Happy New Year to those who read this blog! Christmas was hectic. Made a little easier with great food, light entertainment thanks to Peter Sellers, and a few presents. I was given new quilt covers, a movie quiz game, and the collected works by the celebrated Danish poet Michael Strunge (he’s not well known outside of Scandinavia)
I also received Five Go Gluten Free (from 2016) with text by Bruno Vincent. In the sleeve, says the book is ”Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups”. Other titles in the spoof series include Five on Brexit Island and Five Give Up the Booze. Blyton must be rolling in her grave! I presume has been endorsed by her estate.
I’m omitting a few new film releases in this post as those will feature in my upcoming top 10 films of 2018. To be published later this month. I’m waiting for The Favourite (2018) which is out January 24 in my country.
I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)
With the music score, Scottish dialect, and stormy weather, actually deciphering the dialogue is at times quite the challenge. See it with subtitles. The scenery is beautifully captured and you get to witness customs such as a highland song and dance party. There’s an affection for Scotland in how it’s depicted on screen though not shying away from the dangers of the violent sea (and there can be beauty in nature’s extremes). The journey to find your place feels timeless and a film that probably grows on you on repeat viewings.
The Pink Panther (1963) (Blake Edwards)
Great music and the sequence when two men are hiding in the bedroom is a highlight. The animated intro and surprising ending are pretty iconic though the film feels a little long and the slapstick is only mildly amusing. Has charm in abundance thanks to actors like David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Claudia Cardinale as the Princess.
The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) (Blake Edwards)
A farcical 1975 sequel and 4th film in the long running Pink Panther series. The story isn’t particularly believable and the plot occasionally feels like rehash of the original, yet funnier than the 1963 film with many scenes designed for Sellers to get into trouble. The comedy becomes a bit predictable and forced after a while though does have its moments with the monkey/musician scene a stand out. As with the superior sequel A Shot in the Dark (1964), Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) steals the show. Christopher Plummer lacks the charm of David Niven whom he replaced in the role of Sir Charles Litton (spelled differently for some reason)
Harakiri (1962) (Masaki Kobayashi)
Set in the 1600s in Japan, I’m sure this classic has historical significance as a document of seppuku (harakiri) and the hypocrisy of honor. The critics admire it, but I found the characters hard to care about and the dialogue tended to repeat things. Told in a non-linear fashion, many scenes are dull and feature men facing each other, talking formally. The action in the opening hour consists of a man stabbing himself which displays the samurai honor aspect yet is painful to watch. An important, but tiresome film.
The Apparition (2018) (Xavier Giannoli)
Great central idea about a journalist investigating a woman who claims to have seen the virgin Mary. The story is too slow and long albeit the actors are good. Visually, it’s pretty drab and not easily remembered. The film’s strength is in raising a number of questions about the church, faith, and worship. The subplot about Jacques’s hearing was neglected. The ending lessens the importance of what came before. Resulting in a frustrating watch, as the movie is over, just when it starts getting interesting.
Hal (2018) (Amy Scott)
A documentary about the life of beloved film director Hal Ashby who peaked in the 1970s with films such as Being There (1979).
There’s a bit of Hal within his films. I didn’t know his dad killed himself when Hal was only 12, and that could explain the fascination with suicide in Harold and Maude (1971).
Ashby has high praise for screenwriter Robert Towne who scripted The Last Detail (1973). Hal’s rebellous and anti-authority side comes across in those characters.
He lost control of 8 Million Ways to Die (1986) which was botched in the editing room. Very sad the way Ashby’s life and career ended. A bright light who became a bitter man, clashing with the film studio. But a wonderful run of films in the 70s.
Leave No Trace (2018) (Debra Granik)
The most overrated film of 2018. All the critics on Rotten Tomatoes think it’s praiseworthy yet to me a mediocre, flavorless drama. A more realistic take on that Viggo Mortensen movie in the forest Captain Fantastic, but I had forgotten the movie soon after. So Leave No Trace is an appropriate title! Winter’s Bone (by the same writer/director) is a better film and more impactful.
The Rider (2017) (Chloé Zhao)
I applaud a western that tries something different and delves into contemporary masculinity through the eyes of a female writer/director. I really wanted to like this film, but the narrative just didn’t hold my attention. Nothing much happens, a situation rather than a story. I found the lead actor dull to watch and this is accentuated by the slow pacing. I expected more based on the 97% Rotten Tomatoes score. A low-key work that I appreciate for its concept/idea yet found slightly underwhelming as a viewing experience. The last 10-15 minutes had some emotion.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome