Oct 312015


October has been a weird month. Following a much needed break, and a short-lived feeling of refreshment, we have had a lot of social engagements and I have been dealing with some exhausting work-related pressure. I feel like I have had a lot of different projects going on at once, but haven’t achieved very much. I have done very little writing, unfortunately. This is both due to time constraints and being unable to articulate my feelings about some of the films I have seen (see The Lobster and Youth). Thankfully Sam has been picking up my slack. We have visited to cinema a lot – it has been a treat catching up with some of the Palme d’Or contenders at various festivals.

In addition to watching 25 films and juggling an anxiety-inducing amount of TV (five shows going at once, very unlike me), I also polished off Making Movies by Sidney Lumet. This has been described as the most honest account of the filmmaking process ever written. It is terrific, and I urge all film buffs to read it. Eye-opening stuff, and if it wasn’t already obvious that Lumet is one of the most intelligent directors to ever work, it will be clear after this. I also tackled Infinite Jest and saw all hope of my December 3 completion goal drift away as I struggled to page 115. I will persevere, and complete it, but I need a new approach. I am nowhere near Zen enough right now to take it in comprehensively. The NBA season has re-started so I can add that to the numerous distractions.

Coming up in November – we will be watching four films at the British Film Festival, including Sufragette and 45 Years, as well as Knight of Cups and Spectre. I will also dedicate some time to catching up on films missed earlier in the year. Also, expect the ‘Awards Season’ to commence, and we will try and cover this period as comprehensively as we can, similar to previous years.

Check out my thoughts on everything I watched in October after the jump:


In-Cinema Viewing

The LobsterIt has been a week now and I still can’t say much about this film. It has such a confident vision, a perfectly judged balance of tones, and is devilishly clever comment on contemporary coupledom, the disposability of relationships, and how much we stress on trying to impress and connect (the repercussions of forcing the compatibility are explored in very interesting ways). Rarely have I had the urge to laugh out loud and cower behind my hands in such close proximity. The slower woods-set second half is slightly less enjoyable overall – but the first half is so bizarre and funny. Farrell certainly delivers one of the best performances I have seen this year. Unbelievable. Ben Whishaw is very memorable in a supporting role. (4.5/5)

Mistress America – Dean Wareham’s delivery of the line “It’s not a nice story” is the comedy moment of the year for me. Go see this. It is hilarious. A dual coming-of-age screwball, endlessly quotable and uncomfortably relatable. Even if you haven’t been a fan of Baumbach or Gerwig in the past (why you wouldn’t be, I don’t know). After While We’re Young I declared that it was my favourite Baumbach film. It is still my favourite I think, but Mistress America might be his best, and certainly the strongest collaborative writing between the couple. (4/5)

Youth – Sorrentino has become a bit like a drug for me. I need his films in my life and I get high on the visual and audio pleasures (and their perfect collaboration) lathered throughout his films. Even if I didn’t connect to the characters, or care about their plights (which I do), I would be content with his entrancing style. A mesmerising meditation on ageing; memory and the past, a study of what drives commitment to vocation and the security of legacy. The performances by Caine, Keitel and Dano are especially wonderful. (4/5)

The Martian – Human resilience, scientific innovation and daring rescue with clear direction and logic plus the primary desire to entertain. An extraordinary vision of Mars. Damon is superb but it efficiently builds a deep roster of supporting characters – Ejiofor is especially fantastic – and establishes high stakes that it balances nicely with the substantial humour. Lay off it people, it is Ridley’s best work in a long time. Since Matchstick Men. That’s 12 years. (4/5)

Tale of Tales – Mischievously odd, lurid and wholesome trifecta of fantasies are patchy and not quite coherent as a whole, but inherently individually consistent, always unpredictable and ridiculously entertaining. Rather amazing that Garrone can work logical morals into these tales. A brilliant Toby Jones and a dutifully slimy Vincent Cassel (has he ever played a nice person?) are the standouts, and have the best lines. A real treat in the cinema, but not for everyone. Alexandre Desplat’s score, while not a ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’, also excels. (4/5)

Bridge of SpiesReviewed (4/5)

Crimson Peak – I wanted to like this more, but I remain a firm Del Toro fan. This classily produced, surprisingly grisly gothic mystery is a Poe/Suspiria hybrid delicacy, with its roots in classic gothic literature, but feels like it fumbles the modern CGI elements when they appear in this old world. Still it pulses with desire and literally oozes style from the walls of the wonderful setting. Wasikowska is strong. Chastain oddly miscast, though. (3.5/5)

Pan Reviewed (3.5/5)

Burnt – Sloppy screenplay and erratic editing prove distracting, but the film comes alive and finds comfort in the kitchen chaos. A flinty depiction of a flawed man seeking redemptive perfection and learning the lesson that chemistry in the kitchen stems from treating his team like human beings and not another utensil for manipulation. (3/5)



Digging For FireI thought this was a wonderful relationship drama – about a couple who feel like they haven’t had a break in years, and the strange behaviour that guiltily embraced-turned-uncomfortably exposed separation (and temptation) draws out of them. Best ensemble cast of the year – Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Orlando Bloom, Sam Rockwell, Brie Larson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston, Melanie Lynskey. Rather than being distracting (eg. a studio pic), they’re just real people who pop in for a few scenes (and probably as a free favour). (4/5)

Ned RifleHave never seen a Hal Hartley film before, but he strikes unusual beats with his editing, and his performers are all tonally in sync. Also, Aubrey Plaza as you likely have never seen her. (3.5/5)

Ant-Man – Favours identity and charm over MCU-doom uniformity, and for the most part feels removed from the production line. Pleasantly fun, small-stakes heist film with a likeable hero, sharp rib-ticklers.  (3.5/5)

Tangerines – While I wouldn’t have voted it into the nominees for 2014 Best Foreign Language Oscar, this is a touching pacifist-leaning study of the messy Abkhazia conflict, also depicted in Corn Island. It relays its powerful anti-war message in very simplistic terms, but the performances are all strong and it is nicely directed. (3.5/5)

Mr. Mom – Hysterical. A genius performance from Keaton. Also, a future life flashed before my eyes. (3.5/5)

PartisanAn impressive debut feature. Loved the staging and the set-up of the uncomfortable world we are introduced to, but it doesn’t quite do enough to completely sell the youngster’s motivations, which leaves an emptiness at the conclusion. Deserving winner of a Sundance award for cinematography, Vincent Cassel and Jeremy Chabriel are excellent. (3.5/5)

Danny CollinsGreat late-career role for Pacino, a charismatic and stirring portrayal of a washed-up rocker inspired on path of redemption. There are some predictable dramatic developments, but Pacino is such great company and the casting of Cannavale as his son is perfect. (3.5/5)

On The Town – Obviously padded out, this cheeky, energetic musical has some wonderful song+dance moments but is not exactly exploding with them. (3/5)

The Falling – Not viewed in the best conditions, but impressive crafted and thoughtfully paced – unnerving study of mysterious insular epidemic with a mood to rival ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’. Wonderful use of music. (3/5)

The Voices – It is what it is, and makes no apologies for that. In the top handful of Reynolds’ performances, but its not a great film. Often disturbingly twisted, and admirably apathetic, but rarely funny when intentionally so. The final credits are kind of amazing, though. (2.5/5)

Tu Dors Nicole – I was waiting for something interesting to happen. Nope, nothing does. There are some very funny sequences of drifty-summer-vacation observations, which raised a few laughs, and some cool visual moments, but not at all satisfying. (2.5/5)

Women He’s Undressed – Intermittently fascinating – offers a unique insider into some Classic Hollywood stars and projects – but I quickly grew irritated by its unusual structure. (2/5)

Dark Places Arduous and dull. Gone Girl if it didn’t have the Fincher budget. (2/5)



An American Werewolf in LondonPerhaps the most perfect comedy-horror hybrid ever made. The script is so smart, the make-up and effects incredible, and it has so much more heart and feeling than you’d expect. And the dream-within-a-dream sequence gets me every time. (4.5/5)

Results – Some thoughts here, but I find it very enjoyable. (3.5/5)

RoboCop (2014) – Some thoughts here. It’s not as bad as the consensus suggests. (3/5)



Freaks and Geeks S1 (Various) – Unquestionably the most accurate depiction of high school life I have seen fictionally represented in film or on TV. The star-studded Hollywood cast as fresh juniors to the acting game create such memorable characters. I can’t believe I have been deprived of them for so long. (5/5)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine S3 (Various) – So far the quality has tapered off since the opening season, but I still get a kick out of it on a weekly basis. (3.5/5)

Scream Queens S1 (Various) – It’s so silly, but a lot of fun. I am thoroughly invested in finding out the identity of the killer/s, and I hang out for it every week. (3.5/5)

Bojack Horseman S1 (Various) – Very dark. Still figuring out how I feel about it. Reports are that Season 2 is where it hits is ‘stride’. (3.5/5)

Blindspot S1 E1 – I probably won’t continue with this. (3/5)

The Last Man on Earth S2 E1-4 – Sooo patchy. After the Jekyll & Hyde opening season we have decided to continue. Will Forte on his own = gold. With everyone else = frustratingly unfunny. (3/5)