Sunday, June 2, 2013

Movie Diary #11: May 2013

May is over. Thank goodness. I found myself in an ever expanding attempt to watch a larger number of movies, only managing to stop the compulsion to put another DVD in the player when I reached a hundred, otherwise I might have gone way past the 116 films I eventually saw. This level of insanity cannot continue in to June as I seem to have written my way out of writer's block and have multiple projects in need of rewrites and pre-production to think about but still after five months of the year I have seen 397 films so far.

I revisited 7 films in May bringing the total rewatch count in 2013 up to 51. If I can get this number under 10% I'd be very happy but with research for possible film productions that ambition may go the way of the dodo.

The 2013 film counter had a further 12 added to it this month bringing the total seen this year to 33.

I've managed to pare down the 116 to some essential recommendations for you. There's a horrible 10 I advise you to avoid, 20 to keep an eye out for and 5 masterpieces you should see today if you haven't already, of which Star Wars day only contributed one entry.


Runaway (1984) Dir. Michael Crichton
This movie is stupid. Selleck has a massive moustache. The robots are not even remotely believable. In a post Blade Runner world this is what they came up with? Michael Crichton was big on ideas that's for sure but beyond that I'm not sure he ever really managed to succeed in the film industry.
I Give It A Year (2013) Dir. Dan Mazer
Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny. Not funny.
It's like watching Kristen Wiig's dentist in Ghost Town less funny sister for 90 minutes. Or one long Stephen Merchant sketch. Really? This got made? Poor Rafe Spall.
A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III (2013) Dir. Roman Coppola
What is the point of this movie? Roman Coppola is nearly 50 and chooses to step out of the cinematic shadows of his father, sister and mentor with this half arsed attempt to be Charlie Kaufman crossed with Wes Anderson? I just don't understand his decision making here.
Charlie Sheen is not someone who can read this dialogue and make you believe it. He might be an arsehole having a midlife crisis in real life and that probably helped him play an arsehole having a midlife crisis here but acting is not his strong suit.
It's a giant mess. Largely unfunny. I want my 90 minutes back.
Parker (2013) Dir. Taylor Hackford
I tried watching without my previous affection towards the novels, Lee Marvin or even Payback, hoping to enjoy it. I mean there's a cast with bags of potential here, even J.Lo could have been a great choice if she'd channelled her Out of Sight performance, Donald Westlake aside, this could have been pure mindless entertainment of the highest order.
Taylor Hackford man. Fucking Taylor Hackford. Shoddy lazy directing at best.
Broken City (2013) Dir. Allen Hughes
Very little of this movie works. It's a schizophrenic piece that doesn't know whether it's a neo-noir detective story or a political thriller. I love to watch Mark Wahlberg but this is one of his worst and most uninteresting films to date. The dialogue is pretty bad throughout but coming out of the mouth of Catherine Zeta Jones it's especially dreadful. I've never been particularly impressed by the movies of The Hughes Brothers but it seems that when one of them works on their own the quality drops even further.
The Runaways (2010) Dir. Floria Sigismondi
This movie is actually pretty dreadful. It's a terrible biopic, it's a terrible music biopic, it's a terrible coming of age story, its a terrible punk movie, it's a terrible feminist movie, it's a terrible movie about the exploitation of teenagers. I only watched this movie for Michael Shannon anyway so I got what I deserved I suppose.
Summer Window (2011) Dir. Hendrik Handloegten
Yes, I am complaining at being suckered in by the presence if Hoss and the soft science fiction angle of the plot, a soft science fiction time travel story that's been told a thousand times before with different variations sure; but still nothing interesting was done with the concept, nothing was at stake and I certainly didn't care whether the movie ended in a positive or negative manner for the protagonist, as long as it ended and ended soon.
A Good Day To Die Hard (2013) Dir. John Moore
Quite possibly the worst movie ever made. Ed Wood has nothing on John Moore and Skip Woods. I would rather watch a Len Wiseman movie instead of this it's that bad. At least Taken 2 had some half decent action scenes, this just has some zooming cameras and gratuitous car crashes. I will watch another 300 movies this year and I won't see anything close to being this awful. I saw Mickey Rourke in Java Heat and had a better time than watching Die Hard 5. I'm going to make a T-Shirt of that and send it to Bruce Willis.
Take This Waltz (2012) Dir. Sarah Polley
If this movie had a face I would want to punch it in it. If Michelle Williams character existed in real life I would make sure I was never in the same location as her because she is so mentally unstable I'd be afraid of inadvertently getting caught up in one of her frequent bursts of tears over nothing. She's afraid of connections. This film is afraid of subtlety and undertones and is filled with painfully obvious metaphors and symbolism and a constant colour correction that hurts your eyes and so many more problems.
Joy Ride AKA Road Kill (2001) Dir. John Dahl
Holy shit this is awful. JJ Abrams wrote this?! John Dahl directed it? Not my kind of movie in general but with Dahl helming I hoped for more. I like Steve Zahn on occasion but in this instance he makes Paul Walker seem talented. Waste of time. Waste of $26m too.

