The Week That Was, Issue 5

The Week That Was

November 23, 2015 – November 29, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

1) The Pursuit of Hippo-Ness (2015)

Why I watched: My friend Alan Franks made a film and I was invited to screen a rough cut of the film and give him some feedback.

Impression: Focused on a unique community founded on an obsessive love of hippopotami, this film is a great exploration of how we relate to other people, and the commodification of nature. It’s a fun look at obsession and how it can unite like-minded individuals.

3 stars.

2) The Decline of the American Empire (1986)

Why I watched: Included in the book 1001 Movies to See Before You Die.

Impression: It wanted to be a grand, eloquent statement about sexual relationships in the western world, but it’s a little whiny. These are all upper class individuals, who value their own needs and desires above their partners. They approach relationships for the most part with the mentality of what they can get from the other person. Focused on short-term gain, mostly sexual gratification, they don’t invest and work on their relationships.

Some of it has an intellectual, talky vibe it, but for the most part they seem like smarter versions of Sam Malone, a character motivated almost completely by his libido. The conversations were nice and occasionally illuminating, but mostly they were just trying to get in each other’s pants.

2 ½ stars.

3) Pride (2014)

Why I watched: Nominated for Best Musical or Comedy at the 72nd Golden Globes ceremony.

Impression: This was a great film about how hearts and minds are changed and how political alliances are about emphasizing common interests. Politics is almost always a trade-off; if you support us in this, we’ll support you in this, etc. I liked so many of the cast in this film, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, the always fantastic Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy. The only real problem I had was the film’s downplaying of the communist ties of LGSM founder Mark Ashton. His political activism and specifically his championing of labor rights were obviously tied to his communist activities. A brief mention would have given the movie more credibility. Leaving it out, opens the film up to criticism it was trying to mislead.

One of the interesting things about the film is it casts gay and lesbian rights as a specifically political movement. This film makes it clear, it is not only about acceptance but about having political power and clout.

Most films about sexual issues tend to focus on the underlying humanity of the characters, and while this is certainly at play here, the underlying theme of the movie is political power.


4) Streets of Crocodiles (1986)

Why I watched: MUBI’s films of the day.

Impression: It’s a twenty-minute animated homage to loneliness. The Quay Brothers are some of the most famous stop-animation and the film is visually impressive, but it didn’t engage me.

2 ½ stars.

Continue reading “The Week That Was, Issue 5”

The Quest — Episode 5

The Quest

Sorry for the long delay between episodes, but sometimes things can’t be helped.

The good news, while other podcasts slow down or take a break over the holidays, Ben and I are coming back with a vengeance with a full slate of podcasts coming at you over the next several weeks.

Today, while you’re fighting the after effects of a turkey induced coma, sit back and enjoy.

The Week That Was, Issue 4

The Week That Was

November 16, 2015 – November 22, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

1) Demon Seed (1977)

Why I watched: Facets was supposed to send me another disc, but sent me this instead.

Impression: Dr. Alex Harris develops an artificial intelligence program which predictably takes on a mind of its own and wants to create a child with his wife, Susan (Julie Christie). The comparisons to 2001 are inevitable and the film suffers because of it. There are a lot of films which do a better job with the same material.

2 ½ stars.

2) Limite (1931)

Why I watched: Included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Impression: A silent, experimental film about a couple in a row-boat. Through flashbacks, we get a glimpse of how they arrived at this moment. It’s pretty, but it’s hard to follow and probably about thirty minutes too long.

2 ½ stars.

3) The Cure (1917)

Why I watched: Still trying to watch at least ten movies released in every year of the twentieth century.

Impression: I’m a fan of his longer work, but Chaplin’s shorts are not as endearing. In this one, Charlie is an alcoholic who goes to a spa to dry out.

1 star.

4) Joan the Woman (1916)

Why I watched: MUBI’s film of the day.

Impression: The timeless story of Joan of Arc is motivation for British soldiers in World War I. Cecil B. DeMille does an excellent job with the venerable story, but I prefer the later adaptation by Carl Th. Dreyer.

3 stars.

Continue reading “The Week That Was, Issue 4”

Eleven years before the first NBA game, a look back at 1935

In 1935,

Bruno Hauptmann was convicted of kidnapping Charles Lindbergh Jr.,

The first canned beer was sold in the United States,

Parker Brothers began selling Monopoly,

The famously loyal dog Hachiko died,

Porky Pig debuted,

Persia was renamed Iran,

Fibber McGee and Molly premiered,

Sun Myung Moon claimed to experience a vision where he is chosen to complete the mission of Christ,

The first nighttime baseball game was played between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds,

Babe Ruth played in his last Major League Baseball game,

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded,

The first parking meters were installed in Oklahoma City,

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act,

Will Rogers was killed in a plane crash,

Carl Weiss assassinated Huey Long,

The Nuremberg Laws stripped German Jews of their citizenship,

The Melody Inn opened in Indianapolis,

Haile Selassie I was named Time’s Man of the Year,

Floyd Patterson, Elvis Presley, Bob Denver, the Amazing Kreskin, Gene Vincent, Sonny Bono, Jimmy Swaggart, Judd Hirsch, M. Emmett Walsh, Mahmoud Abbas, Herb Alpert, Dudley Moore, Charles Grodin, David Prowse, Jack Kemp, Donald Sutherland, Ron Paul, Frank Robinson, Ken Kesey, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Mathis, Julie Andrews, Bruno Sammartino, Luciano Pavarotti, Jerry Orbach, Peter Boyle, Bob Gibson, Woody Allen, Lee Remick, Paul Hornung, and Sandy Koufax were born,

While Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Jane Adams, Alfred Dreyfus, T.E. Lawrence, and Ma Barker died.

The following is a list of my favorite films released in 1935:

Continue reading “Eleven years before the first NBA game, a look back at 1935”

The Week That Was, Issue 3

The Week That Was

November 9, 2015 – November 15, 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

1) The Little Deputy (2015)

Why I watched: MUBI’s film of the day

Impression: This short is an effective look at regret and missed opportunities. It’s a clarion call for saying the things you need to say to those you love before it’s too late to do so.

3 stars.

2) Cross Creek (1983)

Why I watched: Rip Torn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Alfre Woodard was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Impression: Based on the memoir of Majorie Kinnan Rawlings, this film has a few worthwhile moments, but never finds an identity. Frustrated novelist Rawlings leaves New York to run an orange grove in Florida. Inspired by the people in rural Florida, she writes her most important novel, Jacob’s Ladder and The Yearling. Steenburgen, whom I normally love, is not believable as the rugged, determined novelist. Rip Torn is great as an alcoholic father, but I would have liked to have seen more of him. Alfre Woodard does a fine job as a poor black woman befriended by Rawlings, but their chemistry was not very good.

The film implies it was Rawlings independence which led to her becoming a successful novelist, but undercuts this with her marriage at the end. The romantic plot was an unnecessary diversion. The film is simultaneously about female empowerment and reaffirming traditional views. Never a good mix.

2 stars.

3) Throw of the Dice (1929)

Why I watched: Included in the book, 1001 Movies to See Before You Die.

Impression: Two Indian kings, Ranjit and Sohan, play a game of craps to decide who will marry Sunitra. Sohan uses loaded dice to rig the game. but when Sunitra discovers the deception and she winds up with the honorable Ranjit, who she loves.

It’s a very pretty film which captures the exotic beauty of the Indian countryside, but it’s an awfully flimsy film, and its straightforward narrative doesn’t really care very much for creating memorable characters.

1 ½ stars.

4) Shen nu (1934)

Why I watched: Included in the book, 1001 Movies to See Before You Die.

Impression: A despondent young woman turns to prostitution to provide for herself and her son. She sends her son to school so he can have a better life, but when other parents learn her profession, they force her to withdraw her son. When she learns her paramour has stolen the money she had been hiding for herself, she kills him and is imprisoned. She arranges for someone else to raise her son and asks he never be told about her.

It’s a powerful film about the cruelties of a harsh view of traditional morality. The star of the film, Ruan Lingu, became massively popular in China. Sadly, after unrelenting tabloid press regarding her personal life, she took her own life one year after this film premiered. She was 24 years old. Her life story retroactively imbues this story with a far greater poignancy.

3 stars.

5) Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916)

Why I watched: I want to watch at least ten movies in every year of the twentieth century.

Impression: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Mabel Normand had a very real and easy chemistry. This was far better than I anticipated, and the image of the two of them in a house that had been set to drift in the ocean is indelible. Very funny.

3 stars.

Continue reading “The Week That Was, Issue 3”

The Week That Was, Issue 2

The Week That Was

November 2, 2015 – November 8, 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015

1) Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Why I watched: It is on a list of the 1000 best reviewed films of the 21st century.

Impression: A very good movie about the horrendous treatment of Aborigines in 20th century Australia.

3 ½ stars.

2) Mabel’s New Hero (1913)

Why I watched: I’m trying to make sure I’ve seen at least ten films released every year of the twentieth century.

Impression: I like Fatty Arbuckle and think his story is one of the greatest tragedies in early Hollywood, and Mabel Normand is very good. Other than some nice set pieces with a hot air balloon, this was one of their least inspired collaborations.

1 star.

3) If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (2010)

Why I watched: MUBI’s film of the day.

Impression: A part of the Romanian new wave. This film about a trouble youth and his stint in a correctional facility was okay, but not particularly memorable.

1 ½ stars.

Continue reading “The Week That Was, Issue 2”

Welcome to the Atomic Age, a look back at 1945

In 1945:

FDR was inaugurated to his fourth term as US President and died soon after,

Harry Truman became the 33rd US President,

Anne Frank died,

The Yalta Conference took place,

The Battle of Iwo Jima occurred and the famous photo Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima was published,

The Academy Awards were broadcast on radio for the first time,

The Arab League was formed,

Sylvester the Cat debuted,

Benito Mussolini was executed,

Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun and committed suicide the next day,

The United Nations Charter was signed,

Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after the 1945 general elections,

The United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,

Mahatma Gandhi demanded all British troops leave India,

Women were allowed to vote in the French legislative election for the first time,

Ebony was published for the first time

The first cartoon featuring Casper, the Friendly Ghost premiered,

The Nuremberg Trials began,

The world’s first general purpose electronic computer, ENIAC went online,

Pippi Longstocking was first published,

In a radio program, Superman met Batman for the first time,

Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, Tom Selleck, Bob Griese, Bob Marley, Mia Farrow, John Heard, Micky Dolenz, Pat Riley, Walt Frazier, Eric Clapton, Peter Gammons, August Wilson, Rita Coolidge, Kurt Loder, Bob Seger, Keith Jarrett, Pete Townshend, John Fogerty, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Helen Mirren, George Pataki, Brenda Fricker, Carly Simon, Debbie Harry, Burt Ward, Dean Koontz, Jim Davis, Steve Martin, Vince McMahon, Van Morrison, Jose Feliciano, Phil Jackson, Don McLean, Dusty Rhodes, Brian Doyle-Murray, Neil Young, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Chris Matthews, Ernie Hudson, and Diane Sawyer were born,

While Eric Liddell, Ernie Pyle, JohnS. McCain Sr., Bela Bartok, George Patton, and Theodore Dresier died.

The following is a list of my ten favorite films released in 1945:

Continue reading “Welcome to the Atomic Age, a look back at 1945”

The Week That Was, Issue 1

Trying something new.

I still intend to write more lengthy reviews and post my best of lists, but those take a lot of time. In order to stay current, I’m posting a weekly update on what I’ve seen, why I watched each film, and my short initial impression.

The Week That Was

October 26, 2015 – November 1, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015

1) Empire of the Sun (1987)

Why I watched: Included in the IMDB top 1000; one of the few Spielberg films I haven’t seen.

Impression: Young Christian Bale is great. I love Miranda Richardson, but she’s wasted here. Malkovich is good, but doesn’t do anything spectacular. This film is too ambitious and tries to do way too much in two hours.

3 stars.

2) Decasia (2002)

Why I watched: In the National Film Registry.

Impression: Nice metaphor, using decaying silent film footage to comment on the passage of time, but it shouldn’t have been so long.

2 stars.

3) Joe Dirt (2001)

Why I watched: Have heard a lot about it, finally bit the bullet.

Impression: Exactly what you’d expect. Spade w/o Farley is not able to carry a feature film. There are a few moments, but not nearly enough.

2 stars.

4) The Son of the Sheik (1926)

Why I watched: In the National Film Registry.

Impression: Valentino is fine, but I prefer The Sheik (1921).

2 stars.

5) Back in Time (2015)

Why I watched: Netflix recommended + I love Back to the Future.

Impression: Great for fans of the movie. A few interesting tidbits. Fun to see how obsessed people can be.

3 stars.

6) Somers Town (2008)

Why I watched: MUBI’s film of the day.

Impression: This film about modern British life with the realities of multiculturalism didn’t do much for me.

2 ½ stars.

Continue reading “The Week That Was, Issue 1”