Films and TV of the month: June & July

 

 

 

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Midsommar (2019) (Ari Aster)
Managed to get under my skin by building an unsettling mood. The subject matter in the pre-credits sequence felt rehashy from Aster’s previous film Hereditary (2018).
Puts you in the shoes of the American guests and I had the feeling I was there at the Swedish camp with them. To be honest, a relief when was finally over, a harrowing watch. A feel-bad folk horror movie, not a personal favorite, though I appreciate when a filmmaker can bring out an impactful reaction. Many modern movies are forgettable but this one hit me hard. Whether I liked that reaction I’m still unsure about. Was I even supposed to enjoy spending time with the pagan cult? I assume the intension was to make an anti-cult movie in the vein of Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011).
A reviewer for USAtoday wrote: “What’s terrifying is how real this film feels” and was certainly more realistic than Hereditary. Florence Pugh is a rising star and delivers the best performance in the film. Not knowing Dani’s sister’s motivation adds to the eeriness and sense of being lost. The most powerful scene is when Dani screams with the group. You can kind of guess where the story is heading yet there are surprises along the way. Has been advertised as a horror movie that scares even though takes place in daylight, and having now seen it that is an accurate assessment.
I must have missed the mention of bipolar disorder when I watched. Apparently a character suffers from this and groups have raised concerns about the link between violence and mental illness.
I wonder how much sleep deprevasion from the daylight plus being in a communal bedroom with crying babies affected the characters’ decision making. Some took sleeping pills, others did not.
?/10

 

 

 

 

 


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Metropolitan (1990) (Whit Stillman)
Debut feature by the American auteur. Set in New York amongst a group of upper-class college friends who are joined by an outsider. The strength of Metropolitan is the witty, rich, rewatchable dialogue. It feels like a labour of love. The performances and vocal deliveries are mostly deadpan, giving the impression of artificiality with the writer/director pulling the strings and the actors as puppets. The music and outfits are posh. The story may be satirizing the lifestyle but if so it’s done tastefully without making them into clowns. A group disbanding is something many experience when they are young.
The deadpan style is not dissimilar to other indie directors such as Hal Hartley, Wes Anderson and Aki Kaurismäki, although Stillman is arguably the most intellectual of these filmmakers.
Now I understand the name of Dan’s blog Public Transportation Snob, a quote from the movie.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Live in Concert: Richard Pryor (1979)
Listed as #1 on Rolling Stone’s top 25 Best Stand-Up Specials. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Not as funny as I had hoped. A few of the sketches, especially about the animals, brought a smile to my face, and the physical comedy is fun. A lot of profanity. Feels very personal as Pryor draws from his own life such as a heart attack, boxing, a funeral, beatings as a child, and so on. I guess it’s therapeutic for him (and the audience) to deal with these issues through comedy. By today’s standards it isn’t a groundbreaking show but back then the style was edgy and new.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An American Tail (1986) (Don Bluth)

Rewatch. The first film I remember watching in the cinema as a child. Was the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film at the time. The main characters are mice and cats. Clearly with kids in mind but has plenty of heart and beautiful animation. The song “There are no cats in America” is catchy. The weakness is the predictable story and naiveness of the Mousekewitz family. The title of the film and the names of the characters are sweet. The themes about prejudice, fighting for freedom, and hope are overused in Hollywood yet timeless. My favorite of the characters is probably Tiger voiced vividly by Dom DeLuise. Tiger sings the inspiring “A Duo” with the main character Fievel. Another stand out is “Somewhere Out There” which is sort of a sister song to the Wizard of Oz’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Several images will stay with me such as the devilish ocean, the moon, and the poster walking on the bridge.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Road to Perdition (2002) (Sam Mendes)

Takes place during the Great Depression. Nice cinematography which Conrad L. Hall won an oscar for. A decent watch although the characters are too bland and feel like gangster stereotypes. Based on a graphic novel and has been compared to a Greek tragedy because of the theme of fathers and sons. Basically a warning (see the title) about a life in crime.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Leopard (1963) (Luchino Visconti)

Historical period drama which won the Palme d’Or in 1963. I’ve liked other Visconti films. The Leopard was too slow and lacking a compelling story. I guess I prefer his smaller productions such as White Nights (1957) and Obsession (1943).
Set in Sicily in 1860, we hear about relationship issues, political corruption, and more. The ballroom sequence looks impressive but ultimately overstays its welcome. There’s an attempt to juxtaposition the sadness of Lancaster’s character with the joy of the party but it felt contrived as Lancaster hadn’t looked despondent beforehand. There seemed to be a passing of the torch to the next generation (probably why he was sad) which I found pretty vague. An explanation of the title The Leopard tries to tie things up. I watched the three hour Italian-language version.
5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Arrival (2016) (Denis Villeneuve)

Isn’t as good as I remembered. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner play it well and the language aspects were handled believably. The slow build-up heading to the spacecraft becomes tedious rather than suspenseful, especially when you’ve seen it before and know what to expect. The last act does make you think about your own life but felt under-explored and ends just when it started getting psychologically and philosophically interesting.
On rewatch I knew the twist but the opening scene still made no sense as takes place before she even visits the spacecraft. Perhaps the prologue is not meant to literally happen before the arrival but simply be a teaser of later events in the film. Kind of a modern Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (documentary) (2005) (Martin Scorsese)

There’s a dispute over who discovered Bob Dylan, was it John Hammond at CBS or Artie Mogull who claims he made the singer popular. Albert Grossman is said to have brought Dylan’s music to a wider audience.
A story about Dylan stealing Woody Guthrie records and the owner coming after him has an almost mythical quality.
The funniest scene has Dylan rearranging Pet Shop signs into nonsense and I also realized the opening sequence from the Watchmen movie was ripped off from this documentary.
Joan Baez talks about a night when a motel wouldn’t give Dylan a room because he looked scruffy and she persuaded them to let him stay which Baez argues led that night to him writing “When the Ship Comes In” about an injustice.
Goes into the political relevance of songs like “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” which some linked to atomic rain and in Dylan’s own words is about something bad is going to happen.
“Only a Pawn in their Game” could be interpreted as a song for the civil rights movement and the killing of Medgar Evers.
Dylan is perceived as a leftwing folk singer in the vein of Pete Seeger and Woodie Guthrie, carrying on their tradition. But he’s a contradictory man in the 1960s, saying in an interview all his songs are protest sings while also a discomfort with being boxed in as a topical political voice in his speech at the Tom Paine award ceremony.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Climate Change – The Facts (2019) (60 min BBC documentary)
Narrated by David Attenborough, the focus is CO2 and global warming. Nearly a third of CO2 admissions are caused by deforestation, fields used for cattle or clearing rainforests to make room for huge palm oil plantations. Palm oil is in many products we buy (margarine, bread, soaps, shampoo, chocolates, ice cream).
Provides disturbing predictions. Methan gas can cause an acceleration of global warming as it’s 21x more powerful than CO2 (this is one of the so-called ”tipping points”). There are tons of frozen lakes in the arctic which could release methan if they melt. But not all bad news, Iceland have one of the world’s first carbon collectors.
Sea level has risen by about 20cm in the last 100 years which so far affects Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Jean Charles, Louisiana in the US which loses a football field every 45 min and citizens become so-called climate refugees. By end of 21st century our planet will potentially be between 3-6 degrees warmer. 600 million live in costal areas that are less than 10m above sea level. If we don’t do anything, we could be looking at 80cm to 1m rise of sea level.
James Hansen warned Congress in 1988 that he was 99% sure the increase in carbondioxid had led to warmer temperatures than any time in measured history. The fossil fuel companies for oil and gas are some of the most profitable businesses in human history and didn’t want a change.
How we can make a difference in our own lives:
-Eat everything we buy, less waste.
-Avoid air-freighted food which is 100x more impactful to climate change than putting it on a boat.
-Insulate our homes which wastes less heat.
-Reduce meat and dairy consumption, especially beef and lamb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stranger Things, season 3 (2019) (Duffer brothers)
Episode 1 started out very dark but the mood soon brightens. The third season has a few of these tonal shifts, in another moment a group are mowed down with a machine gun, the next the teenagers are listening to music in a car.
The bickering between Steve and Robin (you can buy the above outfits) worked so well. New or expanded characters in season 3 include Priah Ferguson(she has a bunch of funny lines) and Maya Hawke (I didn’t know Ethan Hawke and Urma Thurman’s had a daughter, her voice is similar to Thurman’s).
We see the gang sneaking into the cinema and the radio transmission stuff was entertaining. Sweet that Dustin has a girlfriend off screen. Hopper the sheriff I found annoying in the home dispute with Eleven and Mike but once Hopper goes on the adventure with Joyce I was hooked. Will is dealing with his friends maturing while he still enjoys kid’s games, the sadness of leaving your childhood behind is affecting but gets a bit forgotten about by the final episodes. Billy is admired by the pool by the females and he is given a more substantial role than before. Surprised Cary Elwes was the major although the creators have picked actors from iconic 80s movies before such as Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine and Sean Astin.
Hopper’s letter in the final episode is really moving and that is my favorite scene. Steve and Dustin reuniting (they became friends in S2) is heart-warming and funny. The quintessential 80s moments are Steve and Dustin spying in the mall with Things Can Only Get Better by Howard Jones (1985) on the loud speaker, and the upbeat/synthy Starcourt and Madonna’s Material Girl used when Eleven and Max have fun in the mall’s shopping area. All in all, season 3 is light-hearted, enjoyable escapism.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Killing Michael Jackson (2019) (
45 min documentary)
Documentary that revisits the final days of the pop singers life, with new interviews of the three detectives who were involved in the initial investigation. The blame for his death is not limited to only the doctor, the singer was secretly taking other drugs while on propofol and crucially did not inform his doctor about this. Doctor Conrad Murray also behaved irresponsibly by not having a defibrillator at the house, not dialling 911 immediately, and using propofol outside a hospital environment. Doesn’t go into the suicide theory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

