I haven’t been a very good blogger or commenter in recent weeks, have things going on in the real world which I need to take care of, and explains why this post is late. Less time means the number of films watched is quite low for May, although I did finish two tv series (Alan Partridge and Matador) which I have been watching on and off for the past six months. Just started the ten part documentary mini-series about the Vietnam War from 2017 so expect a review at some point.
Midnight Run (1988) (Martin Brest)
Action, thriller, comedy? Probably all of the above. takes a while to get going, especially the second hour is suspenseful. Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin have good chemistry as the duo on the run.
There’s nothing wrong with Danny Elfman’s score per se but it just didn’t feel right in every scene. Perhaps a less intrusive score would have given certain moments a bit more emotional weight. That said, as undemanding, escapist entertainment, it delivers. Plus, it’s more quotable than most recent movies.
Funny how two road movies from 1988 feature a character who won’t fly on a plane, and they have to find alternative transport, the other is Best Picture winner Rain Man.
Night of the Comet (1984) (Thom Eberhardt)
If you prefer your science fiction to take itself seriously, you might want to skip this one. A light-hearted, campy post-apocalyptic exploitation sci-fi with female protagonists. Considering the $700.000 budget, an impressive effort, especially the cinematography. The reddish/neon colors and abandoned locations are beautifully captured. The haircuts and music are very 80s. The soundtrack is good but not great, occasionally too overpowering by playing over dialogue. The ending is a bit foreseeable. Contains a few entertaining what-if situations in which the girls take advantage of opportunities. Odd how the two sisters only show grief very briefly and elect not to seek out survivors, but as I said earlier it’s not a serious work. The teenagers treat the end of the world as a playground of fun and you don’t blame them for wanting to enjoy themselves as it’s a way to cope with a harsh reality. And to be honest, the story is better off without getting bogged down in psychological trauma. I now have less respect for Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later which basically copies aspects from Night of the Comet.
I’m Alan Partridge (British tv-series) (Season 1) (six episodes) (1997)
I knew The Trip, but Steve Coogan’s alter-ego Alan Partridge is his most famous comedy creation. In a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, I’m Alan Partridge was named the 38th best British television series of all time. Entertainment Weekly described the show as “bleakly hilarious”. His iconic catchphrase ”a-ha!” is a reworking of the ABBA lyric.
In the six episodes, we follow Alan as he lives at Linton Travel Lodge, clumsily engages with hotel staff, his personal assistant Lynn, and others. He works as a radio presenter/disc jockey at Radio Norwich and does other odd jobs, while attempting to get himself back on TV.
Alan is awkward yet talkative, often embarrassing himself and saying the wrong things. You feel sorry for him, as he rubs people up the wrong way and they tend to perceive him as a clown. Many in his path are offended, laughing at him and not with him. He’s a bit of a tragic figure who has delusions of grandeur about his celebrity. Very British, the strength of the show is the dialogue and wit, referencing British popular culture, occasionally the writing is dated, but often still relatable. If you had to point to a minor flaw it’s that not a lot happens and the episodes sometimes become inconsequential (but this is partly to do with Alan’s circumstances so makes sense)
The best episode involves a super fan (Ep5) while in the weaker Episode 4 the writers must have run out of ideas. I’ve just started season 2 which takes place five years later.
Matador (Danish TV series) (24 episodes) (1978-1982)
Probably the most beloved Danish tv-series ever made. Not well known outside of Denmark but available on dvd with English subtitles. I watched the newly restored print. The characters and music by Bent Fabricius-Bjerre are national treasures. I prefer tv where there is an actual progression and Matador has that. Running for 24 episodes, this was among my biggest blind spots. When Matador came up in conversations, I was not able to decipher the references, which bothered me. When I told people I had never watched the tv-series, they were surprised and encouraged me to watch immediately.
Initially set in the 1920s and 1930s and continuing into the 1940s, a time capsule of that era. A depiction of the evolution of a small town and how outside influences change things. There was a social hierarchy which that generation had to navigate and that we can still see echoes of today. The wealthy could afford servants, who had to slave away on a small salary and leftovers from the dinners, while the privileged did what they pleased. The local inn and restaurant provide many a conversation between the locals.
Now I understand the iconic image (from the poster) of the boy sitting on the steps, which is depicted in episode 1. The expression “she is a Maude type” also makes sense to me now, as it’s to do with a fragile female character who goes to bed when there’s a problem. But Maude does have her moments of assertion in episode 12 and episode 18.
While there is a universal Danish-ness about the characters which has aged well, I couldn’t help feeling the series is most identifiable for the generations who grew up in the era that is portrayed.
Aspects delved into include ‘jantelov’ (Scandinavian modesty) a familiar attitude even today in smaller communities in which ambition is frowned upon, as you are not supposed to think you are better than others, grippingly detailed in episode 9 and episode 12. Mads Andersen-Skjern challenges the status quo by always looking to expand, he opens a rival store near the snobby clothes shop on the same street. Mads has aspirations for his children but not everything goes according to plan.
A romance blossoms between Elisabeth and Kristen (Mad’s brother) which is complicated due to the rivalry of their respective families. Episode 6 is of the times, as today a father usually has the legal right to spend time with his children. There’s also a good amount of humor such as the amusing birthday misunderstanding in Episode 7, Daniel’s dinner guest in episode 19, and later Misse’s fear of men. Agnes (a housemaid) might be the character who goes through the biggest transformation as she wants to make something of her life, Mads tells her she has “tæft”(instinct for what is the right thing to do in various situations). In episode 11, a group of characters actually play Matador (the Danish version of the board game Monopoly).
The series is very much a document of the times, for example introducing the fridge-freezer, new in 1937-38, and depicting life during WW2, the persecution of Jews, blackout curtains, food rationing, curfews, and the joy of experiencing the end of the war. In episode 15, the series takes a critical stance on indremission(pious religious belief). Mad’s and Kristen’s sister visits and disapproves of the family’s modern clothes, materialism, dancing and alcohol. Most find the sister rude and insufferable.
Overall, the series has many memorable characters and I became immersed in their lives. The children are slightly less compelling to follow compared to their parents, the latter are given more time to breath.
What do you think. As always, comments are welcome