Please share with us which films you saw last week. It would be great if you could include some comments on each film. It would be awesome if you could also take some time to comment on everyone else's viewings. Unfortunately, it has reached the point where it is no longer viable for me as host to comment on everyone else's viewings every week (especially since some people like to use the weekly thread to log their viewings and nothing else). I am always keen to promote movie discussion though, so if you comment on my own viewings, I will comment on yours at my earliest convenience.
Please also note that this is intended as a movie discussion thread, not a large image posting thread. Having too many large images makes this thread difficult to navigate through. If you wish to include more than five images in a reply, please use spoiler tags - [spoiler][/spoiler] - to hide extra images.
This is what I saw:
★★★★ = loved it /// ★★★ = liked it a lot; ~7/10 /// ★★ = has interesting elements; ~6/10 /// ★ = did very little for me; ~5/10 and lower
Amazing movie-watching week! Can't remember the last time I had more than one ★★★★ first time viewing in a single week, let alone FOUR.
Be My Wife (1921). Intent on proposing to his girlfriend, a young man has to contend with a nosy aunt, a rival suitor and an intelligent dog in this lively Max Linder comedy. The film is funny right from the very first scene in which a plant silhouette is misinterpreted, and from scarecrow antics, to Linder fighting with himself (pretending to fend off an intruder) to raining mice, this is hilarious throughout. The middle section sags a little with attention diverted away from Linder as elaborate mistake and misinterpretation gags are set up, but everything comes together well in the final act, full of hair-rising moments as the heat is turned up. Nothing at hand is ever quite as funny as Linder doing the mirror gag in Seven Years Bad Luck, but this is a nice taste of what else he had to offer. The dog is especially wonderful and even gets his own title card. (first viewing, online) ★★★★
The Nut (1921). Winning the heart of the girl next door proves challenging for an inventor in this comedy starring Douglas Fairbanks prior to breaking out as an action star. Performing breathtaking acrobatic stunts, Fairbanks does well and often feels the equal of Keaton, Lloyd and Chaplin - and there is amusing Chaplin lookalike cameo in the mix! The plot is not much to write home about and the film relies too heavily on title cards for unnecessary details. When the focus is on the inventions though, the film rarely misses. The opening scene in which various machines get Fairbanks out of bed and dressed prefigures Wallace and Gromit, the film gets much mileage out of wax dummies being mistaken for cadavers and stern individuals, some poster cut-out cards are delightfully quirky - and the open dollhouse x-ray sets towards the end are just dazzling. (first viewing, online) ★★★★
Fig Leaves (1926). Beginning with the Biblical Adam and Eve before cutting to the 1920s, this Howard Hawks comedy questions whether male-female relationships have really changed that much over time. The film has a bit of a mixed reputation due to some arguable misogyny (the 20s Adam is horrified at the prospect of his wife working) and the fact that the Biblical scenes are so much more dynamic than everything afterwards, but this is an entertaining ride. With automaton dinosaurs, prehistoric alarm clocks, combs and so on, the Biblical angle is amazing, and even the 20s stuff is fun with much amusement as Adam and his colleague role play being their wives and Eve uses her charms to manipulate him. The film also boasts several glitzy and revealing costumes that only the pre-Code period would allow, plus it all ends on a funny note. (first viewing, online) ★★★
The Show Off (1926). Always trying to sound and appear more important than he is, a simple clerk has trouble maintaining the pretence when his longtime girlfriend marries him in this entertaining silent film. Ford Serling is charming if somewhat despicable in the lead role; the extreme effort he places into trying to look good -- from fake urgent phone calls to tearing up raffle tickets (only to later retrieve the shreds from the bin) -- is really fun to watch. The film loses its way a bit in the second half as the dramatic side of the story takes full swing; it even enters rather downbeat territory. Whenever in comedy mode though, the film works well. There are some especially interesting dynamics as his girlfriend's mother hates him and thinks he is a fraud, his girlfriend is too in-love to care, and her brother and father stay out of it to risk offending either woman. (first viewing, online) ★★★
Show People (1928). After making it big as in slapstick, a Hollywood actress transitions to dramatic roles and forgets who she is in this audience-winking comedy/drama from King Vidor. The film is full of star cameos, most notably Charles Chaplin minus makeup (who she of course does not recognise) and Vidor plays himself, though perhaps most amusing is star Marion Davies turning up her nose upon seeing an actress who she is told is "Marion Davies"! For all the self-referential fun, the film spins a fairly predictable character trajectory for Davies - though one that beats Sullivan's Travels to the punch more than a decade earlier. The slapstick at hand is not especially funny either, mostly limited to pie throwing rather than acrobatics and pratfalls. Still, this is entertaining while it lasts and well edited in terms of reaction shots and character interactions. (first viewing, online) ★★★
Watch Out for the Automobile (1966). Or Beware of the Car! as it is sometimes known, this Soviet comedy revolves a car thief who repeatedly tries to steal the same vehicles. While this seems strange, his targeting of the same cars is gradually revealed to have a purpose with a redistribution of wealth theme and the cars themselves feel symbolic of capitalist gains. Politics aside though, this is very funny and well shot. A slow police pursuit in a school zone is hilarious to watch and there are some intense bits as the thief's foot gets caught in a trap, with him stuck inside a car that he is trying to steal. The noir-like black and white photography is also divine and the jazzy music suits well craziness like lifting up an entire garage to steal a car. The film gets too talky in its second half and the messages come across too thick at the end, but this is a superb ride. (first viewing, online) ★★★★
The Commissar (1967). Pregnant with an unwanted child, a Russian Commissar boards with a Jewish family, hoping to give birth privately and carry on with her career, but her world views are challenged in this war-themed drama. While there is little fighting, war is pivotal to the film with gorgeous low camera angles that capture how daunting all the tanks are. The entire film though is incredibly well shot with great gradual tilts, and the intimate camerawork as the family's daughter is persecuted by other kids (in an unforgettable scene) is just stunning. The film blurs memories and fantasies well too as the Commissar's mind wanders when giving birth, and while the inconclusive ending - and perhaps entire final quarter hour - is weaker than everything before it, this is a pretty neat rumination on whether having children is really "not as easy" as fighting a war. (first viewing, online) ★★★★
Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (1967). Duped into helping three hapless criminals kidnap the woman he loves, a bumbling young man attempts to rescue her in this comedy set in the Caucasus region of the USSR. The area's mountains shine in all their natural glory while the central story is engaging if often quite silly (it is built around characters doing the most foolish of things). The humour is perhaps best comparable to an episode of Scooby Doo with madcap chases, sped-up footage and villains who are a little too goofy to pose any real threat. At its best, the film is hilarious with some nifty reversed footage and all of the failed kidnapping attempts. Quite a bit of humour is lame though and some of what the kidnappers get up to (singing and dancing before their victim as she eats) just feels strange, but this is generally an energetic and well-paced affair. (first viewing, online) ★★
Courier (1986). Feeling aimless after his parents divorce, a lazy teenager gets a job as a courier for a newspaper, but he does not take the job seriously and instead sets out to seduce the daughter of an esteemed professor in order to marry well in this coming-of-age comedy from the USSR. This is one of those films that is unfortunately nowhere near as dynamic as the promotional artwork and basic plot make it out to be. Set in the years immediately before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the film has a fair bit to it thematically, however, the protagonist is such a smug and arrogant individual that it is very hard to care about his capitalist aspirations and lacking work ethic while growing up in a Communist nation. He seems pretty heartless and unemotional too, never visibly distraught by his parent's divorce, and none of the other characters are likeable either. (first viewing, online) ★
A Man from Boulevard des Capucines (1987). Resistance gradually turns to enthusiasm as a photographer introduces cinema to an Old West town in this Russian comedy set circa 1900. While it initially feels weird to have American cowboys and Native Americans conversing in Russian (with lame stereotypes too), the set-up is very decent. There are many good laughs at the expense as the cowboys reacting to the Lumière Brothers' Arrival of the Train with guns blazing as they try to shoot the screen to stop the train hitting them! Alas, the film derives most of its humour from brawling, messy fights and several racially insensitive caricatures. The movie has some witty anti-racism sentiments too though ("everyone's equal facing the screen") and the protagonist trying to explain the concept of montage/editing to his love interest is really rather romantic. (first viewing, online) ★★
Mio in the Land of Faraway (1987). Based on a novel by Astrid Lindgren but lacking a protagonist as lively or charming as Pippi Longstocking, this children's fantasy film feels generic as it focuses on a neglected orphan who is whisked away to a magical kingdom where his birth father is king. While his adventures smack of childish wish fulfillment with doubles of characters from his reality appearing in the magic land, the film never really explores this, instead going for a range of sword and sorcery clichés and a dull villain. Some invisibility humour sort of works and some of the images at hand are hard to shake, most notably a large, floating bearded head, but it is hard not to find something creepy in the overall tale of a boy accepting a ride from an old man, only to run up and hug the first stranger he meets at his destination who he assumes is his father. (first viewing, online) ★
Dead or Alive (1988). Also known as The Tracker, this western from John Guillermin focuses on a retired tracker asked to capture a murderer who has abducted a preteen girl who he wants to marry. While the plot might sound straightforward, the character dynamics are very juicy. Nicknamed 'Noble', Kris Kristofferson slowly reveals a more ruthless side to his tracker as he becomes more desperate in his pursuit while balancing a strained relationship with his son. Then there is Scott Wilson, almost sympathetic as the deluded murderer who so desperately wants his "princess" to love him, and the girl is multi-dimensional too, homesick but opposed to Wilson being killed. Add in a pulsating music score and some neat shots (wounded characters collapsing into the camera) and this is a pretty strong if sometimes predictable swan song for Guillermin. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★
Whisper of the Heart (1995). Far more interested in reading and writing stories than studying, a high school student reassess her priorities while trying to track down a mysterious fellow student who has read all of the same books as her in this Ghibli animated film. With much screen time dedicated to dealing with high school crushes, obsessive best friends and annoying boys, this quite often feels like a soap opera episode with all of the school life melodrama at hand. At the same time though, it is a rather sweet movie with all of the school stuff viewed through the prism of older characters (an antiques dealer; musicians) who laugh, remembering what their youth was like. The film also does well inserting borderline fantasy content into its down-to-earth story, from a magical following of a street cat to a statuette that twinkles and shines in the light. (first viewing, online) ★★★
Tales from Earthsea (2006). Often cited as one of Studio Ghibli's weakest efforts, this medieval fantasy film has some decent ideas about life and living know that you'll eventually die, but the whole thing is somewhat lacking in charm. The protagonists are never especially charismatic or interesting or developed in any real depth, and while the soft-spoken, slyly smiling chief antagonist looks and sounds refreshingly different from the average villain out there, his megalomaniacal motivations are pretty formulaic. The animation disappoints too. Set mainly in a couple of locations, it only ever feels like we see part of the world at play. There are also many shots with still and unmoving backgrounds with evidently most of the effort here placed into character design. The whole thing movies at an okay pace, but as a Ghibli film one does tend to expect more. (first viewing, online) ★
Michael (2011). Hit by a car and taken to hospital, an insurance worker begins to worry about the welfare of the child who he keeps locked in his basement in unusual drama from Austria. While much more happens, the accident is a pivotal point, highlighting just how much the child relies on the only person who knows that he is there in order to survive. The pair also share a curious, near symbiotic relationship, with the boy seemingly accepting of the situation and happy to go on outings with his captor without trying to flee. While all this begs for more detail, and the many unanswered questions are frustrating, the restraint in presenting so little is admirable. Almost everything in the film is conveyed through the power of suggestion with us, as viewers, left just as blind as all of the man's colleagues and relatives who assume that he is just a normal guy. (first viewing, online) ★★★
When Marnie Was There (2014). Sent to the countryside to convalesce with relatives, an adolescent girl befriends a mysterious girl who may or may not be a figment of her imagination in this Studio Ghibli drama. The ultimate mythology that the film spins feels way too complex, especially as the film progresses from a simple friendship, to more than just friends, to perhaps something slightly more twisted. Where the film comes alive is in its scenes of the two main characters bonding, playing and having fun together, all of which plays out against striking backdrops with lush colours. A strange mansion and foreboding silo also make for great locations, but it is not always easy to get onto the same wavelength as the characters due to the convoluted story. The film bears some similarities to Your Name, which handles a similarly complex plot more smoothly. (first viewing, online) ★★
Assassin of the Tsar (1991). Opening with a modern day Russian recounting how he assassinated a Tsar and how he himself subsequently died, this Soviet drama gets off to a nicely offbeat start. As it turns out, the raconteur is a mental patient, but as he develops stigmata-like wounds and scars identical to the men that he claims to be, could he be telling the truth? For a film with such a promisingly mysterious premise, this sadly does little with it. Rather than indulge in the "is he or isn't he?" dynamic, focus soon shifts to his narrated recollections of everything that transpired. On one hand, this gives a good historical insight with the grim Romanov assassinations handled particularly well as the protagonist and his comrades contend with killing children. On the other hand, nothing is ever as intriguing as the reincarnation possibilities that are barely explored. (first viewing, online) ★★
Zoology (2016). It sounds a lot like the Swedish film Border crossed with a body horror movie as this Russian drama focuses on a middle aged woman who inexplicably grows a tail, but the actual product is less interesting than its premise would seem to promise. Natalya Pavlenkova does well as the emotionally fragile protagonist, however, as the filmmakers avoid explaining how the tail formed as well as what it symbolically represents, the whole thing ends up feeling pointless and drawn out - like a short film unnecessarily expanded to feature length. There is certainly something going with social acceptance themes and ideas, however, her constantly bullying colleagues feel more like teenage pranksters than credible fellow middle aged administration workers. The inconclusive ending sort of works, but the emotional oomph is not really there. (first viewing, online) ★