Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Movie Diary #2: July 2012

I was going to stretch this out to a fortnightly post but the monthly post seems popular right now and it certainly means less work for me. So here's a quick look at what I've been watching since the last entry 10 days ago and I won't be back with this feature until 1st September. Promise.

Why Did They Even Bother?

The 13th Warrior (1999) written by Michael Crichton, directed by John McTiernan, what could possibly go wrong? Seemingly everything. A huge budget didn't make for a good movie, eventually leading to Michael Crichton basically reshooting the whole thing uncredited. My film log says it all really:
Antonio Banderas painted orange and playing an Arabian? What were they thinking?
Yatterman (2009) directed by the occasionally brilliant and always barmy Takashi Miike this is a bizarre superhero movie that I just could not enjoy except in a "what the eff?!" kind of way.
Bizarre fetishistic live action superhero manga, Takashi Miike strikes again with a film that didn't seem suited to a western audience. Or at least not this western audience.
Who's That Girl? (1987) is a Madonna movie, I can hear you asking already "what the hell did you expect?" the answer is probably a complex one but essentially something vaguely fun that I could sort of ignore for a while. Directed by James Foley who woud go on to direct Glengarry Glen Ross so you can't say there wasn't a quality director in there somewhere but
This movie is so dumb it hurts to watch.
The Lorax (2012) is not a Dreamworks Animation (which is what I thought it was) and wasn't even created by the same people who made Horton Hears A Who but what it is is
dumb and pretty much assumes the audience is dumb from the start, there's something really unsettling about the level that this movie is pitched at.
It Passes The Time

Con Air (1997) has been recorded on our Foxtel box for months but the time was never right for a really long stupid movie. Finally it's time came
Nic Cage spends half of this movie in slow motion I swear.
Good cheesy action packed fun that has one ending too many and could have done with about 20 minutes being cut from it.
Dial M For Murder (1954) the Hitchcock version, part of the noir-athon. It was a pretty decent movie but I'm not going to suddenly change in to a massive fan of Hitchcock based on watching it.
Undeniably theatrical. The constant exposition is a little tedious but its still worth some of the praise heaped on it.
Welcome To Collinwood (2002) on my first viewing of this back in 2002 I dismissed it as stupid and turned it off. At some point I must have rewatched it from to start to finish yet completely forgotten that it had happened so I recorded it on Foxtel. Based on an Italian Oscar nominated farce from the 50s this has some very strong comedic performances, notably from Patricia Clarkson and Sam Rockwell.

Interesting story from my time working at Blockbuster, when this was a new realease we had an entire bay face out of this film, the marketing people decided to use the quote "HILLARIOUS!" from The Sun or wherever as it's main selling point in font so big and so red we had several customers ask us for "that new film, Hillarious"
An enjoyable light piece of film making, perfect for a lazy evening.
Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1959) is another from our noir-a-thon this time directed by Jacques Becker and featuring a welcome return to my screen for Jean Gabin who is perfect as the aged crook who can't retire just yet thanks to some of those dastardly crosses and double-crosses that litter this genre of film.
An excellent forerunner to the work of Melville that left me more interested in reading the book that it was adapted from than what actually happened in the movie.
Vengeance (2009) is a very cool and beautifully filmed Triad movie from Johnnie To and starring French icon Johnny Hallyday that nearly made the 'something great' list.
Equal parts stylised violence, triad politics and existential noir this is a special piece of cinema. Johnny Hallyday is superb as the quiet, older lone wolf type, an updated version of Alain Delon's iconic creation Jef Costello.
Seance On A Wet Afternoon (1964) is another film that almost made the 'something great' list, it's a strangely compelling movie that could only have been made in the sixties, reminiscent of Don't Look Now in a lot of ways.
Starring Richard Pinkie Father Christmas John Hammond Attenborough in a fantasticlly understated performance opposite the frighteningly subtle craziness of Kim Stanley this movie builds to an ending that you can't look away from.
Great stuff and a forgotten gem.
You'll already have seen my excellent review of High Hopes this week but incredibly it wasn't the only entry in this next section, in what turned out to be 10 days of watching very high quality films.

Sometimes They Make Something Great

Shadows (1959) the directorial debut of cinematic maverick John Cassavetes. I've seen it a few times before but every time I watch it I am reminded that this is the type of film I should aspire to create.
Almost every modern movie owes something to this seminal piece of American independent cinema. In every shot and every action you're bound to find something that's been stolen, borrowed, adapted, butchered, evolved, copied in another movie made since.
That aside it's just plain enjoyable as a film.
Eastern Promises (2007) as David Cronenberg releases what sounds to be yet another dud lets remind ourselves just how great his London based Russian gangster movie was.
Cronenberg has created a powerful piece of cinema that feels as real as fictional cinema can get and without resorting to shaking the camera constantly. A combination of fantastic script, superb performances (especially from Viggo in what is almost certainly the best of his career) and strong direction serves up my favourite movie about London.
The Graduate (1967) is one of the finest pieces of American cinema I've ever witnessed. Seen this several times myself but Leah had always dismissed it. Boy was she in for a surprise.
So many moments that leave your jaw dropped at the audacity and talent of Mike Nichols. And pure enjoyment in terms of story and performace too.
Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself (2003) is the film Lone Scherfig made after her Dogme95 film Italian For Beginners and before An Education made her a Hollywood player. It's a strangely charming and sweet comic drama about death. And love. Additionally it claimed the spot as the best movie bookshop that I can think of, sadly making my recent post already out of date.
Clearly made on a low budget but done very well. Added bonus: this is the movie that introduced me to Shirley Henderson and I guess I've been infatuated with her ever since.
Love Is Colder Than Death (1969) was my first experience of the talented German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and almost certainly not my last. On the surface it is a story about a hitman but underneath it's so much more plus pure unadulterated style to boot.
For the entirity of these 88 minutes my mouth couldn't stay shut, his visuals are uniformly beautiful works of art. If I took a screenshot randomly every ten seconds I could quite easily put on a popular gallery exhibition of incredible photography.
Visuals aside this was also a fantastic dissection of the gangster genre, incredibly refreshing to a viewer in this age of gangbanging thugs who never saw it coming and endless Michael Bay sequels.
As always I long for your comments, anybody seen more than the one out of fifteen Eric had last week?


