In my vow to pick up in blog activity and film watching, I offer my thoughts on my cinematic adventures of the first 31 days of 2015. It was, as the title suggests, a month driven and inspired by musical films. By that I mean motion pictures that either have music or musical talent at its center, or that utilize the world of music as an inspiration and a driving force to the central story arc.
In the last two months I’ve seen 26 films, but only a handful of which I would consider watching again. It was a particularly poor couple of months in terms of quality and quantity that I will hopefully begin to fix with the swarm of great films that have come out to theaters or that will be coming before the year is out. I can’t remember the last time I was as excited as I am today with the group of films that are hitting theaters within the next few weeks.
For now, here is a recap of the 26 films I managed to watch between October & November (in the order in which they were seen), while a great deal of my time was devoted to countless hours of catching up with Breaking Bad (finally got to the last season).
May and June have now passed. The summer seems to be already on its way out and The Blog of Big Ideas is ready to post a bi-monthly recap of all of the films covered since May 1st. 23 films in total but only three are in the running to the shortlist of the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Best Films Ever.
Here they are in the order in which they were watched:
IMDB TOP 250: LA CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
One of the most celebrated films of the 1990s is a sophisticated crime thriller reminiscent of the film noir era.
With the help of an excellent cast led by the stand-out performance of Kim Bassinger, LA Confidential is a film about deception, corruption, greed, love and the advent of the sensationalist press that still feels relevant today.
Full of twists and surprises, the film is a lot of fun to watch, inviting for repeat viewing. Perhaps not deserving of such high marks on IMDB, but highly recommended nonetheless.
♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦
LA VIE EN ROSE (2007)
A great biopic with a wonderful lead performance by Marion Cotillard. Find my full review here
♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992)
A one-of-a-kind script brought to life by one hell of a cast. Find my full review here
SMOKIN’ ACES (2006)
There is something about the charicaturesque ensemble of characters and the often ridiculous proportions of the action that make Smoking Aces a satisfying experience, especially if it is seen on a big screen and with the volume turned up.
Occasionally it takes itself a bit too seriously, pausing for dramatic effect to disappointing results. The film does best when it sticks to its over-the-top antics and improbable set of circumstances. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.
During the past 3 slow months worth of blogging, I have seen many different films that have not enjoyed the benefit of a review. To try to catch up I offer a long collection of small reviews of most of the films I have watched in the last three months that did not get a review until now. A total of 24 films, a couple of which will get longer in-depth reviews. The highlights of the list are Weekend and Sunshine, both very different but very pleasant surprises.
I apologize in advance if this gets a little long. Enjoy:
The French Connection (1971)
Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey
Director: William Friedkin
Writers: Ernest Tidyman, Robin Moore (original novel), Howard Hanks
Rating: 3.5/5 (good)
Starring Gene Hackman in a now famous role as tough cop Jimmy Doyle, The French Connection is an intense thriller that takes place in the harsh New York winter of 1970.
Most of the success of the film is due to its intensity and realism, displaying some of the most exciting chase sequences ever put on film. These have surprisingly lost little of their power over time, feeling current even today (minus antiquated vehicles and fashion). The cast is also excellent, further enriching the well-crafted dynamic between cops, informants, low-lives and criminals. I just wish the film had focused less on the details and intricacies of case-solving and criminal chasing and more on character-building.
It is, like every random list you might find in the web, subject to personal taste. It is also a list that is impaired by the absence of some of the films that were considered among the best in the last full calendar year of movies among which are titles like The King’s Speech (Oscar winner for Best Picture) and True Grit. However, I can assure you that my analysis is based on a passionate interest in film, having spent an infinite amount of hours watching countless amounts of movies, reading film criticism, listening to interviews made to some of the best exponents of the medium, and having spent enough time to interpret and dissect what I had the pleasure (or displeasure) of watching.
My rating system will be based on a scale of 0 to 5. The higher the number, the better the movie.
A score of 5 will be extremely rare as it is reserved to those movies that I consider “fantastic” and pretty much “flawless”. Less rare but still very difficult to come by will be those with a score of 4.5 which would be just a step bellow, in the realm of “masterpiece”. The great and really good movies will mostly fall under a score of 4 to 3.5. Scores falling between 3 and 2.5 will be considered acceptable and average respectively. Once we hit 2 and 1.5 we are talking about movies with very few redeemable qualities that are poor in various aspects. Anything bellow that, well, it’s simply horrible.
Here are my picks for the ten best pictures of 2010 and a brief summary of what made them so great:
1. Inception (4.5) : a highly complex story that surprises, entertains and stimulates all of your senses. It is not only highly original material, but it’s a blockbuster that does not over-rely in the usual niches of action/thrillers. The film moves with amazing pace. It’s restless, emotional, intense and incredibly smart. The product could have been awful, but instead it was the finest work Christopher Nolan has ever produced.
2. Toy Story 3 (4.5): the very emotional end to the saga that defined and created the most consistent studio of the last 15 years: Pixar. It is a fit ending for a trilogy that connected with audiences of all ages because its message relates to everyone who has ever experienced friendship and camaraderie.
3. The Social Network (4): a fascinating story about the rise and fall of the minds behind the biggest social networking site in the world: Facebook. The script moves ahead with audacity and intensity. The casting was bold and inspired. Most importantly though, the movie resonated with moviegoers and critics alike for its raw and sometimes tragic portrait of a generation so consumed by technology that it has started to forget what makes us human.
4. Black Swan (4): despite being a very predictable story, this film delivers constant thrills. Visually, the movie has a stunning mysterious and tragic aura that greatly enhances the effect of the story. The acting was, without question, sensational, elevating the film with every gesture and every detail.
5. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (3.5): Hilarious. Visually rich and extremely original.
6. Salt (3.5): explosive, incredibly intense and with enough twists and turns to keep you at the edge of your seat. Angeline Jolie once again shows her unmatched ability to play an action heroine in a role that thrills and engages.
7. The Fighter (3.5): great acting, very emotional and moving story. Christian Bale steals the show.
8. Let me In (3.5): a remake that does not feel like a remake. A quiet, slow-paced but incredibly suspenseful film that shows that vampire movies can be of great quality when done right.
9. Date Night (3.5): it is predictable in its formula, but Tina Fey and Steve Carrel have a comedic ease and chemistry that elevates the movie to hilarious levels. In its ridiculousness and over-the-top antics, the movie still manages to portray a believable couple trapped in the middle of an unbelievable series of events.
10. 127 Hours (3.5): an acting tour-de-force by James Franco. The movie is almost 90 minutes of agonizing desperation, tragedy, nostalgia and physical pain, but the crafty and talented directing together with the amazing acting give the movie a power that inspires.
Honorable Mention – Kick-Ass (3.5): it received mixed-reviews when it premiered and is, perhaps the only film in this list that has not received the acclaim of the rest I have touched upon. However, there is an absurdity and outrageous quality to this film that makes it interesting, entertaining and excitingly controversial.
It wasn’t a particularly good year for movies I believe. There have certainly been better years in recent memory such as 2007 when we got classics like There Will be Blood and No Country of Old Men (two of the best movies ever made) in the same year.
No movie, in my opinion, deserved to receive a flawless or perfect score for I believe they were all flawed in some way or another. Inception could have been well-served with a more twisted and less linear quality to the “dreams”, while Toy Story 3 could have relied a little less on typically grandiose Hollywood scenes.
I promise to review the other notable exclusions in the near future when I have the opportunity to see them.