Friday, August 31, 2012

Movie Diary #3: August 2012

It's that time again. August has just gone, flown past would be an understatment. According to my Letterboxd diary, this month I've seen a paltry 35 movies and I think I've been lucky in that a rather large percentage were really rather good. 10 of those films sit snugly in the "made something great" category this month, whilst 9 passed the time nicely and only 1 that I disliked completely with 4 others wasting my time. The other 11 movies are barely worth talking about, not too disappointing but not too enjoyable either. Here's the breakdown of what was what in BBBG towers in August:
Why Did They Even Bother?

Cosmopolis (2012) is the only movie that really wasted my time (and in this case money too) this month. I hated it from the opening scene and it was all downhill from there. Don Delillo may write great dialogue in his novels but it just doesn't work when spoken aloud.

These other movies all had something going for them and I didn't hate them but I would recommend avoiding if possible.

Money For Nothing (1993)
This really is a nothing movie. If it weren't for John Cusack it would have been unwatchable. Although it was fun to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman and James Gandolfini as young men before they were famous.
Funny Bones (1995)
Extremely schizophrenic movie that whilst never being painful to watch it wasn't particularly funny either. Too many ideas, not enough cohesion.
Runaway Train (1985)
Odd odd odd movie. Takes 40 minutes to get going. Strangely editted and massively overacted. Much better than Unstoppable however.
8 Million Ways To Die (1986)
Terrible adaptation of Matt Scudder books, why was it in LA? Hopefully the Liam Neeson version will be much better.
With the quality involved in the production of this movie I expected better. Oliver Stone, Hal Ashby, Jeff Bridges and Lawrence Block are all excellent at what they do but the combination here was simply dreadful.

It Passes The Time

American History X (1998) was revisted for the first time in many years and is still a strong film, it lacks the powerful punch it had on first viewing which only highlighted some faults I have with it.
A powerful and brave piece of cinema featuring a great performance from Ed Norton. But rewatching this has told me a few things:
1) Ed Furlong is not a particularly good actor
2) The director has a schizophrenic approach towards his visual style (and no I don't mean the difference between b&w and colour this goes beyond that - he was indecisive throughout)
3) To be counted as one of the imdb Top 250 means that this is as overrated as The Shawshank Redemption. Both good movies but I could probably find 250 better movies with no trouble at all.
Heist (2001) is a finely crafted heist movie from David Mamet, as you would expect from a script written by him.
A tight heist thriller with great dialogue. Of all of the movies directed by Mamet this is probably the most cinematic.
Pierrot Le Fou (1965) an early Godard part experimentation part traditional narrative.
Godard is making so many statements in this movie using every device at his disposal that it might hurt your head to keep up with them.
Impressive, yet surreal, but what is real and what is surreal?
Godard is a genius for films like this, I love Bout de Souffle for many reasons but the mark of a filmic genius is to do things that the viewers (no matter how intelligent or talented or educated or versed in the medium etc etc) can not even imagine attempting.
Please Give (2010) is a low budget blackly comic family drama I guess. I recorded it because of Oliver Platt, there seems to always be a new Oliver Platt movie on foxtel right now and this was one of the better ones.
A fun movie with superb performances from Keener and Platt. Even Amanda Peet isn't as awful as usual.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) is an animated movie from Aardman studios but not with their classic claymation style. It's a funny movie that plays with the genre tropes of pirate stories and surprisingly well worth a watch.
I expected so little from this movie, even less when I realised it was the same people that had made the awful Flushed Away, so to be laughing so hard and so often was a wonderful surprise.
There are a few jokes that are of Flushed Away quality but mostly this was a fun and quite intelligent piece of irreverent animation that will work for adults more than it will for kids i'm sure.
Haywire (2012) has been reviewed already here and is well worth a watch, especially for fans of Soderbergh.

My Blueberry Nights (2007) is Wong Kar-Wai's only American movie to date and seems to lose something in translation. The script was written by hardboiled legend Lawrence Block which is a major plus point but Christopher Doyle was not DOP and that can only be a bad thing.
Looks beautiful and has a similar feel to the directors previous work but there's something that just doesn't translate to America.
A non-actor in Norah Jones, Jude Law trying out his Manchester accent and Natalie Portman at her most irritating don't help but still it's Wong Kar-Wai so there's some real quality underneath it all.
The Hot Spot (1990) is a Dennis Hopper directed film soleil and based on a classic pulp novel from Charles Williams. It's a movie that I've seen in bargain bins since DVDs were first invented so it was quite a surprise to find out that this movie was actually pretty damned good if a little slow moving with a few key plot points seemingly cut from the movie/script.
Dennis Hopper was not a subtle film maker.
The Hot Spot has some great noir elements and some fantastic soleil elements and twists and turns through it's bizarre and occasionally slightly surreal plot like a novel written by Charles Williams should.
Virginia Madsen is a superb soleil femme fatale and Don Johnson, whilst no Val Kilmer is pretty good in his role as the sun damaged wandering anti-hero.
The Avengers (2012) was probably the best blockbuster movie of the northern hemisphere summer yet had so many issues that it was far from perfect. This was the first time I saw it and I probably will never watch it again but Tony Stark/RDJ is worth the 2.5 hours of almost constant fight scene on his own. Can anybody explain why this is being called Avengers Assemble on imdb?
A bit long and suffers from Captain America and Thor being dull characters with too much screen time. Otherwise a cool blockbuster action movie.