Really Very Good Actually

Solider of Orange (1979) Dir. Paul Verhoeven
This is a classy and intelligent wartime biopic that suffers from some of the same flaws that all pictures of this type suffer from; a large cast of characters that get lost in the wide scope, an episodic plot, details left out or glossed over for the sake of brevity, that kind of thing but not to any major detriment.
Bug (2006) Dir. William Friedkin
Horrible, shocking, mesmerising, the kind of cinema that is so far removed from the staid comfortable lifestyle most of us live that your jaw will drop repeatedly (if you manage to raise it to begin with,) you will want to vomit several times, if you think on it too hard you may find tears have sprung to your eyes and the whole time your brain is screaming, fighting to unscramble what you're seeing, to put a label on it and quantify it as a metaphor or several metaphors even, a statement about something, anything, just so long as you can classify it and deal with the fall out in a more comfortable manner.
Home (2009) Dir. Ursula Meier
Idyllic family unit, living in the countryside, next to an abandoned freeway. The freeway is reopened and their lives change forever. I expected a movie with this concept to be a little more surreal, instead this is a political message film posing as magic realism disguised as kitchen sink drama. I cannot even pretend to know what this movie is a metaphor for but I would hazard a guess at the perils of modern life, the planetwide disaster that is technological pollution, mental illness, the importance of family.
Cache (2005) Dir. Michael Haneke
An interesting psychological drama bordering on horror that holds your attention throughout by not explaining anything. Well played Heneke as that was obviously your intention. But much like American horror movies this is populated by stupid people who don't behave like normal people when faced with these scenarios. 
Reprise (2006) Dir. Joachim Trier
Joachim Trier is a very interesting director. He takes a little of the Amelie gimmick and rubs it in a heavy dose of coming of age realism to create a sobering yet joyful experience filled with poetic visuals and somehow succeeded in making a quite lovely film despite it being is debut.
Jess + Moss (2012) Dir. Clay Jeter
Jess + Moss really is like a book of beautiful moving photographs with words and music added for effect. A perfect example of Appalachian poverty and the rich life (however mythical) of the inhabitants.
Police, Adjective (2009) Dir. Corneliu Porumboiu
Police, Adjective is a minimalist police procedural film that follows the hard work of one man trailing a teenage boy on suspicion of drugs offences that is at the same time a portrait of post-Communist Romanian, a discussion of the nature of police work and the law, alienation and the effects of being a policeman on the policeman. Mesmerising from the first six minute silent tracking shot of the cop following the teen and doesn't let up through meals, meetings and stakeouts. I couldn't help but enjoy it and even now I find it growing on me further.
The Prefab People (1982) Dir. Béla Tarr
Bela Tarr started off making social realist cinema? Unlike Ken Loach, Tarr isn't using the medium to highlight the failings of society, instead he seems to be highlighting the faults of humanity, the internal conflicts which when externalised cause further interpersonal conflict, in this case the memories of a struggling married couple with two children in 1980 Communist Budapest. It's far from perfect but it is exactly the kind of film making I take great pleasure from.
Breathing (2012) Dir. Karl Markovics
Breathing might be the debut feature from actor turned director Karl Markovics but it is such an assured piece of cinema that I can't see it being his last. I admire his directorial style a great deal, he sets his shot, locks his camera and allows his actors to do what is needed to get a strong performance out of them. First time actor Thomas Schubert is wonderfully expressive as the protagonist, allowing his eyes to do a lot of the work as he deals with a range of emotions and new experiences, most notable grief, guilt and fear. As Peter de Lane frequently says, it's all in the eyes.
A Serious Man (2009) Dir. The Coen Brothers
