Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Movie Diary #10: April 2013

May! Four months have past in a daze of movie watching. My year to date total hit 281 in April thanks to a relatively quiet month of only 67 films watched. I saw Iron Man 3 and wasn't overly impressed. Hollywood blockbuster-wise it was pretty good however. I screened some early Mike Leigh and was universally impressed as you might expect. I also saw two early David Gordon Green films and whilst they were better than Pineapple Express and The Sitter they failed to live up to my expectations. On the other hand Jeff Nichols, what a supremely talented American film maker he is!

Other stats for the month: Rewatches totalled 16, bringing the year to date up to 44, a respectable percentage of the whole. It was a good month for catching new releases, seeing 7 bringing my total up to 21. I'll be assessing the best and worst of those 21 in the next few days as I look at the best of 2013 so far. There were a lot of 5 and 6 star movies this month, those average films that I wasn't overly impressed with but wasn't particularly upset at having my time wasted by either, which leaves me discussing 5 films in the Shithouse section, 16 (9 rewatches) Really Very Good Actually recommendations and an impressive 6 (3 rewatches) films I insist you watch at your earliest convenience in this months Masterpiece Cinema category.

Coming up in May is the Around the World in 30 Movies Project and the German Film Festival, I fully expect the top category of recommendations to be a busy place in my next diary post.


Our Children (2013) Dir. Joachim LaFosse
Best said elsewhere, "ripped from the headlines without anyone bothering to turn it into drama." Our Children has so much potential but wastes it on a poor attempt at a fly on the wall documentary treatment and a structure that causes the audience to question what they are watching.
The Brink's Job (1978) Dir. William Friedkin
I'm not sure Friedkin really understands comedy. A shame really with this cast.
Jack Reacher (2012) Dir. Christopher McQuarrie
Quite possibly the worst Tom Cruise movie ever. Definitely one of the worse "detective" movies. Easily the clunkiest, slowest, most tedious "action" movies. For somebody who won an Oscar for writing The Usual Suspects Christopher McQuarrie's script in this instance has to go do down as the second major fault after the casting of Tom Cruise.
Tom Cruise is not aging well, he's no Richard Gere that's for sure. The dialogue may as well have read "exposition, exposition, exposition exposition, exposition, exposition exposition exposition, exposition." Yeah a really bad version of when John Malkovich entered his own portal in Being John Malkovich. This time I really would have liked to see him in that non-existent jewel heist movie instead of sitting through over 2 hours of Jack Reacher.
The Two Jakes (1990) Dir. Jack Nicholson
Think of everything you loved about Chinatown, now take it all away, add a ridiculously convoluted plot, some terrible performances, bad dialogue, incompetent directing, abject costume design and you have Two Jakes.
As a sequel this is dreadful, as a standalone American crime drama set in 1948 it's not that much better. There is simply nothing I can recommend in this near 2.5 hour long movie except for maybe the 10 second Tom Waits cameo.
The Rachel Papers (1989) Dir. Damian Harris
A pretty disastrous attempt to adapt a Martin Amis novel in to some kind of British Ferris Bueller but instead of wit and charm it brings dumb and offensive to the table. Dexter Fletcher is all wrong as Charles Highway and it all goes downhill from there.
Really Very Good Actually

