Friday, February 1, 2013

Movie Diary #7: January 2013

The year is one twelfth finished already. Summer here in Perth is in full swing and I've fallen in to the trap of sitting in front of the fan and watching movies without any hesitation or thought towards any of the scripts I should be working on. Outdoor cinema is in full swing as anyone who has seen my tweets will know. We've been to all six outdoor cinemas already and seen a wonderful array of movies from classic Hollywood to modern festival favourites in some of the nicest venues for watching movies you'll ever find.

Top to bottom: Rooftop Movies, Moonlight Cinema Kings Park, UWA Somerville Perth Festival Films

I've watched 72 movies so far this year, of which 51 were first time viewings. 6 were classics of the moving picture art form but with one exception sadly they were all rewatches, still at least I can say that 1 of them was newly appreciated. I wish I hadn't bothered watching 10 of the 50 but would have preferred it if they hadn't even been financed. To date I have seen two movies released in 2013.

Why Did They Even Bother?

Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012) Dir. Lee Toland Krieger
What disaster. This falls down at the script level, every single line of dialogue out of these characters mouths rang false, like some try hard hipster movie.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) Dir. Stephen Spielberg
It's tedious to the extreme, the entire first hour was surely as unnecessary as the entire last 45 minutes, yet visually impressive the majority of the time and whenever William Hurt was talking all I heard was "blah blah blah exposition exposition blah blah blah."
Stand Up Guys (2013) Dir. Fisher Stevens
Oh who wouldn't want to see Chris Walken, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin as a trio of old time crooks reunited after 28 years? That is the only good point of this pretty dull, slow paced, predictable movie.
Broken English (2007) Dir. Zoe Cassavetes
Obviously has more talent than her brother but neither of them come close to the standards set by their father.
Little Birds (2012) Dir. Elgin James
It's a bit of a nothing film notable only for it's impressive cinematography. Can't say anything too bad or the director might put a hit out on me or try some extortion or other straightedged gangland behaviour.
Shadow Dancer (2012) Dir. James Marsh
2 points for good use of their production values and cinematography but negative points for portraying Irish terrorists (even just one of them) is a positive light. It's about a woman who wants to blow up English people who is forced in to not doing it and betraying her IRA masters. And she really doesn't want to either. If this was a story about Arab terrorism it would be a whole different story from Western film makers but because it's the Irish terrorism is OK?
Struck By Lightning (2012) Dir. Brian Dannelly
So what if the guy is 22 and writing screenplays. It's not actually very good and is overly reliant on cliche. This actually means he has written a bad screenplay at 22. Surely somebody his age would know what high school is actually like and then avoid those Hollywood cliches in his own writing? No, is the answer. And as such you can't help but dislike the movie and his lead character especially. AVOID
The Paperboy (2012) Dir. Lee Daniels
Characters aside, the plot is a mess too, this movie has no idea what it wanted to be, playing like a coming of age story crossed with a murder mystery and a good old fashioned reporter trying to save an innocent man from the death penalty cliche ridden monstrosity. I guess I should have known that a movie with John Cusack in it is guaranteed to suck in 2012.
Not Fade Away (2012) Dir. David Chase
Clearly a film made with deep affection by the writer/director but it didn't need to be made, didn't add anything new to what we've already seen of this type of film and most importantly was done without any real visual and creative style.
Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) Dir. Roger Michell
Despite enjoyable performances from Linney and Murray this is such a nothing movie, a silly trifle of a film that didn't need to be made and certainly doesn't need to be watched.

Worth Your Time, Worth Your Money

Cold Weather (2011) Dir. Aaron Katz
Started my day of rewatching Aaron katz off with a bang. This is probably the high point of the mumblecore movement. It takes the genre staples of naturalistic dialogue and performance then places them within the structural framework of a noir movie. When I grow up I want to be in an Aaron Katz movie.
Quiet City (2007) Dir. Aaron Katz
Originally reviewed in 2011 this get better with repeat viewing.
Dance Party, USA (2006) Dir. Aaron Katz
Originally reviewed in 2011 this one also gets better with repeat viewing.
Modern Love Is Automatic (2009) Dir. Zach Clark
I had the pleasure of seeing Zach Clark's second film, Vacation!, at a film festival back in 2011 (review here) but had struggled to find his debut until recently. Made available by the film maker for free at Vimeo, you should all follow this link or look below and enjoy a film from a unique and exciting young director.

