Me, Myself, and Irene

Straight after watching Monty Python I decided to watch this, another film I saw many years ago.

I remember not liking this all that much, but because it is Jim Carrey I had to watch it again to see if I would like it more this time around. And, I guess I did, for the most part. Jim Carrey stole the show of course, he was extremely funny in some scenes. Renée Zellweger held her own against Jim, and the actors who played Jim’s character’s sons were funny too.

Being a Farrelly Brothers film it was a bit crude and silly at times, and this is one of those comedies where they mix in serious crime to the story, which I generally don’t like…comedy and serious bits just don’t mix in my book.

It is worth watching for Jim alone, he was quite nutty at times, but the rest of it is forgettable.

Date watched: December 30th
Score: 6/10
Film count 2018: 89

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

Sleuth

I did a search on YouTube for “70s films” and found this Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier film.

The story is about a detective novel writer, Andrew (Olivier), and his wife’s new lover Milo (Caine). They meet at Andrew’s big old house and after discussing the business about the wife, Andrew proposes to Milo that they stage the robbery of the wife’s jewelery so that Andrew can claim the insurance money and Milo can sell the jewelery to a fence in Europe. But, actually Andrew and his crime-writing mind has other plans for Milo.

What is obvious about this film is that it was adapted from a play. It was mostly filmed indoors in only a few rooms, and Olivier and Caine are the only two actors in the whole film. Their acting is also very theatrical, and it works well, especially as both fellows are awfully fine actors.

Along with the fancy acting, the story is engaging and full of twists, surprises, and sleuthing. The directing too is top stuff, as is the cinematography and the set design. It is a long film at 138 minutes, but it is so well done that it didn’t feel that long.

A couple of facts from Wikipedia:

When they met, Caine asked Olivier how he should address him. Olivier told him that it should be as “Lord Olivier”, and added that now that that was settled he could call him “Larry”. According to Shaffer, Olivier stated that when filming began he looked upon Caine as an assistant, but that by the end of filming he regarded him as a full partner.

The production team intended to reveal as little about the movie as possible so as to make the conclusion a complete surprise to the audience. For this reason there is a false cast list at the beginning of the film which lists fictional people playing roles that do not exist.

A remake was made in 2007 with Caine returning but this time playing Andrew, Jude Law as Milo, and Kenneth Brannagh directing. Unfortunately though it doesn’t have good reviews, and gets only 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 96% for the original.

Date watched: December 29th
Score: 9.5/10
Film count 2018: 87

Starship Troopers

I had been wanting to re-watch this film for quite some time, so I finally did last night. It is a hoot of a film.

Like Robocop and Total Recall before it, Paul Verhoeven made a completely over-the-top action film with plenty of throw-away violence and gore and satire, while at the same time commenting on fascism, patriotism, and the military machine. I thought the cast did a great job, totally getting into the spirit of the story. They were all overacting either by design or because they are not A-grade actors…either way it worked.

The special effects too were very impressive for a twenty-one year old film. The bugs looked great, especially the “brain bug” which back then must have been quite a bit of work.

The “Brain Bug”, captured

There were a few actors who would have been relatively unknown at the time, such as Seth Gilliam (The Walking Dead), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), as well as the more familiar Neil Patrick Harris, Denise Richards, and Jake Busey.

This did not get good reviews when it came out, reviewers said it was too violent, had wooden acting, and just didn’t seem to get it is a satirical comedy/action/horror film. Each to his own.

An enjoyable film, well worth visiting again some day.

This website has a few interesting facts about the film.

Date watched: December 24th
Score: 8.5/10
Film count 2018: 86

The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins

This is a 1970 short documentary by Les Blank about Lightnin’ Hopkins, a blues guitarist from Texas.

Les just follows Lightnin’ around as he does his thing, and films him singing the blues. There is no narration at all, just Lightnin’ talking about what the blues means to him, and tells the occasional story. One story he told was of his car breaking down at the side of a road in North Carolina. A policeman turns up and tells him he can’t be parked there, but Lightnin’ says the car can’t move. The policeman takes him to the town butcher, who is also the local judge. Upon hearing his story (with Lightnin’ getting a bit sassy), the judge fines him $500 ($3500 in today’s money) on the spot. Lightnin’ laughed it all off after telling the story, and said black men should never go to North Carolina.

There is great footage of people going about their own business in the dusty old town they live in. There is also footage at a rodeo, and at a BBQ where Lightnin’ entertains.

From Uncut: Although initially keen on the idea, Lightnin’ Hopkins soon tired of the process of documentary film-making. After playing ten songs for Blank and his camera, after only one day’s filming, Hopkins ordered Blank back to California. Whereupon, with the camera off, the men began playing cards. Blank lost, and lost again. The more money he lost to his subject, in fact, the more Hopkins began to see the virtue of keeping the young documentarian around.

Very simple film making, but it is fascinating to watch, and has plenty of blues.

Date watched: December 21st
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2018: 85

Last Year in Marienbad

If this film was a painting it would be a Jackson Pollack…nice to look at, but no idea what it is about. It was released in 1961 and is an Italian/French production, in French.

U.S. title of the film

There is no real story, and the characters have no names. There are three main protagonists, two dapper dudes and a stylish woman. It appears one of the dapper dudes is trying to convince the woman shack up with him, and the other dude, who is either a beau or husband, is scheming a bit. He is a gambler and continuously beats the other dude at a simple but difficult card game, really getting on the dudes nerves.

Dapper Dude 1 about to be beaten by Dapper Dude 2.
Dapper Dude 1, mirror, stylish woman

The rest of the film is just lots of dialogue about statues, gardens, doors, photographs, mirrors, and hotels. Often the dialogue is repeated or recycled, we hear the same thing over and over again. Also, there is a lot of pipe organ music, dark stuff, playing throughout. Sometimes all of the characters including many extras just freezing in unison with the camera slowly moving past them, then unfreeze. Or, they will all freeze except one of the main actors who slowly glides past them. There is a lot of slow in this film, although in one scene Dapper Dude 1 and the woman are slowly walking along one of the many corridor shots, then suddenly speed up for no apparent reason.

Nice corridor

At lot of the film was made inside or outside a couple of large palaces in Germany, quite amazing places. For me that was the most interesting part of the film.

The characters talked about this statue a lot, trying to figure out what it all meant.

This film is a “left bank” new wave French film, just a fancy way of saying it is an experimental film made by ultra-hipster directors. “Right bank” films were more commercially successful, and less pretentious, and included directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. I am definitely right bank.

Contemplating the life of shoes

Most film critics say this is one of the greatest films ever made, some say that it is pretentious nonsense, and some just don’t know what to make of it. Mostly I just found this quite dull, and confusing as heck. Read this review, it gives you a good idea of what real reviewers say.

The director himself said there was no story and no meaning to the film, just take from it what you will…fair enough. For me it was just a very nice film to look at, especially as it was filmed in nice black and white (one scene noticeably changed to greys and whites) , and also in widescreen which suited the location.

If someone asks me what this film is about, I will slowly walk away from them, preferably down the nearest corridor.

Date watched: December 23rd
Score: 5/10
Confuse-O-meter score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 84

Turtles Can Fly

This is a 2004 Kurdish film made in Kurdistan, Iraq, and is a joint Iraq/Iran/France production.

The story is set mostly in pre-American invasion Iraq, and is about a boy nicknamed “Satellite” who is a whizz with satellite dishes and TV, and the people of his refugee camp rely on him to get news of the upcoming war. He also gets the children of the camp, many of them orphans, to work disarming mines which are sold so they can support themselves.

“Satellite” on right.

He meets a girl, her brother and a blind young boy they are taking care of. The brother lost both of his arms in a mine accident (the actor actually had no arms), and is known to be able to predict the future. The sister resents the young child she is taking care of and wants to abandon him, but the brother will not allow her.

The film just follows the children as they do their best to survive, with the few adults in the story doing little to help, mostly because they are old. Some of the things they have to go through are probably quite accurate to real life, and it is all very depressing. From what I have read, most of the child actors in this were actual refugees, but they were outstanding.

There are no politics in the film, it doesn’t try to make any statements about war or what Saddam did to the Kurdish people, although there is mention of Halabcheh, a town where thousands of people died in a gas attack by Chemical Ali in 1988. Just the story of the children is enough.

Extremely depressing stuff overall, but at the same time it is a well-made and riveting film with brilliant acting from the kids, they all seemed so natural, although of course they had already been through it all in real life. Hollywood blockbusters seem so trite after watching a film like this.

I tried to find out about what the children are doing now, but there is no information at all, apart from Satellite who is now a film maker.

Date watched: December 22nd
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 83