The Pianist

This is based on the true story of a Polish=Jew who survived the German occupation in World War Two, directed by Roman Polanski. And it is most excellent. It was a French, German, Polish, and British co-production.

Adrien Brody plays Wladyslaw Szpilman, a gifted piano player who along with his parents, sisters and brothers tries to survive the German occupation after Poland is invaded. Things only get worse of course.

The film portrays the hardship and horror of what the Jews had to go through, some of it quite shocking, and no doubt based on actual accounts of what went on. I didn’t know that a part of Warsaw was used to house all of the Jews in the city temporarily, and was walled off from the rest of the city, like the Berlin Wall.

The acting was absolutely superb from all, as was the direction and the sets. Some of the shots of bombed-out streets towards the end of the film could not have possibly been real, so the CG was most excellent too.

It is a long film at 150 minutes, but it does not feel like it at all.

Not an uplifting film, and not easy to watch at times, but it’s three Academy Awards (out of seven nominations) proves that this is a must-watch.

Date watched: June 1st
Score: 10/10
Film count 2019: 16

Hurlyburly

This is a 1998 drama starring Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey based on a 1984 play, and it shows because there is a lot of talking.

It tells the story of three Hollywood players who like to do the drugs and other things we all know Hollywood types like to do. Sean’s character is especially wigged-out on drugs and gets really paranoid and stressed out.

Most of the film takes place in one house in the hills somewhere, so there is not a whole lot going on, just a lot of rambling about things that don’t really make for good film watching.

Anna Paquin turns up as a young drifter who would do anything for a place to stay, she was a refreshing change from all of the drama going on about her, but alas did not have much screen time.

The performances were good by all, and Sean was trying really hard to get an Oscar, but he did not succeed. Chazz Palminteri was excellent, with both Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright doing their best with what they had too.

This isn’t terrible, but it could have been a lot better.

Date watched: May 11th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2019: 15

The American Friend

The last film in my Golden Week of film watching was this 1977 Wim Wenders neo-noir starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz.

And it was a good film to end off a week of good film watching.

It told the story of a man who was diagnosed with leukemia and was contacted by a French mafia guy and asked to bump off a rival gang member, and promised big bucks to help support his family when he died. Dennis Hopper’s character was a fake art seller who was involved in organising the hit, but he ended up becoming good friends with Bruno.

There was not a whole lot of action, the story concentrated more on the friendship between Dennis and Bruno, and did it very well. Both actors were most excellent in their parts.

It was fascinating to see late 1970’s Europe, especially the Paris underground (where a hit took place), which was immaculate. Hamburg though looked like a rather depressing place back then.

Wim casted three other directors in the gangster roles.

I did find it a tad long, but overall this was an excellent film to end my week of films.

Date watched: May 5th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2019: 14

Fish Tank

My roll of excellent films continues with this 2009 BBC drama film, written and directed by Andrea Arnold.

As you can see on the poster above, there are a lot of stars which signifies that this is indeed a very good film.

It tells the story of Mia, a rather angry 15 year old who is not going to school and gets into all sorts of trouble. She is a loner and picks fights with the neighbourhood girls, and like her mother drinks a lot. But she is a talented hip-hop dancer, and wants to become a dancer like those she sees in hip-hop videos. She lives with her mother and younger sister, and in the film the mother becomes involved with Michael Fassbender, which is where all of the drama begins.

This is a very raw film, no dramatic music or over-acted dramatics, just a very real look at problems in an East London council estate (depressing-looking places). The acting by all is superb. The girl playing Mia’s younger sister was especially good, she must have been 9 or 10 at the time.

From Wikipedia about the actress who played Mia:

Katie Jarvis, who plays Mia, had no prior acting experience. She was cast for the film after one of Arnold’s casting assistants saw her arguing with her boyfriend in Tilbury Town.

And…

In early 2014, she was reportedly under consideration for a role in the Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens after taking a hiatus from acting to concentrate on her family. However, she did not appear in the film.

She has just finished a role in EastEnders.

Excellent stuff.

Date watched: May 4th
Score: 9.5/10
Film count 2019: 13

Children of Men

I watched this back in 2008 and recently decided I had to see this excellent film again.

As I wrote in my original post for this it is a brilliant film. It is extremely well made, acted, and told. The story is pretty depressing stuff on the whole, but it ends with hope for humankind.

Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine were all bonkers good, as were the rest of the cast. The cinematography was stunning, especially the long shots which this film is well known for. The dark post-apocalyptic style of the film looked very good, they certainly went to a lot of trouble to make it look that way.

Some of it seemed a bit forced, especially the extras who were trying just a bit too hard to look desperate and downtrodden. No biggie though.

I will definitely watch this again in another 11 years time, and blog about it again of course. Gee, I wonder what Tommo will be starring in then? He will be 67 in 2030.

Date watched: May 3rd
Score: 9/10
Film count 2019: 12

Headhunter

This is a very slick 2011 Norwegian thriller about a headhunter/art thief. It was dubbed into English, unfortunately.

The headhunter, who for some reason has the very English name of Roger Brown (in the original Norwegian language film as well), headhunts a Danish fellow who worked for a big American tech company, but what Roger does not know is that he is being used as part of a scheme to steal secrets from a rival company. It is actually a lot more complicated, but not too difficult to follow. Everything is very neatly tied up at the end.

It is very well made, very Hollywood in style, but being Scandinavian it goes places where Hollywood would not dare tread (nudity and some gore). It is also very well acted and is just an all-round good film to watch for a few thrills and action.

The rights for an English language remake were of course bought by an American film studio (Summit Entertainment), and were actually sold even before the Norwegian film had finished production. I have no idea what kind of budget it will have, but if it gets big money then of course Tommo will get the main part.

As I wrote earlier, it was dubbed with American voice actors and it was quite jarring. I don’t like anything dubbed, so even if Tommo himself dubbed the main character I still wouldn’t like it… actually, having Tommo voice-act the main role could be quite entertaining.

Certainly the best Norwegian thriller I have seen for quite some time. Maybe only.

Date watched: May 2nd
Score: 8/10
Film count 2019: 11

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days

This is a 2007 Romanian film set during the days of Nicolae Ceaușescu and tells the story of a university student and her friend who is illegally getting an abortion.

So there is no need then to explain that this is heavy stuff and overall quite a downer. It is though a very well made and told film and has some very tense scenes, the final five minutes or so especially. It is all done without dramatic music of any kind, no fancy cinematography, or over-the-top acting.

The acting is superb, and for the two main female roles was obviously very difficult at times.

It was very interesting to listen to the Romanian language. It seems to be very similar to both Italian and Russian, and even a little French.

Superbness.

Date watched: May 1st
Score: 10/10
Film count 2019: 10