I will always remember being the only person laughing in the cinema when this was released and the strange looks I got from other people as they left. Brilliantly funny, superbly shot. One of the Coen's best films.
Dogtooth (2010) Dir. Giorgos Lanthimos
Much like the work of Haneke you can take a thousand different readings of this film, you can believe it is a political statement, you can see it as an allegory, you can even watch it as a documentary of an evil man but if you watch this film and aren't affected or moved, even if it's to nausea, you probably weren't paying attention.
Cinema like nothing else I've experienced so far.
Jennifer's Body (2009) Dir. Karyn Kusama
This must be one of the most underappreciated and misunderstood movies of recent times. This is not a horror movie, it's not even supposed to be scary. Diablo Cody's script is hilarious from start to finish and is very deliberately deconstructing the high school horror genre, just not in a Cabin in the Woods way. It is so well made that it makes Megan Fox look like she put in a good acting performance. All of these characters are real, wait the goth kids are not real, highly stylised versions of real kids with a completely made up slang (which I happen to think is genius of Tolkien like proportions) but real in an unreal situation. Oh man, Adam Brody is so fucking brilliant as the lead singer of the devil worshipping indie band he deserves his own spinoff movie/TV series and a role in every movie ever made from here on out.
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) Dir. Monte Hellman
A quite wonderful road movie that deserves its cult status. Existentialism and all natural performances from non-actors and a superb Warren Oates as their counterpoint. Considering the year of creation you can read metaphor and symbolism in to just about every scene if you so choose but even taken at face value - a story about men and the road - it is a film that entertains on all levels from start to finish.
Lorna's Silence (2008) Dir. The Dardenne Brothers
Very cool. A thriller of sorts, told in the realist style with incredibly natural performances. My first experience of the Dardenne Brothers was quite something. A look at immigration issues within the European Union at present without the hysteria applied by the media.
The Dirty Dozen (1967) Dir. Robert Aldrich
Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Jim Brown have enough punches in them to take down an entire country on their own in most movies but when you back them up with nine other men Hitler stood no chance!
Festen (1998) Dir. Thomas Vinterberg
Festen is quite clearly the best film made under the Dogme '95 guidelines, not just for the visceral nature of the storytelling but the way Vinterberg made the obstructions, the restrictions, the vow of chastity work for his film. It seems like all other Dogme directors actively sought out loopholes but Vinterberg embraced the challenge and it shows in the quality of the finished product.
Sonbahar (2008) Dir. Özcan Alper
Quality low budget world cinema from a strong new voice worth keeping an eye on. Packed with beautiful vistas and long moody takes without dialogue it is the use of ambient noise, or at times a lack of, that most impressed.
The Last Seduction (1994) Dir. John Dahl
This movie is all about Linda Fiorentino. A great modern noir with a kick ass bitch who doesn't take shit from nobody as the protagonist/femme fatale. It really was an Oscar worthy performance opposite the guy who would go on to direct Battleships.
King of the Hill (1993) Dir. Steven Soderbergh
This film should have crowned Steven Soderbergh's career and marked him as a true great of American cinema and yet almost nobody has seen it. If, for example, this had been one of those remarkable pieces from John Huston during his renaissance we'd all have heard it mentioned as a modern classic whenever a critic wants to wax lyrical about the majesty that cinema should strive to always achieve.
Behind The Candelabra (2013) Dir. Steven Soderbergh
Douglas and Damon are marvellous, calling them career defining performances sounds rather absurd considering the age and previous body of work from both of them but if this movie is not regarded as a true watermark against which all their work is judged in future I will be very surprised. And then there's the work of Rob Lowe which is almost show stealing.