25 thoughts on “Films and TV of the month: June & July

  1. Sorry you didn’t like The Leopard. My dad’s favorite actors were Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, and Chevy Chase. I don’t know if he saw that film but I think he saw the shortened U.S. version because of Lancaster.

    An American Tail is a childhood favorite of mine as it’s a film I hope to show my nephew in the future. Midsommar was the film I was hoping to see but it came and went too quickly at my local multiplex.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @ninvoid99: The Leopard had a sense of epicness. Unfortunately the story didn’t fully grab me and didn’t help how slow paced it all was. Probably one of Burt Lancaster’s better performances.

      An American Tail is sweet and Midsommar is a must-see if you are into horror

      Like

  2. I hated Metropolitan. Sure, the screenplay is the best part of it, but those insufferably arrogant characters. I wanted to punch all of them until my hands went numb.

    Arrival, on the other hand, appears to have been made specifically for me, as in some movie executive said, “Hey, let’s make a sci-fi/alien contact movie about language. There’s this guy in Illinois…”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @SJHoneywell: Whit Stillman has a particular style which isn’t for everyone. Metropolitan can feel pretentious and off-putting while watching. I thought the interactions were funny. They act so confident yet are young and insecure.

      ha ha, nice when that happens, I can’t think of a movie that was made specifically for me(there aren’t many great movies about libraries)

      Like

  3. I liked Metropolitan and got the satire of the lifestyle Stillman was going for. Big fan of Last Days of Disco. Will have to give this one a rewatch. I have not re watched Arrival. Afraid my experience will ruin the good time I had when I first watched it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @The Vern: Last Days of Disco I remember enjoying. Been awhile since I’ve seen it

      The twist in Arrival kind of necessitates a rewatch yet I got impatient with the slow build-up which simply isn’t as effective on second viewing when you know what’s coming. Would have preferred less build-up and instead a longer last act.

      Like

  4. Too bad Road to Perdition doesn’t work better for you as I hold it in high regard. Then again, I’m a sucker for father/son stuff.

    It’s interesting hearing a reaction to Richard Pryor from someone I’m guessing hasn’t experienced him before. I absolutely love this particular movie, but I might be too close to it having spent a good chunk of my youth listening to and laughing hysterically at his comedy albums.

    I still need to see Midsommar. That Dylan doc sounds interesting, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Wendell: Road to Perdition wasn’t a bad film, just a forgettable one to me.

      I’m new to Pryor’s stand up, I admire his skill, and the show had heart and energy. I just prefer UK comedy

      No Direction Home is worth a look even if you haven’t listened to everything by Bob Dylan

      Like

  5. Nice list, and great reviews. I agree that time must pass after watching Midsommar before anyone can say whether they like it or not. It is one of those films that makes an impact, but you do not really know what to think exactly.

