We Got The Beat
Although it may seem obvious, my goal of watching 365 films by the end of March 2015 really is about quantity. There was a time, decades ago, when I was extremely discriminating about what I watched for fear that a bad film might live on in my subconscious forever. But now I find it as interesting to find out what didn’t work in a film, and why, as to what worked so well as to go without notice.
The other goal of this intense film immersion is to experience which films and scenes stand out and remain in my memory months down the line.
Last night as I looked forward to winding down the year approaching the 200 mark (possibly?), the whirring noise of my projector which made up part of the white noise of the room called my attention to the poor machine’s fragility. What if it doesn’t take me to the end of this journey?
Too distressing a thought.
In the meantime, here are my latest adventures in cinema:
111.) The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) directed by Sergio Leone. As far as movie imagery goes nothing quite beats the sight of Clint Eastwood in a poncho. Having only seen excerpts of this film my whole life I decided it was time to give it my attention from beginning to end. Was lovely to see Eli Wallach – who I had the pleasure meeting while working on New York: A Documentary Film – at the start of his career. I was quite taken by the opening credits (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kccafOf4O6Q) and equally surprised that only two women turned up on screen in over three hours.
112.) Mr Turner (2013) directed by Mike Leigh
2014 seems to be the year of the artist film and here Mike Leigh returns with another observation of the working-class. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this film but I couldn’t help but think it might be better watched from under a duvet on the sofa during the holiday season.
113.) Open Hearts (2002) directed by Susanne Bier (Mubi UK)
I find Susanne Bier to be one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. Despite having such a broad filmic repertoire, each piece is quite solid. A “Dogma” film, Open Hearts tells the story of the emotional aftermath of a tragic accident, and is well worth watching for its emotional portrayal of its characters (not to mention the “Dogma” camerawork).
114.) The Story of O (1975) directed by Just Jaeckin (Mubi UK)
This film appeared on MUBI and is one of those that you just have to see. Apart from the appearance of many great Macs and some nice sound effects the sexy promise of this film turned out to be deeply boring.
115.) Bill Cunningham New York directed by Richard Press (documentary) (2010) (Netflix)
One of the surprises of this batch of films was this life-affirming film about the obsessive, eccentric fashion photographer Bill Cunningham who is shown downing his medication with NY deli coffee. Chronicling his work and (absent?) personal life this film is a great portrait of a man who leaves us with pithy thoughts like: “fashion is the armour to survive everyday life” and “he who seeks beauty will find it.” A lovely and inspirational portrait of an artist.
116.) The Imitation Game (2014) directed by Morten Tyldum
A solidly good period film, of which the only thing that threw me out of its created world was its special effects.
117.) Ms Representation (2011) directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom (UK Netflix)
An overambitious documentary about women which longs for a focus. This film is worth it only if you want to see a broad range of women speaking about their representation in the media, as in that case, you are bound to come away with a nugget.
118.) In Search Of Memory directed by Petra Seeger (2009) (YouTube)
I had the pleasure of meeting neuroscientist Eric Kandel while working on a documentary about Columbia University in New York some years ago. Was thrilled to see that a film had finally been made about his life and career. One look at this most humane, accomplished scientist in his bow tie and you will wonder how to bring the same amount of love, joy and forgiveness into your own life. The YouTube version lacks some English subtitles so is better viewing if you know German and French!
119.) Field Study (short, 2014) directed by Eva Weber.
Beautiful short narrative crafted by documentarian Eva Weber. Not released yet but had the luxury of seeing it early. (Thanks, Eva!)
120.) Atonement (2007) directed by Joe Wright (DVD)
This film passed me by when first released but now that I finally got to it (on the cross-country X5 bus no less), I was tremendously moved. Not just because I find stories which tell how misunderstandings about one’s moral character causing destruction so compelling, but because the director managed to take this film beyond the typical trappings of the period piece.
121.) My Week With Marilyn (2011) directed by Simon Curtis (UK Lovefilm)
This film, based on a true story of a British film assistant, chaperoning Marilyn Monroe around Britain, had good reviews and yet I found it forgetting despite being easy to watch and despite Michelle Williams’ performance as Marilyn.
122.) Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (1997) directed by David Mirkin (UK Netflix)
My recent 20th high school reunion passed me by as did this film when first released but recently in passing I read an article with Lisa Kudrow who claimed this was one of her “most-fun” roles. If in the mood for a throw-back evening (flip phones, tape cassettes!) with a killer soundtrack (the Go-Go’s anyone? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRwR33FLmrI), then this film is not a bad way to spend 90 minutes.
124.) Café de Flore (2011), directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (UK Netflix)
I’m just waking up to the work of Jean-Marc Vallée who directed The Dallas Buyers Club as well as Wild with Reese Witherspoon which got fantastic advance reviews from friends lucky enough to see it at Bafta! I watched Café de Flore on an evening at home by myself and have to say the haunting mood it created had me looking behind closed doors in my flat to make sure all was okay before going to bed. Vallée masterly plays with time so you often don’t know where you are, but this film about letting go is totally worth the effort if you can submit to its own logic.
125.) 360 (2011) directed by Fernando Meirelles (UK Netflix)
A recent film by Meirelles, of City of God fame, this film of seemingly disparate stories yet with interweaving characters ultimately doesn’t hold up as a whole, yet some of the individual scenes are absolutely stunning, especially the tension created when a young Brazilian woman has a chance encounter with a young American male just out of prison. Meirelles loves his characters here which makes you forgive some of its more awkward moments.
126.) Love & Other Impossible Pursuits (2009) directed by Don Roos (UK Netflix)
This was a chance film found on Netflix starring Natalie Portman and Lisa Kudrow. Based in New York the film showcases all the hot spots (skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park) and focuses on a young second wife struggling with the recent loss of her child and her husband’s ex-wife.
127.) Bounce (2000) directed by Don Roos (UK Netflix)
Don Roos, who is also behind the film The Opposite Of Sex, came up in my Netflix queue after watching Love & Other Impossible Pursuits. This 2000 film with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck feels a bit dated but there are some nice moments that make the whole thing worth it, especially if you want to remind yourself of how American airports used to be, pre-9/11.
128.) Rabbit Hole (2010) directed by John Cameron Mitchell (UK Netflix)
Was led to this film as it was on BBC iPlayer – as well as Netflix – and also addressed a couple dealing with the loss of their child starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Oh. The film is based on play and there are interesting family dynamics at work which are well-written and played but I often felt that in parts the film was more about showcasing the parquet floors of this upper middle class house along the Hudson.
129.) Rush (2013) directed by Ron Howard (UK Lovefilm)
An action-packed brilliantly edited film which recounts the 1976 F1 season and the competition between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Although accounts of the film have claimed the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda was exaggerated for dramatic purposes, this made for far more interesting viewing than the BBC documentary below about the same time period.
130.) My Stuff (2012) directed by Petri Luukkainen (UK Mubi)
A creative, concept documentary where Petri, a young Finnish man decides to put all of his belongings in storage following a break-up with the rule that he can only retrieve one item at a time (think socks, toothbrush, coat) over the following year. Aside from re-assessing what he really “needs”, along the way he finds love.
131.) James Hunt: Clash of The Titans: Lauda vs Hunt (BBC documentary on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c19DqS127Ac)
This documentary, although uploaded in the last year to You Tube, seems to have been made years prior. Far less exciting than the dramatic portrayal of the 1976 F1 racing season.