Hope you are all well. My movie watching was pretty limited in March. Under ten films is a low amount for me, party because I decided to watch a few Danish stand-up specials by Anders “Anden” Matthesen (Tal For Dig Selv), (Shhh) and Jan Gintberg Redder Verden. I have no idea if you can watch them with English subtitles.
I read a Danish book on the environment that cleared up for me a moderate level of radon inside your home is in fact not dangerous and shouldn’t give you lung cancer, unless you are a smoker, which I am not.
I joined a couple of evening classes. One of them is about Rome, I’m hoping to visit the Italian capital which is on my bucket list. The other class is about 20th Century philosophers which I learnt about some years ago but wanted to refresh my memory on. Both informative courses with a nice variation of lecturers.
I’ve also become involved with a small three-day film festival and have suggested some titles for their program.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) (George P. Cosmatos)
For whatever reason I never watched the Rambo sequels and with a new installment, Rambo V: Last Blood (2019), out later this year, I thought it was a good time to catch up. Rambo is a man of action and few words. Part 2 lacks the deeper emotion of the 1982 original, and Stallone’s performance is weaker, but a suspenseful action adventure. The problem with these serialized characters, like James Bond, is you know they will return, so can’t die. Still, there’s a sense of danger as he gets himself into dicey situations. The movie has aged alright in that a female character plays an important role in the mission. We don’t really get under the skin of Rambo aside from a few one-liners such as “to survive a war, you’ve got to become war” and of course the stirring ending. The movie goes for action rather than character study as he lets his knife, rifle and cross-bow do the talking. There’s a bit of commentary on American POWs left over in Vietnam(which is where Rambo is sent). The most implausible parts (same with Rambo 3) are the over the top scenes when he takes on 50 men. Gives you an origin story for the red sweatband. Rambo tying the band with his back turned to the camera has become canon. If you didn’t think there was enough shoot-em-up in First Blood (1982), part 2 makes up for it in spades.
Rambo III (1988) (Peter MacDonald)
Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) is given a bigger role and is not just a concerned onlooker this time. The story is fun and quotable yet very predictable. The dialogue goes for tongue-in-cheek which can be entertaining but is it really appropriate for such a violent film? The enemy is too stupid. If you just want an actioner where you can turn your brain off, worth a look. Is it a coincidence or a calculated decision that the two most iconic Stallone characters Rocky and Rambo each have five letters and start with an R?
Heathers (1988) (Michael Lehmann)
(spoilery mini-review) Has some implausible aspects but I liked the movie better on rewatch. Very quotable black comedy. Star making performances by Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. An eerie score. Odd that Veronica doesn’t go to the cops about JD but maybe she was afraid she would be found out as well. Even today, school shooters write diaries and so did the Veronica character, instead of hatred towards her I was able to empathize because of the circumstances. Surprisingly, the finger prints on the suicide notes didn’t play a part. What is realistic is how she got pulled into the misdeeds due to infatuation and insecurity and that JD was angry because of a dysfunctional family.
“ -I just killed my best friend.
-And your worst enemy.
“Are we going to the prom or to hell?”
Modern Romance (1981) (Albert Brooks)
Explores Robert’s (Albert Brooks) neurotic, self-obsessed behaviour and possessive jealousy towards his girlfriend Mary. This is what works best in the film.
The subplot about editing a science fiction movie functions as a backdrop and at times felt like padding. Robert could have had any job for the jealousy to occur so the fact he was an editor and she worked for a bank didn’t seem to be of vital importance. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie where the main character is on the phone so many times. The story is charming and isn’t as dark as it could have been. But it still feel realistic. The comedy had a restraint and a humanity which you rarely see in movies.
The funniest moments are in the first half: salespeople exploiting Robert by trying to sell him stuff, exercising for 3 seconds and heading straight to the nearest pay phone, his mother constantly calling, pretending to write a phone number down. The best line in the (more serious) second half is the “god strikes me dead” quote in the restaurant exchange. Another reviewer amusingly pointed out how similar Albert Brooks’ face is to Steve Guttenberg’s.
Green Book (2018) (Peter Farrelly)
The 2019 Best Picture Oscar winner. A memorable interracial buddy comedy-drama, based on a true story. I’m a sucker for a heart-warming feel-good movie and I was able to accept the oscar baity aspects even if some of the plot developments were predictable. An important movie because encourages you to be kind towards other people.
Mahershala Ali’s performance as Donald Shirley is believable as a musician though he is very stoic and handing him an Oscar seems a bit of a stretch. Viggo Mortensen, who plays bouncer Tony Vallelonga is fun to watch and rarely has someone in a mainstream Hollywood production eaten as much as he does. You could argue Mortensen’s Italian/American character is stereotypical and Robert de Niro rehash, but entertaining what he brought.
