Viewing recap November

Escape from New York (1981) (John Carpenter)
Rewatch. Think of the movie The Warriors (1979), only set in a dystopian future. I love the concept, yet I think the actual storytelling is not as gripping as it could have been. I have a history of loving the tense opening 30 minutes and then falling asleep in the slower middle section of the movie when Snake is in Manhattan. The movie drags during the boxing match. The ending is quite compelling yet also feels predictable. Great 80s score.
Rating 7/10

Christine (1983) (John Carpenter)
Coming of age horror/drama. Takes a car having a personality to a whole new level. I enjoyed ths one a lot more than I thought I would. Based on a Stephen King novel. Carpenter has expressed he was a director for hire and it's among his least personal projects, but I think it's actually as good as his best work. Has more of a novelistic approach to storytelling compared to what we are used to seeing from Carpenter. The book was perfect for adaptation because it's so visual. Although there is a feeling King is repeating himself thematically if you know his early work. The lead performance by Keith Gordon is very good and stayed with me.
Rating 8.5/10

The Big Blue (1988) (Luc Besson) (European director's cut)
Tranquil atmosphere in large part due to the ocean, cinematography and Eric Serra's beautiful score. The first 90 minutes are great. In fact the movie could have ended then. It's a long movie at 2h 50 minutes. To me, the second half of the movie (after they have sex) felt superfluous. In some ways, the second half is like an inferior sequel and it's pretty obvious why they decided to edit the bloated director's cut down to two hours. Weirdly, in the second part of the movie, the male characters start behaving like suicidals and I have no idea why. Next time I watch, I won't even bother after the 90 min mark.
There's a great movie in there somewhere, if only the editing had been more efficient. I'm torn about the rating, because this is a flawed film I might want in my top 100. Imagine an album in which you love the first half and feel indifferent to the second half.  A film to watch if you just want to chill out for an afternoon and forget about your problems. It's quite funny and charming in an undemanding way.
Rating 7/10

Mistress America (2015) (Noah Baumbach)
These type of indie comedies often are forgettable and samey, yet this one is actually quite touching and the problems these people face do feel genuine and relatable. Could easily end up in my top 10 of 2015. A witty script, the characters and soundtrack have an 80s vibe. In an interview, Baumbach and Gerwig mention Diner (1982) and John Hughes as favorites, and they wear their influences well.
Favorite quotes:
”I’m so impressed by you and so worried for you at the same time”

”I need to cut out all the negative people in my life. I just wasn’t brought up that way!”

”That’s probably why it hurt so much. Because it’s true!”

”How dare she talk to me that way. And be rich!”

”If I could figure out my look, I’d be the most beautiful woman too”
Rating 8/10

This is England (2006) (Shane Meadows)
British film set in a working class neighborhood in the 1980s. A small drama, yet powerful coming of age story about a boy hanging out with a group who are older than he is. A time capsule to a particular time in the early 80s involving white nationalists and the skinhead scene. Especially the last 15 minutes were emotionally moving. The soundtrack has plenty of reggae from the 70s and 80s.
Rating 8/10

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) (John Hughes)
Rewatch. A little over-the-top in some places, where the situations lose believability. But it's sheer fun from start to finish. Who didn't want to have a rebellious day off school?
Rating 8/10

Pretty in Pink (1986) (written by John Hughes)
The title and poster are the weakest aspects, as it isn't that girly, and actually suitable for all. My mind tells me the movie has good and evil sides, is quite juvenile, and has predictable elements, but my heart tells me I love the sincerity of the characters. These are people you can root for, who have real feelings. The viewer can have an emotional connection and mirror themselves in the story. The soundtrack is great and the script is quotable. John Hughes was a genius and I can understand why he is loved. Watched after I read a review of the new book Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman, which is a revisionist take on ‘80s mainstream cinema.
Favorite quote: ”If somebody doesn’t believe in me, I can’t believe in them”
Rating 8.5/10

Patton (1970) (Franklin J. Schaffner) 
Rating 8/10

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) (Peter Jackson)
I liked the first Hobbit movie, but the second and third were not as good. The sequence with the dragon attacking the town is impressive on a technical level, but the film doesn't grab me emotionally, and it's too corny in some moments. At this point, Jackson seems worn out, the film is lacking something. I just wanted to finish off the trilogy.
Rating 5/10

Hard Labour (1973) (Mike Leigh)
Made for TV film. An early example of the Mike Leigh kitchen sink drama, with the viewer as the fly on the wall. A minor film in his filmography. I think the idea was just to portray people in an every day environment with their daily frustrations. Characters are introduced, and we see them in mundane situations. The story is realistic and well-acted, yet somewhat stagnant, with most story threads unresolved. I could see viewers finding it boring and lacking direction, I found it watchable. Themes of abortion, loveless marriage, and there’s social commentary about people collecting at the door and being too pushy about it.
Favorite quote:
”So you’re as snug as a bug in a rug, are yeah?”
Rating 6/10

Frenzy (1972) (Alfred Hitchcock)
The typical Hitchcockian man who is accused, yet the story and characters are fleshed out well. Goes for a more explicitly sexual and violent approach than Hitchcock's older films. A well told, suspenseful story, which kept me on edge right to the end. Better than I expected.
Rating 8/10

R (2010) (Tobias Lindholm)
Director Tobias Lindholm and actor Pilou Askov make a formidable team in new Danish cinema. This was the first of a trilogy, although the three films are only loosely connected. Lindholm is also responsible for several recent screenplays, most notably The Hunt (2012).
With R (2010), I went in thinking it was a realistic prison drama, which it is, yet I soon found myself watching a horror film with an eerie score. Takes place at Denmark's toughest prison, a parallel world filled with rules, honor, and debts. I don't know why they allow the prisoners to walk around so freely when they behave in such a brutal way. Perhaps the film will provoke change in the long run. An unforgettable look into the dark side of prison life. The film should have an international appeal, although it is quite violent and repulsive. There were moments when  I was wondering why I needed to see the graphic brutality, especially the attack on the Albanian inmate. The only implausible part is the last act, I didn't believe he would want to confess in that hostile environment. Another reviewer wrote, "the ethnic divisions are solidly elucidated without ever becoming overbearing or pretentious"
Rating 8/10

Films watched from the Danish edition of 1001 Movies To See Before You Die: (link to full list)

Cafe Paradis (1950) (Bodil Ipsen, Lau Lauritzen)
A Danish classic. Fine performances and I cared about their fate. I think it ranks up there with the best films about alcoholism, and delves into the shame, addiction and temptation linked to the condition. Despite made in 1950, has aged remarkably well, and you still see Danes today who are not aware they are alcoholics or on the verge of becoming so. The filmmakers are pointing the finger at the viewer in a slightly educative manner, but everyone agrees self-control is part of life, There's a disturbing scene about an hour into the film when the overweight manager goes to the bar and starts seeing double. The camera spins and so does his drunken mind with visions of bottles and laughing.
I would imagine the film is even more powerful if you know about the high alcohol consumption in Denmark and relaxed attitude towards heavy drinking. It's normal for a Dane to be allocated a full bottle of wine at a party and not uncommon for guests to have a good time by getting drunk and calling for a cab when they want to leave. It's not an insult to the host, but socially accepted. I've seen foreigners raise eyebrows at this behavior, and even Danish teenagers are used to getting drunk often, because they see their parents do the same. In the film, and in real life, alcohol is used as an escape from the tedium of daily life. The characters know what they are doing is wrong, and it's the people they are surrounded by who lure them into temptation. In the company of heavy drinkers, it's quite common to be teased in a friendly manner and perceived as boring for not joining in.
Favorite quotes: 
"There are more alcoholics walking around than you are aware of"
"You are two people Carlo, and I only want to be married to one of them"
Rating 9/10

Kærlighedens Smerte (aka Pain of Love) (1992) (Niels Malmros) 
Drama which won a number of Bodil and Robert awards that year and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. I’ve seen a newer film by the same director (the excellent Sorrow and Joy) and there are definite thematic similarities to this one of a woman struggling with adult life and a man attracted to younger woman.
As is often the case, the Danish cast have been in many other films and TV-shows, yet they are convincing in their roles, especially the two leads. I gradually got to know and care about them as people. The female lead has a slightly annoying grin, but I did get caught up in her life, which has quite a lot of ups and downs. There’s realism to the story which drew me in. I wanted to find out what would happen to her and the other characters. The main character struggles to find her place in the world and is reliant on others. An underseen emotionally powerful character study about an outwardly cheerful woman dealing with feelings of inadequacy.
Rating 8/10

Den Eneste Ene (aka The Only One) (1999) (Susanne Bier)
Romantic comedy. Clichéd and contrived, but with likeable characters and amusing dialogue. It's not Bier's most original effort, but maybe her warmest and most endearing. In Denmark, considered a contemporary classic.
Rating 7.5/10

Frygtelig Lykkelig (aka Terribly Happy) (2008) (Henrik Ruben Genz)
Noir thriller/black comedy with an unpredictable plot. The author of the book said in the making of it's based on real situations and he considers the true evil to be the silence in the small town. Not every village is as crazy as this one, but it does tap into how difficult it can be for a newcomer to fit in when arriving in a town in Denmark where everybody knows everybody.
Rating 8/10

What do you think about these films? As always, comments are welcome!


  1. Not as excited about Cafe Paradis as you are, but then I did not like Baenken. The acting is good though and it would make a good, though downbeat double feature with Lost Weekend.
    Sadly I am out of touch with newer Danish movies.

    1. @TSorensen: I know there are many lacklustre older Danish films, right now, I’d rank Café Paradis among my favorites, I thought it was perfection, that goes for the acting as well (I’ll check your review). Nice to discover stuff from the book! I have yet to watch Lost Weekend, heard great things

  2. Lots of 80s goodness, here. You really have been putting your flux capacitor to good use these last few weeks.

    1. @Wendell: haha, for music, we’re talking years instead of weeks :) There are days when I think the 80s was the best decade for film, though I know the 70s is more esteemed by the critics.

  3. Escape from New York and Ferris Bueller's Day Off are both a lot of fun.

    The reason to see Patton, to me, is for Scott's performance.

    I liked the second Hobbit movie the best of the trilogy, actually, but I do agree the third was the least of them.

    Frency didn't do much for me. It seemed like it was mostly done to allow Hitchcock to explore more freely the sexual urges that drove a lot of his characters.

    I saw Terribly Happy on a recommendation and I liked it. If you want another relatively modern Danish film that I really liked that was Just Another Love Story.

    1. @Chip: Yes, those films are fun. The second Hobbit has strong action sequences though I thought it only works if you watch the whole trilogy, not as a stand-alone film. The first Hobbit film resonated with me emotionally, the 2nd and 3rd films I felt detached towards. I agree Terribly Happy is good. I’ll see if I can track down Just Another Love Story

  4. So glad you liked Frenzy and This is England. Lol, I just watched Escape from L.A., which makes the first film look like a masterpiece.

    1. @Josh: I remember the hype in 1996 surrounding Escape from LA. I guess you watched as a fan of Carpenter and for completist reasons.


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