Viewing recap March

Olive Kitteridge (2014) (TV Mini-Series)
A great mini-series, A brave move to have the flawed main character be unlikeable. Olive (Frances McDormand in a role she was born to play) struggles to get along with other people, yet the relationships she has to her loved ones and the community are interesting to observe. Richard Jenkins plays her husband and with his likeable ways gives their marriage balance. There’s some humor and sadness, highs and lows, the story spans many years. It left me with a lot to think about, especially how we behave towards our family. Bill Murray’s supporting performance however is overpraised, he is only in a few scenes.
Rating 9/10


A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) 
Third part of an absurdist comedy trilogy by Swedish director Roy Andersson. The first two parts (Songs from the Second Floor, & You The Living) I loved. A Pigeon is the weakest of them, it has funny moments, but I felt he was retreading familiar ground, and scenes tend to drag on for too long.
Interesting how characters may have dreamed other scenes in the movie, which explained why the situations were surreal.
Rating 7/10

The Theory of Everything (2014)
For me, Eddie Redmayne gives the best performance of the year and deserved his oscar. However the screenplay just felt too dumbed down, I wanted to learn a bit more about why Hawkings is so famous. Granted it was focused on the marriage and his disability, but still. Hopefully it can be a starter for looking up his accomplishments.
Rating 7/10

Laggies (2014)
A bit too sundance-y for my taste. A few quotes stood out:
“It does seem kind of stupid to make some rigid plan for the future, it’s stupid to not pay attention to who you are and what makes you happy, otherwise you just flow. So that’s sort of a plan. Good meeting mrs Hopsey, you’ve given us a lot to think about”
“What do you need when you are older?” “You need to be on the same side of what seems stupid”
Rating 6/10

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
I only saw the movie to get an idea of the story and what all the fuss is about (I haven’t read the books).
The male lead seemed bland and miscast to me, he looked somewhat uncomfortable in the role. For me, Dakota Johnson is a better actor than him. It’s a shame they had no chemistry, which is vital to make it believable.
Rating 5/10

Wild (2014)
A clichéd screenplay that doesn’t surprise, but it does have its heartfelt moments, with Reese Witherspoon’s Oscar-nominated performance and the soundtrack lifting the film slightly above average. Does feel a tad similar to Into The Wild (2007) and especially Tracks (2013).
As film critic Mark Kermode said: “while the cinematography is impressive, what you are really engaged with is the internal scenery”
Favorite quote:
“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty”
Rating 6.5/10

The Guest (2014)
Dan Stevens gives an unforgettable performance as the mysterious guest. I enjoyed the buildup in the first hour, I would rate the first 45 minutes of the movie 8 or 9.
Unfortunately the last half is weaker. To me, the main character’s behavior is increasingly implausible. I didn’t like the direction the story took. Nice soundtrack, especially the track Anthonio (Berlin Breakdown Version) by Annie
Rating 7/10

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
See full review
Rating 7/10

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Rewatch. Very entertaining and still feels fresh, I see it as a road movie of sorts. Nominated for ten Oscars. Criticized upon release for its graphic violence, dwelling on suffering. Based on real events, but not entirely faithful to history. The depression era’s most famous bank robbers were celebrated as heroes.
Rating 8/10

Black Narcissus (1947)
I will never think of nuns the same way again. The setting somehow reminds me of the mysterious Shangri-La, which also has a profound effect on its inhabitants. Enthralling and every frame is beautiful on the eye.
The film depicts the interaction of vastly different cultures, and showcases the paradox of the religious nuns as the most rational. The situation is absurd as the children are paid to go to the school.
Rating 9/10

Battleship Potemkin (1925)
A film to admire for its cinematic techniques and editing. Beautiful shots of boats, mist and sun light, in stark contrast to the mutiny.
Odessa steps sequence is what the film is famous for, especially the pram rolling down the steps with a horrified older woman looking on, all this is going on in war zone situation with guns being fired and people running from the soldiers.
A weakness is you don’t get to know any of the characters except in very general terms. The point of view is how we are supposed to watch the film, which is pro-communist propaganda. You have to try and watch it with the eyes of someone in 1925, when communism wasn’t frowned on so harshly as it is today. The suspenseful score lifts the ending into something exciting and unexpected.
Rating 8/10

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2014) (documentary) 
Entertaining look into the ambitious production of Dune in the 1970s, which was never completed due to financing difficulties. Jodorowsky is an enthusiastic director to listen to, with plenty of fun anecdotes, maybe he has delusions of grandeur about his unfinished film.
The documentary filmmakers don’t look at his dream from a realistic standpoint, that it might not have been masterpiece. They just accept everything Jodorowsky says without asking him the tough questions. The comparisons to Lynch’s Dune are lacking.
Rating 7/10