Lost In Translation (2003) Dir. Sofia Coppola
10 years on and I don't find this movie as charming as I once did. It's not quite the melancholy love story I thought it was. It's not as neon soaked, dislocated or slow paced as I remembered but watching Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson fall in love/find comfort in each other is still mesmerising.
Damsels in Distress (2012) Dir. Whit Stillman
#6 Best Movie of 2012
Rewatching Whit Stillman's charming comedy this morning was a real pleasure. The humour shines through the surreal nature of the scenarios a lot brighter when you're prepared for it. All four girls are a delight to watch and there's still not enough Adam Brody. Full review can be found here.
The Last Days of Disco (1998) Dir. Whit Stillman
This is a perfect Brat-Pack movie made 10 years too late. The more I see of Whit Stillman's cinema the more certain I am that he has been a major influence in American indie cinema despite only having made three films until last years Damsels was released. Nothing happens and I love it for that, this could so easily have been something awfully cheesy like St. Elmo's Fire but he shows great restraint in that department and it's a better movie for it. Still, it could have used some Rob Lowe. 
Miracle Mile (1989) Dir. Steve De Jarnatt
Anthony Edwards had hair in this film! Basic premise is that he falls in love with Mare Winningham and then finds out a nuclear war is happening and they have 70 minutes til the end of the world. What follows is a close to real time experience as the news spreads panic. Calling to mind a mixture of Repo Man and classic post a-bomb noirs a la Henry Hathaway it is enjoyable in a what?! kind of way. my personal favourite moment was the alien bounty hunter from the X-Files turning up as a gay weight lifting helicopter pilot. yeah, I did just say that. It's a shame Mare Winningham was in this, she is not a particularly good actor, in a group of so-so performances she stands out as the worst.
The Hunt (2012) Dir. Thomas Vinterberg
If I'd seen this 8 days earlier it would have placed very high on my Top 10 of 2012 list but sadly it made it to Perth late. The Hunt is another example of a film that could never be made in UK, USA or Australia as it holds a mirror up to society that as a whole has no real interest in looking at its failings, preferring to demonise "outsiders" instead.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) Dir. John Cassavetes
Ben Gazzarra's performance, Cassavetes direction and the music & sound design are all of the highest quality but are let down by a weaker plot. It's a fascinating character study of a man who finds himself losing control of his carefully constructed life, that meanders quite a lot and gives me more understanding of the term Slackervetes when applied to the mumblecore movement. It's not quite intense enough to be considered amazing but it's still a very good movie.
Pitch Black (2000) Dir. David Twohy
This is a really well done low budget sci-fi thriller despite Vin Diesel being unintelligible for the majority of the film. A shame the sequels left such a non-impression. Interesting character development, good special effects, great tension throughout and some set piece action sequences that most movies would kill for. There's nothing negative to report here, it's pure entertainment and I will keep coming back to this one again and again.
The Laughing Policeman (1973) Dir. Stuart Rosenberg
One of the best police procedural films ever made, based on one the best police procedural novels ever written. Full review here.
The King's Speech (2010) Dir. Tom Hooper
Knowingly told in a similar manner to the movie of another British Monarch named George, The Madness of King George, The King's Speech suffers in comparison, of course if you have never had the pleasure of watching the powerful performance of Nigel Hawthorne then Colin Firth is highly enjoyable in this film.
Billy Liar (1963) Dir. John Schlesinger
A quite wonderful film featuring a superb performance by Tom Courtenay, based on a charming novel from Keith Waterhouse.
Dial 1119 (1950) Dir. Gerald Mayer
A wonderfully entertaining hostage noir told in real time. Featuring a disturbed war veteran, a cop who bungles the situation, a drunken barfly, a worn down newspaper hack and a cheeky barman, this one ticks all of the right character boxes and is directed with some style by Louis B. Mayer's nephew.
North By Northwest (1959) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
I always forget just how funny Cary Grant is in this movie.
Rear Window (1954) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
I just can't seem to get enthused over Hitchcock like the rest of the world does. I appreciate his innovation but more often than not his stories don't entertain me as much as they might, Rear Window is another example of this. 
Killer's Kiss (1955) Dir. Stanley Kubrick
A boxer nearing the end of his career, a dancer in a seedy nightclub and her sinister boss and patron come together in Stanley Kubrick's second feature. It's 63 minutes of low budget experimentation with the noir form by a director who would go on to achieve great things starting only two years later with The Killing.  Full review here.
A Taste of Honey (1961) Dir. Tony Richardson
I prefer my British New Wave to be a little less upbeat than this, but boy did it ladle on the taboos of the period. Underage sex?! With a black man?! Living with a gay boy?! Single mother?! For those less cynical than I this would be a a highly enjoyable movie I'm sure.
Night Must Fall (1964) Dir. Karel Reisz
A great psychological thriller from the team behind Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Albert Finney is in turns disturbing, charming, funny, and scary and the direction of Reisz brilliant in bringing the style of British New Wave cinema to the horror genre.
Barbara (2012) Dir. Christian Petzold
Understated. Quiet. Slow. Precise. Restrained. Picturesque. Detached. Minimalistic. Subtle. Intelligent. Barbara.
I can certainly see why some viewers won't like this movie, all of the above words when combined are enough to put people to sleep just thinking about them but for me this was almost perfect. My one criticism might be that there felt like a bit too much plot and perhaps there was one scene too many past what felt like the natural point to fade to black.
Sometimes They Make Something Great

