Film review: If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

 

If Beale Street Could Talk 2018.jpg

 

Based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel. Has its memorable moments such as the argument between the families, when the mother comforts her adult daughter when she’s in bed, the situation by the store, and the Puerto Rico sequence. The narrative consists of mostly platitudes such as ‘you are not alone when you have a family’, ‘love makes you see the world anew’. Yet the acting and presentation transcends the clichés.

Besides the love story focuses on the hardship of the blacks, harassment on the street by whites, treatment during a criminal case, trouble renting a place to live, etc. The last act may frustrate some viewers as the story feels unfinished.
The blaxploitation movies from the 1970s tended to present whites as the villain without much nuance. In contrast, Baldwin’s/Jenkins’ universe is more realistic by including sympathetic white characters.

So why not a higher rating? To me, great art allows for multiple interpretations and I don’t see that here. The message of injustice towards blacks is as relevant today as it was in the 1970s but the storytelling forces its opinion on you and playing the race card feels a bit obvious. A good watch with a touching story about the communal bond between members of an oppressed minority though I’m not the biggest fan of one-dimensional message movies. As Alissa Evans wrote in her review, the characters’ personalities feel secondary to their circumstance. The lead Stephan James has kind, gentle eyes which might be the reason he was picked. KiKi Layne is likeable as well while Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry shine in supporting roles. The jazz score is accomplished and is incorporated well.
Jenkins told The Los Angeles Times on the subject of films based on black literature. “I don’t want to sound as though every novel by a black author should be translated to the screen, but I’m damn sure many more of them should be.”

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) is important and competently made yet didn’t quite manage to rock me to the core in the way Moonlight did. The characters lacked the deeper, emotional weight of Jenkins’ 2016 film. A sense of wretchedness was missing. Perhaps better captured in Baldwin’s book.

6/10

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Top 10 films of 2018 (so far)

 

 

 

If you are a cinephile a yearly top 10 list is a labor of love you spend a lot of time mulling over. Oscar buzz, critical hype, and Rotten Tomatoes is a guideline but can also fool you into thinking what you ought to love.  If a story moves me emotionally, grabs my attention in some way, or reveals a topic from a new perspective, then that is the deciding factor regardless of awards. Cinema is a visual medium so the presentation matters, be it performances, cinematography, editing, etc. I’m open to any kind of film as long as it’s impactful. Sometimes genre films, if done well, can be equally as good as art house, feature documentaries or award contenders. I typically include films in my top 10s which stay with me or I have a personal connection to. Reading the choices below, you’ll notice only two films (Minding the Gap & First Reformed) are oscar nominated. I wasn’t trying to do that but just happened to pan out that way! I really liked some of the Best Picture nominees from 2017 such as Three Billboards, Phantom Thread, and Dunkirk but not to the same degree from 2018. Without further ado, what is in my top 10?

 

 

 

 

 

a-fortunate-man-2018.jpg

Lykke Per (aka A Fortunate Man) (Bille August)
Period drama. One of three films shortlisted to be the Danish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. Among the most expensive films ever made in Denmark. Definitely a career high point for director Bille August, his filmography also counts the oscar winning Pelle the Conqueror (1987), which is not too dissimilar as both are based on Scandinavian literary classics set in the early 1900s.
While the main character is unlikeable, I was captivated throughout despite an epic running time. Based on Nobel Prize winning author Henrik Pontoppidan’s Lykke-Per, a long book so I can understand why needed to be 2h 42 min. To be honest, I could happily have watched another 30 minutes. A story about ambition, family, and life choices. A lot of care has been put into recreating the past with costumes, sets, but the acting impresses just as much. For me, one of the truly great films of 2018 which hopefully will get an international release at some point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eighth Grade.jpg

Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham)
Coming of age drama. Wasn’t easy trying to watch this movie. Not shown in cinemas near me, but thanks to the region 1 dvd release I managed to watch. I’m glad I did as it’s among the best American films of 2018.
With the buzz surrounding Boyhood (2014) a few years ago, a film I loved, we were bound to get stories from the female angle as well. Girlhood (2014) showed us a pivotal time for an adolescent girl gang in the housing projects in Paris, France. The characters did unlikeable things and the film is better off for it.
Eighth Grade takes place in the US and focuses on an insecure girl, on the verge of high school, struggling to make friends. As with Girlhood, I admire the filmmakers for keeping it real and honest. Elsie Fisher is in almost every frame and delivers a brilliant, award worthy performance as the awkward teen, she is easy to root for, and arguably her acting is better than what Ellar Coltrane did in Boyhood.
I find many Sundance Film Festival movies don’t live up to the hype but Eighth Grade is one of those where the critical praise is on point. While the story does have a very contemporary, social media approach which may cause the film to become dated over time, it’s also a moving, relatable drama which takes you back to those difficult teenage years, whatever age the viewer is. Like John Hughes in the 1980s, director Bo Burnham understands his characters and what they are going through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Væbnet med ord og vinger.jpg

Væbnet med ord & vinger (documentary) (Torben Skjødt Jensen)
A Danish documentary about 80s punk poet Michael Strunge which probably won’t appear on many top 10s. To my knowledge, his writing is hard to find in English despite a reputation as one of Denmark’s most important poets. The accessible documentary tells his story, featuring new interviews by friends and girlfriends, and inspired me to start reading the author’s work. Strunge burnt the candle at both ends, cementing his legacy, but paid the ultimate price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burning (2018).jpg

Burning (2018) (Lee Chang-dong)
South Korean psychological drama mystery. The dialogue scenes between the three main characters are effective. When following the lead by himself (another character goes on a trip) the story loses its way a bit.
The final 45 minutes are riveting (even when he is alone) as there is more at stake. A film that lingers in the mind because the viewer is not given the full facts and the narrator might be unreliable. There’s political subtext about high unemployment and the uselessness of South Korea’s youth. A good mystery with some Murakami-isms. Could have been 30 minutes shorter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mission-impossible-fallout.jpg

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)
Action/Spy film. Better than Rogue Nation which I barely remember except the plane and underwater sequences.
A great thrill ride with non-stop suspense for 2½ hours, the most exciting movie I’ve seen in a cinema since Mad Max Fury Road. Won’t change your life but very entertaining and cinematic.  The action in Fallout is Bond-like. I’m a fan of less CGI and and there are plenty of practical stunts. The only aspect I disliked is the opening credits sequence which is a mini-trailer for what is to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

minding the gap documentary.jpg

mid 90s.jpg

TIE: Minding the Gap (documentary) (Bing Liu) & Mid90s (Jonah Hill)
A big year for skateboarding on film and I haven’t even seen Skate Kitchen (2018) yet!

Minding the Gap (documentary)
Winner of the 2018 Sundance Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Filmmaking. Nominated for an Academy Award for feature documentary. Advertised as a skateboarding documentary but really that is misleading as it’s closer to the Up Series but with a subjective angle. Drawing from 12 years of footage and interviews, large parts of the running time depicts relationships, problems, work, and home life for a group of young, poor Americans from Rockford, Illinois. Flashbacks to their teenage years yet mostly about them as 20somethings dealing with responsibility and childhood traumas. The participants bravely give a lot of themselves. Took me a little while to get into it as I wasn’t sure I was interested at first. Particularly memorable is troubled Zack Mulligan and his issues with drinking, having a baby and a young wife. The other main thread involves the likeable black guy Keire Johnson whose smile I will never forget. Interestingly, the director is also part of the narrative, the participants are his friends which adds an extra dimension of intimacy and urgency as he is on record saying he felt the need to tell the story of his community. Bing Liu describes Minding the Gap asA coming of age story. A film about skateboarders, not about skateboarding”. Although what Liu presents never feels exploitative as he seeks to tell the truth. The skateboarding friends are sort of a family away from home. Nathan Halpern and Chris Ruggiero provide the score which is quite moving, especially the main theme. The people we follow lingered in my mind long after the credits had rolled.

Mid90s 
Didn’t receive a cinema release in my country which is a shame. Now available on region 1 dvd. Strong language and some clichés, but the story feels personal and believable. To me, a sibling to Eighth Grade (2018), as both main characters are 13-year-olds. Each are coming of age dramas, yet Mid90s is pretty different as there is no social media and it’s more gritty, the boy hanging out with an older group of skateboarders in the streets of Los Angeles. Reminds me of other movies from the 90s without resorting to rip-off. The characters are distinct, the camaraderie is special, and I began to gradually care about them. Could happily have watched another half hour (or a sequel) as the film is quite short at just 84 minutes. A better than average directorial debut by actor Jonah Hill. Nice score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. The soundtrack also includes a selection of 90s music. There’s a tendency nowadays for filmmakers to try too hard and over-complicate their work, resulting in tonally inconsistent films, but Hill wisely keeps things simple.
Quote: ”You are nicer than those guys. You are naturally nice. Not like fake nice”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shirkers (documentary).jpg
Shirkers (documentary) (Sandi Tan)
Autobiographical documentary available on Netflix. Has a 100% (58 of 58 critics liked it) score on Rotten Tomatoes. I was hooked and if you like a good story this is worth watching. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and the type of film I wanted to read everything I could find to uncover more. Would appeal to cinephiles and filmmakers especially.
A cathartic documentary for Tan to come to terms with her past. She has been criticized by some reviewers for having an inflated opinion about the importance of the unreleased Singapore film. I wouldn’t go that far as I think of her attachment to the film as sentimental as who wouldn’t look back and hope what you did mattered. Wouldn’t be a stretch to accuse her of self-mythologizing and somewhere that is what the documentary is about, as her friend Georges Cardona tended to be that way. Tan is fascinated by Cardona despite what he did and I sense enjoys creating her own legacy in the way that he did.
From the description given, the lost 16mm film is a dream-like and child-like mood piece, about random encounters, big dogs, and killing off those people you develop feelings for. Visually documenting places in Singapore that have changed over the years. The makers have an affection for Shirkers that we could never have. A very subjective, personal reminiscence that shapes how the documentary is presented.
The story of filmmaker Sandi Tan’s real life, friendships, and struggle to get her film made interested me more than the actual lost footage. Experimental independent filmmaking was rare in Singapore in 1992 and hard to be inspired by edgy US movies such as Blue Velvet due to a ban. Sad that the experience in the early 90s killed her creative spirit (or is that statement self-mythologizing?) though she did maintain an interest in cinema. Quote: ”It was so like Georges that he would want me to chase him down in this way”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oh lucy.jpg

Oh Lucy! (Atsuko Hirayanagi)
Culture-clash drama-comedy. According to the critics, films like Leave No Trace, The Rider, and You Were Never Really Here are among the best female directed films of 2018. Oddly, I didn’t connect with any of those three. Oh Lucy!, also directed by a woman, is not as well-known yet to me a stronger effort. I had a smile on my face for most of the movie. A very sweet, charming story with characters I cared about while not shying away from family disputes, loneliness and vulnerability. Wonderful performances. Despite a 100% (46 of 46) rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an American-Japanese production that somehow slipped under the radar. Check this out if you are a fan of Lost in Translation. Released at festivals in 2017 with a general release in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beast.jpg

Beast (Michael Pearce)
Psychological mystery thriller. Discovered thanks to Dan’s top 10 British films of 2018. This UK film does several things well. Firstly by capturing the scenery of Jersey which is a place that doesn’t get enough attention. Secondly, the story cleverly presents a family as both protective yet oppressive, both loving and exasperating. Also a compelling mystery that keeps you on edge as you never quite know who to trust. The poster labels the movie “a warped fairy tale” although a bit misleading as it is realistic. The criticism I’ve read is the story lacks “wildness” but I wasn’t bothered by that as I think if went too far the realism would evaporate. The performances really impressed me. A film that can be spoiled so I suggest you avoid reading too much beforehand. Was shown at film festivals in 2017 with a cinema/dvd release in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hereditary-2018.jpg

Hereditary (Ari Aster)
2018 was a noteworthy year for directorial debuts which I’ll elaborate on in my upcoming 2018 awards post. Hereditary is a gripping, confident horror that held my attention throughout. The excellent music score by Colin Stetson adds a sense of unease and the performances by especially Toni Collette and Ann Dowd are above average for a horror movie. The weakness is it feels a bit derivative, sort of a patchwork of other films from the genre. You don’t want to read reviews as plot points can be easily spoiled.