Sometimes They Make Something Great

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) seen as part of our ongoing Noir-a-thon quest.
The brilliant ending makes up for some of the convoluted and absurd shenanigans of the rest of the movie. Coming to the end of the classic noir cycle this is one of the better and more interesting looks at the fears of the American people in the face of potential nuclear war, thanks to some slightly surreal cinematography and some peculiar performances. In some ways this is as black as it gets.
Bill Cunningham, New York (2011) is almost the complete opposite look at the life of a professional photographer to last months documentary watch, Teenage Paparazzo.
A wonderful documentary about a fascinating and charismatic man. I have no interest in the fashion world but it was still an entertaining watch. The mark of a good documentary.

The Big Combo (1955) was another from the noir-a-thon and quite scandalously seems to have been largely abandoned to history.
For the cinematography alone this deserves 5 stars.
I'm amazed that this movie isnt discussed more often. The blurb on my dvd calls it a masterpiece comparable to Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard, what it lacks in lush Hollywood production values it makes up for in darkness of story and incredible use of light and shadow.

Rififi (1955) is the classic Jules Dassin heist movie with the twenty minutes of silence whilst the hesit is taking place. That sequence overshadows all other discussions of the movie, but what I always seem to forget is the classic noir depressive ending. Not quite as heart breaking as The Killing but coming close.
A fantastic heist movie, the peak of the genre even; after this every heist film was basically a rehash of Jules Dassins vision.
The heist sequence is quite rightly lauded for its lack of dialogue and the way it builds tension but the art of Dassin can be seen throughout.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) took me four sessions to get through in the end but boy was it worth it. This was such a fantastic movie that staying up all night to finish it the first time would probably have been worth it too.
Powerful filmmaking, four hours of mesmerising visuals and an incredible performance. Lean certainly knew how to make a film last, in lesser hands this would have been interminable.

Dr. Strangelove (1964) was definitely better the second time, whilst I appreciated it on my first viewing I was clearly so burned out/tired that it took watching it again to realise just how funny this film is. I'm surprised it wasn't banned in America the way it criticises their entire approach towards life.

The Killing (1956) is one we've been waiting impatiently for through this history of noir quest and watching it again didn't disappoint. This is the Kubrick I like the most.
A great heist movie with brilliant noir dialogue from Jim Thompson and an ending so bleak you just might die.
Sterling Hayden is perfect for this role, the kind of character he excels at and this is by far my favourite Kubrick film with the only thing letting it down being the bizarre and unnecessary voice over.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957) is just about at the end of the classic noir period and is noir in terms of attitude and world view more than style or hard-boiled content. This period of the noir-a-thon has brought some very very good movies to my attention and Sweet Smell of Success is another one.
I honestly can't find a thing wrong with this movie. Top quality performances and a great script combine for one of the most memorable, fast talking movies I've ever seen.
Elevator To The Gallows AKA Lift To The Scaffold (1958) is the directorial debut of Louis Malle and arguably the first film of the Nouvelle Vague movement, recommended to me long ago by Bonjour Tristesse and well worth the 12 month wait.
Super cool debut from Malle. The combination of Moreau and Miles Davis leaves a visual and auditory mark on your brain that you won't easily forget.
The Deep Blue Sea (2012) was a recommendation from Jon at Films Worth Watching and boy am I glad I read his blog after finally seeing this wonderful movie.
A beautful and meserising film featuring a powerful performance from Rachel Weisz that probably won't be bettered this year.
Slow moving and understated, this study of passion is told in the repressed style of the period and will be poking and prodding at your mind for days after watching I'm certain.
OK that's enough from me, too many recommendations this month and I can't even narrow it down to one MUST SEE movie from the ten but if I had to suggest one it would be The Deep Blue Sea on the basis that it's the only non-classic film amongst the ten. It's not going to be to everyone's tastes but it's so perfectly mine.

If you had to pick one movie you saw in August to recommend to me what would it be? How many of you have seen The Deep Blue Sea already? Coming up next week I've got something different planned, so no flipping.


  1. Wowee I'm surprised to see that The Avengers only made it to 'It Passes the Time' after seeing so many awesome reviews of it! I haven't seen The Deep Blue Sea yet but I lovee Rachel Weisz so I'll definitely be watching it soon! :)

    What's Hot?

    1. Hey laura, I think you'll find that a lot of reviews of The Avengers are filled with hyperbole; it's the name of the movie blogging game - to be more enthusiastic about something than anybody else as you get caught in the hype of a movies release. Make no mistake, The Avengers is a pretty good superhero/action movie and nothing more. If RDJ refused to be in it the movie would be a massive waste of time.

