The thinking man’s horror film. Is it horror? I’m not sure, you could just as easily label it a drama. Starring Julianne Moore who has a mysterious health condition. Some think her illness is imaginary and could simply be filling the empty void in her life.
About how the world is the enemy, the air we breathe, the clothes we wear, the sprays we use, the things we eat, etc. Her lack of things to do in her daily life means she has extra time to worry. I see it as a film that lends support towards people with this rare condition. You can interpret it as a story of how modern life in the western world suffocates and pollutes, not just physically, but also mentally.
There are also reasons to be critical of the teachings she seeks out, sheltering yourself from the news and the outside world has a cost, and I think Haynes is a clever enough filmmaker to understand this nuance.
It’s a thought-provoking premise, The slow pacing and minimal plot meant it was engaging enough, but never totally riveting. With tighter editing, the film could have been even stronger. Although he wasn’t the focus, I felt her son’s reaction could have been explored. He was just…there.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Considered the first vampire film spoken in Farsi. Although we are in Iran, it was filmed in southern California. The main character wears a headdress/chador. Set in “Bad City”, a place for people that have been dealt a bad hand.
The story is quite conventional. To me, despite its location, it felt like just another vampire flick. I was expecting something a bit more “out of the box”. I doubt I’ll remember the film in six months, the story and characters lacked distinction. The black and white cinematography is quite impressive, and has an interesting soundtrack featuring underground Iranian bands like Radio Tehran and Kiosk, but the film is overhyped. I would assess this one in a similar way to Wadjda (2012), important films for pushing boundaries, but not great films.
I’ve heard the story described as “a woman taking control of her own life despite something that should define her”. She is not a victim. You could interpret the film as a feminist critique of oppression of women in Iran.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Maybe this had more impact in the 70s. Overpraised comedy classic directed by Mel Brooks. My second viewing and the first time I finished the whole movie. I wanted to love it, but try as I might, I just can’t see what’s so funny about Young Frankenstein. Great set pieces, and a few half smiles, but that’s it.
The best parts, Gene Hackman as the blind hermit, and later the musical number. I prefer Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs as parodies.
Favorite quote: Whose Brain I did put in? Abby Normal
While We’re Young (2014)
Directed by Noah Baumbach. It wasn’t great, but it was fun to watch a movie that makes parenting look unappealing and staying young and engaged with culture look inspiring. Apparently after 35 ”it’s a shit show”. I’m glad I watched it on dvd, there are lots of music and movie references which it was entertaining to pause and google. The best scenes are in the first half hour, and also when Stiller shows his 6½ hour doc to his father-in-law.
Here are a few of the references I noted:
Cheap Trick’s album In Color (1977), the song Big Eyes
Gogol’s Wife and Other Stories by Tommaso Landolfi (1958)
Kris Kristoffersen album (title unknown)
Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car by Billy Ocean
Mr. Mom (1983), The Howling (1981), Opening Night (1977), Rocky 3 (1982),
Jay Z, Thin Lizzy, Mozart, The Goonies, Citizen Kane, etc.
The Jerk (1979)
The funniest gags are in the first 40 minutes or so.
Favorite moments: hitchhiking from home, the phonebook scene, the glasses that keep falling down, not wanting old wine in the restaurant,
“I hope you find whatever it is you’re looking for.
I will Ma, I know it’s out there.
It’s out there alright. If you catch it, see a doctor and get rid of it”
“I’m in print, things are going to start happening to me now”
Mean Girls (2004)
It’s not a film that grabs me emotionally, and it didn’t feel like real life, but a very entertaining and quotable high school comedy, and there’s never a dull moment. Will appeal to the younger audience.
The “full tilt jungle madness” scene at school is unrealistic. I also disliked the moment many of the girls chanted Janis Janis after she just told them about all the horrible revenge acts they performed towards Regina (Rachel McAdams) via Cady (Lindsay Lohan). Even if they hated Regina, rejoicing over Regina’s suffering is nasty. I asked myself, who is the worst bully, Janis or Regina?
Many of these actresses would go on to make a name for themselves, including Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler.
Gregory’s Girl (1981)
His 10-year-old sister is too wise for her age. Aside from that minor flaw, it’s a charming coming of age drama/comedy, which is far more realistic compared to Mean Girls.
Il Sorpasso (1962)
I just reviewed On The Road (1957) by Jack Kerouac, the influence is obvious, but this Italian road movie is a classic in its own right, with a great screenplay and fine performances. If you are a fan of Sideways (2004), you should check this out. It’s equally as great.
Favorite quote: ”You’d think he was their nephew, and I was the stranger”
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Considered a classic of romantic comedies from the 90s. It’s aged pretty well. The ending is cute, although it’s a very schmaltzy and formulaic movie. If you are in the mood for something unchallenging.
Underappreciated drama/comedy starring Jeremy Irons as a Polish builder, who travels to London with a group of workmen. They provide cheap labor for a government official based there. The story sounds dull, but was surprisingly captivating, with many amusing moments.
A time capsule back to the early 80s when things were very different for those living behind the Iron Curtain. Even today, Eastern Europeans travel to other countries for higher pay.
Love Crime (aka Crime d’amour) (2010)
French Hitchcockian suspense thriller with Kristin Scott Thomas playing a bitchy boss of a company. A sluggish start, gets better. Clever story. Has been described by a reviewer as a satire of office politics and corporate sociopathy.
Three Paths to the Lake aka Drei Wege zum See (1976)
TV-movie directed by Michael Haneke. The characters are psychologically interesting, and through voice-overs and flashbacks we delve into Elisabeth’s (Ursula Schult’s) relationships and family. The present day story is uneventful, about Elizabeth visiting her elderly father and the conversations they have. Among other things, they discuss her brother who is newly married. On her way back home to Paris, she meets an old friend.
Thematically, the films deals with inner feelings, what path we choose, and coming to terms with the past.
If you are a fan of Michael Haneke, it’s worth a look.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
You can read my full review here
On the Road by Jack Keouac (1957) (review)
Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s by Theodore Cateforis
Review: Interesting chronology from late 1970s to early 90s. The author mentions a wealth of little-known bands from the era, which to me was the main attraction about reading the book.
I also enjoyed bits here and there about how new wave can be seen in an oppositional stance to the traditional dominant rock. New wave with its synthesizers, rudimentary musicianship, and androgynous fashion. Popular heavy metal bands in the mid 80s such as Mötley Crüe perceived themselves as making real music compared to the synthpop bands. When rocks acts like Van Halen, Rush and Bruce Springsteen began using the new wave synthesizers the distinction between rock and pop became blurred.
I’m not sure you can really make these clear distinctions, as every band is different, but it’s a way of examining the music of that time.
Later chapters I skimmed over, which explore in detail the impact of groups such as Devo, the B-52s, The Knack, and Gary Numan, In the chapter about Talking Heads, Cateforis is quite critical of the way David Byrne promoted Remain in Light (1980). Adam & The Ants are criticized for borrowing African music for their album and keeping all the profit for themselves.
Overall, the book is a bit repetitive, but momentarily interesting.
Agree or disagree? Seen anything great during July? As always, comments are welcome