 

 

 


 

Honorable mentions:

 

 

 

 

The House That Jack Built

The House That Jack Built (2018) (Lars von Trier)
Serial killer horror-comedy. I saw the unrated “director’s cut” version. Love him or hate him, Lars von Trier keeps going. Has a few things in common with his 2013 film Nymphomaniac, in terms of shocks and the lead in a lengthy dialogue with another character. Takes you inside the mind of psychopathic killer Jack, played by Matt Dillon in his best role in years. The story is entertaining but uncomfortable and one of the most disturbing scenes to me could be when the blonde talks to the cop. It’s possible the film is a response to the controversial Melancholia press conference at Cannes in 2011, by reinforcing that Lars von Trier is interested in when art clashes with evil. The writer/director has a pitch-black, easily misunderstood wit, evident in the hilarious OCD cleaning sequence, or Uma Thurman’s “you look like a serial killer” conversation with Jack in the van. A black comedy even if it really shouldn’t be a laughing matter.
Serial killers (like filmmakers) display their creativity through their acts, and the film has unforgettable visuals. Addresses the audiences enjoyment with horror and puts the viewer in horrific situations so we can try and understand the thinking of even the most evil minds. Divisive, daring cinema, as you’d expect from the Danish auteur. As with the director’s other horror Antichrist (2009), excluding viewers with its unpleasantness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the-guilty-2018.jpg

The Guilty (Gustav Möller)
Danish thriller that won the Audience Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Takes place in a single location, at a police call center. Manages to build suspense, and captures the stress the alarm dispatch duty can involve. My only gripe is would a police officer under suspicion of misconduct still be on duty? A good movie despite this issue I had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

first-reformed-2017.jpg

First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

A wordy, low-key, thinking person’s drama. Best viewed with subtitles. 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 weaker 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). 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, the screenplay does at times feel like an updated version of Taxi Driver for today’s audiences, just with a new set of characters. Isn’t in my top 10 as I had to watch in spurts. Too heavy to sit through the entire thing in one sitting. Hopefully will grow on me on rewatch.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Searching (2018).jpg

Searching (Aneesh Chaganty)
A tense, suspenseful thriller about a father’s search for his lost daughter. At about the 85 minute mark started becoming less plausible. Still, I couldn’t look away, and needed to know what happened.
Searching belongs to the new so-called “screen life” genre (see also the new music video by Pet Shop Boys), in which the audience sees what happens via a screen. What works well is we witness the main character David Kim painstakingly look for clues in his daughter’s files and online activity, while typing and retyping text on screen, taking us inside the mind of a caring and worried father. The film is very detailed in that regard. Some might argue he oversteps the line in terms of Margot’s right to privacy yet it’s an emergency so no stone can be left unturned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome. I hope I inspired you to add a film to your watchlist. Next, I’ll share my personal 2018 film awards.

 

 

Films and TV of the month: January

 

 

Scandinavia lived up to its cold, wintry reputation in January by delivering snow to us and as I type will last a few more days or even weeks. On the bright side, this time of year we have the annual books sales in Denmark and I have my eye on a few. Books are normally very expensive here because the population is only 5 million and the authors, book shops, publishers and translators all have to make a living. Looks like Brexit could be an issue in terms of export, especially the big amount of products we ship to the UK which may be in jeopardy if England decide to import from commonwealth countries in the future. Worrying times.
Anyway, on to January’s films. What have I been watching?

 

 

 

The Stranger (1946).jpg
The Stranger (1946) (Orson Welles)

Orson Welles is a good actor yet a pity he doesn’t sound German at all. There’s a four minute-long take between Kindler and Meinike in the woods which is surprisingly longer than A Touch Of Evil’s famous opening sequence (three minutes and twenty seconds). The climax is over the top but mostly a well told noir. Always reliable Edward G. Robinson co-stars. Oscar nominee for Best Writing, Original Story.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alice in the Cities (1974).jpg
Alice in the Cities (1974) (Wim Wenders)

Has been compared to 1973’s Paper Moon. A road trip movie with a melancholic Leonard Cohen-look-alike (Rüdiger Vogler), a writer/journalist faced with new circumstances. Searching for inspiration, Philip’s America trip led to cynicism and loneliness. He doesn’t belong and as mentioned at review site Monumental Pictures, Philip’s journey has a very contemporary feel, foreshadowing today’s obsession with documenting everything. The encounter with the little 9-year-old girl allows him to get out of his head and go on a different path than he had expected, looking after an abandoned child and the responsibility that entails. The scene in the bathroom when he reads all the German city names is funny and sweet.  An innocent, heartwarming movie that probably would not get made in our hypersensitive times because of the friendship between an adult and child. As in Wim Wender’s later film Wings of Desire (1987), there’s a music interlude, on this occasion with Chuck Berry in concert. The first chapter of Wenders’ “Road Movie trilogy”. The film was scored by the German band Can.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 


muriele28099swedding28199429
Muriel’s Wedding (1994) (P.J. Hogan)

An Australian comedy-drama with a heart. About a young, unemployed social outcast. The story has lots of charm and lots of ABBA. Toni Collette’s lead performance is brilliant.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Star Is Born (2018).jpg
A Star Is Born (2018) (Bradley Cooper)
Nominated for 8 Academy Awards. The powerful performance by Lady Gaga is probably what this movie will be remembered by. She has good chemistry with Cooper on screen. Gaga put a portion of her own rise to fame into the role, especially about not wanting to lose herself when making the music. However, the singer has admitted she is very different to Alley in terms of confidence. Shallow is a great song though the film feels designed to win awards while having not much new on its mind. As has been said by a few reviewers, the films “inability to practice what it preached and actually say something” is problematic. My favorite scene is when the two of them just hang out together in the parking lot.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

thefavourite
The Favourite (2018) (Yorgos Lanthimos)
I prefer the screenplays Lanthimos co-wrote with Efthymis Filippou which I find more inventive, though The Favourite is entertaining, well-acted and everything you could want from a period-comedy. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards.
Full review
7/10
On a side note, I read about Filippou’s new Greek weird wave film Pity (2018) (also known as Oiktos) available to stream on Mubi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

custody2017
Custody (2017) (Xavier Legrand)
Watched via the free streaming service my library provides. Check this one out if you are a fan of the films by the Dardenne brothers. Realistic psychological French drama/thriller that is almost a horror film. Starts off quite ambiguous as to who is to blame for the break-up and I had empathy for both sides. Tough for the kids to have to deal with, not just the parents. The last act is probably the most memorable sequence from a visual standpoint though I did feel was not tonally consistent with the aforementioned ambiguity. Would have been subtler if had maintained the vagueness. I was waiting for the side story about the daughter to be resolved but didn’t happen.
Still, a promising debut by writer/director Xavier Legrand. The acting and camera work is top notch so I felt I was in the shoes of the characters. The build-up of tension also works well.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studio 54.jpg
Studio 54 (2018) (documentary) (Matt Tyrnauer)

Studio 54 was considered New York’s definitive disco nightclub in the late 1970s. Broke down barriers between provider and consumer, every guest was a performer in the show. Although not easy to get in, once you were inside, the club was a place of freedom, decadence, and non-prejudice. But the two managers didn’t have it all their own way with the lack of a liquor license, drug raids, and visits by the IRS for tax evasion.
While the documentary is never boring, the number of new celebrity interviews is a bit limited. Strengthened by having Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager open up although he doesn’t remember everything as it’s so long ago. Maybe a more fitting title would have been: The life and times of Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell.
6-7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold War (2018).jpg
Cold War (2018) (Pawel Pawlikowski)
Nominated for best Foreign language film and Best Director at the upcoming Academy Awards. Well shot but forgettable. An autobiographical love story about the director’s parents on-off relationship. The lead actress is beautiful and looks like a young Kim Basinger but with lots of scenes that didn’t go anywhere the film became a chore. The ending is powerful yet isn’t enough to safe a film I found quite boring.
Wiktor is supposedly old enough to be Zula’s father and that may have been what held me back from rooting for the relationship. The age difference between the actors playing the leads is much smaller. Joanna Kulig is surprisingly thirty-six, only five years younger than Tomasz Kot. I don’t know how they managed to make a woman in her mid 30s look like a teenager. I’m naming 2018 the year of self-indulgent films and this one belongs on that list. Evidently many others love Ida (2013) and Cold War (2018). Pawlikowski’s storytelling just isn’t for me.
4-5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bohemian rhapsody.jpg
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) (Bryan Singer)