Masterpiece Cinema

Wake In Fright (1972) Dir. Ted Kotcheff
A truly brilliant example of Australian cinema. A nightmare that piece by piece strips back the civilised veneer of one man and demonstrates the dark animal nature at the heart of us all. Adapted from the masterpiece of Australian literature by Canadian director Ted Kotcheff this was the first time Australia and Australians were authentically depicted in cinema, and it really is brutally honest.
Weekend (2011) Dir. Andrew Haigh
Andrew Haigh's debut feature makes me want to scrap every script I've been working on and question just what it is I want to achieve with my life. This love story is charming, funny and moving, told with quite stunningly simple direction in what were surely cramped working conditions and quite perfect natural performances from the two leads. It's near perfect independent cinema that I can only dream of matching some day.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Dir. Irvin Kirshner
Han gets frozen in carbonite and Luke loses his hand. Come on, what's not to love?
Unforgiven (1992) Dir. Clint Eastwood
I can't remember the last time I gave a full 10 out of 10 rating to a film on first viewing but Unforgiven is just that good. There are cinematic lists of shame, if you haven't seen Unforgiven then it should be at the top of yours. This is one of the greatest films ever made and it is obvious from the opening minutes. Nearly perfect in every way. I doubt there's a better western or ever will be. I shall not discuss the ins and the outs, the whys and the wherefores, there is no point, this is a film over 20 years old now and still it shines as s beacon of light for all that a genre picture can be. Every single person involved in this film did their jobs to the best of their abilities. Between the incredibly intelligent script from Peoples and the sublime directorial vision of Eastwood we have been granted a glimpse in to the strengths and failings of mankind and the inevitability of our expiration.
Damnation (1988) Dir. Béla Tarr
Add me to the list of this man's admirers, I'm hopelessly smitten and was from the very first shot. I'm told Damnation is Bela Tarr's breakthrough film, the moment he first utilised his now trademark style of long takes composed of beautiful cinematography and very little dialogue, but there's a fair amount of the social realism he began his career with too, forming some kind of poetic social realism that contrasts misery and desperation with heart stopping beauty. Mesmerising, unique cinema that will surely not be to all tastes.
Over on Letterboxd I discovered that I've been shitting on people's childhoods with by dislike of Runaway, anyone got any favourites from when they were kids that they want me to shit on in June? Comment on that or anything else that my recommendations inspire you to say, below or tweet @bbbgtoby.


  1. oh I'm sorry you didn't like I Give it a Year, because I actually did, quite a lot... though it could have been Simon Baker's face. It was an hour and a half of non-stop drooling.

    A Serious Man is funny, I can't believe people don't get that! I was so in awe with Michael Stuhlbarg after that, he's got that something.

    1. I really wanted to like it for Rafe Spall's sake. I was defending it to critics before i'd even seen it. But then it went ad made me look like a fool for doing so.

      How is it that Michael Stuhlberg isn't a massive star?

  2. Ok. You made me want to see Jennifer's Body. Did you see This Is 40? Not really a good movie but Megan Fox kind of stunned me with her comedic timing. Not sure she was playing anything but a version of herself, but still.

    Wake in Fright had a week run at a Chicago indie theater last year and I caught it. I'd never heard of it previously. Yeah. It was...intense.

    1. I did see This is 40. I've sort of blanked it out however and had no idea that Megan Fox was in it. I do remember thinking she was OK in How To Lose Friends but that was before I even knew what she looks/looked like.

      I'm so jealous you got to see Wake In Fright in cinemas. I can't imagine how much of a shock seeing it must have been for people not used to this truth about Australia. If you ever feel like a dark novel, the source material is wonderful.

  3. Holy hell, man, that's a lot of movies! Glad to hear Two-Lane Blacktop got your approval. I have that DVD sitting at home. Looking forward to finally checking it out.

    1. You have no idea how many it is until you realise you haven't left the house in days. I put Two-Lane Blacktop on thinking I could use something a bit lighter, bad move, didn't realise a movie that in theory was about road racing would be more of a slow paced existential study. Very cool. I hope you enjoy it. The Criterion art is very pretty (duh.)

  4. Now that's a month of movie watching! I did manage to see 70 films in May though, with 8 rewatches.

    Glad you consider The Empire Strikes Back a masterpiece. That's always been my favorite Star Wars film.

    1. It really is a month of watching too. Brain fried. I apologise for dwarfing your number which must be a record for you right? 70 is a massive number on its own, and having seen your list you saw a much higher percentage of great movies than me.

    2. Yeah, 70 is my new record. I try to watch more great movies than bad ones, if I can help it. :)