Goodbye for the time being

I have thought long and hard whether I should continue blogging and the conclusion I arrived at is I still enjoy watching movies and listening to music, but no longer have the urge to share my opinions. At least not as often as I do now.

I started in 2010 in order to meet like-minded people and I have attempted to take part in the LAMB blogging community over the last 5 years. I appreciate those readers who have stuck with me over the years and I will keep in contact with a few of you.

Recently the blog has become marginalized. This has happened on other blogs as well. I realize it’s a time issue, people have busy lives and commenting is not a high priority compared to work, family, and other daily activities.
Despite my attempts to attract new readers by commenting on many blogs over the last 6 months, I feel these acts have not been reciprocated to the extent I wanted, which is disheartening. Comments that excite me are rare and the only discussions I remember this year were on my Weird Science review , New Year Resolution post, and Books read in 2015 round-up. (Most of the online interaction I had happened on other sites)

New features such as Tuesday Short Film have not been welcomed with the interest I had hoped. If you want to see my top 50 short films you can find the list here. 80s Thursday only has 2-3 regular commenters I am aware of and will continue as a sporadic project on YouTube where I will share lists for best songs from 1980, 1981, 1982 and so on.

I may post year-end lists on the blog, so keep an eye out for that. I like to keep a diary of what I have watched/listened to, and I'll continue to write my observations on film and music at letterboxd and Rate Your Music, which you are welcome to follow and comment on.

But at this point I don’t want to spend time writing blogposts every week for only a small number of loyal commenters. Many who used to comment on my site seem to have moved on.

My site won’t be deleted and can still be used as a reference for previous posts. Sorry if I sound bitter. The goodbye is positive and liberating for me, because now I will have time to pursue other interests.

I'll still follow a few blogs and you can always send me an e-mail.

80s Thursday - Best songs of 1980 (part 15) (synthpop)

With regards to synthpop from 1980, I previously shared tracks by OMD, Visage and Japan. Below are a few more synthpop albums from that year that deserve attention

Album: Vienna by Ultravox
Listen to:
Private Lives

Album: Travelogue by Human League
Listen to
Being Boiled

Album: Metamatic by John Foxx 
Listen to:

Album: From A to B by New Musik
Listen to:
A Map of You
On Islands
The Safe Side

Album: B-2 Unit by Ryuichi Sakamoto 
Listen to:
Riot In Lagos

Album: Folk of the 80's by Men Without Hats 
Listen to:

Best songs of 1980 (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6) (part 7) (part 8) (part 9) (part 10) (part 11) (part 12) (part 13) (part 14) (part 15)

Tuesday short film: Soft (2006)

A powerful and award-winning 14 min British short that stays with you. About a rough neighbourhood, violent gangs and a father-son relationship.

SPOILERS: I don’t think it’s pro-violence, as some reviewers have suggested. Vengeful anger is a human reaction. He has shown more feistiness than his dad, but this was also a naïve decision to attack, and will probably lead to more violence after the credits have rolled.

You can watch the short here

Favorite short films (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5)

Top 10 songs by Grace Jones

1) Slave to the Rhythm (aka Ladies and Gentlemen: Miss Grace Jones) (from 1985's Slave to the Rhythm)
2) La Vie en Rose (Édith Piaf cover) (from 1977's Portfolio)
3) I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (from 1981's Nightclubbing)
4) Pull Up to the Bumper (from 1981's Nightclubbing)
5) Walking In The Rain (from 1981's Nightclubbing)
6) Williams' Blood (from 2008's Hurricane)
7) Unlimited Capacity For Love (from 1982's Living My Life)
8) Demolition Man (from 1981's Nightclubbing)
9) My Jamaican Guy (from 1982's Living My Life)
10) Pars (Jacques Higelin cover) (from 1980's Warm Leatherette)

Do or Die (from 1978's Fame)
Private Life (Chrissie Hynde cover) (from 1980's Warm Leatherette)

80s Thursday - Best songs of 1980 (part 14)

Album: Heartattack and Vine by Tom Waits
Listen to:

Album: Clues by Robert Palmer
Listen to:

Album: Pretenders by The Pretenders 
Listen to:
Brass in Pocket
Stop Your Sobbing (The Kinks cover)

Best songs of 1980 (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6) (part 7) (part 8) (part 9) (part 10) (part 11) (part 12) (part 13) (part 14)

Monthly recap February

Spotlight (2015) (Tom McCarthy)
Best Picture winner. The movie is predictable, and told in a good vs bad way that you root for the journalists and can’t be in favor of the priests. The suspense is the best thing it has going for it, especially when Ruffalo is given an off-the-record lead at about 75 min into the film. The thriller/investigative aspect was also the strength of All The President Men (1976), which the film is influenced by. The scene between Tucci and Ruffalo reminded me of the Donald Sutherland and Kevin Costner bench scene in JFK (1991).
Spotlight is not a good as its influences, but there is a memorable sequence when a journalist reads an address and realizes the ugliness is close to his home in a nearby street. He runs over there and attaches a warning on the fridge to the kids. That part works on a cinematic level, whereas a lot of other scenes are forgettable. I expected the church would attempt to sabotage the journalists, but that was mostly cover up rather than explicit threats.
Could put you off supporting the Catholic church. A shame those priests tarnished the loving message of Christianity. You may also feel uncomfortable listening to a children’s choir which plays as part of the soundtrack.
Spotlight is what I would label a “consensus movie”. Almost everyone already agrees what the priests did is wrong and that the cover up was unacceptable. The film could have done more to show how the victims’ lives were affected, and then the audience would have understood the trauma better. However they were shamed into silence and if they had focused a lot on the victims, the end scene wouldn't have had the same impact.
For me, it's not the best film about the subject matter. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012) was a powerful documentary where I felt the victim's pain.
Of course, the message of Spotlight is important so these tragic events stop happening. The film also draws attention to the continued need for investigative journalism.
Rating 7/10

