OMD – Souvenir

After watching the synth documentary I saw this in the recommended section on YouTube. It seems to originally have been a DVD-only release from 2007.

The story starts off with OMD about to perform in Dusseldorf at Night of the Proms, we see them backstage looking a bit nervous and getting ready to go on. They then go to the stage and the opening credits begin.

The story then goes back to their beginnings and through all of their albums, their breakup, their solo careers, then finally to their reformation. And of course we go back to Dusseldorf where we see part of the concert there.

It is all very well done and quite interesting, although this is really more for fans than casual observers. I wouldn’t say I am a fan, but I like some of their songs, so I found this quite watchable, and it is always good to learn about bands and how they go about making music. Both of them basically had no music training when they started OMD.

There were no interviews with other people around OMD, no managers, wives, or even other musicians, it was all told by a narrator and the two founding members themselves in their own words. Maybe it was done on a budget, but it all looked professionally done with no frills.

Yet another good music documentary, I may just watch another tonight…in fact I feel like learning more about Willie Nelson.

Date watched: October 28th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 70

Taxidermia

This is a 2006 Hungarian/Austrian/French surrealist comedy-drama horror film.

A few minutes in it became a bit of a shocker, with scenes that were just a tad hard to watch. I won’t go into details, but after watching cosy Hollywood films this reminded me that true film-makers don’t hold back, especially East-European film-makers.

It was split into three parts, following three generations of men. The first involves a dim-witted and quite perverse soldier who is under the control of an army lieutenant. The second part is about his son, who is a professional speed-eater, and the last part is about his son who is a taxidermist. The stories are intertwined, and are mostly either quite disgusting or gory, with added humour or bizarreness.

It is very well filmed and acted, and after the first act, which was the most disgusting of all, I found it to be very entertaining and quite funny. It is certainly not a film you would want to watch with anyone with a closed mind when it comes to film…just watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead. But, if you like something very different, and don’t mind watching speed-eaters projectile-vomit into buckets after a contest, then this is a highly recommended watch.

Date watched: August 3rd
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 51

Hallam Foe

This is a 2007 British drama film set in Glasgow, and is based on a book of the same name.

The story is about a young man who suspects that his step-mother murdered his mother. He leaves home and goes to Glasgow where he basically starts stalking a woman who looks likes his real mother, and falls in love with her. There is more to it of course, but the story is still quite simple.

Everything about this slightly quirky film is good. The acting is superb, the photography is simple and efficient, the pacing is spot-on, and there is a good balance of drama and humour.

The fellow in the lead role is Jamie Bell who has been in big Hollywood films such as King Kong (more of a Wellywood film actually), Jumper, and Fantastic Four. He is married to Kate Mara.

Also in the film is Sophia Myles who played Lady Penelope in the Thunderbirds film, and was also in Transformers: Age of Extinction (just for the money I am sure). Ewen Bremner had a small role as well.

There was not a lot of Glasgow in it, but it looks like a very decent place to visit someday.

So it was a good watch, not overly special at all, but a good way to fill in some time on a hot Sunday afternoon.

Date watched: July 29th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 49

Andrei Rublev

This is a 1966 Russian film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (he of Solaris and Stalker fame, both excellent films), based loosely on the story of Andrei Lublev, an icon painter in 15th century Russia. It has been called one of the greatest films of all time.

It is a long film at 183 minutes (depending on which version you watch), and is very heavy going. The story follows Andrei and his painter friends as they leave their monastery and find work painting in a cathedral.

The story is told in seven episodes which follow Andrei, or other characters that were part of his story. The story was very religious and had concepts that were too religious for me to follow, or required some back knowledge of Russian history. The sometimes confusing subtitles did not help.

But, the film-making, acting, and sets were all superb, very much like a Kurosawa film. The attack on the old Russian city of Vladimir was quite well done and looked quite dangerous in some scenes. Unfortunately there was some obvious cruelty to a horse in one scene, which I never like to see, especially in a film. The acting was so natural, it seemed as though you were watching a documentary rather than a historical drama.

Fifteenth century Russia was obviously a barbaric place. There was a lot of killing and torture, famine, and general mayhem. But, at the same time, people were trying to live as best they could and make a life between all of the chaos. At least that is what this film showed us.

I am not really sure I would class this as one of my greatest films of all time. Perhaps if I went to film-appreciation school I might learn more about it, and better understand what was going on. But, it was certainly epic stuff, and despite the heavy going was interesting and thought-provoking.

This article explains the film much better than I ever could. Read it, then watch the film.

For me Stalker was a better film, confusing too, but mermerising.

Date watched: July 21st and 22nd
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 47

Solo

James and I went to see this today in the early afternoon at Nagano’s only multiplex theatre, which today was the best place to be as it was extremely hot outside. This film is titled “Han Solo” here.

I went into this not sure what to expect as there are mixed reviews around, and the talk about it being a box office disappointment didn’t help. But, as I walked out of the theatre later, I just didn’t care what was said about it. I thought it was very entertaining, maybe not quite as good as Rogue One, but it was still very worthwhile.

Ron Howard did a pretty good job of taking over the direction. There is a good article here explaining what went on with the change of directors. It sounds like Ron did things a lot more efficiently, and did things “the Star Wars way”. It mentioned that Paul Bettany took over from Michael K. Williams, who could not finish the film due to other obligations. All of his scenes had to be completely re-done with Paul.

Before seeing this I had read criticism of Alden Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Hana Solo, some saying that he was a bit wooden and didn’t capture the character well. Well, I disagree. I thought he did a pretty good job of it. No one could ever play Han as well as Harrison Ford did, but Alden was not a disappointment at all. He did a good job of recreating Harrison’s mannerisms, and Harrison himself gave his seal of approval to Alden.

Woody Harrelson was great as always, Emilia Clarke was stupendous, Danny Glover was fabulous, and I think Chewbacca had the most fun he has ever had in a Star Wars film.

Every Star Wars film needs a new droid character and with this one we got L3-37, a sassy female who loves equal rights for droids, and freeing other robots from slavery. She was very entertaining, and I would rank her as one of my top three fave’s (along with C3-P0 and R2-D2).

There were a lot of references to previous Star Wars films, they really packed them in this time. And everything you wanted to know about Han, such as how Han met Chewie, all about the Kessel Run, how he won the Millenium Falcon, how Han shoots first, and how he procured his blaster were all there and neatly explained. A lot of the back-story originates in the Star Wars comics and animated series, neither of which I have consumed. The story of Darth Maul prior to this film is long and very involved. This video explains it all.

Solo is a worthy addition to the Star Wars series, and I am looking forward to the sequel. As I said before, this was entertaining, and that is all that really matters to me when it comes to this kind of film.

Something that you will notice when going to a film in Japan is that the audience is completely quiet throughout the whole film, no matter how exciting a scene may be, or how funny a joke is…perhaps a quiet titter from those brave enough to make a sound. Another thing you will notice is that most of the audience will remain in their seats until the very end of the film. They all sit there quietly and just read the credits, no talking at all. Even the theatre lights don’t go back on until the film has finished and the screen has gone black. Yep, going to a film in Japan is quite different. The theatre though is perfectly clean both before and after a session.

Date watched: July 16th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 45

Gary Numan: Android In La La Land

This is a 2016 documentary mostly about Gary Numan’s (real name Gary Webb) career, problems, his move from the U.K. to L.A., and the release of his 2013 album “Splinter: Songs from a Broken Mind”.

The thing we learn the most about Gazza is that he is nothing like his music persona. He is a shy dude who does not like social interactions and heavily relies on his wife when out in public for events etc. He also has a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome. He is a family man, but for a few years fell-out with his parents for reasons that were not clearly explained in the documentary, but all seems good now.

And we learned that he loves making music, which for quite some time he lost interest in, especially when he became depressed. But again, thanks to his wife by playing him a Nine Inch Nails album, and her encouragement, he got himself together and started making music again. He was in such a bad way that record companies would not even sign him, so he released some albums himself. We also learned that Dave Grohl, Trent Raznor, and Marilyn Manson all consider Gazza to be an influence. There was some footage of him joining Nine Inch Nails on stage to sing one of his songs.

So he seems like your typical musical genius really; troubled to some extent, kind of a recluse, and obsessive. But he is also just a very nice guy who loves his family and drinking Coca-Cola…we saw a lot of that throughout the film.

Recommended watching for music lovers.

Here he is at Amoeba…

Next: Another music documentary about the Runaways…more learning about bands that I know little about.

Date watched: May 12th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 33

Until the Light Takes Us

This is a 2009 documentary about the beginnings of Black Metal in Norway, available free to watch on YouTube.

While I do like my metal, I am not into black metal at all, it just don’t grab me. But, I was intrigued enough to want to learn more about it, so when I came across this on YouTube I gave it a go.

It turned out to be quite an eye-opener as the fellows interviewed in this were very interesting, and not what I was expecting. The main interviewee was “Fenriz”, one of the OG’s of black metal and a very friendly guy with some interesting things to say. He is basically the John Jydon of black metal, he doesn’t like the direction black metal took as punk did in the 80’s, especially how it became satanic, but he is very mellow and not angry at all, unlike Mr Lydon.

Things get nutty though when we meet Varg Vikernes, aka Count Grishnackh, the sole member his influential band “Burzum”. He was tried for the murder of his friend “Euronymous”, another black metal musician in 1993, with the interviews taking place inside his very nice looking prison cell (curtains over the windows and a computer on a desk). He was released from prison on bail not long after actually, he served only 14 years of his 21 year sentence. At one point he very matter of factly describes the murder which up to a point seemed to be in self-defense. But, the description takes a dark turn when he describes the actual stabbing, and well, from then he seemed more than just a bit odd. He is though a very well-spoken and obviously intelligent guy with strong convictions. He now lives in France with his wife and son, and has a regular YouTube channel. I watched one and was again impressed by his intelligence, and he seems very like-able. However, his nonchalant way of saying “After I had killed Euronymous…” (2:51) it makes you wonder if releasing him was a good idea. He was also convicted for burning three churches back in the day.


Varg reacting to his guilty sentence.

A lot of the film is quite dark as it was filmed in the Norwegian winter, I don’t know if I could stand that. I guess the constant darkness partly explains how black metal came about, but there are obviously other factors. Norway seems to be a very conservative place.

There is some criticism that the film makers did not question or push their interviewees on why they did what they did which is fair, it was all very one-sided really. But even so, it was a very fascinating look at a genre of music that I still have little interest in, but at least I know a little more about.

Next up: a documentary about Gary Numan.

Date watched: May 11th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 32