Caught Up!

Oh dear God I’m amazing. You may have noticed a surge in posts of late, the reason beign that I’ve managed to catch up with all the posts that are overdue, all the films I needed to watch and even crossing the films off the lists here on the blog. The last few days have been pretty hectic, with sleep being missed and the gym neglected (fairly sure I’ve gained about half a stone in the past week, typing is not very good exercise) but it’s worth it because I’m back on top after about six months of being behind.

I’ll not be resting on my laurels for long either. Tomorrow I intend to both watch a film and post about it IN THE SAME DAY, as well as going to the gym, cooking a decent meal and quite possibly updating the statistics page that hasn’t been touched in over 100 films. You should also look out on Friday and Monday for new weekly features I intend to introduce, a Top 5 list (I know, the originality of it almost knokced me out too) and on Monday a Best Non-List Film of the Week, because there are more than 1,328 films out there, I watch tthem too, and some of them need to be discussed. Unless I watch something truly amazing over the weekend, Monday’s film will be the Muppets, which will probably only be in cinemas for a couple more days I think, so nip out now (or tomorrow, it’s pretty late) if you want to see it on the big screen.

So, yay me! I’m off to bed to sleep the sleep of the not-behind.

The Docks of New York

One of the last films to be made before the invention of the talkie, The Docks Of New York sees hulking, tattooed ship stoker Bill docking into port one night. He saves the suicidal Nell from drowning, steals her some dry clothes and, almost on a whim, marries her in the bar that night. The morning arrives with a stark clarity, as Bill intends to head back out to sea.
The plot is boring and predictable – there’s even a last ditch attempt to save the girl after she gets in trouble with the authorities over her new duds, but there’re some hilarious – though possibly unintentional – lines of dialogue: “I’ve sailed the seven seas, but I’ve never seen a craft as trim as yours” Bill tells his new bride-to-be.
Choose life 4/10


Recent years have seen seemingly exhausted classic genres being reinvigorated by big name directors and classy films, just look at the recent slew of westerns, or the amount of pictures throwing back not just their topics, but how the films have been made to more classic times. Hell, this year’s Oscars were dominated by a silent film and a film about the birth of cinema. Yet one classic genre remains relatively untouched, possibly because in 2005 first time feature director Rian Johnson updated the film noir template so pitch perfectly that no other films have been needed.

With closed eyes, Brick could quite easily take place amongst a myriad of smoke-filled bars, pool halls and rain-lashed phone booths, yet the action here has been transposed to a modern day high school, and in place of a perma-smoking Humphrey Bogart we’ve Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Brendan, finding his ex-girlfriend (Lost’s Emilie de Raven) face down in the mouth of a tunnel, and he is eager to find out why, regardless of how beaten up by jocks, thugs and car doors he becomes. Granted, there’s not really enough rain for it to be a traditional noir, but there’s plenty of secrecy, rich beautiful dames with brandy decanters in ostentatious mansions, moody shadows and an easily dismissed average Joe acting as gum shoe, sticking his nose in where most feel it has no business.
It’s not short on laughs – JG-L flounders like the best of them and his conversation with the principal is comedy gold, played spot-on like a detective berating his chief of police, and the final act wrap-up is gratefully received, for much of the highly quotable dialogue is sometimes too dense to catch.
Choose film 8/10

The Fountain

One love story is told across three wildly different time periods as Tom (Hugh Jackman) tries to cure his wife Izzy (Rachel Weisz) of her life threatening disease. Told in the modern day, Elizabethan era and a space-set future time, the film is beautifully shot and lit, effects created using different liquids dispersing into one another to create timeless yet phenomenal scenes. The story strands flow into one another, as the modern day surgeon struggles for a cure, a historic conquistador seeks to discover the fountain of youth and the slap-headed space traveller floats inside a giant bubble talking to – and occasionally eating –  a tree. If this all sounds a little too much for you, you’re not alone, as this is a polarising film that many dismissed for being just too odd. The modern day segments are the easiest to follow, with a straightforward narrative, relatable characters and situations requiring minimal explanation. Director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) alas does not have much of an eye for combat, with some of the past tense skirmishes coming across muddled and confusing, but otherwise this is a creative and visually stunning depiction of an otherwise done to death story.

Choose film 7/10


No, not John Travolta in a fat suit, a sight so diabolical not even Christopher Walken can save it, but the 1988 John Waters original, in which real life transvestite Divine, a Waters regular, plays severely overweight Edna Turnblad, mother of also rotund Tracey, who watches and dances along to the Corny Collins show every day on TV. Tracey is jealous of the more attractive (as in slimmer) dancers picked to perform on the show, especially bitch council member Amber, who dissolves into a flap-handed tizzy when she discovers a pimple. When Tracey is sent to a special class at school because her hair is too high (seriously) she learns how to dance with the segregated black kids that have been banned from the show except for one day a month for Negro Day. The film is intolerably cheesy and often stupid (using a psychiatrist to make a white girl not love a black boy), and does not help the racial stereotyping it tries to prevent, with one black woman talking only in rhymes.

Choose life 5/10


Berlin, 1931. Liza Minnelli is a performer with several other near-transvestites in the filthy Kit Kat Klub. English teacher Michael York rents a room at the same house as Minnelli, and the two apparently hit it off, but the actors have such appalling chemistry its hard to tell. Minnelli’s Sally Bowles is amorous and self important, discussing only herself and is fully aware of the state her body is supposedly able to drive men to (though I don’t see it myself), whilst York is either dry or drunk, there is no middle ground. There are failed attempts to mine humour and songs about a man sleeping with two women and having a relationship with a gorilla, but the only song that’s any good is the closing Cabaret.

Choose life 3/10


Based on the book of the same name that swept the country a few years ago, Atonement tells the story of Briony in three stages of her life, as a young writer in her parents stately manor in the early 30s (Saoirse Ronan), training to become a nurse during World War 2 (Romola Garai) and much later, releasing a book on the subject as an old woman (Vanessa Redgrave), cut the story she tells is not only her own, but that of Cecilia and Robbie (Keira Knightley and James McAvoy), her older sister and their gardener.

A childhood misunderstanding of several events lad Briony to make a rash decision she would live to deeply regret, for its consequences had the very real possibility of being incredibly dire. Whilst beautifully shot in every scene, most notably the standout 5 minute continuous steadicam sequence as three soldiers (including Ashes to Ashes’ Daniel Mays) discover a war ravaged beach complete with hundreds of extras, horses and a funfair making the film worthwhile on its own, the film does not quite have the right mix of war and romance to attract both genders, focussing more on the females than males, yet there is still plenty to keep all engaged, and at times agog.
Choose film 7/10

L.A. Confidential

In 1950s Los Angeles, mob boss Mickey Cohen has been put away, and rival crime factions are warring for his place. Against this backdrop, three very different cops are following three very different cases; brutish Bud White (Russell Crowe) despises wife beaters and is more than willing to frame a suspect in the name of justice as he works as hardman for James Cromwell’s kindly police chief. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is the straight-laced, ambitious son of a deceased police hero, investigating a multiple homicide at greasy spoon the Nite Owl, whilst Kevin Spacey’s smooth headline-hunting NARC Jack Vincennes traces a lead found on a drugs bust, uncovering a ring of hookers cut to look like movie stars. Throw into the mix Danny DeVito’s sleazy journo, David Straithairn’s oily businessman and Kim Basinger’s high class whore with a strong resemblance to Veronica Lake and you’ve got a top notch cast all bringing their A-game in a stunning film with tight script and direction. Spacey especially is sublime, stealing every scene in a movie full of memorable ones. The little moments are the finishing touches – Exley removing his oversized glasses and pouting for a photographer, Vincennes bumping into a man he put away on the set of TV show Badge of Honor where he acts as technical adviser, but the big scenes – the masterful interrogation of 3 suspects, several showdowns and a final act with all guns blazing are the parts best remembered. Credit of the month: Ginger Slaughter.

Choose film 10/10

The Muppet Movie

There are some days when I hate the list. The recent Luis Bunuel marathon? Whenever an Eisenstein film drops through my door? The 9-hour holocaust documentary? Those are all such days, none involving good times. But some days I get to watch a film where most of the characters are made of felt and have a hand shoved inside them somewhat further than recommended by most professional actors.

My only muppet experience to date has involved crossovers with Sesame Street, festive viewings of the Muppet Christmas Carol and the recent deluge of trailers for the muppets films currently in the cinemas, watch out on Monday for a new regular feature in which it will take centre stage. Yet though my involvement has been limited, I still adore them for reasons I cannot really explain, and this film details approximately how the team was formed.
Beginning with the muppets watching their own movie, the in-jokes and meta-humour grows throughout, with at one point characters finding one another because they read it in the script. Cameos come thick and fast, with each barely given a line, with the likes of James Coburn, Elliot Gould, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Telly Savalas and even Orson Welles showing up to join in the fun. I could have done with more time spent on the supporting characters – the Swedish Chef, Rizzo, Sam the Eagle, Statler and Waldorf and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, and a lot less time spent on Fozzie and Miss Piggy as I’ve always found them to be a tad annoying, but I suppose that’s just a personal preference.
Choose film 8/10

Bunuel Marathon

I’ve made no secret that I dislike the films of Spanish surrealist/Mexican politicist Luis Bunuel. I find his work arduous, unpleasantly illogical and disconcerting, so I thought it would be a good idea to remove the remainder from the list in quick succession, allowing for 8 films to be bundled together in another overlong post that no-one with a modicum of sense will ever read.

Our first is Belle de Jour, a senseless, semi-plotless effort typical of Bunuel, following Severine (the beautiful Catherine Deneuve) who behaves frigidly towards her husband of one year, but finds herself stepping out to work at a brothel without his knowing. What little plot there is is predictable – inevitably a lecherous friend of Severine’s husband visits the brothel and propositions her, with only Deneuve’s performance is worth watching. Mercifully, little intercourse is shown.
In the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, I was shocked to find an almost coherent story running throughout, as six upper crust respectable people – drug dealers, no less – struggle to all come together for a meal, but are denied the chance at every turn, be it from confused calendars, a dead restaurant manager, a bout of pre-lunch nooky, a shortage of tea and the unexpected arrival of a branch of the military. There is indeed a certain charm to the story, nicely balancing the ludicrous dining catastrophes with the concern that the drug pedallers are being tracked by terrorists, but alas all this is blown to bits with interruptions from a tragic Lieutenant, telling of how his mother’s ghost told him as a child to poison his father, or a dream he had meeting dead people on a street. The bishop is also an unnecessary distraction, and the Inception-like dream within a dream finale adds nothing but disappointment.

It’s Catherine Deneuve again, this time playing Tristana, a woman in mourning for her recently deceased mother, who goes to stay with the lecherous yet refined Don Lupe. He spouts bizarre philosophies (“a woman only stays honest with a broken leg – and at home!”) which begin to rub off on Tristana as he makes several advances towards her yet she does not seem to object. She makes a point of always choosing between two things, so it’s safe to assume she will eventually be called upon to choose between two men, and she suffers from the kinds of bizarre, unexplained dreams that are Bunuel’s bread and butter. There’s a fair stab at an actual plot, but bland or irrational characters, large periods of time passing with little acknowledgement and an unsatisfactory, inconclusive ending mars the film.

After an unexpected yet poorly edited explosive opening that had to be rewound to work out who it happened to, That Obscure Object of Desire heads downhill. Using an annoying and repeatedly referred to narrative device of a man telling his story to other passengers in his train carriage, we hear of the events that led up to him pouring water over a woman on the train platform. The other passengers continually tell the man that his story is fascinating and remarkable, but it is nothing of the sort, concerning a duplicitous young women employed as a maid by the man, who leaves when he shows her affection, and bear in mind that the positive adjectives used to compliment the man’s story were written by the same person who wrote the story he is telling, making them nothing more than egotistical propaganda.

Los Olvidados began positively, but I’m sure not in a way hoped by those involved in its production. Expecting a 95 minute film, the DVD clocked in at a much more tolerable 76 minutes, so I settled down with a grin on my face at the extra 19 minutes I could spend asleep that evening. Having just escaped from prison, young gang leader Jaibo rejoins a band of youths and sets them up to rob a blind busker. The plan fails and one of their number is stabbed, so later the gang pelt the busker with mud and stones, destroying his instruments. All the gang members look at least a little alike and are hard to distinguish from one another, and there are few genuinely likeable characters in the cast. One young hoodlum steals food from his own mother, but to be fair, when asked if she loves him, the mother replies “Why should I love him? I don’t even know who his father is.” The film shows a mildly interesting look at those trying to escape a life they’ve been born into, but not a lot happens, and when it does it isn’t terribly interesting.

Inconclusive and pointless, Viridiana sees a nun visiting her sick uncle, only to find she is eerily identical to her deceased aunt. Her uncle, Don Jaime, is willing to do anything to prevent Viridiana from returning to the nunnery, though drugging her and pretending to rape her is a little extreme, as is hanging himself when his plan fails. Believing herself to be deflowered and therefore unable to return to her calling, Viridiana brings in some homeless people to help out around her late uncle’s house – much to the chagrin of her uncle’s other relatives – and the previously homeless do a less than acceptable job of helping out. Long periods of silence make it easy to drift off, as does the boring story with little to retain interest.

To begin with in Land Without Bread, I thought the worst part of this half hour documentary about an obscure poverty-stricken Spanish village in 1932 was going to be the production values, with a poor quality transfer resplendent with cracks and scratches, terrible sound and mistakes in the subtitles, bit it turns out I was quite wrong. The film is horrific in its depiction of a town where the only water source is a muddy stream running through it, children’s parents steal the bread their offspring bring home from the school and almost everyone is diseased in some way – a 32 years old woman looks at least 55, with a revoltingly bulbous goitre on her neck. We see a child with inflamed gums, and two days later she is dead. The only milk available is from the goats that thrive on the barren, rocky landscape, and is reserved only for the very sick, and goats are only used for their meat when they die of natural causes. At this point the film takes a turn. We see a goat fall from the rocks to demonstrate the previous point, and also a donkey being stung to death when a bee hive it is carrying falls off. After watching the film, I later discovered both events, each ending in the very real death of an animal, were both staged, with Bunuel even smearing the donkey with honey. Words fail me for home disgusting this is. A group of dwarfs are filmed as though the focus of a nature documentary (“Some are dangerous. They flee from people or attack them with stones. They are found at nightfall as they return to their village. We found it very hard to film them.”) There are repeated shots of a dead baby. This is a thoroughly depressing film that does not broach the subject of why the village’s inhabitants remain there, and it’s only redeeming feature is making the viewer grateful for what they have.

And finally, The Young One. Racism runs rampantly throughout this tale of a black man fleeing the accused rape of a white woman, and discovering an island inhabited only by a young girl and her abusive guardian. It’s a fairly straightforward plot, with the accused criminal attempting to leave the island, but there are bizarre and inappropriate sexual overtones between the girl and both men, especially because she is clearly underage, though no-one, not even the girl herself, knows how old she is. There isn’t as much wrong with this film as in most of Bunuel’s, but also nothing really noteworthy.

Belle de Jour: Choose life 5/10
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: Choose life 6/10
Tristana: Choose life 4/10
That Obscure Object of Desire: Choose life 3/10
Los Olvidados: Choose life 5/10
Viridiana: Choose life 4/10
Land Without Bread: Choose life 1/10
The Young One: Choose life 6/10