Miller’s Crossing

After the recent low-grade film viewings I decided I needed to see a quality film again, so I chose this Coen brothers masterpiece. I have seen this before, but this is the first post for this film on MBMS, so I must have last watched this a long time ago. Still, I remembered a lot of it.

There is not much to say about this one really, except that it is a perfect gangster film, not even Scorcese could do any better. The casting, cinematography, sets, writing, and of course directing were all top-notch. There is no use writing more, no need to. So to fill in some space, here are some images…

Gabriel Byrne as “Tommy”.
Albert Finney as “Leo”.
Albert Finney (on right) as a maid.
John Turturro as “Bernie Bernbaum”.
Sam Raimi in a cameo.
J.E. Freeman and Marcia Gay Harden

It is amazing that this film is now 28 years old, it hasn’t aged a day. I would love to see it at the theatre.

And the Coen Brothers are now in the MBMS Page of Fame.

Date watched: December 1st
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 80

Beware of Mr. Baker

Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols is a radio DJ in Los Angeles and has his own weekday afternoon show. When he has an interview on the show, which is often, it is recorded on video and uploaded to YouTube. So today I watched a couple of them, the first with Simple Minds, and the second with Stewart Copeland of the Police. During Stewart’s interview he mentioned Ginger Baker, and how he was part of a documentary about the life and times of Ginger. I was intrigued so looked it up on YouTube, and was happy to find it there.

Ginger Baker was the drummer for Cream, and if you can believe any of the interviewees in the documentary, is the best drummer in the history of rock, or at least was as these days health and old age (he is 79) have prevented him from playing. It is very clear though that he was a brilliant drummer not only in rock but also in jazz which is what he was playing until a few years ago.

What is also clear is that he is a grumpy curmudgeon, quite wild, a troublemaker, terrible with money, and just a generally complicated character. The film starts off with him attacking the documentary director with his cane, causing a gash in his nose…all because the director said that he was off to interview other people about Ginger’s life, something that Ginger was not happy about at all. This Rolling Stone interview will give you a good idea of what he is like.

Jack, Ginger, and Eric.

In between the interviews, which were done at his then home in South Africa, there were the other interviews with such people as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce (Cream’s bassist), Stewart Copeland, Nick Mason, Ginger’s son and two daughters, his ex-wives, various managers, and John Lydon (Ginger actually worked on PiL’s “Album” album).

There was also plenty of archive footage and photos from Ginger’s long and busy past. Apart from music he had a go at a cheap Hollywood action film (which looked quite bad), he was an avid polo player, he drove across the Sahara in a Range Rover, and lived in countries such as Nairobi, Italy, the U.S., and South Africa. He was also into the usual musician vices such as drinking and doing drugs.

The documentary itself is well told and made, I have no criticisms of it at all. There are some nifty animation sequences too. The director/writer/producer actually lived with Ginger in South Africa for a while and wrote a Rolling Stone article about him. He returned in 2010 with a film crew to make the documentary.

This is a must-watch for anyone who loves music, and for those who appreciate a well-made documentary, or both.

Date watched: October 27th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 68

The Room

This is a film I had heard a lot about but was not able to find on DVD or elsewhere. But, after I read that Tommy Wiseau had made it available on YouTube I immediately sought it out. As it turns out Tommy removed it from YouTube not long after, but others had copied it and put it up, so I was able to finally watch it.

It is every bit as bad as the Internet makes it out to be, but also so bad that it is quite fun to watch, while at the same time being very boring…it all depends on what kind of mood you are in. I actually watched this in two parts, the first time I got so bored that I stopped. But last night I finished it off and quite enjoyed it, it was just so nutty.

The story is very simple, and quite incomprehensible due to the terrible writing. Basically, it is a love triangle story with some sub-plots that just don’t go anywhere or are completely forgotten. Some characters completely disappear for no reason, and some suddenly appear without explanation.

The dialogue is extremely clunky and bizarre, and some scenes just don’t make any sense at all. The actual film-making too was weird and unfathomable. I remember one shot of Tommy and another character driving up to the apartment, them getting out of the car and walking to the door, all without saying a single word. There is then an establishing shot taken at night of some random downtown building for a couple of seconds, then the next scene is in the daytime inside the apartment! Another scene which lasted less than a minute involved Tommy driving to a park, getting out of his car and meeting a new character we never saw again, then they played catch with an American Rugby ball. This was all with no meaningful dialogue. There was a lot of throwing balls around in this film actually, it must have had some existential meaning or something.

What really makes this film though is the terrible acting from all involved. Tommy was by far the best worst actor, his dialogue, speech delivery, mannerisms, and weirdness are what hold the whole disaster together. He is a very weird and mysterious fellow, just read the Wikipedia page about him and the film, it is very interesting reading.

Click on the image for some of the best dialogue in the film.

One of the supporting actors made a film called The Disaster Artist which is about Tommy and the making of the film. It looks like a worthwhile watch, but again I have to find it somewhere.

This is a must-see film for all film buffs for all kinds of reasons. It is also a film that could never be replicated in any way, not even Tommy could outdo himself on this one…or could he?

Quite a disasterpiece!

Date watched: October 14th
Score: 1/10
So-bad-it’s-good score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 65

Life of Brian

This is one of my all-time fave films, and I have reviewed it three times already on this site, giving it a perfect score very time. I last watched it in June, 2016.

It is still just as funny as ever, and even though I know most of the jokes, almost word for word, it never gets old.

The entire cast was great, and it is always fun in a Python film seeing the Python members play all kinds of different characters. The supporting cast too were very good, including a cameo by Spike Milligan. A Kiwi actor by the name of Terrence Baylor played this memorable character…

And another character who was always funny was Mathias, played by Brian Young…

A few facts (from IMDB):

When Michael Palin as Pontius Pilate addressed the soldiers daring them to laugh, he was truly daring them. The soldier extras were ordered to stand there and not laugh, but not told what Palin was going to do. Palin, in fact, can barely stifle his own laughter when saying “Biggus Dickus” in front of the soldier asked if he finds the name “risible.”

Spike Milligan was on holiday in Tunisia while the film was being shot. When the Python team realized he was nearby, they offered him a part in the film.

Six cast members played forty characters.

This film would not have been made at all if it was not for George Harrison who helped finance the film. The world needs more Georges.

Date watched: October 6th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 60

Made In Britain

Straight after watching Meantime I just had to watch this, a 1982 television play starring Tim Roth in his first role.

Like Meantime it has no real story, it just follows Tim Roth’s 16 year-old skinhead character “Trevor” as he is charged in court on various charges and is sent to a youth detention centre. A youth worker can see that he is intelligent and tries to get him to go straight, but Trevor seems basically resigned to a life of hate and self-destruction.

Tim is absolutely brilliant in this, and the contrast between his characters in this and Meantime show what an excellent and underrated actor he is. The very last scene where you see a crazed look on his face after being beaten by a cop was powerful stuff, and it summed up the character and his future well.

This is part of a series of four films written by David Leland about the British educational system, so I will try to watch the others if I can find them.

Seeing both Tim Roth and Gary Oldman together in a film (Meantime) reminded me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, another excellent film that I must watch again, probably next actually.

Date watched: August 25th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 56

Meantime

This is a film I remember watching way back in the 90’s, and it had a lasting impression on me. I last watched it in 2010.

It is a 1983 made-for-TV film starring Phil Daniels (he had the speaking part in Blur’s “Parklife” song), Tim Roth, and Gary Oldman. Alfred Molina had a smaller role.

The story follows two brothers (Daniels and Roth) as they basically just go about their daily life on the dole, along with their bitter father, and the equally bitter but working mother. Gary Oldman plays a skinhead who does the usual skinhead things. It isn’t a story as much a look at the extremely depressing life of working-class in the East End of London under Margaret Thatcher.

For contrast, the mother’s sister lives in a much more well-off suburban part of the city and does her best to help Roth’s character, but we see that even her seemingly idylic life is also troubled…money doesn’t buy everything.

It was directed by Mike Leigh, who does these kinds of films extremely well, and it is just plain superbness throughout. This was Tim Roth’s second film (TV film), with Made In England being his first, which I am going to watch next.

Date watched: August 25th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 55

Distant Voices, Still Lives

This is a fantastic 1988 British drama film set in 1940’s and 1950’s Liverpool.

The story follows a working class family headed by an angry and abusive father (played by the excellent Pete Postlethwaite), his wife, and three children.

The film is split into two parts, with the first part called “Distant Voices” and the second “Still Lives”. Each part jumps around in the past, present, and future, and does it quite well, although some may find it confusing.

A central part of the story, apart from being about a family that has to deal with a difficult father, is singing. Most of the cast are singing at some point, or are all singing together at home, or together down at the pub with their friends. This is pre-rock ‘n’ roll, so the songs are old-timey. The film’s timeline ended probably just on the cusp of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and I was actually expecting to hear Bill Haley or Fats Domino at the end. Some of the actors and actresses were very good singers.

Everything about this is superbness, and I find it hard to criticise it in any way. Some may find this to be a bit depressing, especially the scenes involving the father who is mostly in a bad mood, and what his suffering wife has to go through. But, I found it to be beautiful and unforgettable.

Date watched: August 19th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 53