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50 MORE Things I Love About Films

Well over a year ago, I wrote a post called 100 Things I Love About Films on my old blog, which I later reposted here at A Swede Talks Movies. This is the sequel, adding 50 more things to the original 100. I’ve tried to avoid repeating movies and actors I mentioned in that first post, though a few have slipped through anyhow.

Credit for the original concept goes to Beau Kaelin. Thanks also to gentleman and scholar Travis McClain for bringing the idea to my attention. The original description:

Rather than posting your 100 favorite films (which has been done and overdone), you simply post your favorite things about movies.  I dig the concept, because instead of obsessing over whether the films you put on a list are “objectively good enough” to put on said list, you simply jot down 100 moments/lines/visuals that have made a lasting impression on you or sneak their way into running gags between you and your friends. Just read below and you’ll get the idea.

Why only 50 this time instead of 100? Because… quality over quantity? Yes. Let’s go with that.

1. Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves, the fear and agony on her face raw enough to make me gasp in sympathy.

2. The wonderfully trashy dialogue in Bitch Slap. I love the fact that someone actually put the words “Lube my boob, skank twat” to paper.

3. Natalie Portman‘s joy-stricken face when she phones her mother from the bathroom stall in Black Swan.

4. Michelle Williams‘ dorky dance in Blue Valentine.

5. When actors produce their own films, showing a real desire to have the movies made.

6. The brief cameo by Jason Statham reprising his role from The Transporter at the beginning of Collateral. Crossover stuff of that nature should happen more often.

7. The 20th Century Fox fanfare.

8. Robin Williams capping off his love declaration in The Fisher King with the words “But I still don’t drink coffee”.

9. The shot of the sugar lump in Three Colors: Blue.

10. Watching Casablanca for the first time and finally getting some context for all the well-quoted lines of dialogue. “Round up the usual suspects” put a big smile on my face.

11. Penelope Cruz performing A Call From the Vatican in Nine. I don’t mean to sound crass, but… hubba hubba.

12. The chase sequence through the construction site in the 2006 Casino Royale.

13. The Remains of the Day lunch box in Waiting for Guffman.

14. The whole sequence with the trunk in The Ice Harvest. Great mix of tension and humor.

15. Kat Dennings trying to pronounce Mjölnir in Thor. “What’s Myeh-myeh” indeed.

16. Danny DeVito trying to look scary to John Travolta in Get Shorty.

17. Sven Nykvist‘s gorgeous cinematography in Persona. I’ve never seen black & white look better.

18. Mark Ruffalo‘s “Why the fuck did I just say that?” grimace after stating that he loves lesbians in The Kids Are All Right.

19. Speaking of Ruffalo: The Hulk in The Avengers. Every awesome second of him.

20. When a movie just leaves me completely baffled about whether I like it or not, or whether it even matters. It’s annoying too in a way, but I love how it questions the very idea of why I watch films and what I take away from them. Funny Games would be a recent example of this kind of movie for me.

21. The ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Teriffic execution of a sequel hook.

22. Those performances that become so utterly convincing that my brain eventually has to break me out of the trance by going “Uh, Emil, you do know that this is an actor playing a character, right? It’s not a real person.” And then I go “Shut the fuck up, brain.” A recent example: Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story.

23. Seeing an actor I’ve never heard of before in a film and immediately wanting to find out what else they have been in since they’re so good.

24. The climax of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, a sequence that tops anything else in either of Guy Ritchie‘s Sherlock films.

25. Tippi Hedren waiting outside the schoolhouse in The Birds. Cue me gasping for breath and muttering “Oh shit…”

26. Kirsten Dunst looking stunning in the wedding dress in Melancholia.

27. Hugo reminding me that 3D can indeed be used to great effect. Thank you, Martin Scorsese.

28. Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Absolutely jaw-dropping.

29. The scene in 50/50 where Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes in for surgery and suddenly realizes that he might never wake up again.

30. Michelle Duncan‘s adorable Scottish accent in Driving Lessons.

31. This exchange in The Fugitive: “I didn’t kill my wife!” “I don’t care!”

32. The opening of Grave of the Fireflies. It’s good on the first watch, but it’s heart-breaking on a rewatch.

33. The lone penguin wandering off towards the mountains and certain death in Werner Herzog‘s Encounters at the End of the World.

34. The dream-like atmosphere of Robert Altman‘s Images. The kind of stuff that makes you realize how inaccurately the term “dream-like” tends to get thrown around.

35. Ellen Page in Juno. And Jennifer Garner. And Jason Bateman. And Allison Janney. And J.K. Simmons. And everyone else.

36. ))<>(( from Me and You and Everyone We Know.

“What business is it of yours where I’m from… friendo?”

 

37. The tense scene in No Country for Old Men where Javier Bardem makes the gas station attendant call a coin flip.

38. Seeing a scene that for some reason doesn’t work for me, only to much later have a revelation on what it meant. Guaranteed to make me love the part next time I watch the film.

39. Everything about Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich, but particularly her dismissive reactions to everything John Cusack says and does in the early goings.

40. Uggie playing dead in The Artist.

41. The meet-cute between Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent at the costume party in Beginners.

42. This poster for 127 Hours.

43. The entire showdown between Uma Thurman and David Carradine in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Had me at the edge of my seat when I first watched it.

44. The very recognizable video game scene in Swingers.

45. Brad Pitt‘s ridiculous accent when speaking Italian in Inglourious Basterds.

46. The suffocating atmosphere of Seven.

47. The big fight on the rope bridge in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

48. George Clooney‘s fine-tuned and low-key performance in The American.

49. Robert Downey Jr. sucking at math in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

50. Shea Whigham‘s brief part in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, repeatedly uttering “Whoa!” in the funniest fashion.

 
11 Comments

Posted by on 22 May, 2012 in Lists

 

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Review – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

It seems difficult to review a James Bond movie in a vacuum. There always have to be comparisons to previous and future installments. What does it do differently? What’s the same? How’s this Bond actor compared to the others? As such, it seems relevant to point out that I’m not overly familiar with the franchise. I watched some Bond films back when I was younger, but I don’t remember much of them, save for GoldenEye though admittedly more due to the Nintendo 64 game than the film itself. Since my cinematic awakening a few years ago, I have revisited GoldenEye and seen Casino Royale (the recent one), Octopussy and Live and Let Die for (I think) the first time. Casino Royale is my favorite of these, in large parts due to its effort to humanize Bond. I have little love for the Moore films and their focus on comedy. I have little memory of seeing any of the Sean Connery films. There. That’s my prior experience with Bond.

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond (George Lazenby) isn’t immediately tasked with saving the world. Instead, the plot focuses on his relationship with Tracy (Diana Rigg), a rebellious woman whom Bond saves from a suicide attempt in the opening scene of the film. After a few more encounters with her, he is contacted by her father Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), head of a Corsican crime syndicate. Draco wants Bond to keep romancing Tracy in order to provide stability and control to her tumultuous life. Reluctant at first, Bond eventually agrees when he in exchange is promised information that might lead him to the whereabouts of his arch-enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas). Blofeld is eventually revealed to have another sinister plan in the making, this time determined to blackmail the world with the threat of a sterility virus that could knock out entire species of plants and animals.

Barring the non-canon Casino Royale from 1967, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first James Bond film not to have Sean Connery in the role of 007. Reviews at the time generally weren’t kind to Lazenby’s effort here compared to the original Bond. I’m coming from the opposite direction and have recently watched Roger Moore in the role, and I think Lazenby does an acceptable job. His Bond is not quite as charming as other portrayals of the character, but he brings an effective vulnerability to the part. He’s not infallible. Lazenby handles the action scenes particularly well. It’s fun to watch him fight, while he also makes sure to convey a sense of danger to the proceedings. Lazenby originally signed on for seven films, but following the advice of his agent, he announced during shooting that this would be his only Bond movie. A shame, as while there is some stiffness to his acting, there’s enough promise here to make me believe he would have grown into the role with time.

The brunt of the movie is set in and near a ski resort in the Swiss Alps, where 007 infiltrates Blofeld’s secret base. This setting allows for a number of exciting action scenes. Skis, avalanches, cable cars and bob sleighs all come into play, and there’s also a pretty great chase sequence at a stock car race. The director, Peter Hunt, had worked as editor on the previous five Bond films, and this experience pays off here as the action is fast, impactful and exciting to behold. Rather than relying on gadgets and trickery, Bond here has to use his physicality instead. Barring some obvious bluescreen work at times, most of the action scenes stuff would hold up well in modern films.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is noteworthy for having a Bond girl that Bond actually falls in love with, to the point where he’s prepared to abandon his life as a secret agent for her. This romance is perhaps not handled as well as it could have been. We get a montage as he and Tracy start dating, but there’s not much real spark there. Bond is back to his womanizing ways soon after. Eventually there is realization and declaration of love, and while this works nicely, it would have been better had there been a bit more groundwork laid. Just a shot of Bond’s troubled face after one of his conquests to show the effect that Tracy has had on him would have gone a long way. No matter. I bought into the relationship as the film reached its climax, and the emotional payoff is certainly there at the teriffic ending.

I really enjoyed this movie. Much like Casino Royale, it manages to make James Bond a real human character rather than just an invincible super agent. The villains are effective and memorable, both Savalas’ Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat). I was entertained throughout, and the ending really made me want to find out what would happen to 007 next. This is something neither of the Roger Moore films I’ve seen recently has managed. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ranks among my favorite Bond movies seen so far.

Score: 4/5

 
7 Comments

Posted by on 12 April, 2012 in Reviews

 

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The Films I Watched In 2011 Awards

As the year is approaching its end, it’s customary for bloggers and critics alike to do a top ten list of the best movies of the year. I won’t be doing that, because I haven’t seen nearly enough films of 2011 yet. A list like that from me is still a good half year away from meaning anything. So rather than reflecting strictly on the films released this year, I’d like to reflect on all the films I saw this year.

Thus, I present A Swede Talks Movies’ The Films I Watched In 2011 Awards! Or ASTMTFIWI2K11A, if you’re into the whole brevity thing. A bunch of random categories will be conjured for whatever films I feel like singling out for one reason or another.

This year I watched 229 movies I hadn’t seen before, from 19 different countries with release dates spanning from 1925 to 2011. A lot of it is from recent years, but I did check out a couple of older “you haven’t seen that one!?” flicks too. I saw my first ever films from Belgium, Brazil, Greece and Russia (Ben X, City of God, Dogtooth and Night Watch, respectively). I saw my first ever Charlie Chaplin movie (The Gold Rush) and got my first glimpse of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. I watched highly regarded classics like Casablanca, The French Connection and the Alfred Hitchcock films Vertigo and Rear Window, as well as newer stuff like the brunt of the Best Picture Oscar nominees from the last ceremony. I saw great films like Man on Wire and A Single Man, and I saw crap like Season of the Witch.

For these awards, I’m only counting films I saw for the first time in 2011. Rewatches need not apply.

And now, on with the show!

Most Eyebrow-Raising “And Introducing” Credit Award
Winner: Kate Winslet – Heavenly Creatures

It kind of feels like Kate Winslet has been around forever, always turning in great performances. And yet there she was in Peter Jackson‘s teen murder drama Heavenly Creatures, her arrival on the big screen loudly heralded in the opening credits. As for the performance itself? A bit rough around the edges perhaps, but full of energy and enthusiasm.

Best Use Of A Urinating Baby Award
Winner: Hard-Boiled

Hard-Boiled was pretty kick-ass all around and could have gotten a shout-out for plenty of different things. But that baby putting out a fire by wetting himself really stood out. Patently ridiculous, but so good.

“What’s The Big Deal?” Award for A Beloved Film That Left Me Underwhelmed
Winner: Carrie
Runner-up: Withnail & I

While I did like Withnail & I less than Carrie, that one seems to be more of a cult classic than anything. Carrie has more wide-spread acclaim, which made it all the more disappointing to me. I’ve had more fun discussing the film with people afterwards than I had watching it.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
39 Comments

Posted by on 27 December, 2011 in Year End Awards

 

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