Films and TV of the month: August



The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968) (Robert Ellis Miller)

Watched with a friend and we both agreed Alan Arkin was amazing as the deaf-mute John Singer. I’m glad Arkin was at least nominated for an Academy Award for lead actor. Evident these were more innocent times, I doubt parents today would allow their kids to hang out and hold hands with a lodger they hardly know. Chuck McCann as Mr. Antonapoulos made an impression in a performance that is both funny and emotive despite fewer scenes compared to the book. Sondra Locke and Percy Rodrigues are also memorable.
Updates the novel’s small-town Southern setting from the Depression era to contemporary 1960s. I actually didn’t even realize about the change of decade until I read the wikipedia afterwards. Didn’t feel very 60s (apart from the race related issues) but I still connected with the characters. There’s sadness due to poverty, racism, and disability yet also moments of joy. A story that champions the outsider and is elevated by the acting. 







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Winter’s Bone (2010) (Debra Granik)

Neo noir mystery set in in the rural Ozarks of Missouri. The authentic dialect adds to the realism yet at times I found hard to understand. On rewatch, subtitles were a big help. Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Words travels faster in this small town than a Facebook update. The weakest aspect is the ending but the story is good with a sense of danger and things at stake. Lawrence delivers arguably a career best performance, immersing herself and becomes the character. John Hawkes is also great as her unpredictable uncle Teardrop.








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Naked (1993) (Mike Leigh)

Probably the filmmaker’s bleakest and most disturbing film although does have a dark wit. A brave move to have your characters unlikeable.
Johnny (David Thewlis pictured above) is from Manchester and wandering the streets of London, with a cynical attitude, observing and conversing with those he meets, at a friend’s house, a fellow on the street who can’t find his girlfriend Maggie, a security guard in an empty building, an older woman, a waitress, a man hanging up posters.
Johnny can’t stop talking but the most important things about his past remain hidden. A lonely, self-destructive pseudo-intellectual who appears smart at first encounter but his assumption about 666 on bar codes suggests he’s a conspiracy theorist. He seems to be a man running away from his problems.
The other male character Jeremy (Greg Cruttwell) is even more unlikeable, a yuppie-type landlord who derives pleasure from humiliating women. Doesn’t address why he has become this way but I sensed there are reasons.
I prefer Leigh’s other work though I appreciate the performances and screenplay, you rarely find dialogue of this calbre in films anymore. I find the rapid-fire conversations are easier to follow with subtitles.






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Miami Vice (2006) (Michael Mann)

Is it a case of false advertising? Has very little in common with the tv show which took place in the 1980s. The movie seems to be set in the present and is darker, colder and more violent. Of course, if Mann had gone too far in the nostalgia direction and took no chances I probably would be complaining about that instead!
Throws you straight into the action. Lacks the charm and chemistry of the tv series. You can admire the visual poetry such as the speed boat sequence or beautiful shots of the city at night. The action scenes have suspense, especially the opening in the nightclub, but there arn’t enough of them.
Male viewers wanted to be Crockett or Tubbs in the tv series. Sadly I just didn’t care about anyone in the film. Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004) (which I love) took the time to introduce the characters and is better off for it. I’ve read defenses of the Miami Vice reboot by Alex Withrow at And So It Begins, by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at The AV Club, and by Steven Hyden at Uproxx. Could be I just missed the little moments that makes the movie special. Scenes are played out with little to no context which will divide audiences. A critic wrote that “the pretense that anyone has control over their lives is quickly dispensed” and the film is about chaos.







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Liar Liar (1997) (Tom Shadyac)

Jim Carrey pulls off over the top moves but not as rewatchable as other comedies by the actor. The boy might have the best joke in the opening scene when he talks about his dad as a liar/lawyer. Overly sentimental and predictable story. The jokes are juvenile and probably best suited to a young audience.









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The Descendants (2011) (Alexander Payne)
Rewatch, and it’s not growing on me. Disappointing compared to Payne’s previous films Sideways and About Schmidt. Clooney plays himself and with a better actor, who knows if the movie might have been elevated. The story is low-key and lacks memorable moments. Payne spices things up with the Sid character but when the family are together it’s pretty humdrum. There’s a good performance by Shailene Woodley and the theme of different people having different opinions about the wife was intriguing. But not enough to save the film. Without Jim Taylor as co-screenwriter the magic isn’t there. Kudos for adapting and promoting contemporary Hawaiian literature but just didn’t grab me. Surely there are stronger novels from the region to adapt? I haven’t read the book and maybe this one is better on the page. If it wasn’t for Payne, I doubt I would even have finished the movie. I really wanted to connect but unfortunately The Descendants left me unmoved.
Favorite quote: “What is it that makes the women in my life want to destroy themselves? Elizabeth with her motorcycles, speedboats, and drinking. Alexandra with her drugs and older guys”.








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Easy A (2010) (Will Gluck)

Goes for a John Hughes approach with life lessons about rumors, reputation, naivety, and how words once said cannot be unsaid. The “pocketful of sunshine” scene is fun and I liked the scenes with Olive’s parents which are sweet. But for much of the running time, I felt I was watching performers and not actual people.







Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 2019
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) (Quentin Tarantino)
Quentin Tarantino continues his tendency to bask in over-the-top violence, yet his latest is arguably the director’s most melancholy, nostalgic, and compassionate film to date, a love letter to 1969. It’s also quite moving in some scenes. The most vibrant sequences are when Cliff Booth goes to the Manson ranch and the ending. Although in contrast to the energetic trailer, the movie is quite slow, indulgent, and in need of an editor. Cliff Booth is one of the most ambiguous characters Tarantino has penned and Brad Pitt may finally win an acting oscar. Fantastic late 60s soundtrack, brilliant performances, and the non-CGI set design transports you back to those times. 
Full review







What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

14 thoughts on “Films and TV of the month: August

  1. Hi Chris – I clicked over from the Kate Bush comment, I thought I was following your site already but I had to click follow again today. Good to be back!
    I really liked a line from the descendants about Giving your kids enough money to do something, but not enough to do nothing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Brittani: I’m working on a best of the decade list and wanted to give Winter’s Bone a 2nd chance. The local dialect was easier to follow with subtitles!


  2. The only film in the list that I haven’t seen is The Heart is a Lonely Hunter though it’s been in my watchlist.

    Sorry you didn’t like The Descendants. As for Miami Vice, that’s a film I was hoping to re-watch sometime this year or later next year for my Auteurs piece on Michael Mann but I’m delaying it for the time being. I’m just not mentally ready and I need more time to find The Keep and L.A. Takedown as I haven’t seen the latter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @ninvoid99: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is that rare film that I think matches the book it’s based on.

      I’ve listened to the The Keep soundtrack which is good. Not heard of L.A. Takedown-I see it’s a TV Movie.


  3. Don’t know “The heart is a lonely hunter” that looks right up my street. Straight on the list. Yep Alan Arkin is always so good.
    Winter’s Bone was amazing. I saw it when it came out. Was great to see Jennifer Lawrence really for the first time and really shining in the dark drama. How good was her performance. John Hawkes was superb too.
    Goodness I forgot about Naked! Probably for good reason. Twisted up!
    LOL Miami Vice, so freaking bad.
    Very varied selection buddy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Wolfman: Arkin was so good in that role, so were Lawrence and Hawke in Winter’s Bone

      Miami Vice didn’t work for me either though it does have its defenders!

      Naked is incredibly well-written yet disturbing, I can understand if it’s not for everyone.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great selection! I know I need to see “Naked” now, and I felt the same way about “The Descendants”. The more time passes the more I realise what Tarantino is really doing in his movies and the more I hate his relentless glorification of violence on screen. Therefore, it is nice to hear that “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is “compassionate”.

    I do not know how it happens but we often focus on the same story at any particular time 🙂 (for example, I recall your review of “The Leopard”). I have just recently finished reading “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers…and I did not particularly like the book. I may check out the film, though, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @dbmoviesblog: Thanks, Naked (1993) manages to be disturbing because these characters are so real and flawed.

      Some critics argue women are short-changed or disrespected in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and they do have a point. But I think Tarantino is mostly compassionate towards his main characters, letting us see how they are feeling. The compassion also extends to the setting, a love letter to Hollywood in 1969, a place Tarantino grew up and drove around as a child, listening to tunes on the radio.

      What did you not like about the book “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” ?. I loved the performances in the film.


    1. @CB: Winters Bone is a good one for sure, the dialogue was a hurdle to overcome at first. I’m no expert on deaf-mutes but Arkin delivered a helluva performance in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter


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