Mandy (2018) (Panos Cosmatos)
A wild, nightmarish, and visually dazzling horror revenge thriller set in 1983. Nicolas Cage delivers an intense, over the top performance that is a return to form. The weakness is you can sum up the plot in a few words and the second half is quite by-the-numbers. But very entertaining due to the stylized approach and extravagant use of sound and image. The storytelling is very visual and almost cartoonish. Johann Johannsson’s final score fits well with the retro 80s neon colors. The laughing scene is especially creepy and was scarier to me than the violence.
There appears to be social commentary on the misuse of religion and abusive men (the #MeToo connection is coincidental as the writer/director had been working on the script for about 6 years). Might be too crazy and extreme for some viewers but if you are in the mood for blood-splattered insanity it’s worth a look.
The Stepford Wives (1975) (Bryan Forbes)
Thought-provoking and original. The social commentary about control is disturbing, and the last third is chilling. The mystery (which I won’t spoil here) takes its time and may test your patience as it’s about a sense of unease rather than jump scares. The build towards the reveal maybe was a bit too long and the movie could have been 20 minutes shorter.
Lykke Per (aka A Fortunate Man) (2018) (Bille August)
It was one of three films shortlisted to be the Danish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. Among the most expensive films ever made in Denmark. Definitely a career high point for director Bille August, his filmography also counts the oscar winning Pelle the Conqueror (1987), which is not too dissimilar as both are based on Scandinavian literary classics set in the early 1900s.
I was emotionally captivated by the characters throughout despite an epic running time. Based on Nobel Prize winning author Henrik Pontoppidan’s Lykke-Per, a long book so I can understand why needed to be 2h 42 min. To be honest, I could happily have watched another 30 minutes. A story about ambition, family, and life choices. A lot of care has been put into recreating the past with costumes, sets, but the acting impresses just as much. For me, the first truly great film of 2018 so far and the upcoming extended made-for-TV mini series might be even better.
Gräns (aka Border) (2018) (Ali Abbasi)
Swedish entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. Won the Un Certain Regard award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
I expected more from the story which is rather slight, but the makeup work is exceptional. Encourages us to think about outsiders and how they fit into society. There are some good ideas here but it’s lacking something to be a great film. The credits say it’s based on a short story and it definitely feels like a smallish narrative extended to feature length. A unique watch by making the audience both uncomfortable and curious at the same time, observing these troll-like characters in a realistic setting. The door is open for a sequel.
The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) (Eric Idle, Gary Weis)
I’m a fan of Monty Python but for some reason I had never even heard of the Beatles mockumentary The Rutles. Eric Idle is co-writer and managed to secure a bigger budget by having it made in the US as a TV movie (instead of at the BBC). The funniest parts are Idle’s comments and scenes as a reporter, for example the opening monologue when he runs after the camera, the rats segment (7 minutes in), and when he talks about the burning of the albums at about the 37 min mark.
They managed to secure a bunch of celebrity interviews including Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, and George Harrison who play it straight faced and are all in on the joke. Even Harrison!
The tongue-in-cheek songs are done with great skill and have that unmistakable Beatles sound, even if the lyrics are not laugh out loud funny. The best might be Love Life (a parody of the Beatles’ own “All You Need Is Love”), With A Girl Like You (a parody of “If I Fell”) and Get Up and Go (a parody of “Get Back”). If you didn’t know otherwise you could take some of the music seriously. The worst is the Thousand Feet Of Film song for the horrible vocal. Although you could argue it’s intentionally cringeworthy! There’s also an accomplished animated sequence, created by the makers of the 1968 Yellow Submarine movie. Controversial to depict Yoko Ono as a Nazi and makes fun of the fab fours choice in women. A sequel exists called The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch (2002).
Favorite quotes: “Their first album was made in 20 minutes, their second took even longer” “who created a musical legend that will last a lunchtime”.
Show Me Love (aka Fucking Åmal) (1998) (Lukas Moodysson)
A 90s coming of age classic. Moodyson has earned a reputation as a Swedish John Hughes and this story about teenage angst and love is believable, sweet, and well told. The two leads shine in particular, the lonely Agnes and the popular Elin.
As with Moodyson’s Tillsammans (2000) (reviewed below), the weakness is it fails to leave you with much conflict or food for thought. The ending is simplistic but in reality far from straightforward.
Together (2000) (Lukas Moodysson)
A good soundtrack with some Swedish music (Turid, Ted Gärdestad ) I didn’t know. Also ABBA. Strong acting, and feels authentic in terms of a 1970s commune. The story is most involving when focusing on the drunk (Michael Nyqvist) and his family. The way it all wraps up is a bit too tidy though.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome