Favorite older film discoveries in 2018

 

 

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Now that we are reaching the end of 2018, it’s that time of year I share my annual older film discoveries! Of the twenty films included here, seven are comedies while thrillers (3) are also well-represented. In terms of the age of the films, the 1980s reigns supreme with seven titles, followed by the 70s (4).

I’ll be looking to explore film noir in 2019 as there are plenty of classics to watch and my noir watchlist is becoming way too long! I jumped the gun and saw Kiss Me Deadly (1955) in December (see mini-review below).
Anyway, let’s get to it!

 

 

 

 

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A Matter of Life and Death (1946) (Powell & Pressburger)
*1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die*
I watched various scenes but not the entire film until 2018. I’m happy I finally did. The sets and visual side look fantastic (the record’s area in heaven, the stairway, inside the eye, the court room), and the story has charm. Very few women would allow you to kiss her after just 1 minute! But it’s a fantasy so I just ran with it. They don’t make movies like this anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) (Charles Crichton)
*1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die*
Better than I expected. Very entertaining UK classic with unpredictable developments. Not really a comedy as advertised but very good storytelling in the vein of a thriller which kept me glued to the screen until the end. It’s not a spoiler to say I kind of wanted the criminals to succeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sorcerer (1977) (William Friedkin)

I was confused by the opening 15 minutes, but once Roy Scheider is introduced the movie takes off. The last 2/3 is an edge of your set thriller, and on a technical level there’s some impressive cinematography and stunt work. I have no idea how the bridge scenes were filmed but it looks incredible. The cast consisted of anti-heroes, which may have been a reasons it failed at the box office. A misleading title and put out the same time as Stars Wars didn’t do Sorcerer any favors. The electronic score by Tangerine Dream is used sparingly, and adds suspense and danger.
The 1953 version The Wages of Fear (which I also loved) provides fuller characterization in the South American village, while the 1977 film is more intense and thrilling during the dangerous mountain journey.
Friedkin said in an interview he made the film partly to show ”the exploitation of the Latin American countries by big American corporations like United Crude and the oil companies that were exploiting the workers, when safety conditions meant nothing”

 

 

 

Continue reading “Favorite older film discoveries in 2018”

Top 10 albums of 2018

 

I said in last year’s post I wasn’t going to bother with contemporary albums in 2018 because I don’t consider the new stuff as good as the older stuff, but somehow I listened to 27 albums! However this is the lowest number since I started writing the blog in 2010. I’m not ranking them which seems pointless as changes from week to week. Although Anna von Hausswolff’s is probably my album of the year.

The goal for the top 10 is trying to find great albums. Not an easy task in the streaming era which consists of music you play a few times and then dispose of. Anna von Hausswolff, Florence + The Machine, Hampshire & Foat and Alejandro Escovedo are new-to-me artists. A number of the picks are by artists/groups who have been active a long time but still managed to deliver quality albums! So what are my choices?

 

 


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Dead Magic by Anna von Hausswolff (Experimental Rock)

Should preface by saying I’ve never listened to her before but was encouraged by the album’s #8 rank for 2018 on RYM. I don’t know if Neoclassical Darkwave is my thing in general terms, I haven’t listened to Dead Can Dance. But this is the only album that truly wowed me from 2018.
The outro of The Truth, The Glow, The Fall is well done. The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra is repetitive yet hypnotic. The brooding, atmospheric 16 min epic Ugly and Vengeful struck a chord. The Marble Eye features an extended church organ solo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 by Beach House (Dream Pop)

The songs are very pleasant. Dive, L’Inconnue, and The Jesus and Mary Chain-esque Pay No Mind are favorites. Lemon Glow is the weakest of the four singles. The heavy distortion at times makes it difficult to detect Victoria Legrand’s distinctive vocal, for example on the opener. Dive is the most Beach House-y because she actually sounds like herself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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High as Hope by Florence + The Machine (Art Pop)
I was moved by the lyrics of South London Forever while the orchestral production on Patricia (apparently a Patti Smith tribute) stands out. The epic Big God and 100 Years are both powerful. I haven’t followed the career of Florence + The Machine so don’t know how High as Hope compares to the other releases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Honey by Robyn (Electropop/Nu Disco)

Consistently good pop songs throughout. There isn’t a big anthem such as Dancing on My Own or Show Me Love but the standard is still pretty high. Missing U is a catchy single, with lyrics about a break-up from her boyfriend Max Vitali and sadness over the death of her long-time producer Christian Falk. The infectious Because It’s in the Music has a beautiful use of the harp. Baby Forgive Me is also hypnotic. I was less into the second single Honey with its thumping beat. Beach 2K20 has a seductive, danceable hook and a plea to go out and party, while I like the bass playing on closer Ever Again, a song about not wanting to get hurt. The lyrics have an emotional weight which is not always the case with Electropop/Dance-Pop. Robyn appears to be in a post-break-up head space.

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Top 10 albums of 2018”

Top 50 older song discoveries of 2018 (#1-#5)

 

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Again, to be clear, #1 to #50 are not ranked, I just grouped the songs as best I could. The only running theme is I loved the music!  Today’s final entry in the series contains a hotchpotch of leftovers, tracks 2, 4-5 were discoveries from Rol’s Saturday Snapshots.  If has any interest, I’ve created a playlist of the top 50 on YouTube, including 15 honorable mentions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.)
All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun by Jeff Buckley & Elizabeth Fraser (recorded 1995-1996)
(Another great find from Aphoristical’s site. Elizabeth Fraser’s (of Cocteau Twins) vocal is particularly stunning here and the two singers complement each other well on this unreleased track. Apparently they were in a relationship in the mid 90s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.)
Don’t Take Away The Music by Tavares (1976)
(A disco tune which has become quite personal to me. I’ve been dealing with ringing in the ears/tinnitus for a few months now, and the chorus “don’t take away, the music” sums up where I’m at. I don’t want the music taken away, but I also have to be sensible and look after myself . The ringing becomes less when I avoid loud, continuous noise. So expect some book reviews instead for 2019)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.)
Wake Up and Make Love with Me by Ian Dury (1977)
Thanks to Stephen at 1001 albums in 10 years for his review which was how I found the album. The cheeky lyrics are probably my least favorite aspect about Dury’s music. Despite that, the musicians are on fire here! Some argue Chaz Jankel was the most talented. The Blockheads were not credited on the sleeve as two members of the band do not play on the album. To me, ‘Wake Up’ eclipses the catchy non-album single Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll which admittedly is great as well)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.)
Reflections of My Life by The Marmalade (1969)
(A melancholy yet hopeful reflection. Nobody is making music like this anymore)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.)
Nothing Rhymed by Gilbert O’Sullivan (1971)
(I know next to nothing about Irish singer/songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan. The early 1970s is considered his peak. Regarded as a talented lyricist, Nothing Rhymed is among his most popular, about not wanting to conform. O’Sullivan is still releasing new music with an album out in 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always comments are welcome

Top 50 older song discoveries of 2018 (#6-#10)

 

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6.)
Borrowed Tune by Neil Young (1975)
(This moving ballad is a personal favorite from 1975’s Tonight’s the Night. A darker album, Neil Young’s success collided with personal chaos and loss. There’s a pessimism that stemmed from the idealism of the 1960s not working out)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.)
Oh, Lonesome Me by Neil Young (1970)
(Only Love Can Break Your Heart is the most famous sad song on 1970’s After The Goldrush but the lesser known Oh, Lonesome Me (from Side 2) is impactful as well. About a character who can’t get over a break-up. A cover of a 1957 track by Don Gibson. Despite being covered many times, there’s an earnestness in the vocal delivery that you think Neil has written it and lived it. The opening lyric about staying home or going out is a recurring battle if you are an introvert)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.)
The Painter by Neil Young (2005)
(The album was recommended to me by Aphoristical because I said I was a fan of Young’s two Harvest albums from 1972 and 1992. The Painter is the most moving from 2005’s Prairie Wind, tapping into a very modern problem about multiple choice, with its thought provoking lyric “if you follow every dream, you might get lost”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.)
Idiot Wind by Bob Dylan (1975)
(I love the first half of Blood on the Tracks. Idiot Wind is a remarkable new-to-me song with great lyrics. Dylan has stated that “Idiot Wind” is about the expression of willpower.”With strength of will you can do anything. With willpower you can determine your destiny.”
Dylan denied that this or any other song on Blood On The Tracks was about his divorce. However, one of Bob’s and Sara’s children, Jakob Dylan, described the music as “my parents talking”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.)
Come into the Open by Penetration (1979)
(This post is a bit of a downer so will end with an upbeat late 70s punk rock/new wave tune I found. A mix of The Cranberries with The Clash is how I would describe the music. The message of Come into the Open is empowering and sort of an answer to the Neil Young lyric mentioned in #7. Then again, if you want a hit the town song you could stick to Neil Young and Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown from Tonight’s the Night)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Films and TV of the month: November

