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Monthly Report: February 2013

As expected due to work, February was a drastic step back in terms of movie quantity to me. 13 new films seen, compared to January’s 42. Such is life. This month offered an even mix of the good and the bad.

Videocracy (Erik Gandini, 2009)
What happens to a country when its president owns 90% of its TV channels? Videocracy takes a look at Italy during media mogul Silvio Berlusconi’s reign as its leader, where TV is – seemingly – all lurid junk and everyone’s obsessed with celebrity. The depiction of Italian television prompts quite a few eyebrow-raising “Is this for real?” reactions in the early goings, but beyond the surface level, there really isn’t much to this documentary. Why not explain how Berlusconi could rise to power? Is there really no alternative to what he’s offering? The film grows less and less focused as it goes on, and there’s no real attempt at analyzing anything. This subject deserves a better film.
2/5

The Phantom of the Opera (Joel Schumacher, 2004)
I love musicals, but this was some pretty dull stuff. Some of the tunes are good, but there’s little emotion in the singing – or in the acting, for that matter. Gerard Butler in particular is an ill fit to play the Phantom, not managing to inject him with either danger or magnetism. The plot just goes on and on and on, and by the end of it, I had completely stopped caring. Nice sets, though.
2/5

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Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
Sometimes I hate writing these mini-reviews for comedies, because it feels like there’s not that much to say other than “it was funny” or “it was not that funny”. Well, this one was funny. Really damn funny. There’s also the much mentioned novelty factor of having a raunchy comedy like this centering around women, so that’s cool too. What really helps to push this one up to greatness levels is the emotional resonance it has regarding friendship, envy, adulthood, relationships and more. Tremendous. Kristen Wiig rules.
5/5

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
Certain movies you just keep hearing so much about that you start drawing incorrect conclusions about them. I actually expected to dislike this film. I had gotten the idea in my head that this was some dreadfully slow incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo. Which it isn’t. It’s a fascinating story, a true showcase of special effects and audio magic, and an experience quite of its own nature. I won’t pretend to entirely understand the meaning of the ending, but I believe it was Ingmar Bergman who said of his films that he didn’t care if you understood them, as long as they made you feel something. That definitely goes for this one. I wish I can see it on the big screen someday. That must be a trip.
4/5

North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
Another good Hitchcock thriller. I’ve come to expect no less from him. I enjoyed the humor in this one, as well as the overt chemistry between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. That finale is quite masterful, too.
4/5

Ip Man 2 (Wilson Yip, 2010)
A worthy follow-up to the first Ip Man film. The fight scenes are as cool and crisp as ever, Donnie Yen in the lead is still immensely likeable, and the story is solid indeed. The climactic fight is pretty great, thanks to a novel premise and a bad guy who you just long to see get his comeupance. This one’s an easy thumbs up.
4/5

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Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)
There’s some interesting notions going on in this film about the deterioration of civilized manners when man is under duress. The humor works for the most part too, but the story is ultimately a bit thin, and the pacing is uneven. I’d say all things considered, this is a good movie, but my least favorite Hitchcock so far.
3/5

Compliance (Craig Zobel, 2012)
It would be so very easy to dismiss the actions of the characters in this film as unbelievable, if not for the fact that this really did happen. Multiple times. With the film being, from what I’ve gathered, a very faithful recreation of one case of it. Mind-blowing, and crucial for the whole film to not buckle and collapse under the weight of the whole thing. There’s little wrong with the execution, and it’s a very compelling watch.
4/5

Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow, 2012)
“It could have been better” sounds like a negative thing to say about a film. I don’t think it necessarily is. Some mediocre movies are just as good as they could have ever hoped to be. There’s nothing there to make you think they could have been great. Time travel movie Safety Not Guaranteed, however, could definitely have been better. This is, in a way, a good thing, because it means there are great ideas and talent present here. If it had just been tighter and more focused thematically. If the sub-plot with Jake Johnson‘s asshole character had felt more relevant to the main story. If the tone of comedy had been more consistent throughout. If all these things had been, this could have been great. As it is, it’ll have to settle for good. It did make me want to learn to play the zither, though.
3/5

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Ruby Sparks (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, 2012)
A clever script and some thoughtfulness go a long way. An interesting and funny take on the idea of the perfect mate. Between this one and Little Miss Sunshine, it seems like Dayton and Faris are the ones who truly know how to get the best out of Paul Dano. He was great in LMS, and he’s great here too.
4/5

The House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009)
Cool little slow-burn horror film that emulates the look and feel of the genre of the 70s and 80s. The atmosphere and scares are mostly effective, but the climax can only be described as a letdown.
3/5

Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter (Fredrik Boklund, 2008)
A film about an incompetent reporter (Anders Jansson) who finds himself in the thick of a revolution in a north African country. This movie is a prime example of everything that’s wrong with Swedish comedy. Predictable jokes, one-dimensional characters, moronic plot, and not the tiniest hint of energy or an edge anywhere. Terrible.
1/5

Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)
Not my pick for Best Picture of the year, but a fine movie it was nonetheless. It’s a fascinating story, and the tension is ramped up very effectively as it builds to its climax. While I prefer Gone Baby Gone and The Town, this is yet another impressive directorial effort by Ben Affleck, who seemingly can do no wrong these days.
4/5

Total # of new films seen: 13
Average score: 3.3 / 5
Best film of the month: Bridesmaids
Worst film of the month: Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter

 
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Posted by on 28 February, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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My backlog for 2012

It’s getting to that time of the year where people start constructing their Top 10 lists of the best films from the past twelve months. I will of course not be doing this. Hell, I still haven’t gotten around to doing my 2011 list yet. You might remember a list I made back in January where I named all the 2011 films I wanted to see before I finalized my Top 10. Well, I still have eight movies or so left on that one.

Still, that’s no reason to not look to the future, or present, or what have you. I’m fantastically behind in my 2012 watching as well, as you can imagine, due to a combination of delayed Swedish release dates, laziness, and an ongoing desire to catch up with not just the newest stuff, but also 100+ years of cinema. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be ahead of the pack, but I’ll continue doing what I can to keep up.

Without further ado, here are the films I want to see before I put out my Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2012 list. Maybe they won’t be great, and maybe there are others I’ll see that will be, but this is my current personal check list. It could change in the future, I should point out. In alphabetical order:

Amour – because I ought to watch more Michael Haneke anyway.

Argo – because there is no reason to abandon the Ben Affleck train yet, considering how great Gone Baby Gone and The Town were.

Bachelorette – because I like comedy.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild – because of the image above.

The Campaign – because Will Ferrell is funny, and so is Zach Galifianakis.

Celeste and Jesse Forever – because it’s always interesting to see funny people branch out.

Cloud Atlas – because ambition should be rewarded.

Cockneys vs Zombies – because even if only a few people are talking about it, they all seem to love it.

Compliance – because the premise intrigues.

Cosmopolis – because a friend emphatically told me that it would be right up my alley.

Django Unchained – because it’s Quentin Tarantino. Duh.

end-of-watch-posterEnd of Watch – because it somehow seems unfair to watch Rampart without seeing this one too.

Flight – because it’s Robert Zemeckis doing live action.

For a Good Time Call – because, much to my perplexity, someone told me I might possibly love it.

Frankenweenie – because in the middle of working on this blog post, I took a break to listen to the Oscar Talk podcast, and they had a lot of compelling praise for this one.

Hitchcock – because The Remains of the Day recently reminded me of what an amazing actor Anthony Hopkins is.

Holy Motors – because I have no idea what to expect from it.

Hyde Park on Hudson – because no matter how mediocre critical and public response has been, it’s still Bill Murray.

Killer Joe – because everyone seems to dig it.

Les Misérables – because big musicals need to bounce back from some critical duds the last few years, and being a fan of the genre, I will gladly support this endeavor.

Life of Pi – because the religious aspects seem to be something everyone likes, which is quite frankly insane. When have people ever agreed on anything religion-related before?

Magic Mike – because it’s Steven Soderbergh. And because Kevin Nash is in it.

The Master – because I was only missing Hard Eight to complete Paul Thomas Anderson‘s filmography, and I won’t let this one ruin my percentage.

Nicole-Kidman-in-The-PaperboyThe Paperboy – because there has to be something to all these award nominations Nicole Kidman keeps scoring, no?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – because I’ve been confusing it with On the Road for quite some time, and I’ve seen that one now.

Premium Rush – because someone made an off-hand comparison of it to Crank, which I fucking love.

Safety Not Guaranteed – because it’s time travel.

Savages – because it looks so vibrant and colorful.

Searching for Sugar Man – because it’s supposedly one of the best documentaries of the year, and I like good documentaries.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – because of the basic idea.

The Sessions – because the story sounds like something I’ve never seen before, and because it’s John Hawkes in a rare leading role.

Seven Psychopaths – because In Bruges was great, and the cast is promising indeed.

Silver Linings Playbook – because when awards bodies start paying attention to comedies, it’s usually a sign that I’ll love the movie in question.

Skyfall – because it’s Sam Mendes.

Take This Waltz – because 1) it’s Michelle Williams, and 2) see the note on Celeste and Jesse Forever.

This is 40 – because I’m not yet even remotely tired of Judd Apatow.

Wreck-It Ralph – because in addition to being a movie lover, I’m also a gamer.

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Is there anything else from 2012 that I really desperately absolutely ought to check out? What 2012 film do you still feel like you need to see?

 
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Posted by on 15 December, 2012 in Lists

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2002

After the somewhat weak year that was 2003, we come to 2002. What is there to say about this year? Not much. It was a good year, thus making for a solid top 10. So with little to pontificate about regarding 2002, I’d like to take this space to talk about the fleeting nature of these lists.

I am by no means done with any year film-wise. Not yet, and I don’t think I ever will be. There are always more movies to see, from critically hailed modern classics to gems that have gotten lost in the shuffle and are waiting to be discovered. So it’s no wonder that the lists can get slightly dated with time. Not just in terms of the ranked order (which can change from day to day), but also in which films are included. For example, I hadn’t seen A Single Man when I made my 2009 list, but if I had, it would definitely have made the cut. The same goes for the wonderful documentary Best Worst Movie. Rather than going back to updating the lists when necessary, I’m fine with just leaving them as they are. All lists are windows into brief moments in time. “This is how Emil felt on this day”, is what they proclaim. Even if I see some 2002 movie later this week that would make the cut for this list, it doesn’t change the fact that this here is a collection of 10 movies I really enjoyed. To offer a general view of what kind of films I like has always been the purpose of these lists, and this goal is still accomplished by leaving them as they are.

So now, on to the list for 2002. As always, this goes by the release dates listed on IMDB.

10 – CHANGING LANES (Roger Michell)

“I can live with myself because at the end of the day I think I do more good than harm. What other standard have I got to judge by?”

Two strangers collide in a traffic accident. One is a lawyer at the cusp of his big break, the other a recovering alcoholic trying to gain custody of his children. The meeting causes a delay for both of them, setting them off on a spiralling path through the day where both will try to exact revenge on each other and struggle with determining who is right and who is wrong. A cleverly written film where we can sympathize with both sides of a conflict. Ben Affleck puts in one of his best performances, while Samuel L. Jackson is as fun as always.

9 – ONE HOUR PHOTO (Mark Romanek)

“No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”

A thriller that really gets under your skin, through a protagonist who’s troubled both psychologically and socially. Loner Sy (played expertly by a subdued Robin Williams) lives through the photos he developes for his customers, experiencing their joys that he himself has none of in his own life. But when he discovers that injustice is done to people he care about, he gradually snaps. It’s a story of morality and a reminder of how little we know of others, of the things we keep from them ourselves, and of how the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

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Posted by on 9 January, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2007

Ah, 2007. Here’s a strong candidate for my favorite film year of the 00s. A ridiculously large amount of great films arrived this year, leading to a really wonderful selection on this list. The #10 on this list could beat the crap out of most other #10s of the decade.

I normally don’t do honorable mentions, but I really do need to give a shout-out to Persepolis, a lovely animated autobiographical film about a girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It was originally on this list, and I had its entry written up and everything. But just last week, I discovered the film that ended up on #9 here, and thus Persepolis got bumped off. Very sad. If you haven’t seen it, you really ought to.

As usual, this is 2007 strictly as listed by IMDB. Also, this is a list of my favorite films of the year, and nothing more.

10 – NOTHING IS PRIVATE (TOWELHEAD, Alan Ball)

“See, the mark of intelligence, Gail, is having the capacity of holding two conflicting ideas in your head at one time.”

This is a film I found great, yet I have little desire to revisit it anytime soon. It’s a rough watch likely to make you squirm, about a young teenage girl who has lived her whole life with her American mother in New York but is now sent to Texas to stay with her Lebanese dad. The culture clash mixes with her sexual awakening to create an uncomfortable (in a good way) story, and director Alan Ball (who wrote American Beauty) wisely sprinkles it with some black humor to make it go down easier. Summer Bishil is effective in the lead, but it’s the supporting turns by Aaron Eckhart, Peter Macdissi and Toni Collette that leave real lasting impressions.

9 – TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE (Alex Gibney)

“If you weren’t a terrorist when you came here, you sure would be when you leave.”

A horrifying documentary on the torture and interrogation techniques used by the US during the War on Terror. But it goes beyond mere shock effects and investigates what made people carry them out and why and how they were put in place. Not a pleasant watch, but an important film. Michael Moore wishes he could make me dislike the Bush administration as much as this movie did.

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Posted by on 25 October, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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