Set in the 1960s, a number of the inequality issues are dated. A period film but with truths that are still relevant. I couldn’t figure out why Don needed a driver when he could easily have travelled with the two other musicians of the trio in their car? I get that he had to sleep at green book hotels and eat at specific restaurants yet his playing buddies could have helped with that surely? Maybe I missed something but I just failed to understand the logic of him spending money on a driver and extra car. It’s not like he had a lot of luggage to bring along.
There has been some criticism. For example that the film is a a dated, oversimplified racial reconciliation fantasy. According to an article on realitytitbit there is no imbalance with the two lead characters helping each other equally. For film critic Mike Sargent, it’s a problem that it isn’t the Donald Shirley story with a lot of attention given to Tony Vallelonga. He believes Green Book is a film for white folks, and that it spoon feeds racism to those who don’t see it in their daily lives.
Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times called Green Book the worst Best Picture winner since Crash and a “can’t-we-all-just-get-along bromide”. Comparing the two films, he writes they reduce “the long, barbaric and ongoing history of American racism to a problem, a formula, a dramatic equation that can be balanced and solved”.
Chang complains further “Ali was pushed as a supporting actor to Mortensen’s lead campaign is telling in all the wrong ways. But there isn’t a single scene that feels authentically like the character’s own, that speaks to Shirley’s experience and no one else’s”.
Relatives of Donald Shirley spoke up, claiming the film exaggerates the extent of the buddy relationship, making it seem like a close friendship when it was more of an acquaintance.
Shirley’s family have also accused Green Book as a film that misrepresents him. Unlike in the film, Dr. Shirley was not estranged from his family or the black community, and he had eaten fried chicken before.
Sorry to Bother You (2018) (Boots Riley)
Out on dvd/streaming in my country. Hits dvd in the UK in April. I won’t go into the divisive twist as that is best experienced without spoiling it. The film is a surreal Glengarry Glen Ross turned up to 11.
Didn’t like the bad language or occasional bathroom humor. The telemarketing visual flourishes, earrings, and use of voices are fun and inventive. The dial in the elevator was the funniest moment. I loved the dialogue in the confrontation scene on the street when he’s just been promoted.
Armie Hammer’s party is nuts and a candidate for best scene of the year and the movie would arguably have been stronger if that had been the ending. Instead Boots Riley overexplains things in the last 15 minutes.
The imaginative presentation is original while there are structurally some narrative tropes that are conventional. The movie doesn’t point to how capitalism can be solved, it just says there is a problem. There is some truth to a quote from another review: “Society just sells us the American Dream to get us to keep working”. The end credits song OYAHYTT by The Coup is pretty catchy.
Shoplifters (2018) (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Dvd region 2 release in March. Japanese family drama. Winner of the Palme d’Or and nominated for foreign language film at the 91st Academy Awards. A loving, compassionate depiction of parenting. Although also makes the viewer feel uncomfortable about good people doing wrong things due to financial hardship. Basing the conflicts on real life cases of people resorting to pension fraud and shoplifting in order to get by. A social commentary on poverty in Japan, while also shedding light on the legal but creepy “JK” (Joshi Kosei) business.
Well-made and draws you in with its gentle warmth. The bus scene is especially moving, as is the visit to the ocean, and the scene with the oranges. Apparently Japan’s PM hates this movie because it’s just too true. The filmmakers certainly have a political agenda but can also just be watched as a story about family and the ramshackle yet charming place they call home. The movie poses the question: what really makes a family? Is the family we choose more important than the one we are born with?
Climax (2018) (Gaspar Noé)
Now available on region 2 dvd in Europe. Starts off with a group of dancers talking about why they dance which is interesting. Followed by an impressive dance sequence all done in one take set to some danceable 90s music. If you want to learn some new moves you could watch but don’t expect a story or depth. A group movie and not really any character you get to know other than on a surface level.
Promising beginning, boring middle focusing on horny locker-room chit-chat. The last 35-40 minutes is intense and nightmarish where Gaspar Noe indulges in his bag of tricks. Could all happen in real life which makes it scarier than supernatural horror.
This Time With Alan Partridge (2019) (Episode 3-6)
I reviewed episode 1 last month. Allegedly a spoof of The One Show and based on Piers’ interactions with Susanna on Good Morning Britain.
This Time concluded on a cliffhanger as to Alan’s future. Instead of summarizing the episodes, which seems pointless, I’ll instead share the moments I found the funniest:
Episode 3: The parent talking about unemployment in Scotland who grunts when he stops talking.
Simon’s no files found image resulting in Alan looking through his own eccentric pictures via his iPad.
The demonstration of corporal punishment on a dummy with a shoe.
The closing mind puzzle about cigarettes in a holiday home.
Episode 4: The 100 year old lady talking about her houseboy.
The Scottish Alan impersonator.
The CPR with music was good yet too similar to a clip from The Office
Episode 5: Lacking in laughs. Focuses on MeToo
Episode 6: The SAS anti-interrogation technique where Alan can’t remember his own name.
Nigel Mansell praising him for driving 500 yards
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome