One interesting thing I’ve discovered from keeping a record of the movies I’ve watched this year is that I average 16 movies a month. In January and March I watched more, but in general 16 movies seems to be all I can cram into 30 days. Last month I watched 9 American movies and 7 foreign, with a good mix of old and new, and mostly decent stuff.
I didn’t have any particular interest in seeing The Ghost Writer, (Germany-2010) the new film from Roman Polanski, but I had a free night during it’s run at the theater where I work and I decided to double feature it along with Kick-A#$ (Matthew Vaughn-USA-2010). That was kind of weird combination. I liked The Ghost Writer more than I expected to, especially the ending. It kept me guessing, and the coloring of the film was kind of cool. I guess I’ll have to watch some other Polanski films now. In direct contrast to the focused way I tried to puzzle through that film, Kick-A#$ was totally a guilty pleasure. I willing suspended all belief and just went along for the ride, enjoyed a mini crush on Aaron Johnson’s ass kicking Dave Lizewski, and nearly peed myself while laughing incredulously at pretty much every awesome scene where Chloë Moretz brought the foul-mouthed Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl to rip-roaring life. A fun evening of movie watching from start to finish.
My viewing of St. Trinian’s a few months ago led me to Another Country (Marek Kanievska-UK-1984), which paired Rupert Everett and Colin Firth as boys approaching their last year in a strict British prep school. Firth is a budding Communist and Everett is gay, so their lives are made equally hard by the head boys and “gods” (even better than being head boy!) who keep order for the adults at the school. Based on a play by Julian Mitchell, the movie was simple and heart-wrenching, with moments of dark humor that kept it light enough to be fully approachable. And the young Firth and Everett are gorgeous, I must add, and their acting talent is already in full swing. Good stuff.
I saw two animated movies, one far better than the other. The Secret of Kells (Tom Moore-Ireland-2009) was exquisite. The style and beauty of the animation more than made up for the odd, even somewhat obscure storyline of the movie. I definitely would like to learn more about the Book of Kells, and if it looks anything like the images of it in this film, it must be truly astonishing. On the other hand, Heavy Metal (Gerald Potterton-USA-1981) was just plain weird, and no amount of huge breasted, under-dressed female warriors could make up for the utter bizarreness. To it’s credit, there were a few interesting stories, and the various examples of different animation techniques were interesting. But, whoa. My mind is still reeling!
Speaking of mind reeling, I crossed another Kubrick film off my list – A Clockwork Orange (USA-1971). I didn’t care for it much at all, which is surprising to me since that brand of whacked out social commentary is usually right up my alley. I found Alex’s character not so much disturbing (although he definitely is that!) as just plain annoying. I did like his narration though, so I’m all over the place with my reaction to the movie. Still mulling over it, over a month later!
After that weirdness, I went through an easy movie phase: Everybody’s Fine (Kirk Jones-USA-2009), which in spite of it’s large A-list cast couldn’t save itself from its mediocre storyline; Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau-USA-2010), which wasn’t as good as the first one, but had plenty of great one-liners and definitely set the board for a whole string of other comic book hero movies; Major League (David S. Ward-USA-1989), my favorite baseball movie, with my all-time favorite sports announcer Harry Doyle, and the awe-inspiring use of The Troggs’ song Wild Thing!; and after a particularly hard day at work I laughed myself silly over I Love You, Man (John Hamburg-USA-2009) and have joined the ranks of the mad ones who get a kick out of quoting obscure lines from it at inappropriate times…! Ah yes. Easy movies. Although it’s out of order, I’ll tag Failure to Launch (Tom Dey-USA-2006) onto this set. It’s a ridiculous romantic comedy with Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker as the guy who still lives with his parents and the professional “launcher” whom his parents hire to help get him moved out of the house. Of course anything that also stars Zooey Deschanel and Justin Bartha, among others, is sure to not be all bad. A goofy, great comfort movie. 🙂
Goofy, but surprisingly uncomfortable is what I would call Defendor (Peter Stebbings-USA-2009) which stars Woody Harrelson as a socially awkward city worker who moonlights as Defendor, a homemade superhero. Not really a parody of the superhero myth, nor a true commentary on the psychology behind the hero complex, this movie is mostly just a kind of funny, kind of sad mash-up.
The last four movies I watched in May were all brilliant in their own way. Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (Italy-1964) staring Clint Eastwood has been on my TBW list forever. It took me three days to get through it, but it was worth every minute. Like Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, I was completely mesmerized, even though the action is sometimes very slow. Slow action is a weird concept, but Leone manages to make two gunmen standing in the street eying each other incredibly suspenseful! Love the score by Ennio Morricone. I’ve been hearing that music for much of my life, and now I’ve finally seen where it originated from. Completely satisfactory.
If you’re looking for something fun and kind of wistful that will also make your taste buds go wild, watch Mid-August Lunch (Gianni de Gregorio-Italy-2008). Strapped for rent, among other bills, Gianni agrees to let his landlord’s mother stay with him and his own elderly mother over a holiday weekend. He ends up hosting a total of four elderly women for the weekend, and while they get to know each other he cooks several fabulous meals for them. Keeping an eye on them proves to be difficult and drama ensues. The four ladies in the film are wonderful – all of them new to acting, but astonishingly good at it. A very fun and yummy movie.
Back when I was watching Carlos Saura’s trilogy of music and dance films last year, someone (Richard?) mentioned Cria Cuervos (Carlos Saura-Spain-1977) and I put it on my TBW list. Richard mentioned it again recently, and I made sure that this time it went to the top of my Netflix queue. Glad I did, because I liked it SO MUCH. Absolutely riveting. It tells the tale (backwards and forwards and sideways) of a watchful ten year old girl whose father has just died, due (she believes) to the poison she put in his milk. She feels his death by her hand was justified, since his womanizing certainly helped her beloved mother into her own deathbed. I could not take my eyes off the amazing Ana Torrent. Her portrayal of the character Ana was so creepy yet tormented yet adorable. She’s a troubled, imaginative child, whose big eyes take in everything that goes on around her. How she copes with both the present and the past makes up the content of the movie, but her performances makes it a thing of wonder. Easily one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
I watched La Pointe Courte (Agnes Varda-France-1954) immediately after watching the Saura film, and this made for an amazing double feature. After seeing The Beaches of Agnes in April, I was very interested in seeing Varda’s first film, La Pointe Courte, the location of which she revisited in The Beaches of Agnes. It was both a portrait of a fishing village at a point of crisis, and the relationship of a couple at a point of equal crisis. The waters around the small French village have been declared contaminated so the fishermen are not allowed to fish. They still have to feed their families though, so on the sly they continue to fish. An inspector is snooping around, and arrests are eminent. Meanwhile, a native of the village comes back from Paris with his pretty wife for a vacation. Their tranquility is marred by her unease with how their relationship is progressing, and they discuss their life and love at length as they take long walks around the village. Both story lines are compelling, and due to the lovely cinematography even the long conversations between the lovers are not boring. In fact almost every frame of the movie is worth putting on your wall. Kind of a day-in-the-life story, with no real resolution, but plenty to think about and enjoy. I’m looking forward to watching more from Agnes Varda.
And there you have May’s 16 movies! Just in time for me to write about June’s. 🙂