julie Andrews? 

New Bond song Writing's On the Wall by Sam Smith

In a weaker era for popular music which the 2010s is I suppose you have to expect a weaker Bond song. I've played Writing's On the Wall by Sam Smith a few times in the last couple of days and it's not growing on me. I wish they had picked another singer such as Lana del Rey, her powerful voice is a far better match.

Sam Smith's high pitched vocal performance seems wrong for a film about a macho action hero like James Bond. He told NPR. “Writing’s on the Wall” is supposed to be from Bond’s perspective—“I wanted a touch of vulnerability from Bond, where you see into his heart a little bit”. Perhaps in Spectre (2015) we will see an emotionally vulnerable 007.

Unfortunately the new song is quite annoying because of the vocal delivery. Sam Smith was selected because his debut album In The Lonely Hour (2014) was a big international chart success.

If you go online, the theme has its fans, yet many were underwhelmed. BBC entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson said it was "good enough, but not a classic". What do you think?

Reviews of documentaries (part 4)

Continuing my marathon, in which I share mini-reviews of documentaries I've watched over the last two years or so. For this post, we'll look at a variety of different subject matters.

Bus 174 (2002) (multiple directors)
Despite having to read subtitles for two hours, this was a very captivating watch. The filmmakers know what they are doing by maintaining the suspense about the hostage situation, while intercutting scenes about life in Rio for the homeless children and youths. It’s easy to empathize with their struggles, living on the streets with no support, the questionable police behavior, and the wretched conditions of prisons and juvenile delinquency facilities. Yet the documentary is not totally biased as the kids at times are quite evil in how they steal and threat to torch their victims if they don’t hand over their money.
If you’ve seen City of God (2002), this documentary is a good companion piece, which goes deeper and attempts to analyze what’s wrong in contemporary Brazil. How the kids feel like they are invisible and looked upon as trash. I didn’t expect the documentary to have such a profound effect on me and the way I look at Rio de Janeiro. See it.
Rating 8.5/10

Baraka (1992) (Ron Fricke)
Named after a Sufi word that translates roughly as "breath of life" or "blessing". A collection of beautiful images shot in 24 countries on six continents over a 14-month period.
An attempt to capture the essence of life. A wordless documentary with ambient music by Michael Stearns. Probably the idea is that words can’t do the images justice. For nature, the religious rituals, and man's destructive powers to speak for itself. Some viewers may find the approach with no voice-over shallow. I found it to be a meditative and moving experience. The aerial shot taken above the flock of birds is one of the most breathtaking, as are the sped up clouds, and the architecture. You can make parallels between the flock of flying birds, and endless field of man-made aircrafts. The assembly line of chickens a parallel to the busy subway exits.
The scenes in urban cities I thought were more beautifully captured at night in Koyaanisqatsi (1982), which focused strictly on America, while Baraka has a global reach.
Baraka takes you on a visual journey to exotic locations which you might not know about. A documentary that will be loved by those who appreciate beauty, and loathed by the impatient viewer who may find it too random and pretentious.
While there is social commentary about pollution and the rain forest, it’s also a life-affirming film in reminding us how magnificent the planet is, both what is already here and the man-made architecture. Watch it in the best picture quality available. If you are a photographer, this is a must-see.
Rating 8/10

Hawking (2013) (Stephen Finnigan)
While it does cover things we saw in the movie The Theory of Everything (2014), this 2013 documentary provides easy to understand summaries of his theories, narrated by Hawking himself. Also looks at his celebrity and how he deals with that. He says he wants the world-wide celebrity, he enjoys the media attention. Hawking embraces it which is not necessarily very good for the family and the children. This was a problem in his marriage.
Despite relationship problems, he is an inspiration to everyone for his determination to survive and achieve things despite his handicap.
According to Hawking, the universe came into existence all by itself, without the need of a god. His theory is it happened with the big bang, which he claims was the beginning of the universe.
Important Hawking theory in 1970:  When two black holes collide and merge, he realized that the surface area of the new black hole could only get bigger, it could never decrease in size. This revealed some fundamental properties of the universe, even though few physicists could understand it at the time. He was writing the rule book for black holes. He had been recognized as someone with great potential, now he had a discovery to his name.
Second discovery in 1974: Contrary to all previously held theories on black holes, he discovered that they must free particles like a hot body losing heat, this evaporation theory meant that a black hole could eventually disappear. Causing shock in the world of physics at the time, the discovery later became accepted and known as Hawking radiation.
Rating 7/10

Gates of Heaven (1978) (Errol Morris)
About pet cemeteries and the desire to build them. Roger Ebert championed this film and considered it among his great movies. For me, it was decent, but too unfocused to be great.
My feeling is the director got distracted and decided to just make a documentary about the people he met. Maybe that improvisation is a good thing, who knows. It’s also a film that may put people to sleep, as there is not much insight, and some of the interviews of elderly folks are a bit dull.
Can be watched as a portrayal of animal lovers, a warm-hearted message about the love the owners have for their pets, the painful loss, and how reuniting with animals in heaven gives the owners a degree of hope.
The other theme has to do with people who dropped out of their former jobs and decided to run a pet cemetery. The maintenance of the grounds is not really explored, instead Errol Morris has them talking about their life in very general terms.
I liked how the cemetery is divided into sections of companionship, devotion, memory and honour(for police dogs who died in line of duty). It’s a shame we aren’t shown footage of these cemeteries while the old man is talking about them. The director waits until the final moments of the film to show us images of the graves.
The old lady on the porch with the red apron and red hair was my favorite to listen to, even though her comments do stray off course with her talking about her grandson. For whatever reason, Errol Morris leaves the camera on, and she rambles. Many of the other participants are given less time to talk.
Another favorite was the guy with the trophies in his office who offers motivational quotes, although, again, it didn’t have much to do with loss or pet cemeteries, so I don’t quite know why all the stuff he talks about is included in the film.
Favorite quote: “I’ll climb Mountain Everest. Mountains don't grow, but men always will"
Rating 6/10

Grey Gardens (1975) (multiple directors)
A cult classic and a precursor to Big Brother reality-TV, in which we follow a 54-year-old daughter living with her elderly mother, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. On the property, only caretakers and the occasional friend stop by.
The daughter yearns for freedom but stays because she is supported financially. Her three favorite things are famously the catholic church, swimming and dancing. Her mother is a bit controlling and likes to spontaneously sing. These two people shouldn’t fascinate and yet I couldn’t take my eyes off their eccentric behavior, which takes place almost out of time, outside the 70s. Reminded me of the song Man Out of Time by Elvis Costello.
Interestingly, the decaying mansion mirrors their bodies in decline. Yet they still keep their spirits up with the company of one another. The pair are experts at doing nothing. The daughter is bitter over missed opportunities in her youth and has a thing for wearing head shawls, which covers up her greying hair, and her changing outfits give the film a distinct visual look.
Her mother remembers the past fondly and talks of the men in her life in a very positive way, yet is overly critical of the men in her daughter’s life.
Favorite quote, in scene thumbing through old photos. “Did she look like a girl who had everything?”
Rating 8/10

They Call Us Misfits (Swedish: Dom kallar oss mods) (1968) (Stefan Jarl)
A Swedish classic, the first instalment of the Mod Trilogy. Similar to the Up Series, we see them gradually getting older. The second instalment is A Decent Life (1979), the third Misfits to Yuppies (1993).
So far, I’ve only seen the first one in which we follow rebellious, opinionated teenagers with long hippie hair. Hanging out with their peers at the subway, talking about getting high, yelling at strangers, and so on. The two male leads are colorful characters and quite entertaining to listen to.
 I heard about the documentary because it was referenced in We Are The Best (2013) in the scene when the girls are begging for money at a station. That film also takes its title from a piece of dialogue in They Call Us Misfits.
I loved the first 30 minutes, but the interviews that came next were a bit dry, and I liked the characters less as the documentary went on.
Even though I live in the same region, I couldn’t really identify with their life style of alcoholic parents, taking drugs, and having several girlfriends at once. It’s difficult to empathize with any of them despite their problematic upbringing. But then it is real life, and you have to take the positive with the negative in each person you meet.
The filmmakers are non-judgmental and just observe. However I think the documentary suffers from too many young people being interviewed, so isn’t as focused on the two leads as it could have been. The group situations were the highlights for me.
If this is all real and non-scripted, it’s amazing how naturel the participants are. It’s as if they forget the camera is on them in the group moments. I imagined they would behave in exactly the same way if the camera was off.
I think I’ll just read the summaries for the remaining two instalments. Wasn’t gripping enough for me to continue watching the follow-ups.
Rating 7/10

