Los Angeles Plays Itself

This is a video essay by a chap named Thom Andersen about how Los Angeles gets a raw deal when it is portrayed in Hollywood films.

At 2 hours and 49 minutes it is quite a slog, I actually watched it in two parts over two days. It uses a lot of clips from films that were filmed in L.A., some of them go way back to the thirties.

Thom talks in a monotone, and sounds like a real sad-sack as he laments how Los Angeles is depicted in films. He doesn’t like films like L.A. Confidential because of the buildings used in the film, he claims their designs are…actually I didn’t really understand what in heck he was going on about, I guess I need to go to film school as well as get a degree in post-modern gothic art-deco modernist cubism or something.

He did like Chinatown though, which was a relief. He also likes the Hollywood sign.

He showed us parts of Los Angeles that he thinks are the real city, as well as parts of the city shown in old films which have long since disappeared, and gave his thoughts on the Bradbury Building which you will recognise from Bladerunner.

There was also some very interesting history of the city including the Watts riots, the building of the waterway system, the trams, and about the freeways. The story of the waterways depicted in Chinatown was largely fictional even though some people think it is true, the real story is different and not quite as corrupt. The story of the disappearance of the trams was interesting too.

Another interesting fact I learned is that Culver City, in Los Angeles County actually makes more films than Hollywood itself.

So, it is a bit mixed. How Los Angeles (Thom does not like it to be shortened to L.A.) is portrayed in films doesn’t bother me at all, and what buildings are used just doesn’t matter either, but Thom got pretty wound-up about it. But then again, I can kind of see his point in some ways. Then again, it is Hollywood, where nothing matters except having perfectly white teeth, and making the next billion bucks.

Date watched: July 6th
Score: 7/10
Film count 2018: 38

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

I had already seen this many years ago, so long ago in fact that I can’t find an entry for it in this blog. I had forgotten a lot of it though, so I didn’t mind watching it again.

This is the partly-true story of Samuel Byck who tried to hijack a plane which he wanted to fly into the White House to kill Richard Nixon. Most of the story focuses on the events leading up to the hijacking, starting out one year before the event, with the actual hijacking taking up only the last fifteen minutes. So, it is a long slow-burner mostly.

The acting is fine, especially Sean Penn who I find to be great in some films, and not so great in others. Naomi Watts and Don Cheadle are both equally good.

The story left out a lot of details such as Samuel picketing the White House dressed in a Santa Claus suit, or being investigated by the secret service after he threatened the president (although these events took place before the events portrayed in the film). The actual hijacking was reasonably accurate though.

Not great, not bad, somewhat forgettable.

Date watched: February 21st
Score: 7/10
Film count 2018: 17

Yes Man

I have had a hankering to watch a Jim Carrey film film recently, so I chose this one.

The last time I watched this was back in 2011, and I had seen it at least once before that, so I remembered most of the story and jokes. Still, I found it to be quite enjoyable again.

Jim Carrey was the highlight of course, but Rhys Darby was great in his role, basically playing his character from Flight of the Conchords again. Zooey Deschanel was also tops.

The story was a bit silly, and quite standard really, but Jim made it fun to watch, although he has been funnier in other films.

He seems to have stepped away from comedic roles, and films in general. I see on Wikipedia that he will be starring in a new TV series next year called “Kidding”, which is described as a “dramedy”, he is also one of the executive producers.

Not essential, but it is harmless fun.

Date watched: February 17th
Score: 7/10
Film count 2018: 16

Mama

I heard somewhere online that this Spanish/American film was a good one, so I got it out on DVD.

It is the story of two girls aged 3 and 1 who are for various reasons left alone in a cabin in the woods, and are brought up by a ghostly spirit. Years later are discovered and sent to live with their uncle. The ghost goes along too, but is jealous that her human kids are being taken care of my mere mortals, so goes a bit berzerb.

There are some scary scenes in the film when we don’t really get to see “Mama” directly, just fleeting glimpses of her. As the film goes on though the scariness is not cranked up to 11, and by the end it becomes more of a fantasy film that a horror. Gore fans will be disappointed as there is no blood or entrails.

The acting was good, especially the two young actresses, and it all looked good and had a slick soundtrack.

A guy by the name of Javier Botet played Mama. Because of his unique physical traits he has been in a few horror films. Read about him here.

Overall it was good, but I was expecting just a bit more.

Date watched: February 11th
Score: 7/10
Film count 2018: 13

Countryman

This is probably the third time I have seen this, the last time was back in 2011.

Here is my review from back then:

I think I may have seen this ages ago. I remember getting a Jamaican video from Alice’s and maybe this was it. None of it rings a bell though, all I remember is the cover.

Not much of a story or acting but the main character, Countryman (playing himself) and the reggae soundtrack make it worth watching. Countryman is a cool dude but a little difficult to understand at times, strong Jamaican accent. There is a funny scene where he does some kind of spiritual kung-fu fighting, and he runs around a lot.

Entertaining.

The same goes this time around, and the score stays the same.

I the meantime though, the man himself, Edwin “Countryman” Lothan, died in 2016 from cancer. He was quite a fellow it seems. Read about him here

Date watched: February 5th
Score: 7/10
Film count 2018: 10

.

Death Race 2000

This is a 1975 film starring David Carradine and produced by Roger Corman.

The opening title of the film says a lot about the film…

… cheaply made and probably a bit amateurish.

And it was indeed made on the cheap. Wikipedia says it was made for either US$300,000 or $530,000, but it made either five or eight million.

Apart from David Carradine the only other notable actor was Sylvester Stallone in only his fifth film.

The story was about a race across the U.S. between five cars with a driver and navigator. The driver could get points along the way for killing people. The race was endorsed by the president, who in the dystopian future of the year 2000 ruled the country under a totalitarian regime. He also resided in China for some reason. The sworn enemy of the U.S. was France!

A group of rebels though tried to sabotage the race, and the granddaughter of the leader was able to become a navigator for “Frankenstein”, the national hero driver dressed in a black leather suit (David Carradine). The government controlled media covering the race would blame any attacks on the race on the French.

So it was basically a black and murderous comedy version of The Cannonball Run. It was actually quite funny in places, mostly because it was absurd or just plain silly. For most of the car chase scenes they pushed the 2x button to make it look faster.

While watching it was thinking that Arnold would been great in a late 1980’s remake, perhaps just after Running Man…oh, what could have been.

Date watched: January 25th
Score: 7/10
Film count 2018: 4

DEATH RACE 2000, David Carradine, 1975

Sabotage

This is a 1937 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and is a story of terrorism in London.

Alf had made quite a few films before this one, in fact his first was in 1920, but even so this didn’t really have the feel of a Hitchcock film. It seemed a bit sloppy at times, and some of the situations were a bit contrived. The acting was fine though, and the quality of the film was very good, especially when you consider that this was made 81 years ago.

What really made this film though was the ending, which was quite shocking, even by today’s standards. I won’t go into details, but I will say it involves a boy unwittingly carrying a ticking time-bomb on a bus. Even Alfie had reservations about the scene (Alf kept to the ending of the book that this was based on).

To my surprise this has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the ending probably has a lot to do with that.

Worth a watch, but mostly for Hitchcock fans. Two years later he would go to America and make his first film there, Rebecca.

Date watched: December 22nd
Score: 7/10
Film count 2017: 143