Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

April roundup

I see lots of films and never get round to writing about them - because I'm lazy, because I forget, or normally because I don't have quite enough to write

So, this April...

First film o' the month: American Beauty - this was a long time ago...

Seen but can't be bothered to discuss:
The Man who Never Was
Interview with the Vampire

Reviewed earlier this month:
Les Enfants du Paradis
Birth of a Nation
Heart of Darkness
Jackie Brown
Pan's Labyrinth
- review coming soon. Immenantly, indeed.

300 Spartans
The original film of the story that became 300 earlier this year. Cinematically, 300 is better. Historically, this one pips it. It's a Spartacus-style epic, with a square-chinned all-American Leonidas et al. It's just a different style of filmmaking I suppose - 300 was a rock'n'roll movie, this invites the accusation "boring". I'd quite like to a comparison, but to be honest I don't feel passionately enough about either of them to care.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels -this film is ace! The script is wonderful, the plot charmingly convaluted and the colour scheme brown! What more could one ask for...

Broken Flowers - The worst crime cinema can commit is boredom - trite acting, illogical plots, 80s soundtracks are all preferable to cliche without irony and lack of involvement. Yet I defend this as a fantastically well made film, even though excitement level is at a total nul. Well directed, well acted, but ultimately...a bit of a nothing. It is beautiful, and funny in its own way (though Empire's description of it as a comedy is a little enthusiastic) - but it didn't work quite as well as, say, Sideways which lived in similar territory.

This film could have been made in a hundred different ways by a hundred different people - it could have been a lot funnier, or more depressing, or even properly bittersweet but Jim Jarmusch aimed for the school of Lost in Translation and succeeded. I didn't like Lost in Translation very much - I admired it greatly, but it just wasn't my thing.

In Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman asks something along the lines of - "I don't want to cram in characters profound life lessons, or growing or coming to like each other, or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end - why can't there simply be a movie about flowers?". Clever as Adaptation is, it eventually answers its own question. Broken Flowers agrees. Incidentally, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead strongly disagrees, but there you go.

This is a film about a man with an empty life, and as a consiquence the film too feels empty. Sure, that's effective direction, but it's still empty.

I'd have enjoyed it more had it been different. But lots of people will enjoy it as it is.
And here's three issues which need addressing regardless:

Firstly, Bill Murray crumbled beautifully in places, but he didn't quite play Don in the right way - he'd cinched the aimless boredom and supressed heartbreak, but what about the serial rake? Did we ever see him flirt? Did we ever see what all those women evidently saw in him?

Secondly, this film needed a fantastic soundtrack. Think....Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Scenes with no action would be better if our ears are entertained. The CD he listens to is as nothing as the rest of the film.

And thirdly...the blurb tells you that it's about a guy who goes on a journey to reunite with five former girlfriends. The cast list has five suspiciously large actress names. So don't make us sit through half an hour of him thinking about it, because we all know he's going to eventually.
OK, films shouldn't be based around audience preknowledge, but still...even without that, it was obvious that he was going to the moment that McGuffin fell through his letterbox.

Blades of Glory - I was prejudiced against this from the start. Take the egocentric male models from Zoolander, throw them at an obscure sport (say, ice skating, or Dodgeball) and you should be left with a classic. Well...almost. It only served to remind me quite how funny Dodgeball was. It just works on so many different levels, while Blades of Glory never escaped the central joke which was something along the lines of "Two guys, in lycra! They're dancing together! Oh, and they've got balls! " Airplane! has a gag rate of about 2.5 a minute - Dodgeball must average 1 - Blades of Glory had long unfunny stretches which merely advanced the plot. Still, if you forget about those other better films, it's still a pretty silly way to spend an afternoon. The sex addicts anonymous class was very funny, and my sister continued to giggle about the iron lotus for the second half of the film.

Traffic - Wow. This film is in disguise. It's so well made visually - with the handheld camera and shifting colour schemes - it hides what is actually a very simple plot. The style is all arthouse - the substance, pure Hollywood. When I actually look back, the character doubling (two cops in Ameria, two cops in Mexico?!) is very juvenille. Doesn't matter - because while you're watching, it suddenly feels like a phenomenal achievement and you'll enjoy it as if the plot were genuinely complex. This is praise, not criticism people; but Syriana (the oil business given the Traffic treatment) is obviously a more mature sibling - the characters are even more morally dubious, the plot is blink-and-you-miss-it, and unlike Traffic (spoilers for both) plot does not end on a note of hope - or, indeed, anywhere near. Traffic is definitely recommended though, because it just whiffs of 100% classic.

The Warriors -I am a great believer in the "instant wow" - yes, some films improve with repeat watchings and mature reflection, but I'm far too impatient for that. So films like this with really exciting credit sequences which jump out and grab you really make me happy. PS, d'ya think Tarantino's seen this one? What with the close-up-on-woman's-lips-at-microphone and DJ-voiceover-introducing-the-soundtrack and all? ;)
Curious fact: Tony Scott's remaking this as a serious contemporary film. i.e. no knife wielding guys on roller skates. No Baseball Furies!

On the Waterfront - I caught this on video in Oxfam with The Wild One - two nice classics, I'll watch them thinks I. This was several months ago. I have been putting this off like's not that I didn't think it would be good (after all, it _is_ a classic...and two friends think it's wonderful) - I just didn't want to watch it. Glad I did though, because it contains a) some great stirring speeches, b) a very very sweet screen romance and c) the last ten minutes! Personally, I liked his brother best. but then again I'm a sucker for the morally dubious. Interesting fact - I refer to it as a "Marlon Brando movie", but Friend 5 calls it a "Leonard Bernstein film". Unfortunately I, er, can't really remember the music well enough to comment....which means if Friend 5 reads this, I'm dead.

Black Hawk Down
I've recently got addicted to the soundtrack - a battle between ethnicy beats and American-style electrics, synths and rock. It's miles away from the lyrical, piano-y scores I usually enjoy, and I don't exactly recommend it. It's fantastic, especially in the context of the film, but I envisage lots of people hating it. Imagine...a grunged up car being thrown down a cliff, with it's cheap radio still on, playing
screaming gutteral African vocals and the worst crimes of death metal, which all sound like they've been recorded in a washing machine. There are gentler moments, but that's the worst of it. After listening to the music on end, I just had to see it again.

I've got a perfect idea for a decent top 100 movies list, mix+match style. Instead of putting a whole host of films I think are the best, I'd have a page for each genre/movement/significant artist and suggest five or six varied and best films, of which you have to see (say) two to make it up to 100. So for westerns, I'd have a spaghetti, a traditional John Wayne, High Noon as "the classic", Unforgiven as the revisionist, Blazing Saddles etc. It'd highlight all the different things which have been done with the genre, and cut down on films which have to be wronged (the total film top 100 includes Once Upon a Time in the West, but doesn't have any of the Dollars trilogy; meanwhile, it votes Goodfellas better than both Godfathers. My system would eliminate both (?) problems)

Black Hawk Down would definitely be in my collection of war films. Not for the fab acting, the sweaty cinematography or that wonderful music...but because it's the only war film I've ever seen which isn't about war itself. Most war movies will tell you they're about character, and most of them are lying. They're really trying to tell you that war is hell/insanity/brilliant/tragic, and the characters are just the easiest way to do it. If BHD has a message, then it's a tribute to the bravery of the soliders, not a comment on American foreign policy. Or, possibly, "no one gets left behind" is a rubbish motto. It's not about politics or morality, because as one character rightly points out, that all goes out the window when the first bullet zips past your skull. The enemy isn't something to be pitied, or hated. It's just there. Yes it shows you what an insane, nasty thing war is...but in a weird way, it also makes it look pretty darn attractive. Even while wincing at the hellish situation, you can see why the soldiers do what they do. It's just an honest retelling of pretty much what happened on that day, from the American POV, without a hidden agenda. Yes there's flag waving, but let's not forget that Ridley Scott is a Brit!

The Dollars Trilogy
In order of preference: A Fistful of Dollars, Good the Bad and the Ugly and a Few Dollars More
How did I manage to binge on all 3 of Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy in a month?! The guy only made something like 6 films (ed: IMDB says twelve, but I've only heard of six of them...) and by that reckoning I've now seen four of them...Sergio Leone is one of these people I can't dissect - I just love his films, but can't boil that down to reasons.

They do get noticably repetitive - without spoiling anything, the denoument of FDM is very very similar to another of his films in every way...but in this other film, it was heartbreaking. But who cares. The music's great, Clint's great, everything's great - but you knew that already...and I liked Tuco (a.k.a the Ugly) a lot.

This month - seen 19 films, 12 of which were amaaaazing.

Final word: HOT FUZZ HAS MADE THE IMDB TOP 250!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh WOOT! Admittedly it'll fall off pretty quick, but still. Does it deserve to be there? Hell no, it's great, but it's not quite Pretentious Classic to merit it. YAY!


Rob said...

As much as I love the first Godfather and have middling respect for the second, I agree with Total Film's assertion of GoodFellas being better than both.

Putting it as the greatest film ever is a tough call, but it's certainly up there. I've yet to find a more replayable enjoyable film, that honestly does get better everytime I watch it.

To be fair, I am a little biased towards Scorsese (GoodFellas, Raging Bull and the vastly underrated Casino all being in my top 20).

You're quite right on all points with Broken Flowers though. Dead Man is still my favourite film of his. I just have a thing for head crushings.

Ninquelosse said...

Hence the (?) next to problems. I wouldn't really want to say whether or not it was better than The Godfather really (though I know which one I prefer...). It's hard to distinguish between good films critically - and "greatest film ever made" is always going to be a tricky one.

I almost expected Goodfellas to be nastier - I was suprised by the tone, which was actually quite similar to the warm nostalga of The Godfather. And it certainly sells gangster as an insanely attractive career (never mind ending up half-dead in a boot...)

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