    I agree with your ratings on Road to Perdition and Arrival too – they are (a little) flawed, in my opinion. Metropolitan by Whit Stillman sounds interesting. I loved his Love & Friendship, and I guess he makes great satires, so I may try to check it out. I wonder if I have seen An American Tail when young. This mouse and his large hat look very familiar. I tried to read di Lampedusa’s The Leopard three times and had to stop because I could not get even to the fifth page. I guess, like you, I will not enjoy the film, even though I am always curious to see an Alain Delon movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @dbmoviesblog: Thanks, yes, Midsommar left an impact and I still don’t know how I feel. .An interesting film to analyze. There’s already a bunch of theories online: https://www.bustle.com/p/9-midsommar-theories-that-make-the-movie-way-more-terrifying-18177682

      If you appreciate well-written dialogue, Metropolitan is worthing seeing. The original screenplay was nom for an oscar, and there are a few references to Jane Austen

      I didn’t even know The Leopard is a book. I guess I just wasn’t interested in the characters. And I just realized, like Metropolitan, it ‘s also set among the upper class.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Btw, have you managed to see Claire Denis’ “High Life” when you were in London or elsewhere? I saw it in cinema awhile back, but never managed to write a review of it. Now the whole movie is one blur to me.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. @dbmoviesblog: There wasn’t time unfortunately, visited Foyles in the evening instead! Thanks for the info about the dvd/blu-ray. The reviews on amazon are very polarizing and I’m not sure I would want to spend two hours with these criminals. What did you think of High Life?

      Like

  6. Went to see Midsommar and you do leave feeling a bit traumatised, not knowing how the heck to judge it as a movie. Started as an idyllic summer break but early on it was obvious things were going to take a serious turn for the worse – Pretty gory if you don’t like those sort of things.

    As for Stranger Things we binge-watched it ending with a 2 episode Saturday Night finale – Love those kids and love the whole homage to films from the 80s. Not a coincidence that the main characters are called Lucas, Steven, Dustin, Hopper etc. Loved also how Steve Harrington, the coolest boy in high school, still came across as cool despite wearing a little sailor suit throughout. Not many could have carried that off!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Alyson: Yes, the gory stuff was a bit much, I closed my eyes. On the other hand, part of me feels Midsommar is discriminating against pagans as not all of them are bad. Although I would probably think twice about making new friends if visiting the likes of Glastonbury Tor or Swedish midsummer events.

      I think you’re on to something regarding the names in Stranger Things, probably homages to famous 80s directors. Those sailor outfits definitely felt iconic. I heard an ice cream store in the US temporarily changed to match Scoops Ahoy! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gut2idg6x28 )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I love that clip and the fact they changed the name – The power of our passion for popular streamed drama. I have a couple of T-shirts like the ones worn in the clip – Will have to add a scarf and a little hat! They’re not quite cutting it as Steve and Robin but a good effort.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Yeah I’m worried to watch Arrival again. Really liked it at the cinema. But feel it wouldn’t hit home like it did a second time. Sure to see it again on day.
    I wasn’t as impressed with Road To Perdition when I saw it when it came out. I thought it was good but nothing more. It lacked something that didn’t grab me. One I have toyed with revisiting. Maybe not now.
    Haha An American Tail I can still remember the song “Somewhere out there……” Used to watch it with my little brother. I still use “give them the lazy eye” in as many conversations as possible lol.
    How strange I’ve been revisiting Richard Pryor on YT this month. Brings back so many fond memories from my teens.
    I don’t really go for feel bad movies. especially as I watch all my movies just before I go to bed. So I don’t think I get to Midsommar like I probably won’t see Hereditary.

    Always good to see the watched list 🙂 Cheers Chris
    Mikey

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mikey,

      To me, Road To Perdition should have been better than it was. A good final performance by Paul Newman though. Tom Hanks was a bit miscast maybe.

      I just googled “give them the lazy eye” and it’s from the sequel, so explains why I didn’t recognize the quote. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West sounds like a western!

      No worries. It’s ok to pass on films. Midsommar is not a film to watch late at night(!) Think I would have been less traumatised if I’d seen it with a friend and had a chat afterwards.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha yes it was the sequel now you say. Haha they all melded into one. Jimmy Stewart as the old cowboy bloodhound and more Dom DeLuise as the lovable cat, Tiger. Well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. 🙂

        So true on on Tom Hanks and yes Paul Newman was very good. I really can’t put my finger on it for why I didn’t really dig it. I just didn’t fall for it emotionally. Maybe I should revisit. Maybe hehe.

        I know exactly what you saying about chatting about a film after. It can clear the head and you can bump theories off each other. Instead they rattle around in your head as you try and decipher the “why!”

        Cheers dude

        Liked by 1 person

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