Citizenfour (2014) (documentary)
An important film for its subject matter, which won the Academy Award for best documentary. The filmmaking style is very basic. It’s some guys being filmed in a hotel room most of the time. I was expecting a bit more than that.
Even though what Edward Snowden is doing is technically illegal, it’s tough not to side with his mission. About invasion of privacy, which is something that affects all of us.
Rating 6/10 

Kraftwerk – Pop Art (2013) (documentary)
Documentary about Kraftwerk, the highly influential electronic band from Germany. They released their most notable albums in the 1970s and 1980s. The group sought to find a voice in the vacuum of post war Germany, creating emotional electronic music with a global appeal, which fused commercial pop with the avant-garde. Some have called it the music of the future, which their futuristic album covers also reflect. Speaking in an interview from 1981, Ralf Hütter talks about how they live in the Rhine-Ruhr region, and the music is influenced more by machines and the city, than rural concerns, and it reflects those elements. By building their own equipment together with a sound engineer, they created new sounds.
The themes that infuse Kraftwerk’s music, travel, communication, and the harmonious co-existence of man, nature and technology, are driven by the dynamic of forward motion. Nothing embodies this better than their passion for cycling, which produced the 1983 hit Tour De France, and the 2003 studio album.
They embody the motion and emotion of the 20th Century. You can view them as historians or cultural commentators, how the last century was about speed, technology, the relationships between humans and machines, which is becoming more of a problem.
When home computers were uncommon, they released 1981’s prophetic album Computer World, long before there were mobile phones. They announced the computer would soon connect us to the world. In their lyrics, Kraftwerk were aware of a future than led us to google and facebook.
Rating 8/10

Seen any of these? Agree or disagree? Watched anything great in March? As always, comments are welcome

15 thoughts on “Viewing recap March

  1. I agree on The Theory of Everything (both acting performance and story).

    Battleship Potemkin is pretty much fiction, and most definitely propaganda. It should be seen for its place in cinema history, though.

    I liked Citizenfour more than you. It made my Top 10 list for 2014.

    And is it just me or does that look almost exactly like Bradley Cooper on the poster for The Guest? I've never heard of Dan Stevens. I just looked at his IMDB page and I see he was on Downton Abbey. which I've never watched.

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  2. @Chip Lary:
    I agree Battleship Potemkin is interesting to see for its place in cinema history, it held my interest

    I noticed Citizenfour in your top 10. Like I wrote, it is important, but I expected more than some guys in a hotel room. I'll check your review.

    You're right, Dan Stevens does kind of look like Bradley Cooper. I hadn't seen him in anything before

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  3. It's cool that your recap always include mini reviews, Chris! Glad you enjoyed Theory of Everything & The Guest, I did too. As for Citizenfour, I actually liked it more than you, it was quite engrossing even though it's mostly people talking in a hotel room. I think the implication of the preceding event is what made it compelling, it's hard not to sympathize w/ Snowden after seeing that.

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  4. @Ruth: I enjoy doing monthly recaps, useful as a reference to keep track of what I thought about movies. Great that others want to follow along.

    Perhaps I was too harsh with my rating. I admire the guts to make Citizenfour, Snowden is prepared to go underground and abandon his life for his cause. It's easy to have sympathy for him, the filmmakers, and journalists, putting their careers on the line. To me they are heros of our time. Suspenseful to watch, even if you know the outcome (from the news).

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  5. @Wendell Ottley: Thanks, Bonnie and Clyde is a fun ride even though I feel guilty for enjoying the violence.
    Fifty Shades of Grey is kind of unavoidable in our culture! I'm glad I know what the story is now.

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  6. I loved The Guest, and I think Black Narcissus is a masterpiece. Glad you dug them. The Theory of Everything was perfectly fine (7/10 for me, too), but Redmayne's ridiculous Oscar campaign kind of soured me on his win. I need to watch Roy Andersson's comedy trilogy.

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  7. @Josh: Agree Black Narcissus is a masterpiece. I didn’t follow Redmayne’s actions during award season, it should be more about the actual acting on screen than who runs the best campaigns. I still think he gave a great performance, though I didn’t care for Birdman, so there is that. Roy Andersson’s trilogy is very unique, but the humor is not for everyone.

    By the way, thanks for all the commenting! I’ll reply to them after Easter. Got some family commitments.

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  8. Amen on what you said about Citizenfour and Snowden. It was suspenseful for me too, just imagining what I'd have done if I were him y'know.

    Btw, I'm not wild about WILD, I think I gave it a 2.5/5 and I saw it during a local film fest where I think a lot of Cheryl Strayed's friends/family were in the theater. I dunno, the story didn't jibe w/ me and I found her character quite irritating.

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  9. @Ruth: Sorry you found her character irritating in Wild. The scenes with Laura Dern I felt should have worked better. While there are some scenes I liked in the movie, the story also felt a bit formulaic and oscar-baity.

    Snowden deserves respect for his heroic actions, but he is not without faults. Which became apparent when I read about his recent interview with John Oliver:
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/04/06/john-oliver-grills-edward-snowden-on-last-week-tonight.html

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