TT3D: Closer to the Edge (2011) (Richard De Aragues)
About the Isle of Man's unique road racing history, the rivalries of the motorcycle riders, and the fans who visit.
Having a camera on the front of the motorcycle really does take you right there and gives you a sense of the speed and danger. As I didn't know the outcome of the races, this gave it added suspense. Guy Martin is quite a character and we follow his preparation and participation in the annual event.
In interviews, you get to hear what makes these guys tick. The will to compete, despite so many injuries and casualties in the race over the years, is amazing. I didn't see it in 3D.
Rating 8/10

Nanook of the North (1922) (silent film) (Robert J. Flaherty)
Considered cinema's first documentary feature. Depicting the Canadian Inuit Eskimos. A pioneering work that was notoriously difficult to make. Not only did Flaherty have to deal with the freezing cold. Back at home, the film reel literally caught fire, so he had to start over. Which he did.
What stayed with me the most was the smiling face of Nanook the Eskimo, who despite adversity, has to find food and shelter for his family in the tough conditions of the Canadian Arctic. You see how they build an igloo, go fishing, hunt for seals, and so on.
Nanook laughs with glee as his listens to a record player, the technology is totally alien to him. With no other choice, the Eskimos have got used to the harsh lifestyle. I would probably die in few hours in that environment!
A unique ethnographic time capsule. Not quite as authentic as it appears, the filmmaker staged a few sequences for the sake of entertainment value. Was picked up for distribution in 1922, proving an enormous financial success. Now almost a 100 years old, it has aged well.
Rating 7.5/10

Seen any great documentaries recently? Have you watched any of these? As always, comments are welcome

Unreleased 80s Prince songs you should hear

With the new Prince song I shared yesterday reminding me of his vault, I did a bit of googling. I discovered quite a few leaked unreleased songs. some good, others not. The best of my finds you can listen to below:

Moonbeam Levels (1982)

Extraloveable (1982)

Do Yourself A Favor (1982)

Lust U Always (1982)

Empty Room (1985)

All My Dreams (1985)

My Baby Knows (feat. Jill Jones)

Heaven (1985)

Up From Below (instrumental) (1986)

Jealous Girl (1987)

4 Lust (duet with Jill Jones) (1987)

Dance With The Devil (1989)

Love (Never has 2 say goodbye) (1995)

Listen to the best song from Prince's new album

The song is called 1000 X's & O's and is from his poorly received 2015 album HITnRUN. Apparently the track is pulled from Prince's now legendary vault, which supposedly is full of unreleased material from the past.

Reviews of documentaries (part 3)

Continuing my marathon, in which I share mini-reviews of documentaries I've watched over the last two years or so. For this post, we'll look at education and life at school, as well as military and war.

Bully (2011)
Shines a light on an important issue. I empathized with the victims. A town hall meeting is organized, and a victim of bully says it’s s a shame it took a suicide for people to take notice that it’s a serious problem. A girl pulls a gun on a school bus, no shots are fired, but she had simply had enough of the mean-spirited bullies. Whether she was right or not to scare them is a grey area, which ultimately put her in juvenile detention.
Not many solutions to bullying are put forward, which is a slight weakness. Teachers talk to students and say bullying will go on their disciplinary record, but it doesn’t appear to stop them continuing with other types of bullying.
The father of deceased Tyler started a facebook group Stand for the Silent, to combat bullying.
Rating 8/10

God Loves Uganda (2013) (Roger Ross Williams)
Extreme US evangelists go to Uganda, where they are able to influence the Ugandans. Brainwashing children to hate homosexuality. Intolerance is widespread, with a Ugandan priest losing his job because he supported gays to stand by who they are. This priest won a Clinton award for fighting for human rights.
Rating 7/10

At Berkeley (2013) (Frederick Wiseman)
A four hour, momentarily interesting fly-on-the-wall look at life at public University of California at Berkeley. Too much time is spent on meetings about budget cuts, which I skimmed through, because so tedious, though the student protest is quite captivating to watch. The mission of the protest is to lower student fees and secure pensions for the workers, however the protests also have a backlash, as it interrupts school life and there are some students who are against the protests even though it benefits them.
For me, the most engaging scenes are the classes and lectures with the inspiring teachers, where there was a bit of humor thrown in.
We get to see:  Students building equipment for a man with a walking disability. A class on the way we can change society, examples are voluntarily work or becoming a lawyer to confront the big corporations.  A lecture on leadership and the need for leaders to be encouraged by feedback. A philosophy class concerning Emerson and Thoreau and the idea of man and his place in nature; for example how violent nature is when it appears peaceful. There’s also a theatre sequence where students satirize facebook. In another class the discussion is about understanding time and Stephen Hawking’s work is touched on; the big bang theory and trying to go back to a stage when time didn’t exist. We see a female student break down crying because she is burdened by the fact her parents have to work really hard in order for her to go to college. A group of students go to a conference where they can meet civil engineers and hear about life after college in that field of work. The civil engineer talks to them about who employs him and such. How to form study groups with the underlying feeling that latino and blacks are somewhat effected by racism. The final round table discussion is about how to deal with pressure and having someone who will listen to your problems is helpful.
Rating 6/10

The War Game (1965) (Peter Watkins)
48 minute short which won an Oscar and several other awards. Uncomfortable, yet essential viewing.
I'm uncertain which genre this actually is? Wikipedia label it a drama-documentary. A dystopian view of the future, depicting worst-case scenario situations. A fictional nuclear war, told in a realistic way with handheld cameras and interviews, so you feel you are watching real events. A warning about the terrible consequences of nuclear weapons. Very scary that in the event of an attack the people would only have a few minutes to reach shelter.
The most horrifying moments involve children having their eye balls damaged from the heat, victims getting “put down” like dogs, a bucketful of rings belonging to the deceased, the boy who was bitten by a rat and yet no medication is available, riots over food, and the radiation-afflicted children who have no hope for the future.
2015 marks the films 50th anniversary. Initially banned from TV because it was deemed too disturbing. Finally saw television broadcast in the UK in 1985 as part of a special season of programming entitled After the Bomb, commemorated the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Rating 9/10

The Invisible War (2012) (Kirby Dick)
The documentary persuasively and powerfully highlights an important issue of rape of women in the military. The cover ups are almost worse than the crimes.
However, everybody watching the doc agrees with the filmmakers that rape obviously is wrong, and it becomes a bit of a one-message movie, telling you the same thing 20 times. I would have liked to see a fair balance of military, as there are also good guys who do their job well, and don't rape.
There was not quite enough substance for a 90 minute feature. Maybe feature length docs get more exposure. 30 minutes would have been sufficient. The revelations obviously are important, but the trailer pretty much sums up what the documentary has to say.
Rating 6/10

Dirty Wars (2013) (Rick Rowley)
About the innocent victims of war, and how Americans are also guilty during war on terror. It’s suggested Islamic terrorists could become dangerous from being imprisoned, so the US could be making it worse.
The documentary is good, but not quite great. Not as shocking as investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill seems to think it is.
James at jjamesreviews made a good observation, that the audience “would be more impacted if the victims had been Dirty Wars' focus.
Rating 6/10

Drone (2014) (Tonje Hessen Schei)
Important documentary on the victims of the war on terror. Unmanned drone planes fly over Yemen, Somalia and Waziristan. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed or injured by soldiers sitting in front of a screen in the US and who have eyes in the sky. The survivors live in fear of drones hovering above them. A human right’s organization attempts to let the people of Waziristan’s voice be heard.
We also get to hear from shooters, who are uncomfortable with killing people. It’s quite scary how close their job is to a video game. There’s a scene that was particularly shocking to me when we witness a soldier watching a hazy screen of black figures moving around, and then cuts to children walking in Waziristan wearing black chadors. It seems he can’t even distinguish between children and terrorists. It’s suggested that these drone attacks are increasing hatred and creating terrorists for the future.
The documentary is a bit manipulative and anti-military. The filmmakers seem to forget that terrorism is still a big problem that has to be dealt with. Alternatives to drone warfare are not suggested.
Still, illuminates important issues, so you empathize with those who suffer. The transparency and accountability of the US government in its drone warfare is questioned.
Rating 7.5/10

Seen any great documentaries recently? Have you watched any of these? As always, comments are welcome.

Top 10 albums of the decade so far

So we are at the halfway point of the decade. I started following new music in 2010 which was when I launched this blog. These are not necessarily the most acclaimed albums from the 2010s, but the albums that had the biggest impact on me, and which have outlasted the initial excitement. A mix of both established artists and new blood. I've included at least one album from each year, except 2015 which is ongoing.

Kaputt by Destroyer (2011)

(I love the production, which I think is the strongest of Destroyer's career. I wasn't expecting to love the saxophone and trumpet as much as I ultimately did. The band teased towards this sound on tracks here and there, particularly their 2009 EP Bay of Pigs, or even An Actor's Revenge from 2004)

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk (2013)

(Won several Grammy Awards. I just watched the documentary Daft Punk Unchained on TV in which it was said they spent years making the album. The opener is called Give Life Back To Music and remarkably they did just that. An album built to last)

Born to Die (Paradise Edition) by Lana Del Rey (2012)

(I love her vocal style, a breath of fresh air for popular music in the 2010s. Born to Die was her break-through album. The Paradise edition contains a bonus disc)

Lost In The Dream by The War on Drugs (2014)

(Probably the band’s finest collection of songs. Has been described by a critic as a spring time record, in how full of life it is. You may find it great, if you are a fan of Bruce Springsteen.
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)

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West (2010)

(Though I find his conceitedness arrogant, the beats and lyrics are great. Poetry put to music. Even if you don't like hip hop, you should give this one a try. Arguably the best hip hop album of the decade)

Lyric: "And outta all the colors that'll fill up the skies
You got green on yo ur mind, I can see it in your eyes"

Push The Sky Away by  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2013)

(The lyrics per usual are well-written, and I even got my parents into this album. Gone is the rockier sound of earlier recordings, and it feels more accessible to a wider audience than his darker material. The quieter approach reminds me of The Boatman's Call from the 90s, which I also love)

The Great Beauty Soundtrack by Various Artists (2014)

(The Drive soundtrack was considered, and while it has decade defining songs, the instrumental tracks by Cliff Martinez are a bit overrated.
Instead I'm going with The Great Beauty Soundtrack, which is classical music, both old and new. Sold as a 2-disc set, disc 1 is the keeper)

Have One On Me by Joanna Newsom (2010)

(A sprawling, ambitious work you can put on and get lost in. Overlong and self-indulgent, yet also a beautiful, timeless album, which will still be relevant in 50 years. Disc 1 is especially great)

Tough Love by Jessie Ware (2014)

(Has grown on me, and should have been in my top 10 last year. Her debut Devotion (2012) has its moments and got better reviews, but many of the non-singles to me were emotionally unfulfilling.
Her second is my favorite to listen to in terms of the feeling it gives me, I could only find 2-3 weaker tracks, and the lyrics are timeless. On her 2014 album, she sings like it comes from a personal place)

Lazaretto by Jack White (2014)

(For me the album is enjoyable from start to finish. Perhaps I'm more excited and surprised about the solo album than his fans seem to be, because I'm mostly unfamiliar with his White Stripes output. Lazaretto was partly inspired by a collection of short stories, poems, and plays White wrote when he was 19 years old and rediscovered years later in his attic)

Honorable mentions:
Teen Dream by Beach House
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming by M83
High Violet by The National
Morning Phase by Beck
The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves by John Maus
Senior by Röyksopp
Magic by Sean Rowe
Vanity Is Forever by Geoffrey O'Connor

Have you listened to any of the above? Which are your favorite albums of the decade so far?

Top 10 films of 2015 so far

1.)  World of Tomorrow (short film) (Don Hertzfeldt)

This is a masterpiece, it blew me away. A hugely ambitious 17 minute short film by writer/director/animator Don Hertzfeldt. To think he almost single-handedly made it is mighty impressive! So full of ideas and quite moving as well. Looking at the present and the future of mankind. I think you have to see it multiple times to fathom all the details.

2.)   Far From the Madding Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg) (review)

3.) Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen) (review)

4.) Amy (documentary) (Asif Kapadia) (review)

5.) Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)  (review)

6.) Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (documentary) (Alex Gibney) (review)

7.)  Wild Tales (Damián Szifron) (review)

8.)  Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie) (review)

9.)  White God (Kornél Mundruczó)

Recommended to me by Pete from I Love That Film. Finally released on dvd. Hungarian drama, which won the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes.
The world of dog fighting and dog steroids is difficult to watch, so the main character’s love for her dog is needed to give it balance. It’s rare to watch a film with such innocence juxtapositioned with such menace and ugliness. The ”acting” by the dogs is very impressive and realistic. It’s emphasized in the opening credits that the real life dogs were rescued from the streets and placed in care.
The music teacher puts up with Lili's audacious remarks (commenting he is heartless), but maybe he admires her honestly and sees talent in her? This is not explained further.
There is some social commentary, in how we treat our animals, and the story makes a point that animals have feelings as well, both good and bad. The other layers may have been lost on me, because I’m not familiar with the Hungarian way of life.
While the ending is memorable and thrilling, a few of the threads are not tied up, such as the future of the characters, so some viewers may leave unsatisfied. Apart from that, the story was exiting, emotionally involving, and different to most films you will see. 
Rating 8/10

10.)  A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson) (review)

I only rated this film 7/10 upon first viewing. I think I was too harsh. I now consider it an 8/10. While the style isn't as groundbreaking as Andersson's previous films in the trilogy, A Pigeon does benefit from some imaginative ideas and amusing moments. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate it. With time, I may grow to love A Pigeon as much as Songs from the Second Floor (2000) and You The Living (2007).  I interpret it that characters may have dreamed other scenes in the movie, which explained why situations felt surreal/dream-like(i.e. the African slaves scene, the soldiers from another era in the bar). The trilogy makes us reflect on our own life and the (sometimes absurd) society we live in.

Honorable Mentions:

Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas)

The scenery in the Swiss Alps is beautiful. An interesting and challenging intellectual exercise, real life imitating art, and the different perspectives of a younger and middle aged woman. Even though the dialogues seemed to meander, the story sustained interest for the duration, and would reveal more on a rewatch. The film won't hold everyone's attention, because it is slow paced, wordy and on the surface feels a bit pretentious, but if you stay with it, it's worth the effort. 
I didn’t understand why the two of them kept rehearsing the play if she had already pulled out? She probably just changed her mind off screen. 
Spoilers: You can interpret the story in various ways. The interpretation I prefer is that Maria (Juliette Binoche) did not value Valentine’s (Kristen Stewart) opinions. Near the end before she steps on to the stage, Maria began to see her own arrogance and started to truly listen to Jo-Ann Ellis’ (Chloë Grace Moretz) remarks about the play. So for me a film about a middle aged actress learning to appreciate the opinions of those she might initially perceive as young and immature. Obviously you can use that knowledge in your own life, to really listen to what others have to say and be respectful of their opinions. I'm sure Assayas put other components into the story, but that was the essence of it for me. However you could also perceive Valentine and Jo-Ann as big-headed and arrogant, so things may not be as clear-cut as I assume.
Favorite quotes: "Taste can get worn out, just like desire"
"To excel, and to know how to show it, is to excel twice"
Rating 8/10

                       Sinatra: All or Nothing at All (TV Mini-Series) (Alex Gibney) (review)

 Kung Fury (short film) (David Sandberg) (review)

Ex-Machina (Alex Garland) (review)

Cobain: Montage of Heck (documentary) (Brett Morgen) (review)

What missed my top 10? You can read my full ranking of 2015 here

For this list, I've decided to count short films and documentaries.  Have you seen any of these? Which are your favorites of 2015 so far?

Trainspotting – looking back and looking forward

This is an article by writer Helen Sanders.

Spoilers may occur

As the twentieth anniversary of iconic British movie Trainspotting looms ever closer it seems like the ideal time to revisit this stand out cinema experience. With media speculation aplenty about the prospects of a ‘Trainspotting 2’ production we also take a closer look at what this eagerly anticipated flick might offer.