Taxi Driver (1976) Dir. Martin Scorsese
A film that has always been an incredible experience every time I've watched it for the past 17 years. By far the best film of Scorsese's career and more than likely De Niro's too. Beautifully shot, a perfect score from Bernard Hermann and a fucked up script from the depraved mind of Paul Schrader.
Citizen Kane (1941) Dir. Orson Welles
Saw this on the big screen for the first time thanks to Rooftop Movies. Digital projection is a wonderful invention. There's a reason Citizen Kane is regularly considered the greatest movie ever made, and that is because it is, from first to last.
Chinatown (1974) Dir. Roman Polanski
Damn near perfect film noir, damn near perfect narrative cinema.
The Long Goodbye (1973) Dir. Robert Altman
One of the all time greats of film noir, I usually get so hung up on the brilliance of Elliot Gould's Marlowe to even pay attention to anything else but Altman's deconstruction of the genre has so much going for it outside of the protagonist.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) Dir. Karel Reisz
Quite possibly the best film produced during Britains New Wave of cinema. Which I guess makes this one of the best movies of all time. Reisz's vision owes a lot to Truffaut I feel, but then most of the greats of the period and pretty much since are directly influenced by him. Of course he had the superb source material created by Alan Sillitoe to work with; he turned a fantastic novel of postwar Britain in to a complex and interesting screenplay. And then of course there's Albert Finney to come along and put in the performance of a lifetime.
The Day of the Locust (1975) Dir. John Schlesinger 
Directed with great style by John Schlesinger and filled with wonderful performances this is a film you won't forget in a hurry and one that seems to be criminally unseen by the majority of cinephiles and movie fans alike. I've read somebody describe it as Mulholland Drive but with more blood and that should be enough to send you all out on the hunt for this fantastic movie.  Full review here.

Alright alright alright, that's enough of that for one month. If the weather cools down next month should be a quieter one movie wise. It seems like every month should be filled with films as good as these final six but my cinematic education requires both wheat and chaff and so onwards in to February via TCM and yet more exciting films from the Perth Summer Outdoor Movie Season.

Seen many of these? Got a favourite? Disagree with my taste? I know Tyler made it to 80 films for January but can anyone else beat 72? Drop some comments below.


  1. I saw Killer's Kiss this month too, it was okay but not one of my Kubrick favourites.
    Loved Lost in Translation, but haven't re-watched so we'll see what time makes of it.

    Oh, and I absolutely want to see Jagten (The Hunt).

    1. Sorry for the delay in replying! It's been pretty busy around here. Thanks for stopping by though.

      I just noticed that The Hunt has been given a general cinematic in America, not that that helps you of course, so perhaps it might make it as far as you too soon? It's very much worth seeing and will stay with you ready to pop out in to conversation at all times.

  2. I love catching movies in the park. Sadly, we have another 4-5 months before that happens over here.

    I'm going to try to catch The Long Goodbye soon. Finally saw my first Altman film last month -- Nashville -- and loved it. Can't wait to see more of his work.

    1. Eric, apologies for my lack of presence and inability to respond to you in a timely manner,

      At least you get movies in the park, not everywhere is lucky enough. I'm yet to see Nashville but in February I did see one I hadn't heard of before - California Split. If you get tired of hearing Elliot Gould talk, this one is not for you.

  3. 72? Wow, that's a lot of films! Sorry you didn't care for AI, but I know many don't.

    Dying to see Barbara and The Hunt.

  4. Love this post.

    Celeste & Jesse, Not Fade Away, Hyde Park: yes, yes, yes. Agree all the way.

    I’m excited to watch Modern Love Is Automatic. Gonna check that one out soon.

    Your great section is just perfect.

    1. Alex, good to see you here, apologies I wasn't home when you called.

      Did you get around to catching Modern Love Is Automatic yet?