Fanboys (2009) Dir. Kyle Newman
There's nothing truly amazing about this film but it makes up for it with enthusiasm and it's just fun, pure and simple. Second viewing I was actually less inclined to pick it apart and instead just enjoyed the whole ride, stupid Seth Rogan parts included.
Trouble With The Curve (2012) Dir. Robert Lorenz
I don't usually subscribe to the theory that a movie doesn't need to aim for greatness but in this instance I am more than happy to praise a movie for being excellent at exactly what it set out to be, a good solid film about human relationships and a love of baseball. And even better the "sports" component is backgrounded.
Dans La Maison (2013) Dir. Francois Ozon
A novel described through the language of cinema, a deconstruction of narrative and the viewing experience without resorting to Lynchian style surrealism. Definitely not one to be missed.
Ernest et Celestine (2012) Dir. Stephane Aubier et al
Charming French animation that proves you don't need celebrity voices, pop culture references or a cross promoted pop song from Cristina Aguilera to create an enjoyable film suitable for the whole family.
Boxing Day (2012) Dir. Bernard Rose
Bernard Rose and Danny Huston team up once more for another loose adaptation of a Leo Tolstoy story after the relative success of Ivans XTC. Impressive direction, strong performances from the two leads.
The Warped Ones (1960) Dir. Koreyoshi Kurahara
This is a fast paced film, driven by its energetic jazz score and a lead performance unlike any I've seen, tackling tough subjects such as youth crime, attitudes towards sex, rape, and murder without flinching. Made at the same time as Bout de Souffle and focussing on similar themes, if anything this makes Godard look staid in comparison.
Empire Records (1995) Dir. Allan Moyle
Damn the man! Save the Empire! Happy Rex Manning Day!

Jurassic Park 3D (1993) Dir. Steven Spielberg
For the first time since 1993 I got the chance to see it on the big screen. Excitement! Adventure! 3D! Oh shit what a waste of money that 3D was, but hey! Jurassic Park at the cinema! Yes! Still awesome.
Moneyball (2011) Dir. Bennett Miller
The combination of Sorkin's dialogue, the structure that completely backgrounds the actual sport and ditches just about every sports movie cliche, the unobtrusive direction and the performances of Pitt, Hill and Hoffman is exactly the kind of movie you can't help but find pleasure in watching.
Premium Rush (2012) Dir. David Koepp
Number 4 on my Best 10% of 2012 list. I was tired. I needed some pure entertainment. I chose this. It worked just fine. Loses a little on rewatch but this movie is full of charisma and it just works as a good solid enjoyable piece of cinema, everything you could ask for from the kind of film it is.
Nuts In May (1976) Dir. Mike Leigh
The earliest example of Mike Leigh's comedic talents and for my money easily the best of the "straight" comedies he has created. This portrait of a small slice of British culture nears perfection thanks to wonderful performances from Roger Sloman and Alison Steadman. Leigh at al doesn't take the easy route of reducing the situation and the characters to caricature, instead finding the truth and beauty as well as the humour in the situation. 
Shotgun Stories (2007) Dir. Jeff Nichols
Produced by a pre-stoner comedy David Gordon Green this is the debut feature of Jeff Nichols, a slow moving portrait of life in England, Arkansas, USA, for two sets of half brothers raised to hate each other and with nothing but a long tedious existence ahead of them. Michael Shannon is the stand out performer as the eldest of the seven siblings but it is most definitely an ensemble piece. Nichols crafted a beautiful drama of small town America from the script up, carefully constructing what will later be identified as an atmosphere of impending doom from the first early shots through to the inevitable conclusion.
Monsieur Hire (1990) Dir. Patrice Leconte
A spellbinding psychological drama adapted from one of the master of the forms novels, Patrice Leconte tells a love story, a tale of obsession and a murder investigation with some of the most beautiful mise-en-scene you'll ever see. It's the kind of sensuous film Perfume should have been.
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) Dir. Paul Mazursky
Insight! There's no way this movie could have been made at any other place or point in time than late 60s Hollywood. In so many ways this is what New Hollywood was about, like Bonnie & Clyde and Easy Rider were made just to allow Paul Mazursky to analyse the effect of the free love/sexual revolution on everyday suburban America and make a star of Elliot Gould.
Animal Kingdom (2010) Dir. David Michod
But still my favourite moment is the opening sequence, a moment so real and shocking that the rest of the film couldn't hope to live up to.
Of course any movie where you're left thinking "at least he didn't rape her" isn't going to be easy viewing and won't be for everyone.
The Grifters (1990) Dir. Stephen Frears
Easily the best adaptation from a Jim Thompson novel, this must be thanks to the combined stellar efforts of Donald Westlake, Stephen Frears, Martin Scorsese, John Cusack, Annette Bening and Anjelica Huston. A truly winning combination.

