Let me ruin storytelling for you: if bad things are happening now, good things will happen by the end. The opposite is also true. The End.
— Seth Lochhead (quote reblogged from wildfiremovies)
Recently I’ve discovered a film critic who I trust. I might not share her opinion on all films, and she is a major horror fan whereas I shudder at the wind, but she watches her films similarly as I do. With a bit of salt.
The quote above and quite a few movie suggestions for my to-see list (another list I could share with you if you ask nicely) have been taken from her blog wildfiremovies. Her name is Hermione Flavia and she has an interesting list of 105 films that you have to see even though she didn’t like all of them.
I’m not going to ruin any storytelling or films for you, but it’s time to tell you which films I have seen since my last post on the subject, and how I liked them.
It’s been almost four months, so there are many. They are roughly divided into five categories of similar likeability. Then there are special groupings, such as documentaries or revisits.
For some of these titles I’m grateful to you, my blogger friends. You are always invited to give me your favourites in a comment to my Movielist, where my all-time favourites are listed (it needs updating too).
Category 1: The hard-hitting favourites. 16 most loved films viewed in last four months, ordered roughly by loving.
- Arrival: My kind of a mind-fuck. Gentle. It shows this world a direction to take. Mr. Villeneuve is the director who does things differently.
- Detachment: I’ve seen this one a while ago but Mr. Brody is still roaming my mind. It’s a story from a parallel reality of unprivileged schools but you have no doubts this is just how it goes.
- Elle (France): I don’t know how Ms. Huppert does it. She keeps showing us all kinds of women with such ease. In this one she is far from likeable but we understand.
- Take Shelter: What a ride! You want to crawl into the screen or far away, depending on your fight or flight response. But this man is in a serious jam: how to tell them that “There is a stooooooorm coming!”
- Sicario: I might have chosen this one for the “sick” in the title. Serves me right. Again, you have no doubt this is just how it goes. Mr. Del Toro is here to confirm that movie characters have lately much improved on their humanity: nobody is just bad or good anymore. Mr. Villeneuve again at the wheel.
- Nocturnal Animals: A recent watch. I like it how they glued three timelines together. Mr. Gyllenhaal is here as a character in his own script, and Ms. Amy Adams, who is reading it, again shows how acting has improved in the last decade. Or is it roles?
- Toni Erdmann (Germany): A German powerhouse. Everybody with a father will get it. Some hilarity towards the end.
- Loving: Such gentle films all of a sudden, even if they are about rough times or circumstances. This is the real story of the first mixed marriage in the USA and you can feel all the love. Director, Mr. Nichols, did Take Shelter as well.
- Moonlight: See above. A gentle film with bruises. I was truly happy it won out that Oscar after all. In the movie industry something is moving in the direction of yes.
- Blue Ruin: If this is not a mirror of a nation, I don’t know what is. Have a look and then stop doing it.
- I, Daniel Blake: A mirror of another nation. Director, Mr. Loach, is a long-time mirrorist of British working class. This feels personal, as if we’re all getting there. What will your graffiti be?
- Black Swan: I only saw it now. Ms. Portman gives it all. The others are grand as well. And then we all die a little.
- Source Code: Is he in every movie or I just happened to see them all now? Mr. Gyllenhaal in a wicked story we better hope doesn’t come true.
- The Lobster: An odd one out. Not for everybody. What would you say if the film threatened to turn all single people into an animal of their choice? And Mr. Colin Farrell said lobster?
- The Infiltrator: A strong true story with great cast about an undercover agent who brought down Escobar’s money launders.
- Perfetti sconosciuti (“Perfect Strangers”, Italy): A bunch of friends, mostly married couples, play a game in which they agree to leave their phones on the table during dinner and read aloud all incoming messages. Would you play? I bet the American version is in the works already.
Category 2: I loved watching these, just not quite as much as the ones above.
- Spotlight: A hard subject well done. Mr. Ruffalo is a bit all over the place. I just hope things have changed.
- Still Alice: A hard subject to watch for someone who sometimes misspells the simplest words and can’t tell. Ms. Moore does everything right, except follow those instructions.
- The Red Turtle: A cartoon without words but it leaves a rich, lasting impression.
- Prisoners: Another Villeneuve. And guess what, another Gyllenhaal. A hard subject of missing girls done painfully well.
- Django Unchained: The favourite recent Tarantino. I remembered why I loved his early ones so much. Mr. Waltz steals the entire period.
- Zvizdan (“The High Sun”, Croatia): Three post-Balkans war stories. Eye-opening for all who don’t know.
- Ex Machina: An artificial intelligence film with plenty of interpretations. Which is yours? If you ask me, there are no women in this film. Men build machines and then wonder why.
- Hachi: A Dog’s Tale: Watch only if you really wish to cry. Mr. Gere finds a dog. Dogs shouldn’t live as long as humans.
- The Perfect Host: A little film put together on a weekend, or so it seems. An idea is all it takes. And a good lead.
- The Imitation Game: A real story about Alan Turing, father of computers, and the Enigma code. Mr. Cumberbatch transports us into the war period and then we all suffer.
- Bogowie (“Gods”, Poland): Another real story, of a surgeon who performed the first heart transplant in Poland, and the circumstances in which they had to work. The lead actor is a darling.
- Nightcrawler: It’s Mr. Gyllenhaal’s excellent subdued acting that makes this grim tale work. So painfully real that you wish to smack him. (And because he is everywhere. It’s not that he is so versatile!)
- Limitless: All kinds of moods in this one. Don’t know if the right one was chosen for the ending. I’d say enjoyable if it wasn’t about drugs.
Two necessary documentaries:
- Racing Extinction: This one makes it as clear that no happy ending is in sight as does daily news, or Requiem for a Dream.
- Where to Invade Next: Mr. Moore clearly chooses examples that fit his intentions (in the case of Italy especially) but since the intentions are good, we chuckle at the comparisons he draws because we are Europeans and we can. Especially those pencil-manufacturing Germans are glorious.
Category 3: A bit too depressing or not quite as strong as the ones above but still worthwhile.
- Never Let Me Go: I was told to read the book. Of course. On it. Aren’t you always sorry for having watched the film first? Now the spectre of Ms. Knightley will haunt my reading. (There is something very memorable about her.)
- The Machinist: Mr. Bale is extremely painful to watch. But kind of mind-bending.
- Things to Come (“L’avenir”, France-Germany): I love Ms. Huppert, she always crawls under your skin. Here you suffer too much with her and wish to rock her to sleep.
- Hadersfild (Serbia): This one you can see on YouTube (not sure about subtitles). It shows you just how it is, and is therefore correspondingly painful. The title is Huddersfield in Serbian write-as-you-speak. (If you want even more Serbian painfulness and fucked-upness, watch A Serbian Film. I’m not even giving it a separate bullet-point. That’s why Slovenia was happy to secede.)
- Exam: A bit of overacting (even though Mr. Luke Mably could become a new favourite, I remember him from The Gates). And the plot goes whaaaat too often, no matter how much I wished for this film to work.
- Enemy: If you absolutely adore Mr. Gyllenhaal, here is a double portion. Shot by Mr. Villeneuve who did Arrival. This one I didn’t quite embrace, too forced.
- The Social Network: Well. He invented Facebook, what can you expect? To root for him?
- The Hateful Eight: A bit loaded and theatrical, but still cool, it’s Tarantino after all. No matter how much it’s clearly just about the kicks.
- The Beatles: Eight Days a Week: Frankly, I forgot most of it already, even though I remember enjoying watching it.
Category 4: Not really in-depth stuff but still fun.
- Florence Foster Jenkins: It’s sad, that’s what it is. Ms. Streep is too good again. And I’m finally warming up to Mr. Grant’s acting. Still, I was suffering a little.
- Now You See Me: Old school trickster movie. Fun enough that I’ll be watching part 2 as well.
- 500 Days of Summer: Not very memorable, I’m afraid. I forgot all about it. A kind of innocent dating comedy. But it must have felt good watching it or I’d stop midway.
- The Last Five Years: I watched it only because a blogger said I have to. (That’s you, A Faraway Home!) It would be a whole other story if only they wouldn’t keep bursting into singing. If you can go around that, you’ll get pulled deeper.
- The Other Final: I’m putting it here only because I was unable to find the last part anywhere online and so was left hanging. It’s got the warmth and the feels and is one of those documentaries that restores faith in humanity (unless it ends badly!).
Two films clearly not meant for me (I was never a comic strip fan) that I still kinda enjoyed, because of the actors:
- Doctor Strange: Mr. Cumberbatch
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Ms. Johansson + Mr. L. Jackson
Category 5: Not really necessary viewings.
Three examples of films with which Hollywood has killed it for me for about a decade during which I watched none:
- Eat Pray Love: Okay, it’s cute, there is Italy, and Mr. Bardem is a huge addition (I hear it didn’t work with the guy he portrayed either, aaah), but why keep it on such a fluffy level?
- The Secret Life of Pets: a typical instance of I-loved-those-trailers-what-the-hell-did-they-do-to-the-rest-of-the-thing? As long as an entire industry relies on the first weekend, the viewers are doomed.
- World Trade Center: Mr. Stone did this one but it’s as if he hadn’t.
Two weird examples of re-shooting my favourite movies (can you please stop doing that?):
- 13: French-Georgian black&white movie shot again in English by the original director in colour.
- Funny Games US: Austrian movie shot again in English by the original director. (Why, Mr. Haneke? And If you cast Mr. Roth, he should be a villain! I know the villains were too young, but so what?)
Two philosophical waxings:
- Examined Life: the real deal. I mean, interviews with philosophers.
- Waking Life: a caricature. I mean, a cartoon. I almost fell asleep for good.
Two re-visits of old favourites:
- V for Vendetta: Just as good as I remember it. See it if you feel dead.
- Lock Stock and Two Broken Barrels: A tad too old for it now but I’ll always get a kick out of it.
The bottom line is: Why do I like to suffer so much? But I don’t think I do – I think the actors suffer so that I don’t have to, and I thank them for that.
Looking forward to all the next ones, but in the meantime here is our household’s favourite Italian Caparezza telling who his winner is. Also, in this song he discloses endings of several films but I won’t be too specific. Just listen (but it’s in Italian). At the end of Marley and Me, alas, the dog dies.