The Martian (2015) (Ridley Scott)
Not a game changer, and follows the formula of other mainstream Hollywood blockbusters, but is entertaining enough. The power of the human spirit when faced with adversity is so overplayed at this point it’s a total cliché come awards season. The ingenuity in how to survive in tough conditions kept me interested. Has been labelled a comedy, the only time I remember smiling was when he made some dance moves to the disco music. Matt Damon is convincing and the scenes on Mars are believable.
Got to say, I’m not for a Mars mission, which to me is a first world problem.  I know it's fiction, but I’m sickened that so many millions could be spent on rescuing an astronaut. People die of hunger on earth every hour in Africa. What should the money go towards? A white American to save NASA's reputation or 500 starving Africans? Interstellar justifies going far into space because earth is polluted. The Martian is simply NASA spending a bunch of money on unnecessary exploring. This article agrees with me, why go to Mars? 
Another reviewer commented: “For a film purportedly about the value of human life, there’s practically no interest in human behavior”
Rating 6/10

Wonderland (1999) (Michael Winterbottom)
Included on Time Out's list of the 100 best British films. The filmmaking feels very turn of the century, with its intersecting stories telling us of the pressures of marriage, children, pregnancy and the search for love. Remember this was the time of Traffic (2000), Magnolia (1999), The Hours (2002), Amores Perros (2000), Happiness (1998), and Go (1999).
I liked the first date between Gina McKee and Stuart Townsend which had warmth and struck a chord. A film that at first glance seems bland, but certain scenes stuck with me, both the heart-warming and the vile moments. And yet you realize why they are frustrated and do mean things. Although you can read many things into the stories, I see it foremost as a film about loneliness and the search for those who make you feel good about yourself, where you don't have to try so hard and can just be yourself. The neatness of the last act brought my rating down, but it's still an engaging two hours. Nyman's score works well in Wonderland, and stirs the emotions.
If you are a Londoner you may recognize places here and there. Alex at Boycotting Trends championed the film in his article about London in film, which you can read here
Rating 7/10

John Wick (2014) (Chad Stahelski)
Better than I expected. A return to the simple action movies of days gone by. A man with nothing to lose like John Wick is a dangerous prospect. The scene when he digs his weapons out from under the floor was like a metaphor for the past we try and forget deep inside of ourselves but which is still in there. A movie that could dissuade people from breaking into people's houses or stealing a car.
Rating 8/10

Sense and Sensibility (1995) (Ang Lee)
A captivating adaptation of Jane Austen's book. The scene when Emma Thompson breaks down is very moving, and I was glued to the screen the entire time. These are characters that stayed with me long after the film was over. There are also comedic moments which I wasn't expecting.
Rating 9/10

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) (Joseph Sargent)
This is how suspense thrillers should be made. The tension is held until the nail-biting conclusion. The rare film when you root for both sides.
Inspired the color names in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992). The criminals call themselves Mr Blue and so on.
Rating 9/10

Tuesday short film: Bear Story (2014)

Won Oscar for Best Animated Short. The first ever Chilean winner of an Academy Award. A moving 10 min story-within-a-story short about a lonely bear who spends all night perfecting his mechanical diorama. The device tells a story about the bear's past. The next day, he wanders the streets with his mobile theatre. A blue bear pays to see the show. The audience witness what he sees. A tale of a bear taken from his family and put in a travelling circus act to perform tricks.

You can read whatever you want into the story. For some viewers it will be about how creating art can be a tool to process trauma and loss. Telling stories can be healing and a way to pass on wisdom to the next generation. An attempt to remember (and perhaps recover) the life he used to live with his wife and son.

You could interpret the bear as a victim. Circus- and zoo animals are put in cages against their will and are no longer in their natural environment.

I've read it's autobiographical. An allegory for the way families were torn apart during the murderous Pinochet regime in Chile in the 1970s. After about half a year under Pinochet, Chile had become a place where people who talked too much or asked too many questions simply disappeared.

“The idea was mainly inspired by the story of my grandfather,” said Osorio(the director of the short). “He was exiled from Chile in the ’70s and spent 10 years in England — I knew that I had a grandfather, but I didn’t meet him when I was a kid.” Osorio made the main character a bear in part because he remembered his grandfather being physically imposing.

I haven't even talked about the animation, which is unique.The teddy bears are so cute you want to hug them. In certain moments you forget it's animated, because the items in the diorama look like wind-up mechanical toys and actual set pieces. The animation style is influenced by steampunk.

Perhaps you could argue it was not realistically happening inside the box, but this could account for the perspective. The young blue bear may be partly imagining in his head what is going on. So it shouldn't be taken on face value.

The score fits beautifully within the context and has a music box feel. A piano/xylophone melody that is both melancholy and affecting. In fact there is no dialogue, because the emotions are conveyed through images and sound.

A short you may want to watch a couple of times to fully grasp. I went in blind and didn't understand the layers on first viewing. The ending is ambiguous.

You can currently watch the short here

Favorite short films (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)


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