Happy New Year to readers of this blog! I had a nice Christmas break. Presents included a box set of reggae albums by Peter Tosh, and the complete Alan Partridge on dvd (starring The Trip’s Steve Coogan). Also received a classic I’d not read (or even heard of) The German Lesson by Siegfried Lenz (1968).
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) (Rian Johnson)
Spoiler free review. I have come to the conclusion the original trilogy is unbeatable.
The bad: The Last Jedi is yet another long-awaited 2017 sequel content to over-homage with only small amounts of new thought. The camera movement is too restless, I would have accepted less action in favor of lingering shots of the impressive sets. A passable blockbuster, but not as fun and entertaining as Force Awakens. Marginally better than Rogue One.
The good: There is tension about who will survive. Kelly Marie Tran is the best new character. Sweet moments I’ll remember involving BB-8 and also Chewie. Quotable moments, particularly the comment about the sun and another by Rose about war. The scenes at Canto Bight were the most unexpected, with a subtext about contemporary society.
The way different cultures and genders are represented is nice to see, but the movie screams diversity. Bugs me that so little of actual importance happens or is revealed, which seems to be a commercial decision so Disney can make tons of sequels and money for years to come.
A youtuber summed up his criticism, in that E8 clashes with E7 in what the films want to achieve. Lord of The Rings trilogy got it right by carefully mapping out the entire three film story beforehand, whereas new Star Wars has been too rushed and lacks tonal cohesion by using different screenwriters.
The Glass Castle (2017) (Destin Cretton)
About a dysfunctional family. Memorable moments, such as the pool scene, and the sequence when haven’t eaten for days. But the way the story is presented is too sentimental and sanitized. Lacks emotional impact. The book has received tons of praise. Perhaps best told on the page.
The Road Home (1999) (Yimou Zhang)
Rewatch. Sometimes simple movies are the best. A romantic Chinese drama that can make me all warm inside and forget time and place. The son narrates the story of his mother’s youth. Cinematography, scenery and music are beautiful. The opening is in black-and-white, while memories of the relationship between mother and father are in color. A great stylistic choice, as often memories can be more vivid and alive than the present. A similar technique was used in The Wizard of Oz.
The main theme could be longing and yearning, but also empathy for the mother’s request. The villagers agree she is the prettiest woman in the village. Would it have been more realistic, if he was chasing her? The story about their first love is well-known among the locals. Perhaps the tale we are given has been exaggerated because verbally retold many times.
Braveheart (1995) (Mel Gibson)
Rewatch. Had not seen it since the 90s. A lot has been written about the violence and historical inaccuracies. The battle scenes are believable yet excessive. Captures the epic landscapes of Scotland and the love story worked well. The characterization is often one-dimensional though, Longshanks is pure evil, William Wallace is flawless and heroic. while Prince Edward is depicted as a pushover. The most complicated, interesting character is Robert the Bruce. Brian Cox maybe could have had more screen time. Stephen (David O’Hara), the insane Irishman, injects the film with a welcome dose of comedy. Overall, the story managed to hold my attention despite a 3 hour run time, and that is down to excellent pacing and directing. The oscar nominated score by James Horner is unforgettable.
Star 80 (1983) (Bob Fosse)
Based on a true story, a cautionary warning to young women about the pitfalls of show biz. Dorothy Stratten isn’t presented so much as a human being as she is an ideal that is both coveted and corrupted by men. A box office disappointment, which could be due to its dark angle on the subject matter. I disliked the decision-making by the characters, and couldn’t relate, but well-acted. Eric Roberts is great when given a meaningful role. His jealous husband was what I’ll remember most.
At times the story was a little too eager to foretell the future, which I could have done without. There’s good use of music, Rod Stewart’s Da Ya Think I’m Sexy is especially haunting. I prefer All That Jazz (1979), and Cabaret (1972) for the main characters. Lenny (1974) is on my watchlist. Star 80 (1983) would be Fosse’s final film as director before his untimely death age 60 in 1987.
Solo Sunny (1980) (Konrad Wolf)
Captures the 70s music scene in East Germany. The story has funny and sad moments. Sunny won’t settle for less, a singer who wants to be loved by audiences and find the right man. She struggles with both goals. The men she is uninterested in adore her, and the guy she is attracted to she feels is half-hearted. Sunny is asked what her idea of success is and she answers: “to be understood and wanted”. Renate Krößner (as Sunny) won the Silver Bear for Best Actress and the film was nominated for the Golden Bear. The score is memorable, composed by Günther Fischer, a jazz musician. The inspiration for the film was a German singer named Sanije Torka. Here is a link to the title track from the soundtrack, sung in English.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome