My March viewing pretty much covered the cinematic spectrum. Some rubbish big budget releases were offset by somewhat obscure Hitchcock classics, phenomenal documentaries and even academic film. Share your thoughts on these in the comments section below.
- The Look of Love (2013), Michael Winterbottom – Coogan and Winterbottom make a pretty good double act. Coogan has evolved into quite the performer whilst Winterbottom is a very assured shooter and the early parts of this film are nicely stylised. There is not too much plot, but the film is nicely put together and has a decent script and period design. Overall it is a bit unfocused and perhaps a bit of a missed opportunity to peer deeper into what is shown. But as a portrait of a not particularly nice rich man, it succeeds. And some moments rise above, such as Imogen Poots singing over the final credits.
- The Little Mermaid (1989), Ron Clements and John Musker – This is a combination of sublime design and terrible (even by Disney standards) morality. There is great, evocative presentation of life under the sea with an artistic, almost hand painted animation style. Disney’s sense of character is so spot-on here, establishing Sebastian and Flounder as characters to latch onto in very quick time. But the themes are terrible. I think this picture my fiancée scribbled in my notebook pretty much sums up the film:
- Miss Representation (2011), Jennifer Siebel Newsom – This doco, which focuses on the representation of women in the media, straightforwardly presents the overwhelming power of the media simply due to the quantum of consumption. This force is able to shape what is most important about women and also shape how young men consider women. From a filmmaking perspective, this is not scintillating stuff. But backed up with shocking stats (depression amongst girls doubled from 2000-2010 for e.g.) and personal insights from a varied range of talking heads including Margaret Cho and Condoleezza Rice, it effectively gets the important message across.
- Lifeboat (1944), Alfred Hitchcock – This is one of Hitch’s first high concept flicks, set entirely on a lifeboat funnily enough. It works on a bunch of levels and is also really quite shocking for the time on a similar number of levels. Not everyone lives. There are some great philosophical discussions when a Nazi soldier is picked up. For this to work, the script had too be really sharply written and it is. And even when limited by his conceit, Hitch can direct the shit out of a film. The film functions as a portrait of life at sea as well as a morally complex, bleak portrait of war. Up there with Hitch’s best, not something I say lightly.
- The White Diamond (2004), Werner Herzog – This may be my favourite Herzog doco. The German director seems to be a genius at bringing the most incredible stories out of people. The film starts off with an examination of the history of the airship before focusing on the specific story of a modern day adventurer looking to bring them back. Herzog is also highly original in the way he structures his docos, hinting at the past and even giving small spoilers of what is to come. Like a Simpsons episode, a Herzog doco is never about just what it appears on the surface. This is one of his best.
- Sin Tierra, No Somos Shuar (2010), Stacey Williams – A refreshingly watchable ethnographic film. Both very specific, but also quite relatable to numerous other places where there is a conflict between traditional land usage and mining interests. Presents the indigenous population as masters of incredible self sufficiency, which is something all should learn from. It’s pretty short and you can check it out on Vimeo here.
Not Worth Watching:
- Non-Stop (2014), Jaume Collet-Serra – This is far from a complete write-off, with a smattering of sharp, tense moments. But much of it is a combination of terribly clichéd characterisation and a vastly underdeveloped narrative world. The ending in particular hits home with all the power of a wet fish. The whole thing is just far too pedestrian in its pace. The joke has been made by many – Non-Stop is not quite non-stop enough.
- Monuments Men (2014), George Clooney – This is no near miss, it is an utter failure. The script is inept, there is no goal, no stakes and most absurdly no real enemy. As the trailer suggested would be the case, the film struggles deeply to control the tone. So you are left with a WWII film with no with weight and an ol’ fashioned farce with no laughs. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed that a film with this cast would be so not worth your time.
- Pompeii (2014), Paul W.S. Anderson – Utterly terrible. The script is nothing short of embarrassing, with one eye rolling line after another. The beginning and end of the positives is Kiefer Sutherland hamming it up like a beast. There is a decent disaster flick to be made about Pompeii. Buy here it is saddled with an unnecessary and lame gladiator plot. The eruption is actually an afterthought, barely mentioned. The whole film is utterly stupid. Who knew a volcanic eruption could be so boring. Props to them for ending though, which took some guts (or would have if anyone cared).
If you only have time to watch one Lifeboat
Avoid at all costs Monument Men