While there are wild parties and we also see in-band arguments, I’ve heard this biopic is a sanitized version of the Queen story. The scene standing in the rain was the most moving and of course the Live Aid show is an epic moment. That ending gave me chills though doesn’t beat the performance by the real Freddie. A lot of the movie feels a bit tv-movie-ish. Oscar hopeful Rami Malek is convincing as Freddie Mercury and impressed me with how he spoke, though the lip-syncing seemed off in the final concert. Mike Myers is unrecognizable as their manager. A good-but-not-great movie with an award worthy performance by Malek. Alright for a one time watch.
5-6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Mirror Bandersnatch.jpg
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) (David Slade)
About a young programmer who starts to question reality. Takes place in 1984, I liked the 80s music and retro aspects. Tonally the story is all over the place and has the production value of a tv-movie. I admire the effort that went into the innovative interactive multiple choice. I didn’t have that option available so just saw as a standard watch. Most memorable is the “joint” sequence when Colin talks to Stefan about pacman. New Order isn’t on the soundtrack although their 1983 flower-themed album sleeve plays a part.
Not a great film, the concept is more interesting than the story. But may turn out to be a look into the future of movie making. Reminded me of Famous Five adventure game books where you choose for yourself step by step how the mystery goes. Apparently I’m not the only one who noticed similarities as Netflix has been sued for trademark infringement by Chooseco LLC, the book publisher that owns the rights to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” trademark.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lean on Pete.jpg
Lean on Pete (2017) (Andrew Haigh)
Very different to the director’s previous work 45 Years (2015). Are films getting longer in general? Lean on Pete is another recent film that could do with some trimming. A simple yet gripping story which allows the audience to empathize with an isolated boy who goes on a journey with a washed-up race horse. It’s evident the film is making points about the treatment of race horses, youth unemployment and poverty. At first, the lead actor Charlie Plummer annoyingly reminded me of Hayden Christensen (the voice) but I was won over by Plummer’s performance as the film progressed. Chloë Sevigny does her best in a supporting role as a female jockey but unfortunately her character is too one-note in the script. Steve Buscemi is good as the seasoned trainer whom the boy works for. A movie that reminds viewers other people have it worse than you and makes you thankful to have a family. A contemporary tale but in line with storytelling from long ago.
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roma.png
Roma (2018) (Alfonso Cuarón)
Nominated for 10 Academy Awards. Roma is a slow-paced, self-indulgent project based on the director’s past. Follows the life of a live-in housekeeper to a middle-class family in 1970’s Mexico. I’m fine with personal, memory-based filmmaking, as it allows you to see the world through the eyes of others. But you can’t just do it for yourself and has to have value to the viewer. I was won over by the framing, lighting and cinematography, domestic tasks such as driving a car into a narrow driveway or taking a shower are elevated. Arguably the beautification of everyday events has to do with Alfonso Cuarón fondly remembering rather than how these times actually were. I was confused by Cuarón’s agenda as the aesthetic distracts from and lessens the suffering. Obviously if you hated this era you could make a film that is totally different visually. The director chooses to present both the good times and hard times in exactly the same visual style. Despite the hype, awards and critical praise, a polarizing arthouse film that won’t have a wide appeal due to the languid pacing and limited plot. Roma isn’t among my favorites of 2018, and I think would have a bigger appeal to nostalgic Mexicans. The cinematography is the reason to watch. Stand outs scenes include a forest fire, sitting in the back of a cinema, and going to the ocean. Probably needs to be watched on the big screen for maximum impact. I watched on the small screen.
6-7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

underthesilverlake
Under the Silver Lake (2018) (David Robert Mitchell)
Isn’t out until the spring in the US and UK. For a change they have to wait and we got it early here in Denmark.
From the director of It Follows. Very unfocused and trippy, Neo noirish story involving animals, chasing girls and going to parties, a billionaire who has been kidnapped, references to music and old movies such as 7th Heaven (1927).
Starts promisingly, but drags in the second hour. Without spoiling, the main character is so messed up that he becomes annoying in his pursuit of unimportant things and conspiracy theories. Could be the film’s agenda, to show a man who has lost his way, doesn’t know what he wants, and just goes with the flow. Looking for answers and meaning in all the wrong places, neglecting priorities.
The question about “how’s work” is pretty funny. Although the skunk joke is overused. The supporting characters are rather forgettable and thinly defined and I don’t understand why Andrew Garfield is naked so often. Has been written the film is a look at the lack of mystery in modern times and the need for it. Also how pop culture references are used in our society and whether they have value.
Despite not loving the film, it did hold my interest. We should embrace and support these type of experimental, polarizing films which are becoming rarer each year, as the big corporations continue to bombard us with mindless blockbusters.
6/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome. My top 10 of 2018 will be posted soon.

 

 

 

Older song discoveries of the month: January

 

guitar.jpg

 

I haven’t listened to any albums (old or new) in January so this post will focus on songs I found instead. I hope you enjoy them as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Say You Will by Blanket Of Secrecy (1982)
(Wow. My most played song this year so far. Love the vocal delivery and should be better known. A lost 80s classic)

 

 

 

 

Hello In There by John Prine (1971)
(Thanks Aphoristical. A few music bloggers have raved about John Prine in recent months, I’ll try and get to the singer/songwriter’s beloved self-titled debut LP this year)

 

 

 

 

 

Skyline Pigeon by Elton John (1969)
(From the end credits of The Favourite (2018). From his debut album Empty Sky which seems to get less attention compared to his early 70s records. Maybe that’s why the song is new to me.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balek by Placebo (1973)
(Thanks Wolfman. A lesser known, brilliant jazz fusion instrumental from Belgium)

 

 

 

 

 

Too Young For Promises by Koo De Tah (1986)
(This Australian synthpop gem didn’t disappoint)

 

 

 


 

Re-discoveries:
I Can Buy You by A Camp (2001)
(Thanks Rol. Solo side project of Nina Persson of The Cardigans)

 

 

 

 

 

You by Ten Sharp (1991)
(Thanks Alyson for reminding me of this one-hit wonder)

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Love Song by Scarlet (1995)
(The song title may not be easy to remember but how could you forget that wonderful uplifting chorus?)

 

 

 

 

 

Satellite by The Hooters (1987)
(Eccentric video. I must have heard this one years ago and had forgotten the name of the band. The lyrics and upbeatness somehow remind me of Jump into the Fire by Harry Nilsson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Film review: The Favourite (2018)

 

 

 

theFavourite.jpg

 

Spoiler-free review. Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer was my #1 of 2017 and I consider Dogtooth (2009) among the most original foreign films of the last ten years, so on that basis I was obviously looking forward to what the Greek filmmaker would do next.

Strong performances,  elegant costumes, and witty dialogue are the best things going on. Set in the 1700s, a fictionalized account of life at the court in England with an unhinged, ailing Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and the manipulative cousins (Rachel Weisz & Emma Stone) who vie for her favor. It’s been written there is no evidence Queen Anne was a lesbian though no way to rule this out categorically. The Queen is affected by grief, as she has lost a number of children and adds a rabbit to her collection each time to comfort herself. The story is also about jealousy and abuse of power, hardly new territory, but themes that still hold true and are presented in an entertaining, comedic way.

 

emma stone the fav.jpg

 

Lots of talent involved in front of and behind the camera, new screenwriters are brought in, and a bigger budget for the director, but I prefer Lanthimos’ previous films he co-wrote with Efthymis Filippou which leave room for the viewer to interpret. His latest, while well-acted and fun, is a performance-driven period comedy-drama that is style over substance. Worth a watch yet feels oscar-baity and not as dream-like compared to Lanthimos’ earlier work. A crowd-pleasing comedy and pretty straightforward.

 

the favorite.jpg

 

As another blogger noted, The Favourite is “born out of real world misogyny – a time and place where women had few options“. Yet there are echoes of #MeToo as well according to the director. Lanthimos has said it’s a modern story but set in the past. Imagine Harvey Weinstein in Colman’s role and the movie takes on a new meaning.
As timely as it may seem, the original screenplay for The Favourite was written 20 years ago, but was easier to get made now where films with female casts are regular occurrences.

I’m not the biggest fan of period films so that may have played a part in my middling enjoyment. What we get is an edgy arthouse filmmaker attempting to appeal to the masses with a mainstream oscar contender. A few scenes amused me though such as the wedding night and returning from hell dialogue, and who could forget the love and honesty speech.

May have been more enjoyable if I’d seen it with a packed audience. Perhaps on rewatches I’ll grow to love the humorous exchanges? Isn’t a bad film yet not something I connected to on a personal or emotional level. He is a director who made his name by creating original concepts and the inventiveness is what drew me to his work in the first place. Not a total sell out by Lanthimos as the film is still quite weird, but the storytelling is certainly not as bold and surprising as his previous work and may slightly underwhelm those fans who loved the director’s darker, challenging tales. If Lanthimos’ smaller arthouse films were too strange and disturbing for you, The Favourite, which subverts gender roles and is the director’s funniest, might be exactly what you want.

7/10
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome