Thursday 5 December 2013

Unreported films

There have been a number of films I've watched during the period of the blog which for one reason or another I haven't written up for you.  They all duplicate (and in some cases triplicate) years I've covered with other films, but for reasons of completism, here's a brief run-down.

Vertigo (1958)

A third James-Stewart-starring Hitchcock movie, after my posts on 'Rope' (1948) and 'Rear Window' (1954).  Of the three, only this one isn't confined to a single room, meaning it can roam up and down the steep San Francisco hills, mainly down.  I was very taken by this film when I first watched it, as there's a point when it rather alarmingly reveals that it isn't in the genre you expected.  Rewatching, I was surprised, and not pleasantly, at what a sinister jerk the hero becomes toward the end.  And Kim Novak's eyebrows are strange and confusing throughout.

Bucket of Blood (1959)

I watched this and wrote it up for you, but then I watched it again.  It's good, it's short, and much of it is imitable.  I made a page of notes the second time, but apparently I've lost it.

The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977)

This is an absurd comedy written and directed by Marty Feldman, and it's a real pity it isn't better known.  It feels like a British Mel Brooks film, or a sillier and wider-ranging 'The Bed Sitting Room' (1969).  It's either an adaptation of a classic novel, or (as the title suggests) a remake of the 1926, 1939 and 1966 films, which ignores the original's lack of laughs and somehow comes out with a more interesting and satisfying resolution than any of those versions managed.  It stars Marty Feldman, Michael York and Peter Ustinov, and features (among many others) a memorable performance from James Earl Jones, who plays an Arab in the style of Terry Thomas.

Chariots of Fire (1981)

I picked up a copy of this film during the 2012 olympics.  I didn't watch any of the sport, but the opening ceremony had impressed me, and a rendition of the theme from Chariots of Fire stirred something within me.  It's music I've always associated with running in slow-motion, so I'd long held at least a little interest in watching the film.  Besides, it got the oscar for Best Screenplay, which tends to mean a film is worth a look in.  It's a fine thing, and well worth the attention given to it at the time, and isn't at all the film I'd expected.

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1988)

My cousin Alice recommended me this film, and I sought out a copy the following day.  I had meant to write it up for 1988, but somehow 'The Last Temptation of Christ', 'Akira' and 'A Short Film About Killing' all got in the way.  The occasion of my viewing is now eleven months ago, so I can't recall a great deal, except that the film struck me as extremely Italian, and felt much more like the stereotype I had in mind of European films than any of the German, French or Scandinavian films I'd seen.  It has a Summery, somewhat Catholic feel to it, like 'Cavalleria Rusticana'.  I meant at the time to watch the Director's Cut version, which came in the same set, that I might have a fuller idea of the film before writing it up.  Still not gotten around to that, but I imagine it'll happen eventually.

Ghostbusters II (1989)

After watching 'Ghostbusters' (1984) this was inevitable.  It's a mite less sweary than the original, but otherwise very similar in style, humour and production, and amply enjoyable.  It's a mystery to me why this sequel isn't held in the same regard as the original.

The Baby of Mâcon (1993)

Long-term readers will know I have a love of Peter Greenaway films.  Like so many of his movies, this fascinated me with its ideas and dazzled me with its beautiful cinematography by Sacha Vierny.  Its events show a play within a play - a vast audience, all dressed splendidly in what I'd count as an 18th century style, watching, and joining in with, a play about an ostensibly virgin birth and a tiny, all-powerful baby.  There's a lot of colour and blood and nudity, and it's quite astounding to behold.  The ending, though, was too unpleasant, and represented the first and only time I watched a film for The Penciltonian and resolved not to write it up for reasons of censorship.  If Peter Greenaway has ever gone too far, it was with the resolution to this film, which made for extremely uncomfortable viewing.

Hackers (1995)

1995 was an exciting year for movies, with 'Tank Girl', 'Toy Story', 'Goldeneye', 'Nixon' and 'Jumanji' (the latter of which is a film everybody saw, but nobody now speaks about) all in cinemas.  Saskia is a great advocate for the dream of nineties, so I turned to her for a recommendation, and was shown both 'Empire Records', which got a post of its own, and 'Hackers', an exciting story about the 1337 h@xX0r5, 7H05e co0l kiD$ wH0 C0UlD 7Urn c0mpu73r$ t0 tH3Ir pURp0$35, CH@Ng3 7H3Ir GR@des 0N $Ch00l coMpU73r5, $73@l m0n3y FR0m 8@nK5 (0n @ WhIM) @Nd dR355 iN 0U7l@NDI5h 0u7fI7s, HaPPy n07 70 C0nF0rM.

A Night at the Roxbury (1998)

An enjoyable, though often-scorned bromance, regarding two jiving brothers (Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan) who yearn to escape their jobs at their father's fake-flower shop and make it big in the dance club scene.  I'm not surprised it's less popular and less well-known than other Saturday Night Live movies as it lacks much of a hook to draw audiences in and keep 'em, but it seemed quite enjoyable enough, and an antidote to some of the heavier films I'd been watching.

Shaft (2000)

Having watched 'Shaft' (1971) and its two sequels, it was inevitable I'd get to this year 2000 remake, starring Samuel L Jackson.  It's a fair action movie - and is as explosive and slick as you might hope for, but it's not as incisive as the original, which seemed edgier and more dangerous.  I liked the soundtrack, which is by David Arnold who composed the music for the nineties and noughties Bond movies, and who revisits the original 'Shaft''s funky sound in his own glossy style.  I'm not so sure I can get behind the film's apparent glorification of police brutality, in which John Shaft, a cop, achieves what he needs to be beating people up and pistol-whipping unarmed suspects into respecting him.  We're meant to like the cops who turn a blind eye to these antics.  I guess it gets the job done, but not every violent police officer is so good at heart as John Shaft.  Noughties Shaft seems to have much less sex than the seventies Shaft did, too; perhaps it fell out of fashion.

Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

An inevitable watch, after 'A Night at the Roxbury' (1998).  A bizarre and pleasing picture of the newsrooms of the 1970s.  Ron Burgundy's jazz-flute recital is a fantastic thing to witness.  The film goes for the old, slightly annoying convention of making all the male characters extremely amusing, but all female characters serious straight-man types who make no attempt to amuse.  Are there any films that reverse this trope?

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

It turned out I had absolutely the wrong idea about the Fast and the Furious movies.  I'd expected tales of car-theft, homicide, drive-by shootings and gritty America.  What I find instead, in this, the third in the series, is an extremely clean film about young racers, challenging one another to drive better and faster to win women.  Saskia described the films as chav-magnets, which might be a fair stab at the core audience.  Like 'The Transporter' (), the film reads like a story-board, each shot clinically chosen, rather than looking like a record of real events caught on camera.  It's an artificial style, but very efficient, very economical.  The script is tight and well-structured (as are, I understand, the others in the series), meaning that the story is well-paced and the protagonist's story engaging and satisfying.  Alas, the core of the film is that old, uncomfortable idea that the white man can go out to a foreign country and in a few short weeks become better than any native at whatever it is the foreign culture supposedly excels in.  See also 'Avatar' (2009) and, I suspect, 'The Last Samurai' (2003).

Das Weiße Band (2009)

I have as many Toms in my entourage as Mary Queen of Scots had Marys (which is to say, about four of them), and one such Tom urged me to seek out films by director Michael Haneke.  The very next day, 'Das Weiße Band' popped up the BBC iPlayer.  It's set in Germany in the early 1910s, and so neatly plugs the gap in my knowledge of 20th Century Germany that's so well filled by 'Heimat' 1-3, Fritz Lang's Weimar Berlin crime films (1922, 1931, 1933), 'Das Boot' (1981), 'Downfall' (2004), 'Der Baader Meinhof Komplex' (2008) and 'Goodbye Lenin!' (2003).  It's a rather unpleasant crime film, subtitled 'A German Children's Story', in which the children are known by name but the adults only by occupation.  Despite being set slightly before the First World War, the film has its mind on the second war, when these children will be running the country based on the lessons learnt in infancy.  Despite a pretty poor special effect of a horse falling over, this is a good film, if rather grim.  It's in black-and-white, too, meaning I have a wholly or largely monochrome film in every decade but the nineties.

Cosmopolis (2012)

Having watched 'Metropolis' (1927) and 'Persepolis' (2008), 'Cosmopolis' had to follow.  This is a story about a businessman in a car going to get his hair cut.  It looks like a blockbuster but is actually an art film, or something of the kind.  There's a wonderful artificiality to his limo's interior, and a daunting and real dirtiness to everything that happens outside it.  I really liked the vast majority of 'Cosmopolis', but wanted it to have a blunter ending.  The final confrontation felt too much like a final confrontation, and the film seemed to lose some of its fascinating individuality.  I'm told the book is deeper and more interesting.

Ted (2012)

I'd almost forgotten that I'd seen this during the course of the project, so long ago was it.  I'd initially meant to write this up, but, in a moment of belief that The Penciltonian was wholesome family reading, I censored this and 'The Baby of Mâcon' out of having their own posts.  Anyway, 'Ted' seemed just the thing to watch while visiting Big Dave in London, where we had been to a fine crêperie/crémerie combo for good pancakes.  The film is plainly from the mind of Seth MacFarlane, creator of 'Family Guy' and its ilk, and I know their comedy is fairly divisive, but it's a style I can enjoy, and which is used well here.  The film put me in mind of one I'd made and then destroyed, 'The Death of Pencilton' about an owl puppet which is obviously a puppet but which is nonetheless treated as being alive.  This did it better.

The Hunger Games (2012)

I enjoyed this, but wondered whether I would have liked the book more - not because the film was deficient, but because I thought prose might have afforded more intimacy to the actual Game part of the story.  A book could give an insight to Katniss's thoughts that was lacking here.  Her predicament might have been more genuinely daunting from her point of view.  As it was, I knew she'd be out of danger inside two hours and back for a sequel or two.  Nonetheless, I look forward to the next film, which I understand to be in cinemas now, but I can't think when I'll get to see it.

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