Monday, November 4, 2013

Movie Diary #14: August 2013

After several months away at work on a disastrous creative project and mental recuperation I'll be spamming your feed with multiple diary entries and other posts in the next fortnight. Let's start with August.

August was so far away! A mixture of pre-production on my now failed movie making endeavour and heading to England to actually make the film kept numbers lower than previous months, which may have directly influenced the amount of dodgy looking films I was willing to take a chance on. Of the 67 (606 year to date) films seen in August (9 rewatches with a total of 76 YTD) only 3 were really awful wastes of time and all 3 of them released in 2013. Whereas 9 were really very good and I even found 2 masterpieces, both recent films however.

My list of films seen released in 2013 reached 85 with a pretty hefty 18 added in August, the best of which, A Teacher, will place low on my Top 15 for the year so far.

Here's my 14 recommendations (both positive and negative) from August.

Avoid Like The Plague
The Lifeguard (2013) Dir. Liz W. Garcia
So I like Kristen Bell in this but it's all so bland and bordering on stupid and definitely unnecessary. There's an attempt to be "of the moment" in terms of structure, style and content but really it's shit like this that gives indie film a bad name, cliche ridden and handheld for no reason whatsoever.
Epic (2013) Dir. Chris Wedge
Pretty much the worst animated movie I've seen in years, ugly animation, lazy animation, terrible stunt voice casting, awfully basic storytelling.
R.I.P.D. (2013) Dir. Robert Schwentke
Well, yes, that just happened. A concept with a whole lot of potential ruined by a director who didn't seem to have a cohesive overall vision, a script that was highly derivative and lacking in FUN and some truly terribly CGI coupled with awful cinematography. This is a truly disastrous movie and here's hoping that Robert Schwentke will be dispatched to the Rest In Peace Department for terrible directors and so no longer be able to "entertain" us with such cinematic marvels as RED, Flightplan and The Time Traveller's Wife.

Minutes & Money Well Spent

Marriage Material (2012) Dir. Joe Swanberg
One of the most accurate yet subtle portraits of the differences between men and women and the way they approach relationships. You'll almost certainly find the crying baby divisive, I know I just wanted it to shut the hell up whilst others wanted to pick it up. The raw honesty that Swanberg brings to this film stands in stark contrast to the more recent Drinking Buddies and hopefully is a sign of what I should expect as I dig deeper in to his back catalogue.
The entire film is available for free via Swanberg's Vimeo page. 
Corky (1972) Dir. Leonard Horn
Leonard Horn's Corky is a true forgotten gem of 1970's American cinema. The story of an alcoholic stock car driver who still dreams big, who despite his undoubted talent is his own worst enemy, would feel right at home in the hands of David Gordon Green or Jeff Nicholls today, with its unflinching and unapologetic portrait of small town American life. Robert Blake is perfect as the titular character falling from grace in spectacular fashion, he's no Michael Shannon but very few are, and I encourage you all to seek out this movie at the earliest opportunity.
Shame (2011) Dir. Steve McQueen
Revisited because so many people have referenced this film after reading the script for my own current film project and considering I wasn't exactly gushing in my praise for this film previously it must have had a more pronounced impact on my subconscious than I realised; I kind of feel like a dirty plagiarist with some entire establishing sequences seemingly copied from Steve McQueen. McQueen really does structure his characters development very well, establishing mood as well as personality in a few simple steps and with the help of Michael Fassbender's wonderful lead performance he made one of the better films 2011 offered up.
My Favourite Year (1982) Dir. Richard Benjamin
Peter O'Toole is quite wonderful as the Errol Flynn type down on his luck drinking womanising Hollywood idol and to recast this role with Russell Brand is a much larger travesty than doing the same with Dudley Moore's Arthur, as Peter O'Toole brings a lot more to every moment than comedic likeability, his natural acting talent and decades of presence fill the screen in ways that 99.9% of actors could never hope to match, let alone "alternative" comedians slash celebrities slash big-haired junkies.
Hollywoodland (2006) Dir. Allen Coulter
Every time I watch this movie I like it more and more, there's so much to be liked in terms of content and performance. Adrien Brody leads the way as the private detective putting himself in harms way to get to the truth but the quality doesn't stop there with powerful performances from Diane Lane, Ben Affleck and Bob Hoskins in support. But it is the mood and tone of the piece that really captures my imagination, recalling Schlesinger's fabulous Day of the Locust in it's portrayal of the decay of the Golden Age of Hollywood in addition to period noir, there is so much more to Hollywoodland than mere noirstalgia.
Inception (2010) Dir. Christopher Nolan
I went from giving this film full marks 3 years ago to being barely able to get to the end. It's still visually impressive, the scope of his imagination is incredibly large, there's not a single bad performance from the huge ensemble cast and yet, really, when you get down to it, there's a great big nothing at the heart of this movie. It's all spectacle, intelligent spectacle but only distracting entertainment nonetheless.
A Teacher (2013) Dir. Hannah Fidell
Hannah Fidell's A Teacher is the second movie seen this month focusing on an older woman's affair with a schoolboy. Whereas The Lifeguard attempts to present Kristen Bell's folly in a realistic and sympathetic light A Teacher attempts nothing, it just watches the relationship, lets the audience make its own mind up and shows the very real consequences on Lindsay Burdge's teacher.
Fidell's direction is necessarily unobtrusive considering the potentially salacious subject matter and the film relies heavily on the performance of Burdge who is more than up to the task. She carries the descent from happy, functioning member of society in to a despairing wreck with apparent ease and even better none of the cliché histrionics that lesser performers might have been tempted to resort to.
For fans of the prevalent style in contemporary American low budget cinema, A Teacher is a fine film well worth your iTunes download purchase.
Truck Turner (1974) Dir. Jonathan Kaplan
Truck Turner is pretty much one long 90 minute chase scene that sets out at 100mph to entertain and doesn't let off until the credits roll. Much to my surprise Isaac Hayes is great as the eponymous anti-hero but he's not alone in a cast that features wonderfully enjoyable performances from Alan Weeks, Nichelle Nichols and of course Yaphet Kotto. 
Hard Times (1975) Dir. Walter Hill
From the opening scenes the cinematography of occasional Hill collaborator Philip Lathrop is superb, and it deserves to be seen for the way he makes each shot a piece of art but it is what it is thanks to the firm foundation of Hill's approach towards the material and the excellent casting of Bronson and Coburn. It is a film that could quite easily have been turned in to another silly caper in the wrong hands, especially if some unwise fool had opted to use the banjo on the score but Bronson barely speaks and Coburn bristles at every slight, between them they bring incredible presence and subtlety. And that subtlety is what sets this film above most others on a similar subject.


Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Straight in as my favourite film of 2011, heads a truly impressive 15 for the year.
A true masterpiece of the medium, visually stunning, a mesmerising film from first to last that piles layer upon layer of complexity and yet remains (if you choose) a sublimely simple tale of picking up a dead body from a field and performing an autopsy. Worth every second of the 150 minute runtime. 
Weekend (2011) Dir. Andrew Haigh
The first time I saw Andrew Haigh's Weekend I was so very impressed. Now I'm about to shoot my own film in similar cramped conditions I thought it was about time to revisit as "research". If anything it is even more impressive this time around. If I can make a movie half as impressive as this I will be a very happy man.
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1 comment:

  1. If Inception had heart, I'd probably consider it a masterpiece. Still, it is entertaining, like you said.

    I agree on Hollywoodland. Such an underrated flick. I love the look of the film, the atmosphere, and the wonderful performances.