      I hope you enjoy Deep Blue Sea, it's a whole new way to appreciate cinema.

  2. Hey you're back! I've reviewed a couple of these films and felt the same way for the most part. I avoided My Blueberry Nights when it first hit UK cinemas even though I'm a massive fan of WKW. I regret it now.

    1. Jason! Yeah Been slowly getting back in to blogging whenever time and the internet allows. I'd like to see a WKW film in the cinema (he made my Top 10 Directors list too) but I think it would have enhanced the disappointment if it had been My Blueberry Nights.

    2. I had the pleasure of seeing 2046 in a cinema. I was the only person at that screening.

    3. I should have gone to that. It was advertised when I was living in London but I just never put the effort in to find a cinema showing it.

      It must be quite surreal to be alone in the cinema for that movie, almost as if you were Tony Leung on the train to 2046.

  3. Ah, Sweet Smell of Success. One of my favorites. Nice to know you loved it too.

    Also, nice to know you loved The Deep Blue Sea as well. It's definitely among my top 5 this year. (Or at least before the fall movie season begins.)

    1. I've not seen what's coming soon but i think there's not likely to be a female performance that would beat The Deep Blue Sea. We can hope though! Or is that just greed?

    2. I've yet to see a female performance this year that tops Weisz. Fingers crossed for when Oscar season rolls around.

  4. I don't care if Cosmopolis is the worst film of all-time. I'm still seeing it. ;)

    Glad you loved Sweet Smell of Success. A terrific film that more people should see.

    I wasn't that crazy about The Deep Blue Sea, but I loves Weisz's and Beale's performances. And the subway shot is breathtaking.

    The one film I saw in August that I'd recommend is The Seven Year Itch. Monroe gives her best performance in it.

    1. I know, people have hated it but then other people have absolutely loved it. If you can get past the dialogue I think you have a good shot at enjoying it.

      Deep Blue Sea was set in England so I'm afraid you meant to say the Underground shot is breathtaking. ;)

      Marilyn Monroe eh? Tied in to seeing My Week With Marilyn or a long standing interest? I've only seen Some Like It Hot and Asphalt Jungle, she was fabulous in one and OK in the other.

    2. Doh! The Underground. How'd I forget that? I just went back and fixed that in my review. :)

      Neither. I'd seen Monroe in a few films (loved her in Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot, and The Misfits), and I randomly found The Seven Year Itch for $10 on Blu-ray. That was shortly after I finally saw her in The Misfits, so I went for it and loved it. It's going in my top 100 on the next update.

      Need to see The Asphalt Jungle.

    3. Asphalt Jungle is worth the watch but not really for Monroe, she could have been anyone in that movie.

  5. Well our tastes have a lot of overlap, but I guess every so often we end up on opposite sides. Cosmopolis is one polarizing picture.

    Runaway Train, hard to believe it was originally penned by Kurosawa from the end result. Noteworthy for being Danny Trejo's first role though.

    I agree about AHX being overrated, actually I feel that way about most of Ed Norton's back catalog.

    Pierrot le fou. Need to see it again, but I remember loving how random and spontaneous it was.

    My Blueberry Nights - Yeah Portman was annoying, but Weisz cancels her out. Love that her character's name is basically an anglicized version of Maggie Cheung's in In the Mood For Love and Days of Being Wild. Also anytime I hear Otis Redding, I just can't hate. Jones and Law didn't bother me either, but I do agree that Darius Khondji while capable, didn't have the same chemistry with WKW that Chris Doyle had.

    Nice to see you are continuing with the noir project, even if you aren't doing detailed posts like before. I've had Kiss Me Deadly and Sweet Smell on my watch list for ages. Will have to pick them up at the next Criterion sale. And yes, Jeanne Moreau accompanied by Miles Davis in Paris at midnight is perfection. If the film was 90 minutes of just that, I would have no complaints.

    1. Did you review Cosmopolis? I'd love to read what it is I've been missing.

      The Kurosawa connection was the only reason I heard about Runaway Train, it must have been heavily rewritten. Voight was completely miscast too.

      The noir project may need a couple of catch up posts, I really want to cover them all properly to document the growth of the movement. 1957 and 1958 were amazing years for the style obviously. It's not quite the same as Criterion but the BFI take a lot of time over their DVD selections, Luke at Wanna Go To The Movies mentioned that they have a massive sale on at the moment if that's of any interest to you?

  6. It's a shame that you didn't like Cosmopolis, I was dead-set sure that you would. A debate on that film is for another day!

    My dad recently watched Deep Blue Sea and said he loved it, too, so I am taking your word for it as well!

    1. Brilliant, you're comparing my movie taste to your dad!

      I've seen you loved Cosmopolis actually, I felt so disconnected from the characters and the action from the opening shot. That's not a good way to start a movie and there's no real way back. Perhaps it was the intention but it didn't work for me.

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