Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Diary #16: October 2013

Right, now we're pretty much up to date with this stuff. October saw me return from the disaster that was my attempt to make a movie and hit the play button with abandon, really indulging myself with whatever I felt like watching and very rarely leaving the house.

After September October managed to supply 21 recommendations out of the 74 (711 year to date) films seen during the month. With my rewatch count kept to a paltry 2 (80 YTD) October was a month of comfort from quantity not guaranteed quality of "comfort" films.

I saw 16 new releases (114 YTD,) but only one is worthy of recommending but boy was it a good one. So that's 3 new masterpiece recommendations, seriously folks add them to the top of your watchlist, 8 more that are definitely worth investigating if you haven't already and 11 (an incredible 5 of which are 2013 releases) that you should never watch even if bored and it's a choice between that and staring at the wall for several hours.

Why Why Why Why Why Why Bother?

Ass Backwards (2013) Dir. Chris Nelson
Holy shit, what the fuck were they thinking? As unfunny and as excruciating as I expected The Internship to be and then some. Truly, remarkably bad cinema.
Simpatico (1999) Dir. Matthew Warchus
I might not always agree with the praise heaped upon movies by Roger Ebert but when it comes to movies that sucked he was almost always on the money. Sometimes a movie that isn't very good can be forgiven thanks to a fun idea that appeals to a small part of your non critical mind or great performances elevating a movie out of suckiness and in to mediocrity but with Simpatico there's a convoluted noir-esque plot AND good performances from great actors and still I found myself in agreement with Mr Ebert. Simpatico is a great big bore from start to finish. 
Mike's Murder (1984) Dir. James Bridges
Pretty slow and pretty dull neo-noir. Nothing happens for 45 minutes and then there's an hour of sloppy, badly written dialogue as Debra Winger "investigates" the titular event in a series of improbable moments.
Man of Steel (2013) Dir. Zack "Sucker Punch" Snyder
An incredibly boring movie that's about 2.5 hours too long. Like all of the problems with the Batman Begins origin story dragged out and expanded upon with a much less interesting character in a much uglier way, exactly as you would expect from Zack "300" Snyder. Not the worst blockbuster of the year but one of them. After watching this who would care that Affleck was Batman in the pointless sequel to a DOA original?
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) Dir. Robert Wise
How boring did they want to make this?! I can fully get behind the "escape the smallness of the TV" approach also known as "celebrate the massive nature of cinema" but the seemingly never ending attempt to explore the vastness of space by using sloooooooow moving shots of the Enterprise in spacedock or the ominous cloud destroying things slowly get incredibly tedious very, very quickly.
Violet & Daisy (2013) Dir. Geoffrey Fletcher
No surprise that it took several years from it's festival appearances to get a VOD release as Violet & Daisy is a mess of attempted shiny visuals and stilted dialogue delivered by two female leads who were clearly directed to be awful. Not the worst movie of the year but it's right down there. 
The Ultimate Warrior (1975) Dir. Robert Clouse
The Ultimate Warrior promises to be a fighting movie but the fight scenes are amongst the worst I've ever seen and the actual dialogue and plot are amongst some of the most offensively stupid and naive I've ever witnessed.
Turbo (2013) Dir. David Soren
Awful CGI animation from Hollywood for kids in 2013 has a new benchmark in garbage; Turbo easily surpasses Epic as the years worst, a feat I never expected to be attained this year or any other such was the abhorrent nature of said film. But somehow Turbo manages to be both derivative and offensive, it's incredibly ugly and its message is all over the place and they clearly spent about 3 seconds (if that) on thinking about the world building aspect of garden snails working in a factory and how talking nitrous oxide powered snails would interact with the human world.
Thin Ice (2011) Dir. Jill Sprecher
There's a reason you haven't heard of Thin Ice, a caper movie starring two incredibly likeable actors, one an Oscar winner and the other an Oscar nominee, the reason is that this film is one of the very worst instances of the matchstick man conceit.
10 (1979) Dir. Blake Edwards
I'd heard tale of this being a comedy but it turns out that's more of an urban legend as 10 starts off dull and proceeds to fail at causing even a titter for two hours. Perhaps it is unfair to expect something as wonderfully joyful as Dudley Moore in Arthur but I went in with low expectations and had them pulverised by the sheer tedium of it all, not to mention the offensive nature of the concept that felt just a little too long in the tooth for 1979. 1 star for Dudley Moore.
Earthbound (2013) Dir. Alan Brennan
I can't resist a Rafe Spall movie, and so I bring crap like this upon myself every single time. It's just not funny, at all, despite trying every type of humour imaginable at every opportunity. Rafe Spall is, as usual, great and despite being an awful cliche of a manic pixie dream girl Jenn Murray has a real quality and presence about her, beyond that there's nothing to recommend. In 2013 you can trust the Irish to release a terrible superhero movie about religious beliefs without the subtle metaphors of a Zack "Sucker Punch" Snyder joint.
Not Quite Some of the Best Movies Ever Made

Bug (2006) Dir. William Friedkin
The second half of this movie was like a train wreck that somehow blows up a nuclear reactor. 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.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964) Dir. Sergio Leone
Seen hot on the heels of watching Yojmbo and Last Man Standing and reading Red Harvest, it was always going to take something special in the telling of this story yet again to impress me and boy was I impressed. The combination of Leone's vision and Eastwood's performance elevate this version of Hammett's tale of corruption and a protagonist who exists in that grey area between black hat and white hat, playing two opposing gangs off against each other for the good of humanity and his pocket, above all other versions in terms of entertainment and enjoyment.
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) Dir. William A. Wellman
A fine example of the early western-noir genre crossover that provides an awfully large amount of inspiration for the later award winning movie about mob justice 12 Angry Men; with an expected ending that still manages to pack an almighty punch thanks to some fine acting from all involved, a tight play-like script and strong directing from William Wellman. This film will place high on my list of favourite westerns.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) Dir. Robert Wiene
Another one of those films I thought I'd seen in film school but had actually only seen clips of, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is incredible piece of early cinema and as important as any film ever made. The set design and the painting of shadows is wonderful all on its own but the storytelling is a step beyond anything previously seen in the medium, the combination of which makes this film still highly entertaining and an enjoyable watch at almost one hundred years old.
Paths of Glory (1957) Dir. Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick's anti-war movie is incredibly effective despite how overtly cold he painted his villains in their lambs to the slaughter attitudes. Known as an innovator of style in genre pictures I was most impressed by how he almost never allowed the camera to rest, keeping everything moving back and forth or on a constant dolly, and not in a shakeycam Paul Greengrass way either, it's something that I don't recall seeing in previous war movies and to a certain extent even the films that came after.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) Dir. Sergio Leone
TGTBATU is a great acronym, and an enjoyable enough three hour movie but it certainly didn't live up to its predecessor, primarily it is a bit too deliberately slapsticky in its humour for my liking. There's a large part of the plot that revolves around the American Civil War which felt incredibly unnecessary and only served to dilute the hipster badass on a horse plot that had served them so well in two previous outings. I can see how by the time you get to the incredible (and it really does deserved to be lauded as marquee moment in cinematic history) Mexican Standoff denouement you might be exhausted and delighted by the ending helping you to forget about the faults that came before but really this is not as purely entertaining as a standalone movie as For A Few Dollars More. Sergio Leone still does wonderful things with his camera and with the genre and never has a Quentin Tarantino influence been more obvious than here. Then there's Ennio Morricone, his work on this film has stood the test of time and there's a very good reason why, he demonstrates an awareness of his art form and the way it will be interpreted that goes beyond 99.9% of composers throughout history, IT IS TRULY MASTERFUL.
Days of Heaven (1978) Dir. Terrence Malick
There's an obvious story as far as the plot in this movie goes, large swathes of dialogue, especially the narration, is unintelligible and I find a babyfaced Richrd Gere quite unbelievable for this role, much in the same way I could never take DiCaprio seriously as the world wise drifter in Titanic BUT still there's a poetic beauty to this film that raises it above such petty concerns as dialogue and story and pretty faces to the point where you deserve to indulge yourself in repeat viewings.
Electra Glide In Blue (1973) Dir.  James William Guercio
The combination of rookie director/producer James Guerico, master cinematographer Conrad Hall and the intense Robert Blake in the lead role create a stunning mix of incredible visuals and existential angst, within a meandering plot filled with bizarre scenes that would never find a place within a more traditional movie or anything made in Hollywood after 1978 I would imagine. Yet it's these bizarre scenes and out of place rants by the characters that make the film the fascinating journey that it is.


For A Few Dollars More (1965) Dir. Sergio Leone
If Fistful was the first great film I'd seen in months then the followup is the first masterpiece; For a Few Dollars More takes all that was great about the Yojimbo clone and elevates all of it to the next level thanks to a much more interesting (perhaps not original) script and a score from Morricone that has deservedly become part of pop culture legend. Eastwood is wonderful but it is the relationship with Van Cleef that takes the acting to new heights, the importance of having more than one great actor AND character in a movie. Volonte is once more the bad guy and his memorable performance as the deranged and effeminate El Indio is almost comparable to the two Americans in terms of entertainment and quality.
Gravity (2013) Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
How nice is it to see an intelligent movie for adults that isn't deliberate Oscar bait come out of Hollywood. After 109 new releases in 2013 I've finally found one that I absolutely loved from start to finish. It's going to take something very special to knock this from the top spot. Visually impressive, Gravity has the best use of 3D I've seen and I can't imagine such a useless technology as that being utilised any better in its current guise. But it is the heart pounding tension that Cuaron brings to the table that left us jittery as we walked around the supermarket afterwards, the kind of reaction usually reserved for far too much coffee, that is Gravity's gift to cinema. In an artistic medium that relies heavily on cheap jump scares and loud sound effects to artificially create tension it is an absolute pleasure to feel like it is organically grown from a tight script, wonderful performances and a director on top of his game.
Black Narcissus (1947) Dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
I seem to be on a run of watching movies I thought I'd seen in film school but actually had only seen brief clips of, Black Narcissus was taught in a subject called "genres" take note of the plural, what we were actually taught by the angry old lady was "melodrama" which as you may know isn't a genre in itself. I, and several other students, resented this incredibly narrow approach to what could have been a fascinating three months of study and Powell & Pressburger seem to have taken the brunt of things. Until now I thought that it was a well made women's colonial picture but I readily admit that my younger self was a fool. Here's the truth of Black Narcissus, as far as I know there is no finer, more complete narrative film produced in the second half of the 40s. Compared to this everything else sort of looks and feels like early silent cinema. How it didn't even get a best picture Oscar nomination let alone the win it so rightfully deserved is beyond my comprehension. At least Jack Cardiff's stellar work as cinematographer was acknowledged.

Pretty great stuff there I must say, a really good month for movies, any favourites amongst them? Don't forget to tweet your comments at me if you'd prefer.

1 comment:

  1. For a Few Dollars More is on my watchlist, so I'll get to it eventually. Thrilled that you liked The Ox-Bow Incident so much, and it's great to see Gravity and Black Narcissus in the masterpiece section.