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Monday
Mar182013

Tokyo Story


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

A black and white Japanese film that's 2 hours and 10 minutes long about an old couple going to see their grown-up children in Tokyo. Doesn't sound like a laugh riot but it is highly regarded. One of my favorite films is Kurosawa's Ikiru which is also set in Japan in the 1950's so I probably can't help but make some comparisons.

Why is it on the list?

Number one on the directors list and third on the critics list. Clearly this film has a lot of love out there amongst people in the know.

Where can I see it?

I watched the Bluray from BFI

What's it about?

Like I said earlier it's about an elderly couple going to Tokyo to see their grown up children. Sadly their offspring aren't quite the generous hosts you might hope for.

Is it just for film geeks?

Not at all. I think most of us might initially struggle to understand what all the fuss is about with this film. Everything about it is subtle and natuaralistic. None of the characters resort to shouting or throwing things about to make their point, they just politely nod their heads and get on with their lives. And this is a good thing - it makes it feel more real, more relateable. In some ways it makes me think of the relationships you might see in a Mike Leigh film such as High Hopes or Another Year, but it never becomes as explosive as either of those films.

Entertainment value out of ten?

I think many people will find the pace too slow for them, and that would be a shame. Here you have a slice of life that everyone can relate to. If you like films about ordinary people and their relationships with each other then you should enjoy this. I loved it and the more I think about it the more I like it. 10/10

Would I watch it again?

Absolutely, I intend to.

Sunday
Mar172013

Taxi Driver


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Another well-known film I've somehow managed to miss. I think I know all the main scenes of this film, I just hadn't seen it.

Why is it on the list?

31st on the critics poll and 5th on the directors poll. (I'm increasingly feeling that the directors might have a better idea of what they're talking about than the critics.)

Where can I see it?

Available everywhere. I saw it via iTunes. The picture quality was superb.

What's it about?

De Niro plays a cab driver who lives in New York but doesn't like New Yorkers. Unless they're blondes. He loves blondes. But they don't necessarily love him. He inevitably decides he needs to do something about all these damn New Yorkers, but what? Anyway, surely I don't need to tell you any of this.

Is it just for film geeks?

No, not at all. I think this film can work on several levels in several ways: it's the straight-forward story of a psycho, it's the fever dream of a sick mind, it's a superhero origin story, it's the documenting of a society in terminal decline.

Entertainment value out of ten?

It is strangely entertaining being carried along by this lunatic and viewing the world his way. I loved the soundtrack, I loved the view of seventies New York at night in a halogen, yellow glow and I loved the performances. 9/10

Would I watch it again?

Sure.

Saturday
Mar162013

The Godfather II


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Another Godfather film. I'd already seen The Godfather III ages ago and I watched The Godfather I the week before this so I pretty much know the drill.

Why is it on the list?

30th on the critics poll and 31st on the directors poll.

Where can I see it?

It's probably on telly tonight - check your local listings.

What's it about?

It's about the mafia. And this time out we get a dual storyline telling us the origin of Don Corleone's family and the continuing of that family under the leadership of his son Michael - who I think it's fair to say is doing a pretty shitty job of it by almost every conceivible measurement.

Is it just for film geeks?

You must be kidding.

Entertainment value out of ten?

I liked this more than part one, largely because the parts with DeNiro are so entertaining. I think it also helps that less of this film is in the culture so it seems less familiar. I still find Coppola's efforts to make the mafia poetic a bit ridiculous - these are a bunch of thick-necked goons who communicate by shrugging, mumbling, shooting and stabbing. Oh, and does anyone else think Diane Keaton is completely wasted in these films? Still, I give it 8/10.

Would I watch it again?

It was good but I think once was enough.

Friday
Mar152013

The Godfather


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Um, this is a weird admission. The only Godfather film I'd seen was the third one. Don't ask me why that it is, I really don't remember, I guess it was just on telly one day and I couldn't be bothered to change channel. So since I and II are on the list, and my wife has them on DVD, I now have no excuse not to watch them.

Why is it on the list?

21st on the critics poll and 7th on the directors poll. Oddly in the previous Sight & Sound chart both I and II were considered a single film and so they were in the top ten.

Where can I see it?

Where can you not see it.

What's it about?

It's about a mafia family in the post war period and change is in the air. The family come under attack and Michael Corleone has to make some decisions about his future. But you know the drill: horse's head, "he sleeps with the fishes", "we made him an offer he cannot refuse", etc

Is it just for film geeks?

Even the idiots in the mafia watch this film so I guess not.

Entertainment value out of ten?

While it's nearly three hours long it is still stuffed to the gills with story. There are so many characters and events that it doesn't take any prisoners and pushes along at an incredible pace and with great energy. While I enjoyed it as a story it did leave me a little bit cold on the character front. You don't watch a mafia film and expect to like the characters but I found pretty much everyone in it repulsive - but I guess that's the way it should be. 7/10

(As a side note, watching this film reminded me of watching Psycho as a teenager in that there were so many elements of the film floating around in the culture that watching it was not an act of discovery but of joining the dots and understanding the broader context. It's certainly good to get the full picture.)

Would I watch it again?

I wouldn't be against watching it again. There were some minor plot points that I think passed me by so I'd like to get a better handle on those, but I'm no particular rush.

Thursday
Mar142013

Stalker


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Here we have a Russian Sci-Fi from Tarkovsky. I'd already seen Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, which I loved, and Mirror, which I was a bit ambivalent about.

Why is it on the list?

Here's an interesting quote: "The film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts." - Andrei Tarkovsky on being told Stalker needed to be faster paced

Where can I see it?

I watched the copy on the Tarkovsky box set by Artificial Eye, but the good news is you can watch it legally for nothing on YouTube.

What's it about?

The Stalker takes a writer and a professor on a perilous journey through the Zone so they can get to a room where wishes are granted. This has to be the most bare-bones, stripped back sci-fi film that has ever been made.

Is it just for film geeks?

I won't lie - this is not an easy watch and is quite a test of the viewers patience, and deliberately so. But if you put yourself through the grinder for two and half hours you should feel rewarded - or maybe cheated.

Entertainment value out of ten?

This film is more interesting to talk about or think about than it is to watch. So, as a source of entertainment in it's own right I will give it 5/10 but as a source of thought and discussion it's 10/10. So, if you like conceptual, cerebral films and are willing to take a risk then go for it.

Would I watch it again?

Definitely. I could see myself becoming a bit obsessed with this one.