Viewing recap July

Safe (1995)
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.
Rating 8/10 

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.
Rating 6/10 

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
Rating 7/10

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.
Rating 6/10

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,
Favorite quotes:
“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”
Rating 8/10

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.
Rating 7/10

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.
Rating 8/10

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”
Rating 9/10

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.
Rating 7/10

Moonlighting (1982)
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.
Rating 8.5/10

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.
Rating 7/10

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.

Rating 7/10

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) 
You can read my full review here
Rating 7/10

Books read:

On the Road by Jack Keouac (1957) (review)
Rating 8/10

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.
Rating 6/10

Agree or disagree? Seen anything great during July? As always, comments are welcome

24 thoughts on “Viewing recap July

  1. @Lights Camera Reaction: While We’re Young (2014) has a few amusing moments, and fun music/movie references, but the second half was weaker.
    Safe (1995) is quite an original take on the horror genre.


  2. Hmmm, it doesn't look like you super liked any of these films except 'Safe,' 'The Jerk,' 'Il Sorpasso,' and 'Moonlighting.' Sorpasso being your favorite. I wonder where I can find that one.


  3. @msmariah: Yep, those you mention are my favorites of the month. Il Sorpasso is on dvd or you can rent the film in the US for $2.99 on amazon instant.


  4. What a difference expectations can make! I caught AGWHAAN at the London film Fest and hadn't heard anything about it. It was one of my faves of the fest. But I can understand how your expectations after reading all the reviews could hurt the film. It will be interesting for me to see it again and see if it is as good as I remember!


  5. @thevoid99: Think I noticed Safe in your top 100 a while ago, it’s a great premise for a story, and reminds me I should look up Todd Haynes other work.


  6. @Pete: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) is an important film and I’m glad you and others enjoyed it. Yeah, maybe my expextations were too high. There were elements I liked, but overall, I thought it was forgettable. Maybe I’ll give it another chance in the future.


  7. I seem to remember that Sleepless in Seattle was a slight disappointment the first time I saw it (slight), as my expectations were high after When Harry Met Sally. But I’ve really grown to love it.
    Sleepless has some decent comedy moments (An Affair to Remember vs. The Dirty Dozen) and some heartbreaking moments I’ll never forget. I can only imagine since Nora Ephron left us that she is bringing that much more joy to those in heaven.


  8. @Paul S: Noticed your blog is called Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies, so you obviously have a thing about Meg Ryan. I liked the ”Dirty Dozen” comedy scene, which was amusing. Has me curious to give An Affair To Remember a watch at some point.


  9. I'm afraid I can't agree on Young Frankenstein, but I understand how everyone can have beloved movies in their “dislike” category. Annie Hall fits that bill for me.


  10. I like Safe more than you do, and since you rated it 8/10, that's saying something. I do consider it a horror movie, with the monster being the entire world. I absolutely love the ending. Safe is one of those movies I try to get other people to watch. It should be better known than it is.

    Young Frankenstein is a hell of a lot better if you watch Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein right before it. A lot of the parody is dead on.


  11. Chris. Some great reviews man. I too loved Spaceballs and Blazing Saddles but Young Frankenstein was a perfect homage to the universal monster movies from the 40's. In no way was Mean Girls suppose to be realistic. Even though it was adapted from a non fiction book. A Girl Walks home.. was one I did not much care for until I watched it again and then grew to love it more.


  12. Didn't really noticed the songs in While We're Young, but I loved that movie. I seem to be lovin' Noah Baumbach's movies more now.

    Mean Girls are entertaining, you're right there's never dull moment. I guess maybe it helps because it was created by Tina Fey.

    Sleepless in Seattle is a comfort movie.


  13. @Chip Lary: Comedy is so subjective. For a film that’s on the list of the “50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time”, I was hoping to laugh a bit more than I did. Oh well, I liked it, didn't love it.