Trainspotting – the background

With its gritty Scottish inner city backdrop, brutally realistic dialogue and outstanding music soundtrack, Trainspotting has long been heralded as a once in a generation show. Generally accepted as the launch pad for respected actor Ewan McGregor’s big screen career, this carefully constructed insight into the lives of five Edinburgh based friends was one of those movies which made people sit up and take notice.

Directed by the now major league Danny Boyle and adapted from the same named novel penned by Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting urged its viewers to think about their life choices. Central character Mark Renton’s opening lines – equally famous as the movie- were powerful in their simplicity:

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career…But why would I want to do a thing like that?”

As the rest of the plot unfolds, it becomes painfully evident why most of us would make these choices, as we see how Renton’s drug fuelled existence spirals further out of control.

Trainspotting – the people

The movie itself doesn’t fit neatly into a particular genre, an achievement which only adds to its flair. Dramatic in places with the darkest of comedy and even a love story of sorts thrown in, this cocktail of tears, laughs and sharp intakes of breath is only matched in its variety by the band of brothers who make up the central cast.

Mark Renton forms the backbone to the group of five friends. An established heroin addict much of the movie revolves around his fairly half-hearted attempts to kick the habit. With clever directing we are immersed in a number of incidents involving the friends. Of course these incidents are far removed from what most of us would consider normal, with Renton’s stand out moments including desperately rescuing a suppository from a filthy pub toilet to support his habit and being held captive by his concerned parents who are determined to get him off heroin.

Renton is not alone in his exploits- Trainspotting is anything but the Ewan McGregor show. His four friends are equally engaging and deliver stellar performances throughout. Tommy, played by Kevin McKidd who is more recently known for his role as Dr. Owen Hunt in Grey’s Anatomy, is perhaps the most desperate character. Starting out determined to stay away from drugs and firmly focused on keeping fit, Tommy resorts to heroin use following the end of his relationship with girlfriend Lizzy. Tommy subsequently contracts HIV and dies, leading the movie to perhaps its only moral standpoint.

Spud’s character brings some welcome comedy to the movie. Portrayed by Ewen Bremner, Spud makes bad decision after bad decision but gives us plenty of laughs in the process. Easily suggestible, Spud is only too willing to go along with whatever the friends have in mind, a quality which consistently lands him in trouble. Almost childlike in his innocence, Spud is entertaining with highlights including his hilarious interview for a sports centre job where he claims to find, “My pleasure in other people’s leisure!”

Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) starts off the movie as something of a wide boy sporting some serious swagger. Seemingly able to control his drug taking much better than any of his friends, he uses this ability to annoy them – particularly his closest ally Renton. His character becomes more deeply involved in criminality, particularly after the death of his child (due to neglect). Sick Boy is transformed into a less likeable, more ruthless and increasingly self absorbed version of himself – once again hardly an advert for drug taking.

Finally we come to Begbie, the only non heroin user in the group. A violent alcoholic, Begbie seems to be perpetually on the brink of another explosion of aggression. Robert Carlyle, despite being slightly built, conveys the power of a heavyweight in his ‘busting with bravado’ Begbie. Respected by the others’ parents due to his anti-drugs stance, he is nevertheless the least appealing of the Trainspotting bunch, picking on innocent bystanders to satisfy his need for violence.

Trainspotting 2 – the future

Trainspotting certainly had its critics, particularly those who said it glamorized drug taking, but in truth there is little glamour in the movie. For the most part it has been recognized as an incredible cinematic achievement – showing the pragmatic reality for a group of heroin users of that time. Its cult following has naturally lead to calls for a sequel, something which was initially strongly resisted by Trainspotting’s cast and creator. Rumors abound about why it has taken so long but it now seems that Trainspotting 2 will become a reality. With Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle already said to have signed up, filming is expected to start in January next year. Believed to be loosely based on the literary sequel, ‘Porno,’ the film will pick up on the original characters’ lives ten years after the original Trainspotting story ends. With the cast now twenty years older, Danny Boyle feels they are finally able to accurately portray ravaged heroin users with ten more years under their belt.

Hope you enjoyed reading Helen's post! Have you watched Trainspotting (1996)? What did you think? As always, comments are welcome


Related Posts with Thumbnails