02 October 2012


This article in the New Yorker asks the question: what happened to all the variety in movies? Serious dramas? Gone. It argues that the six major studios have shrunk their repertoire to three kinds of movies: 1. blockbusters, 2. animated features for families, and 3. genre movies—thrillers, chick flicks, romantic comedies, weekend-debauch movies and horror movies. "Studios play for a series of small and medium-sized winners rather than constantly trying for the big killing; they could reduce costs by paying stars and directors minimal amounts up front and dividing all revenues at the back end by fixed percentages—that would bring the initial costs way down and allow them to greenlight more daring projects." Read it!

Thirty-seven photos show East Germany's remarkable transformation from a miserable anti-capitalist environment to an attractive free enterprise environment.  Capitalism might not be perfect, but it's glossier.

How interesting that Ronald Reagen was supposed to play the lead in Casablanca instead of Humphrey Bogart, but was forced to turn it down as he had been called up for service in the American army.  An article from The Atlantic, on the 70th anniversary of the film, discusses a story where "every character, it seems, could be the subject of a movie just as compelling as Casablanca".

    01 October 2012

    TOP 5 | Films of September

    Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano | 2011 | 112 min | Col | France | Biography, Comedy, Drama

    This is one of the best films I've seen in a long time, and as a box office phenomenon in France, apparently the french thought so too.  It's a moving story of a superrich quadriplegic (Francois Cluzet) that hires a brash French Senegalese hustler from the projects (Omar Sy) as his new carer.  He was warned by a friend not to do this, that "these street guys have no pity," but he replies, "That’s what I want. No pity." The film shows their friendship that develops, as they both glimpse into each others worlds, and the story generally follows the conventional Hollywood "buddy love film" template with great flare.

    Opening scene.  Big fan.  I think it's the best opening scene I've ever seen in a movie.  Could that be true?  Really?  I'm racking my brains - hmmm, well I do love the beginning of the Royal Tenenbaums, okay, and there is A Clockwork Orange, and Manhattan, of course Once Upon a Time in the West, Patton...... but rather than being visually dynamic or moving, this scene is just downright funny.  Instantly entertaining.  I felt completely engaged with the characters. And now as I type this I have Earth, Wind and Fire's 'September' in my head!

    Moonrise Kingdom
    Wes Anderson | 2012 | 94 m | Col | USA | Comedy, Drama, Romance

    I was very excited to see this film - Wes Anderson being one of my favourite directors.  Probably not my favourite, but definitely worth watching - it's romantic, nostalgic, quaint.  The film follows the adventure of two young lovers in 1965, that run away from home together.  Various authorities join forces to apprehend the young lovers, as a violent storm is brewing off-shore.  It triggers my own fond memories from childhood - whole days explorations in the bush, or on the beach, and seeing life as a great expedition, and also some not-so-warm memories: feelings of isolation and seclusion, and realising that adults are not quite as smart and perfect as you once thought.  This re-evaluation of 'the world of adults' is visualised beautifully through the unforgiving perspective of Suzi's binoculars.  Of course, the film also boasts Wes' trademark warm colours, immaculate symmetry, distinctive characters, and whimsical humour.

    The film opens as 12-year-old Suzy (Kara Hayward) and her siblings listen to Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra - this music of midcentury classical composer Benjamin Britten is the central motif of the film.  And just as the Young Person’s Guide reveals the interplay between differing musical instruments, so too do the broad array characters of the film, to create this symphony of a film.  I would have liked it if they took it a step further, and actually identified each character with an instrument or variation, (Peter and the Wolf style) - or perhaps they did and I just didn't notice?

    Whit Stillman | 1994 | 101 m | Col | USA, Spain | Comedy, Drama

    I saw this film probably 10 years ago, and it was a pleasure to watch again now, having grown up a bit, and having actually been to Barcelona.  I love this style of film.  This style of dialogue.  These characters.  It's an urban comedy of manners, set at the tail-end of the Cold War when there was rising anti-American sentiment in Barcelona.  The film's protagonist is Ted (Taylor Nichols), an American salesman, is visited out-of-the-blue by his cousin, Fred (Chris Eigeman).  I love Fred.  He is what makes this film so interesting.  He has no loyalty to his cousin, or when he tries to, it's much to Ted's detriment.  He's acidic and dry, a textbook "vulgar American" that saunters around in his army uniform, impervious to the constant taunts of "Fascist!"  It's a brilliant commentary on cultural identity and perception.  I wish I made this film.

    Das Leben der Anderen - "The Lives of Others" 
    Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
    2006 | 137 m | Col | Germany | Drama, Thriller | TSPDT C21st #36

    "In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives" - IMDb.

    I have been meaning to watch this film for so long and I'm glad I finally did.  Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck - I gotta say, what a name!  This film made me realize that I've watched so many other films located behind the iron curtain, but never any located in Berlin itself.  It reminds me slightly Coppola's 'The Conversation', the voyeurism, and the transformation that can take over people as they observe a subject for extended periods.  The character arc of the protagonist is most enchanting - so moving I feel it in my chest.  I don't want to give to much away, but as Jeffrey Overstreet said: "The Lives of Others illustrates, with only a dash of sentimentality, the truth that integrity leads to vulnerability and sacrifice."  This is one of my favourite messages of all.

    Richard Linklater | 2011 |  104 m | Col | USA | Comedy, Drama

    If you didn't see this with me, you're lucky.  I roared with unrestrained laughter during this film - probably much to the chagrin of the more restrained Danes sitting around me.  And my boyfriend.  Poor thing.  I honestly couldn't help it - Jack Black just cracks me up.  He is so fucking funny.  He lifts an eyebrow and I laugh.  I admit, I'm completely ridiculous when it comes to this.  He's the theatrical version of that situation where you start laughing even before a person begins to tickle you.

    But it wasn't just Jack Black that made this film worth watching.  The film concerns locals from East Texas, in fascinating detail.  Indeed, it celebrates American small-town life, showing it as rich, warm and complexly layered.  The film also deals with how one can justify a crime when one holds a sturdy moral code.  I had so much fun watching this film, and definitely recommend it to all.  I'm so happy that Cinemateket offered this to members as the free film of the month, otherwise I think I would have missed it!

    Here's a funny segment from the film, where a Carthage, TX resident describes the '5 States' of Texas...

    Honourable mentions:
    • Dead Man
    • Coffee and Cigarettes
    • Stranger Than Paradise
    • Limits of Control (although probably not worth mentioning, it tested the limits of my control for sure)
    • In The Name of the Father
    • My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown
    • Rachel Getting Married
    • Beau Travail
    • Dancer in the Dark
    • Shaun of the Dead
    • Religulous
    • Bernie
    • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
    • The Wicker Man