  14. @SJHoneywell: Safe certainly is an important film. Yep, the entire word is the monster.
    Young Frankenstein does have iconic quotes, “it's pronounced “Fronkensteen” being one of them of course.
    I actually didn’t “get” Blazing Saddles when I saw it in my early 20s(before I was familiar with the classic westerns). I watched Blazing S again in my 30s and enjoyed it, because I understood the parody. I have seen those two Frankenstein movies you mention, though it’s been a while.


  15. @The Vern: Thanks, you’re the second person to comment on the parody is perfection in Young Frankenstein. I’m willing to accept the greatness of the parody, just in terms of the comedy it wasn’t something I found especially funny.
    Maybe I was wrong to expect realism in Mean Girls. I’m glad AGWHA got better for you on rewatch.


  16. @Andina: Sometimes I get so distracted by music referencesI end up not even knowing if the film is good or not…Which is also kind of what happened with the music book by Cateforis I reviewed here 🙂

    I usually like Noah Baumbach's work, though Ben Stiller already starred for Baumbach as a dissatisfied fortysomething in 2010's Greenberg, so his character feels a bit samey in the new movie. Glad you loved While We’re Young. Sleepless in Seattle does have that comfort appeal.


  17. Yay! You liked Gregory's Girl and Il Sorpasso! They're very good, almost forgotten films. I agree on While We're Young, which isn't one of Baumbach's best. Oh, I've had Love Crime on my watchlist for years, so I should check it out.


  18. Aww, young Frankenstein had me chuckling from beginning to end. One of my preferred Mel Brooks' films I think. And I only saw it for the first time a couple of years ago. Then again, I really love Men in Tights, which isn't well loved!


  19. You had an interesting month. I have seen just a few from your list.

    A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night – I was slightly underwhelmed by this film. I expected it to be so much more interesting. It looked good and had terrific music plus some well acted scenes but besides that I don't feel has much to offer. But I like your interpretation.

    While We're Young – This was a film I really wanted to enjoy and I may have overappreciated it when I saw it. I think it's a fun film, the cast is good,I like the actors, Naomi Watts being the most fun to watch, I bet she had fun. But I think it falls apart at the end.

    Mean Girls – This is one of my favorite comedies. I think this film is hilarious. It's definitely not trying to be realistic, especially in the jungle scene. You make some interesting observations, much of what the film was surely going for. But did you find t funny?

    Sleepless in Seattle – I don't really know what to think about this film. I really enjoyed the classy mood but couldn't get behind how the 2 get together. I guess it's just not for me. I found the Meg Ryan character problematic. I think Nora Ephron's writing doesn't really do it for me.

    Love Crime – I saw this as well as the Brian de Palma remake, Passion, which was just terrible. It probably is a satire but for me this failed as a thriller. Did you see Passion?

    Well, this is all I've seen from your list. Have a nice month.I see you are going through Michael Haneke's work. Would be interested to hear your opinions about it once you finish watching it.


  20. @Josh: Yes, I really liked Gregory’s Girl and loved Il Sorpasso, they deserve to be seen by today’s audiences.
    Love Crime is pretty good, if you like noir-ish thrillers.


  21. @Jaina: Young Frankenstein has some fun moments. Men in Tights I watched in my younger years, I remember enjoying a few scenes. The finger slapping and the men frustrated by Maid Marian's chastity belt 🙂 “Unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent”


  22. @The sound and the screen:
    A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night underwhelmed me as well. Decent, but not great.
    Naomi Watts did look as if she was having fun, especially the hip hop dancing 🙂
    Mean Girls was pretty funny in places, although some of the high school jokes were a bit immature(I’m 34). It was my first viewing of the film, and I went in blind not reading anything, so I wasn’t sure how to react. It wasn’t until half way that I realized it was a younger Rachel McAdams as the bitchy Regina. I think the film is saying bullying is wrong, no matter which agenda or revenge you want. Worth rewatching for the quotable moments.

    I haven't seen Brian de Palma's remake Passion, the original in French has a better reputation.

    Michael Haneke is one of my favorite directors working today. I've seen most of his important films, so now I only have the made for TV stuff to see.


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