Masterpiece Cinema

The Terminator (1984) Dir. James Cameron
I've lost count of how many times I've seen this movie but I seem to take something different or more from it with each repeat viewing. The most impressive thing for me this time was how true to classic film noir tropes it is once you remove the science fiction element. My favourite scene today: An already smoking Paul Winfield asks Lance Henriksen for a smoke before realising he has one already going. Surely a direct reference to "Out of the Past"? Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas smoke furiously at each other. At one point, Mitchum enters a room, Douglas extends a pack and says, "Cigarette?" and Mitchum, holding up his hand, says, "Smoking." For that alone I will ignore the existence of Avatar in the man's later career.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2008) Dir. Cristian Mungiu
Quite brilliant, mesmerising from the first, grips you with its authentic look and feel as a deeply personal drama slowly unfolds between two young women. Go in to this film set in Communist Romania blind and prepare to be in awe of the Palme d'Or winning production.
Extreme Prejudice (1987) Dir. Walter Hill
I may not have seen all of his films yet but Extreme Prejudice has to be Walter Hill's finest hour behind the camera and almost certainly the highlight of Nick Nolte's run in the 1980s before the need to put him in Julia Roberts vehicles arose. Also this cast! Not a single miss amongst the lot of them.
Hard Labour (1974) Dir. Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh's second film is a truly perfect example of slice of life kitchen sink drama. It lacks the narrative structure of his later work but makes up for it with some subtle moments of the horrors and beauty of everyday life. In this instance the life of Liz Smith the aging mother of a working class family and her interactions with boorish husband Clifford Kershaw and the new generation in the form of her two adult children plus the contrasting life of the middle class woman she cleans for every morning.
Take Shelter (2011) Dir. Jeff Nichols
One of the most frightening movies I've ever seen, not in a traditional horror movie way, more the kind of horror you feel when watching Requiem For a Dream, the dread of a carefully constructed life being slowly broken apart by forces that you cannot control, it's much more than an adrenaline fuelled race for life, instead it's the slow reflection of ones innermost fears. The cinematography was beautiful, the direction precise and inspired but Michael Shannon does so much with just his eyes and his carriage that I cannot imagine this film working without him. Where on Earth was the Oscar nomination?
Miller's Crossing (1990) Dir. The Coen Brothers
The opening six minutes of this film must be some of the very best storytelling ever committed to celluloid by the Brothers Coen. It tells you everything you need to know about what is about to come, in many ways it's an entire movie on its own, it's that good. Everything that follows lives up to that incredibly high standard too.

What was your best and worst films seen in April? Anything you'd recommend me hunting down or spending money on? Feel the need to defend one of those shithouse films or going to watch them anyway? Comment below or tweet @bbbgtoby with #diary10


  1. Great job! Maybe I'll try to crack 60 this month.

    There are plenty of these I need to see, but I'm glad you liked Moneyball and Animal Kingdom, and that you view The Terminator as a masterpiece. Also, I do want to see The Two Jakes and Jack Reacher, even if they're not very good.

    1. I'm not sure I could truly encourage you to go all out and watch that many movies, i've lost all sense of the real world this year!

      There's something about cinephiles that cause us to still visit those movies that generally only get negative reviews. I can't understand it, I knew those two wouldn't be good and yet I needed to see them anyway, now you're doing the same. I don't think you find that with general moviegoers.

    2. I think cinephiles want to see more, whereas general moviegoers just want to see something good.

    3. That's a great point. We can't fully appreciate the great films unless we can see what makes the bad films not great. It's like a montage of entire movies, juxtaposing the good with the bad to make a better judgement of the artform as a whole.

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