  1. I remember seeing Who's That Girl in theaters back in the 80s when Madonna was mildly culturally relevant. It is a TERRIBLE movie.

    1. I have a confession to make, when I was a kid this was on TV all the time and I know I remember watching it all the time but didn't remember a thing about it.

  2. I kinda liked Who's That Girl? It's one of the better movies Madonna has been in. It's silly as hell and this was when Madonna was tolerable. Nowadays, she's just a mean old bitch who has overstayed her welcome.

    1. It was kind of scary seeing what she used to look like and thinking what she must have done to herself to look the way she does now. I pay little attention to celebrity gossip, do you have an example of how she's a mean old bitch cos I think that would be a good read!

  3. I love Dial M for Murder for its theatricality. Ray Milland's performance is so great. I just love how he's so calm and smooth-talking even when he's found out. I've seen it well over 10 times, but I realize it's not for everyone.

    I did like The 13th Warrior. Preposterous, but enjoyable.

    Completely agree on Eastern Promises and The Graduate though. Fantastic movies. There's supposed to be a sequel to Eastern Promises, which could be interesting.

    1. M is certainly better when you consider everything Hitchcock did to enhance the 3D experience in the 50s and I do love the "giant phone" anecdote. Milland is so terribly English in his behaviour throughout, I guess it didn't seem any different to me as I grew up knowing that that was how us English traditionally were.

      At least you know 13th Warrior is preposterous, that is your saving grace!

      I can see Cronenberg clutching at straws a little if the Eastern Promises sequel is true, two duds in a row it seems so a return to fertile ground might seem safe.

  4. I've only seen RW Fassbinder's Ali Fear Eats the Soul, but I've been meaning to seek out the rest of his, as well as Wim Wenders, films.

    I have to disagree with the notion that Cronenberg has made two duds in a row though. I thought Cosmopolis was very good and nearly excellent.

    1. I think I will be working my way through Fassbinder, he's very interesting to me so far.

      I've read a few negative reviews and I've been told of bad experiences in watching Cosmopolis, but your opinion carries more weight for me than theirs. I was going to see it anyway but now my expectations are a little higher.

  5. The Graduate is brilliant. It pains me to see people referring to it as a dated film that is no longer relevant today. Even Roger Ebert changed his tune after initially calling it one of that year's best movies. I think it holds up remarkably well, so it's great to see your praise for it as well.

    I'll have to check out Love is Colder than Death. Haven't seen anything from Fassbinder, unfortunately.

    1. From what I hear any Fassbinder is worth looking at, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

      I haven't seen people talking about how The Graduate has dated but they probably have a point in terms of story. It's nearly 50 years old, society has changed dramatically so of course the attitudes and behaviours in the film will also have dated. Charles Webbs original novel is still listed as one of the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die despite having the same problem in terms of content but the dated content doesn't change how well made or well written it was and how important it is in terms of cinematic history.

      Young people are still getting lost in a sea of expectations and making bad decisions, how is this film suddenly irrelevant?

  6. Ahah, Banderas playing an Arab, I think this wasn't the only one, wasn't he also in Black Gold?? That The 13th Warrior poster is horrid too, looks like that ship's sail was gonna poke his eye!

    1. That was the better of the two poster concepts I found, the other features a picture of Banderas but seemingly not in character. Straws clutched.

      I've not heard of Black Gold but a look at it's imdb page says a lot of people didn't: Opening Weekend: £11,004 (UK) (24 February 2012) (95 Screens) that's something like 950 people paying to see the movie out of a population of 60m. Ouch!

  7. Of the films I have seen:

    I know I saw Who's That Girl back in the 80s, but I honestly can't remember anything about it.

    I didn't see Con Air for years, but when I finally did I actually enjoyed it.

    I've got to disagree on Dial M for Murder. I felt it was one of the best Hitchcock films I had seen.

    I liked Eastern Promises quite a bit.

    The Graduate just didn't work for me. I consider it one of those films critics saw when they were the age of the character and fell in love with it, which has led them to feel it is a better film than it is.

    1. You could be right about The Graduate Chip, I first saw it as a 17 year old and probably identified with the main character a bit more than if I'd seen it for the first time now. Technically it's still a fantastic watch though.

  8. Glad to see you've returned. With that in mind...congratulations! You probably already have one, but, uh, here's one of those chain letter-esque blogging awards that are making the rounds. Busy work time.

    1. Haha thank you, you are now the third to pass it on to me. So much love!

      I have already completed the post and it's due to go up any minute now, however I'll come answer some questions for you anyway.