Saturday, April 6, 2013

March 2013 Film Wrap-Up

As you should all be aware by now, I had to put an end to my 365-Day Film Challenge. I explained my reasons for doing so in this post. I know I usually post my film wrap-ups on the first day of each month, but I have been extremely busy as of late due to an internship and uni assignments. Because the Challenge is over, I won't be writing as much about each film I see.

Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012) = 4/5

Believe it or not, I had never seen a David O. Russell film before this one. I found the pacing of this film unusual, but everything else really pleased me. It reminded me that happiness is all the more sweeter for those who have known tragedy. Bradley Cooper should disassociate himself with the Hangover franchise and choose more roles like this one. Jennifer Lawrence was very impressive, although her performance didn't scream 'Oscar-worthy' to me. Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro brought valuable experience to their roles and were a pleasure to watch.

American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973) = 3.5/5

Whenever people talk about this film, it's usually because:

a) It launched the careers of Harrison Ford, Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss.
b) It is one of only two films directed by George Lucas not belonging to the Star Wars series.

There's an electric energy to this film which helps to fashion the Zeitgeist and ethos of the early 60s. The soundtrack is this film's pulse, and the songs have a way of transporting you to those neon-lit streets. What stopped me from liking it more is its structure. The individual scenes are well edited, but I don't like the way the film jumps from scene to scene and character to character without segues.

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (Steve Oedekerk, 1995) = 4/5

Note: This film was not part of the 365-Day Film Challenge.

This is one of the films I grew up on. I can't tell you how many times I've seen it, but what I can tell you is that it's one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. I think it's far superior to the original Pet Detective, and Carrey is at his slapstick best. 

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975) = 4.5/5

Pick any ten slasher films from the past five years. Now, combine them, and the final product will not be as scary as Picnic at Hanging Rock. Great horror films acquire that label incidentally, not via convention. I wouldn't call this a horror film. It is a mystery film that creates an ambience of horror for the people who watch it. It implies that, sometimes, bad things happen without any explanation. Nature is more dangerous than any axe-wielding murderer, and it will one day subsume us all. This is one of the greatest Australian films ever made, with haunting music and gorgeous cinematography.  

Never Been Kissed (Raja Gosnell, 1999) = 2.5/5

First of all, I may have only watched this movie because of the title. I have never been kissed, and I thought this could provide an opportunity for some corny empathy. Well, I didn't do much empathising. Instead, I was shaking my head at how average this film is. And it's not like it tried to be good but ended up being average. It felt as though director Gosnell strived to make a movie that epitomises mediocrity. Look, I wasn't expecting a teen film that tapped into the John Hughes ethos, but I was hoping for a lot more than what I saw. To its credit, it's a movie I would have liked if I were younger and hadn't been overexposed to this formula. 

Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994) = 4/5

One thing I'm notorious for is my dislike of action movies. I watch less than five action movies per year, and I have always said that, ironically, action is the genre that bores me the most. Despite this, I freakin' LOVED Speed. I love it because it manages to wring so much excitement out of a very simple plotThere are moments where it seems a bit outrageous (in that excessive 90s way), but the film is so exhilarating that we don't have the time to care. 

Angel Baby (Michael Rymer, 1995) = 3/5

There is not a lot of joy to be found in this film, and as a result, it was rather hard to watch. The pacing also makes this a tough viewing experience. The performances by John Lynch and Jacqueline McKenzie are outstanding, but I couldn't fully invest in their characters' lives. On a trivial note, this film is worth seeing if you want to see several Australian things you won't see in any other film: e.g. the Australian Wheel of Fortune, a Telstra public phone box,  and a Kmart store.

The Hairy Bird (Sarah Kernochan, 1998) = 3.5/5

If you're after a "chick flick" that doesn't contain all the usual female stereotypes, then this is worth checking out. It's more memorable than many other films of the same vein, largely thanks to intriguing characters.

Adam (Max Mayer, 2009) = 3/5

When your protagonist is autistic, you run the risk of oversimplifying his or her daily struggles. I think that's what happens here in Adam. Hugh Dancy is quite good as Adam, a young man with Asperger syndrome, but the film just feels so contrived. What exactly is this film trying to say—that autistic people can fall in love too? It's not enough to make an audience care for a character because of their diagnosis. The character needs to be strengthened with a distinct personality. This film also lacks a distinguished atmosphere. These characters inhabit a world that too closely resembles the one we walk upon each day.

Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960) = 4/5

My first Godard film. It wasn't always engaging, and I felt as though it took some time to settle on its tone. There were also times where I found the characters too self-indulgent. Nonetheless, this hallmark of the French New Wave is well-written and beautifully shot, even if it heavily relies on jump cuts. 

Bad Education (Pedro Almodóvar, 2004) = 4/5

I loved Almodóvar's Talk to Her, and Bad Education had a very similar atmosphere. It's a dark, sexually charged film that works on multiple levels - campy elements intersect with a noir-inspired plot. I think I'll have to watch it at least one more time to fully appreciate it, as there were times where I couldn't separate fantasy from reality. 

Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996) = 5/5

It explores drug addiction without the maudlin hopelessness you would expect. Boyle's direction is fiercely inventive, and it's one of the strangest yet most rewarding viewing experiences I've had in a long time. There were times where I burst out laughing, and times where I recoiled in curious terror. It's just that type of film.

Mighty Aphrodite (Woody Allen, 1995) = 4/5

Only Woody Allen could incorporate a Greek chorus into a modern comedy and make it work. Mira Sorvino is very compelling as a prostitute, and Allen avoids characterising her in accordance to dated, bland stereotypes. 

Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010) = 4/5

A poignant film about mortality that contains some transcendent images. Javier Bardem's performance is staggeringly good, but the film could have benefited from a shorter runtime.

Small Time Crooks (Woody Allen, 2000) = 2.5/5

Despite some sharp exchanges of dialogue, it meanders between scenes, searching for rhythm that never comes. A very middle-of-the-road Woody Allen film with made-for-TV movie sensibilities

Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971) = 3.5/5

If Eastwood wasn't in this, I wouldn't have watched it. For the most part, I enjoyed Dirty Harry. It's slick and suspenseful, and I was surprised at how well it's aged. That said, there are a few flat spots, but Eastwood has a screen presence that boosts the material. 

Last Train to Freo (Jeremy Sims, 2006) = 4/5

We've all found ourselves on a train with unsavoury people at one point or another in our lives. You know the feeling...a person boards the train, and just by looking at them, you can tell it isn't going to be a relaxing ride. You try to avoid eye contact, but this doesn't stop the person from approaching you. Sometimes they're fairly innocent, but they can often be intimidating. It's why so many people don't feel safe travelling on public transport at night (or at all). This film is an exposition on what makes these public menaces tick, and what sometimes lies beneath their fearsome veneers. While it does feel a bit too theatrical at times, this exercise in minimalism is worth a watch.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011) = 4/5   

We need to talk about how fucking traumatising this film is. Wow. It takes a while for you to warm to it, and even then it leaves you cold. A very moody piece of work that's too morose to enjoy, but too fiercely original not to recommend. The editing style is not for everyone.

City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931) = 3.5/5

Despite great storytelling, it didn't move me as much as I expected it to. I'll have to revisit this one. This was my first ever silent film (hold your snobbish calls of "Really?"), so maybe that is why I experienced some disconnect.

Breaking Away (Peter Yates, 1979) = 4/5

I do not like cycling, and yet I loved this film. It doesn't try to be artsy. It's honest, uplifting filmmaking. The cast is so watchable, and when the credits roll, you feel as though you're saying goodbye to a close group of friends. I don't think it deserves to be cheapened with a clichéd label such as "coming-of-age". Breaking Away is just so damn authentic. 

Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) = 4.5/5

So, I finally saw this film, and it was actually pretty damn good. I became very invested in the life of the enigmatic Charles Foster Kane, and I couldn't help but admire how ahead of its time this film was. 

The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012) = 4/5

A well-paced, coherent documentary that tells a naturally unsettling story - a Frenchman claims to a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who has been missing for 3 years. It provides great insight into human behaviour, but feels somewhat incomplete.

The Trip (Michael Winterbottom, 2010) = 4.5/5

Note: This film replaced Like Water for Chocolate on the original 365-Day Film Challenge schedule.

Edited from the BAFTA award-winning TV series of the same name, The Trip is an absolute pleasure to watch. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon were made to share a screen, and you feel like jumping inside your television and asking them to dinner. The film is more profound than you expect it to be, and when it's all over, you immediately want Coogan and Brydon to come back. Seriously, watch these two men impersonate Michael Caine and it will make your day.  

The Burning (Tony Maylam, 1981) = 4/5

It's that rare kind of slasher that manages to be cheesy AND scary. This is the stuff urban legends are made of. It is sorely forgotten and needs to be seen more. 

The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005) = 3/5

Note: This film replaced Saving Private Ryan on the original 365-Day Film Challenge schedule. 

It tries to strike the perfect balance between suspense and gore, but doesn't quite work. Still has plenty of scares, though.

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