 

 

 

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First Reformed (2017) (Paul Schrader)
Now out on dvd. A wordy, low-key, thinking person’s drama. About a priest who writes a diary and we hear his inner monologue. He has doubts about himself and his actions, questioning his professionalism. Uncomfortableness about “wanting to be liked”, drawing on his own personal life when helping a man in trouble. For those couples considering having a child, the film may provide the answers they need to make the decision.
The film has a slow, boring middle, but the beginning and ending are really well done, especially the extended conversation between Mary’s husband, Michael, and the priest Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke). Overall though, I expected more based on the critical reception. A film with a lot of potential and much wisdom sprinkled in. Unfortunately, it has pacing issues (in the middle part) and I wasn’t as absorbed in the story as I hoped I would be.
Schrader appears to be critical of the Iraq war, alcohol consumption, global warming, the ethical aspects of big business church funding, social media, etc. But it does feel like a grumpy old director complaining about the world through his screenplay.
Life is taking its toll on Toller in more ways than one, and the film shows that even a righteous, intelligent priest can lose sight of what is right and wrong. As another reviewer wrote: “He’s a good man who has lost his way”
While the story addresses contemporary issues, and features a great performance by Ethan Hawke, I can’t rate the film higher than 7, as it follows the Taxi Driver playbook quite closely, just with a new set of characters. Hopefully will grow on me on rewatch. I liked it, but hard work, as I had to watch in stages. Too heavy to sit through the entire thing in one sitting.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Other Side of the Wind (2018) (Orson Welles)

I’ve watched a handful of Orson Welles’ best known films, some of which he directed (Citizen Kane, The Trail, The Magnificent Ambersons) others in which he acted (The Third Man, Touch of Evil). I liked many of them.
His final work The Other Side of the Wind went through production hell and was for a long time regarded as “the greatest movie never released”. (Although I’d put Jodorowsky’s Dune right up there at the top of the list as well). Having now seen “Wind”, I have to admit the history of this project is more interesting than the film itself. I wish Orson Welles had finished editing while he was alive from the alleged many hours of footage, as it really was his baby. The Netflix version is almost unwatchable with its exhausting, restless camera and semi-autobiographical, loose narrative. An experimental, chaotic mess. According to the documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018) the shoot was difficult: ”Everything had to happen right away even if we (the crew) didn’t understand what we were doing” ”There was no script” ”He (Welles) was constantly writing it as he was going along” ”The rule of thumb is, Orson Welles knows what he’s doing, don’t question anything”.
The main character Jake Hannaford (played by the late John Huston) is a revered director but also a prejudiced drunk with disdain for Indians and gays. Huston’s performance holds the film together and he may even receive a posthumous oscar nomination. I’m sure there are hidden depths I missed, the 70th birthday party sequence contains many random one-liners, but I just didn’t care much about anyone or anything on screen for large parts of the running time. Apparently all the different kinds of stock: super 8, color, black and white is the idea that various media people are following Hannaford around. It’s possible the dizziness and confusion of the party was intentional.
Some of the best scenes in The Other Side of the Wind depict Hannaford as somewhat of a lonely, attention-seeking figure, keen to remain relevant and liked yet his behavior pushes people away. He has a lot of admirers and people eager to benefit from his name but does he have any genuine friends? Welles’ final film is described in They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018) as ”in a sense a bookend to Citizen Kane, about the tragic end to someone who had become great and then had lost his place in America”.
It’s been said the 35mm, wordless, psychedelic erotic film-within-a-film is a spoof of European arthouse cinema typified by Antonioni. The music choice of Fruit and Icebergs by Blue Cheer works well in the opening of that sequence.
There’s a nice instrumental soundtrack by jazz pianist Michel Legrand (who had previously composed the score for Welles’ 1973 film F for Fake). As talked about in A Final Cut For Orson: 40 Years in The Making (2018), Legrand’s music has a double function as entertainment for the party guests and a soundtrack for us the viewers.
5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Suspiria (2018) (Luca Guadagnino)
Not a remake but a  “re-imagining” or “cover version”. Tonally inconsistent, shifting between gruesome, philosophical and emotional. Resists the temptation to be a mere retread by adding depth and meaning to the admittedly weak storyline of Argento’s 1977 classic.
(spoiler free full review)
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The House That Jack Built (2018) (Lars von Trier)
Serial killers (like filmmakers) display their creativity through their acts, and the film has unforgettable visuals. Is this a masterpiece by Lars von Trier or a pretentious ego trip? Hard to say, and I haven’t really decided how I feel about it. Important to discuss murder in society through art, although I felt he went too far in some places. Despite the disturbing subject matter, this is one of the director’s funniest screenplays.
(Spoiler free full review)
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Columbus (2017) (Kogonada)

Finally out on region 2 dvd. A soft spoken, moving story. Nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. A film that is most alive when Jin and Casy are just conversing. They both have personal problems. Like Lost in Translation, two strangers make an unlikely connection. Set in Columbus, Indiana, apparently known for its modernist architecture, there are many references to building aesthetic in the dialogue and cinematography. Could be a parallel between the architecture and the characters but I didn’t quick pick up on it. A simple, unhurried, old-fashioned story about dreams, hometowns, and loneliness. Haley Lu Richardson shines in one of the most underrated performances of 2017 as the confused librarian. Doesn’t provide massive surprises, but the story really doesn’t need that. The ”attention span” quote is bang on the money, kids have attention span for video games for hours, while bookish people might not have attention for games. So it’s about interest, not attention. But do we have interest in what matters?
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bloodsport (1988) (Newt Arnold)
Martial arts drama. Mostly clichéd, yet still drew me in with its energy and daft-but-fun storytelling. The fight sequences are well done even though Jean-Claude Van Damme’s acting is terrible in the scenes outside the ring. I’d never heard of a Kumite tournament or the name Frank Dux so I did learn a couple of things. Despite its 33% rotten tomatoes rating, an entertaining watch, which the 74% audience score indicates. The soundtrack is very 80s, but also inspiring, such as Fight to Survive by Stan Bush or the instrumental Triumph by Paul Hertzog.
7-8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creepshow (1982) (George A. Romero)
Dark comedy horror anthology film directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King. I’ll share my thoughts on each of the short films:

Prologue: I think most can relate to getting told off by our dad.

“Father’s Day”: Starts off promisingly with a family talking about a damaged woman and her troubled relationship with her father but ultimately becomes too silly.

“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”: Stephen King’s goofy overacting is ridiculous yet fun. I’ll forever be ill at ease from now on about going near a meteorite. Probably my favorite of these stories.

“Something to Tide You Over”: I love how the story sets the stage with an intriguing what-if situation. Visually is unforgettable. The ending has a bit of depth about guilt despite feeling familiar to another anthology story here.

“The Crate”: Tales about a domineering wife and an old crate are cleverly mixed. In spite of the dated special effects pretty creepy.

“They’re Creeping Up on You”: I was surprised by the ending. On reflection it was what you could expect to go wrong. There’s too much exposition of little importance.

Despite having issues with King’s acting, the special effects, and a couple of the endings, an entertaining horror anthology. It isn’t super scary and is quite tongue-in-cheek yet did make me feel uneasy at times. It’s just fun to watch!
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
The twist is surprising yet the way the characters are connected felt too scripted. The scene when the dad finds the pictures was hilarious. The Marisa Tomei and Carell scenes are funny as well, especially the bar scene and the meeting at the school.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (2018) (Stand Up Special)
Available on Netflix. Apparently this 70 min one woman show is one of the most talked about stand-up specials in ages. I respect Hannah Gadsby’s honest approach but unfortunately the jokes fell flat. Perhaps if you are Australian/Tasmanian or part of the LGBT community you will understand the nuances of the comedy better than I did. The most memorable jokes involve caution about Mr Right and the section about the color blue. She does have wise words, for example about tension and sensitivity, and talks about celebrity, linking it to her art history education and the #MeToo movement. Gadsby attempts to show us the lesbian experience through her eyes but I felt she didn’t bring much new in that regard as was mainly prejudice reactions towards her choice.
As the show progresses, she talks about her problems and in the second half becomes more serious. She’s right that “difference is a teacher” and you can understand why she has trouble trusting men.
Nostra at myfilmviews rated the special 10/10 in his review and wrote it is a “deconstruction of the genre”. I would agree with the latter. An odd mix of comedy and emotional confession as she debates quitting stand-up during the show because it feels self-deprecating and humiliating. The serious, heartfelt parts are moving and the special’s strength. If you are “different” in some way, you will probably be empowered by her. The anti-comedy stance is bold and original, and defies expectations. I just wish the first 30 minutes was actually funny. You can’t dismiss this special though, if you have a heart.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome