Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Of the three Monty Python films I watch this one the least, I can’t pinpoint why exactly, but it is still a very funny film.

Perhaps it is because the other films had an actual plot, whereas this was just a series of skits strung together, and there were no consistent characters to follow. But, it was no less funny, and it has more memorable songs than the other films. It was certainly the most disgusting and bloody…

Live liver donor scene

Mr Creosote is one of the more memorable parts of the film…

And one of my favourites is the Grim Reaper scene near the end…

Here is an article by the Pythons about how the film was made. And here is an interview with Terry Jones about Mr Creosote.

So it was funny stuff, and of the three films is the most Pythonesque.

Date watched: December 29th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 88

Barton Fink

After Miller’s Crossing I just had to watch another Coen Brothers film, so I chose this one, a film I last saw probably over 20 years ago.

Re-imagined poster

The story, if you have forgotten, is about a successful and intense Broadway writer who reluctantly accepts an offer from a Hollywood studio to write for movies. So, he goes to Hollywood and for his first picture is asked to write a wrestling story, something far below his talents. He tries to give it a go, but knowing nothing about wrestling flicks he gets nowhere.

Barton Fink

He stays at a dodgy hotel which has very gooey wallpaper that peels off in the heat, and a neighbour (John Goodman) who talks a lot, but ends up being the only friend Barton has. Also in the story is a famous writer who gets extremely drunk when he has writer’s block, which is where we find him in the film. His assistant/lover tries to help Barton write the wrestling movie, and that is where the story turns very bad for Barton.

The rest of the story is a murder cover-up and serial killer story, that by the end is also quite surreal and confusing.

Reading about this film online reveals that the story is supposedly an allegory for the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany, which is the time period that this film was set in. Film forums have all kinds of theories about what the film is about, and one film review even hypothesised that Charlie (John Goodman) was in fact Barton’s alter ego. I just took most of it at face value…over-thinking does nothing more than killing precious brain cells.

The Coens actually wrote this film while they were taking a break from making Miller’s Crossing because they were having problems with it. This film was written in three weeks with the main role specifically written for John Turturro. The Wikipedia page on this is long and interesting. A lot of thought went into the writing and production of the film, and there were influences galore.

Everything in this was superb, as every Coen Brothers film is. John Turturro and John Goodman were perfect, as were the rest of the cast which included a few Miller’s Crossing actors. I was just thinking what it would have been like if The Cruiser played Barton instead…best not to.

But, I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as Miller’s Crossing, I can’t quite pinpoint why. Maybe it was the effort of trying to figure out the deeper meanings of the story. Barton stared at a painting on the wall of his hotel wall of a woman sitting on a beach several times, a scene that would play out in real life at the end of the film…brain hurts.

Still, this is superbness.

Date watched: December 8th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 81

Heavy Metal Britannia

This is another of the Britannia series of documentaries, the previous one I watched was Synth Britannia, which I wrote about a couple of posts back.

In this we follow heavy metal from it’s very early beginnings in England with bands like Budgie, Deep Purple, and of course Black Sabbath. There are plenty of interviews with many people including Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy, and Ozzy. And there is plenty of interesting footage and photos.

I learned a few interesting things such as how the term “heavy metal” was coined by William H. Burroughs in his “Naked Lunch” book. Steppenwolf then used it in their song “Born To Be Wild”. However, to check the story on the interwebs I came up with this article which tells a different and not conclusive tale.

I also learned that it was Judas Priest who started the whole leather, gun belts, and plenty-of-studs look that defined how a heavy metal band should look. And I learned that many of these heavy metal chaps are quite nice fellows who just love what they do…always the best way to be. Rob Halford is a very likeable fellow, and Ozzy is just plain funny.

Rob Halford

Definitely a must-watch for metal fans, and an education for those who know little about one of the happiest forms of music there is (I can attest to that).

Date watched: October 28th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 71

Synth Britannia

This is a BBC documentary about the rise of synth music in Britain. It features band members from pioneering bands such as OMD, The Normal, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and Throbbing Gristle, as well as Wolfgang Flür (ex-member of Kraftwerk).

Synth music was introduced to England because of Kraftwerk, and from there synth music battled to become accepted for quite some time until Gary Numan came along and after his big success with Cars the record companies started to notice (that they could make money).

I was surprised at just how much good synth equipment cost back in the early seventies, one particular synth machine was said to cost the same as a small house. A musician that was interviewed had to choose between buying a car to get his driver’s licence, or buying a synth, and of course he chose the synth and said to this day he still cannot drive. They were mostly poor musicians too, Depeche Mode said they had to carry their synths on the train to get to their first Top of the Pops performance…synths are very heavy of course. Depeche Mode are all filthy rich guys now.

The documentary itself was well made, true of any BBC documentary. The interviews were all interesting, and there was plenty of great archive footage. The story had a narrator, but it was mostly told by the musicians themselves.

The Golden Age of British synth ended in the 90’s due to over-commercialisation and the resurgence of guitar music. The final words in the film from Andy McCluskey of OMD sum it up quite well and amusingly (click on the link).

Electronic music these days is alive and well, I enjoy listening to The Chemical Brothers, Buck Futtons, Fatboy Slim, and Aphex Twin. Still, I have good memories of synth music in the 80’s, even if I wasn’t huge fan at the time.

Recommended watching if you like a bit of music history. It would also help if you are familiar with most of the bands.

Watch it here.

Date watched: October 27th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 69

Edge Of Tomorrow

Looking through Amazon Prime last night I came across this. The title of this film in Japan is “All You Need Is Kill”, which is the name of the Japanese story this was based on, so I thought I had not seen it until a few minutes in. But, I felt like a silly science fiction/action film, and it has The Cruiser, so I was more than happy to watch it again.

I last saw this in 2015, and I had forgotten quite a lot of it, so that was good. Here is some of what I said about it last time:

Tom Cruise is usually a good bet these days, his films are entertaining, don’t require any brain power, and have plenty of action. This one also had a few funny bits which Tom carried out well. The story, which is based on a Japanese novel is pretty good although it is just a futuristic action version of Groundhog Day. The CG was fabs, especially the aliens. Bill Paxton was in this, he has been annoying in some films in the past, but I thought he was good in this and he did some good comedy bits.

I totally agree with myself on all counts. Jolly good fun.

Date watched: September 16th
Score: 9/10
Tommo score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 58

Hana-bi

After watching Takeshi Kitano’s disappointing Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen a few weeks ago I decided last night to watch this film which I knew is considered one of his best films.

And it turned out to be but everything, a most enjoyable and often funny film.

Actually, it was a strange mix of quite graphic violence mixed with touching drama, kind of a cross between Pulp Fiction and Terms of Endearment, but all in Japanese of course. Like Pulp Fiction the timeline jumped around a bit.

The story was very simple, basically about a police detective who had to retire after a shooting which killed one of his partners and injured two others, and he had to take care of his wife who had leukemia. Dialogue was at a minimum with Takeshi hardly speaking at all, instead relying on his deadpan face (Kitano lost all movement on the right side of his face in a scooter accident in 1994) except for a facial tick which was either intentional or not, but which was most effective. The story was ambiguous at times, leaving small details out so that the viewer had to figure them out. There were no close-up shots inserted of someone secretly picking something up or whatever, put there to spell things out for the audience…something I hate seeing in films.

There were many long takes of random things which did not have any meaning except to give the film a very calming effect. One shot had two guys discussing something, then they walked out of view and the camera was just looking at a wall for a few seconds.

One of the characters in the film, a cop who lost the use of his legs in the aforementioned shooting, started up painting abstract pictures such as the following…

There were several of them in the film, and as it turns out they were all painted by Kitano himself. Quite a guy.

Kitano had made several films before this one, but after this film won critical acclaim in Europe it was only then that he was taken seriously in Japan as a film-maker. From Wikipedia:

Kitano himself said it was not until he won the Golden Lion that he was accepted as a serious director in his native Japan; prior his films were looked at as just the hobby of a famous comedian.

An excellent film, well worth a watch, and it was interesting to see 1997 Japan (I arrived in Japan the next year).

Date watched: July 28th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 48

Sophie Scholl

This is German film based on a true story about three student resistance group members caught in Nazi Germany for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets.

It is gripping stuff from start to end and had superb performances, especially from the leading actress who unsurprisingly received the award for best actress at various European award ceremonies. Everything else about it was just as good, I can’t really think of any criticisms at all.

The court scene where Sophie, her brother, and a friend were tried was a fantastic scene, it showed just how twisted and sick the Nazis were. I was reading about the judge in that trial, and he was a seriously evil man who met his fate in the last year of the war when his courtroom was bombed, although it would have been preferable if he was himself tried in front of the allies after the war.

The very last scene was brief but utterly depressing and shocking, I wasn’t expecting it.

Sophie Scholl is now a national hero in Germany, and was voted as the fourth most important German of all time.

A hard film to watch, but worth it nonetheless.

Date watched: April 13th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 28